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Having recently decided to take part in my local half marathon in Oxford, I thought it would provide a good opportunity to raise funds for Ekklesia. In the first of a series of blogposts about my run, I explain what drives me to do long distance running, and some thoughts about the training so far...
I am not very good at long distance running. I have a weak back and an inherent laziness with regards to core stomach exercises that makes me injury prone. I am too inconsistent with my training to improve and as my fifties get closer, I realise that the chances of me ever getting much faster are dwindling. But what I lack in speed, I more than make up in determination and stamina. Over the last decade I have completed several 10K races, three half-marathons, and two full marathons, often grappling with injury on the way.
2013 was great in running terms – I ran two half marathons (both in the pouring rain) and managed to stay relatively injury-free. But this year has been characterised by several attempts to get going followed by relapses into lethargy. I had a vague aspiration to do the Oxford half again, but couldn't quite work up my appetite, until at the latest possible time to start training, an email popped into my in-box. It informed me that the race would take place at the Iffley Road track to celebrate 60 years since Roger Bannister ran the four-minute mile there. Ever since moving to Oxford in 2005, I've always wanted to run there, and it was enough to make me sign up on the spot.
Oxford is a lovely half marathon to run. It's on my home turf, starting and finishing about three miles from home, passes near the end of our road, through local streets and into town, round Christchurch Meadows and back along the river. It feels familiar as I run several sections of it on my regular routes, and it's very, very flat. So theoretically, it's a relatively easy one to do, and with any luck this October will see clear blue skies rather than the downpour we ran through last year. Nonetheless with eight weeks to go, it is still a daunting prospect. Although the first three weeks training went well (apart from a burst blister (caused by me making that most stupid of running mistakes and training without socks - what was I thinking?), my knees and shins have been suffