Tag Archive: cancer research uk


Race day

How does your body react when you feel nervous? Do you sweat a lot? Does your mouth become dry? Do you get a nervous twitch in your left eye? I guess your answer depends on your particular situation.

The night before my race I couldn’t really sleep properly. I also had a dodgy stomach on the Sunday morning too.

I knew this was supposed to be a FUN event- I’ve seen all the posters with the smiling women in their fancy dress costumes having a laugh, but I couldn’t persuade my body to accept that same attitude. I just felt tense and time seemed to drag.

When I finally arrived at the tube station I was really surprised to see loads of ladies in pink on the platform. Now to understand the true significance of this, you have to realise that I live in Zone 5 according to the Tube map, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere with fields and horses and such.

So to see this many women already who were going to take part, I thought: ‘Yes, I’m not alone.’ Well, I sort of was, because, you know, I had no one to run with and this was actually exemplified by the fact that they were in groups and joking around… BUT it seemed as though there would be many people there. Besides, I had my dad and sisters there to support me from the sidelines.

When I got to Hyde Park there was a sea of women in pink walking towards the other side of The Serpentine to our appointed destination.

After we all finished warming-up we had to move to towards the selected walking, jogging or running areas to get ready for the race.

“I hope you’re going to keep your promise of completing the run in under 30 minutes,” said the woman on the speakers to us runners.

‘Under 30 minutes,’ I thought to myself, ‘really? My fastest so far is 32 minutes without stopping, mate, and I thought that was ruddy brilliant! …Nooooo pressure then…’

A panic swept over me. I was surrounded by women who had apparently pledged to run 5k in under 30, great. I was going to trail behind, waaaaayyyyy behind.

We eventually made our way down to the start line, however I was squashed in the middle of the crowd somewhere and wasn’t quite as near the front as where I wanted to be. And after a false start from very eager runners up at the front, we were off. Well, I was off a whole 30 seconds later, and even then, I was walking more than I was running.

I just kept telling myself that I had to keep it to 1 minute per 0.1 mile if I had even the slightest chance of making it to 31 minutes, so I had to run a bit faster than usual to play catch-up.

After weaving my way through people (a woman with a dog wearing fairy wings, women with wigs and corsets and the more ‘serious runners’) I eventually found my pace and stuck to it.

People were really encouraging. The cheering and clapping- it really did push me on!  Well the noise was actually drowned out by my music, but I think I used my imagination rather well.

One woman was even giving high fives to everyone. She was standing towards the walkway on the left while I was running on the path towards the right. I thought, ‘Yes, I am getting my high five, darn it’, and I ran towards her to receive my short-term reward with a very masculine American “YEAAAHHHH”, and kept running along merrily.

I started to lag a bit after about a mile and a half, my usual stopping place when training. Besides, I was running a bit faster than usual to try keep on target.

I had to trick myself to go further- to that tree, that lamppost, just 0.3 miles more and then maybe I can stop. I then hit the 2 miles mark and for some strange reason I was feeling fine again. That was until I reached 2.5 miles.

I just had to stop and drink some water- my body needed it and didn’t want to go further. It couldn’t be bothered to play along with my pretend mind games- it had sussed that out ages ago. I wanted water and I wanted it- NOW! Whilst walking! I didn’t want to stop long enough for my legs to start seizing up though- that would have been a disaster. So I slowly ploughed on. Then it started to rain. Heavily.

The fresh air was a relief, but then I quickly became drenched and it turned into a burden. As a newish, paranoid contact lens wearer I was worried, because the last thing I remembered my optician saying to me was: “DO NOT get your contacts wet!” She didn’t actually tell me what would happen, and if that even meant rain water. So I imagined the worse and saw myself screaming and running blindly into other runners and tripping them up because the lenses dissolved in my eyes and couldn’t be taken out- ever again! So with this image in mind, I proceeded to shield my eyes with my hand, and ran as fast as I could, because I needed to go to the toilet too.

Ahead, I saw quite a steep slope and used everything I had at that point to slowly run up that ‘mountain’. After I tackled it though my energy was zapped. I couldn’t go any further, I had to stop. I was majorly disappointed with myself! I was literally coming up to the 3-mile mark too, so I only had 0.1 miles to go!!!!

But my body said: ‘No. No. No-no. Noooooooooooope. Not doing it- I refuse!’ I had to stop. I have no idea how long for, but it seemed like forever.

People we clapping and encouraging everyone to keep going, but it was just muffled sounds to me- it was all a blur. …And then I saw this lady run by me, and I recognised her as the woman who stood next to me by the starting line. She said: “Don’t stop now, you’re nearly there [-you can do it]!!” I think I may have added that last bit in, but she was right, I only had 0.5 miles to go!

I started to believe in myself again (‘yes I can!’) and as I ran around the bend I saw a beautiful sight- the finishing line!!!

Then I heard the man on the speakers say we were coming up to the 30-minute mark and that we should just sprint the rest of the way.

I thought, ‘I DID NOT go through ALL of that training to get a worse time than what I got at training,’ so I picked up speed and I gave it everything I had-I seriously went for it. I sprinted past quite a few women. And I heard people cheering and saying: “Whoooooah- go on- go on!!!”

As soon as I hit the line, that was it. It was a struggle to even walk after that, but I did it-I just completed 5k. And then Lance Armstrong spoke directly to me, through my app. “This is Lance Armstrong,” he said. “Congratulations, you have just recorded your new personal best for the 5k!”

My new trainers have been initiated with muddy water

Contrary to what I posted on my FB page, according to my Nike+ app, I actually completed 5k in 29 minutes exactly!

My route in miles

My route accoring to my pace (green= fast, red= slow)

It says my slowest point was 12’29 per mile, and my fastest was 7’40 per mile.

Even though I stopped twice, I figured, well, if Paula Radcliffe could stop for a bit to take a dump in front of everyone then what I did can’t be too bad then either.

Paula Radcliffe- London marathon 2005

I felt on top of the world, but really tired and out of breath though.

I was possibly hungry too because as I made my way to the main area I thought I heard that they were giving out free cookies and I was on the hunt for them, when in fact they were giving out free cranberry juice.

I was so tired. I even slept on the tube later on that evening on my way to the Erykah Badu concert. I actually had mini dreams and everything.

I’m so glad I did it though- it was really worth it! I’m not sure if I’ll run in the future. I may run 10k… in a few years or so. In other news, I’m still trying to hunt down a football club after being rejected by a team for not having a football CV :-s.

There is still time to donate: http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/moniquesimpson2011/. Thanks for reading.

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“You can do ittttttt!”

“This isn’t so bad,” I tried to tell myself as my blood pumped ferociously around my head causing my gums to throb in pain.

My body screamed in agony and went into panic mode. This isn’t normal, this isn’t normal. At. All. Shut down, shut down noooowwwww, I say- STOOOOPPPPP!!!!!

“You have reached 0.5 miles,” said the American man on my Nike Plus app.

Only? Come on, Monique, come onnn!

My choice of music today wasn’t helping me though. Cinematic Orchestra Monique, really?

It just made me want to get lie down in the foetal position on the pavement and tell my body it would be ok.

“Never again will I hurt you like this.  Never ever,” I wanted to say to myself in a soothing, comforting tone with my arms wrapped around my body, rocking.

I have to admit, my playlist was not the most energetic music to run to. I blame the fact that I haven’t had a chance to transfer my iPod tracks to my new phone yet. Besides, I think the worst album I have listened to while running was 21 by Adele. In my defence, I have been wanting to listen to that album for ages, and that was the first opportunity I got to hear it.

I had no time to feel heartbroken and depressed when I heard it though- I felt way too tired! I just wanted to go home and eat my giant Kinder Surprise Easter egg.

Just to let you know, since my gym induction in January, I only went to the gym one other time. That was also in January.

In light of my triumph the first time I went, I was really cocky during my second visit. I tried to run faster and further than ever before, and failed. Miserably. But you know, I stylishly limped the rest of the way when I couldn’t hack it anymore on the treadmill and I deliberately restricted my breathing so no one could see how out of breath I was. Well, that was my cunning plan anyway.

I didn’t do anything until April.

That’s when the sun came out to play so it was lighter and warmer. I bought a pair of ‘swanky’ new running trainers (as seen in my picture) with the help of a friend. And a work colleague sent me a 10-week beginner’s running plan. Id est (i.e.) I had no more excuses- it was time.

Anyway, I digress.  On this particular run, my aim was to reach the top of this man-made hill in my area, where once you reach the top and you stare out thoughtfully into the distance, if the weather is on your side and you concentrate really hard AND squint your eyes, you can just about make out a couple of central London landmarks.

“Come on Monique, you can do it. YOU CAN DO ITTTT,” I screamed with determination.

“You are approaching your record. Tap the ‘Power’ button now to play your Power Song,” said the American man. Well, he said something like that.

“Yessss,” I thought, “I will, I WILL!!”

“Now I’m the King of the Swingers, ohhhh, the jungle V.I.P,” sang King Louie.

“I really need to sort out this playlist,” I thought to myself, but it did make me want to dance/shuffle/limp the rest of the way with my arms pumping in the air.

And then I reached my destination. “I did it- I actually did it,” I wanted to shout out and jump around, but you know, there were people around so I needed to show a bit of decorum, of course.

Then Lance Armstrong spoke to me: “This is Lance Armstrong. Congratulations, you have just achieved a new personal best for the mile.” Whoo-hoo, yeah, I am on fi-yurrre! (I’ll save the other comments I get from this app for another post- they are hilarious!! God, I do love my phone!)

Then as I walked down the hill a massive bee tried to attack me! My limbs stiffened in fear and I swerved a little off the path. Two women were walking towards me and I walked a little closer towards them hoping they would gather me into their arms and swat the bee away. They didn’t.

All in all, I began running properly on 17th April and I am now finishing off week 7 of my training plan (I should be on week 8, but… yeah lol).

My stats: I’ve been on 21 ‘runs’, covered 43.56 miles in 8 hours 26 minutes and 17 seconds, have an average pace of 11’37 per mile and have burned 3421 calories. So far, my fastest 1k is 5 minutes 26 seconds, fastest mile is 8 minutes 52 seconds, and 5k (this includes me walking it as part of ‘the plan’) is 34 minutes and 34 seconds.

I’ve been attacked by pollen (hi-yah!), I’ve been chased by bees (argh!), and I’ve even seriously contemplated running in the rain…

I’m slowly transforming into, the runner, cue ‘Chariots of Fire’ music.

I’m still finding running a chore though.

Please sponsor me lol: http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/moniquesimpson2011

So after the umpteenth phone call from Cancer Research UK asking for a long term donation, a thought suddenly hit me.

“Why don’t I run for charity instead?”

Where in the world did that idea come from?! Get back, get back, I say! Seriously, me? Run? Are you having a bubble?

I’ve had my share of humiliating experiences. A particularly memorable one was in primary school when I passed out whilst on my second lap around the playground.

Then there was the time when I suddenly decided to ‘take one for the team’ at a sports day and ran the 1500m to gain extra points. I trailed behind, way behind, in front of what I’d say thousands.

I only run in the mornings for the bus. Period. I can’t run for 5 minutes without gasping desperately for oxygen.

Look at my bad boy, old school trainers in the picture. I’ve actually had them since high school. Notice my patchwork design. My trainers are a work of art, and as such, should only be observed, not used.

Don’t get me wrong, I love taking part in sports. And the charity is close to my heart, especially since cancer has affected a number of people in my life.

But the idea of running sends shivers down my spine.

Nevertheless, I found myself standing in front of a help desk for a gym induction.

I needed some practice first before I pounded those pavements for the whole world to see my wheezing self.

I really was way out of comfort zone, especially since I was dressed in my high top converses, skinny jeans, and massive headphones because I had no time to change.

That meant I couldn’t try some of the machines for the induction. School boy error.

At the induction, the instructor asked me if I’ve used the gym before.

“Just the once,” I replied.

“Really, just the once?” she said jokingly.

“Yes,” I said in a very serious tone.

…She moved on swiftly to show me all the machines.

I use a certain tactic when someone tries to give me certain directions or instructions. I nod enthusiastically and smile without actually taking anything in. This tactic was well deployed in this instance.

It was the typical gym scene I imagined in my head with men prancing around like peacocks in one of those wildlife courting ritual documentaries.

“Look at me, look at MEEEE,” they seemed to say.

Once I figured out how to use the machine, I eventually found my pace. And as the stale air entered my lungs, I thought, “This is kind of easy. I may just enjoy running.”

After completing 2.5k I thought maybe 5k was too small a target for July.

I was on top of the world and had the eye of the tiger- dun, dun, dun dunnnnnnnnn.

I was so proud of myself that I had to tell my dad as soon as he came home from work with a proud, stupid grin on my face.

“You’re going to hurt tomorrow”, he replied. “What possessed you to cover that distance?”

“I don’t know, I just punched in the numbers on the machine, aren’t you proud?”

“Machine?! Hmpf,” he snorted mockingly.

He has a point. I still have a long way to go.

Please do donate if you can. My birthday is around that time too. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Ha!

You can donate online at: http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/moniquesimpson2011

Thanks 🙂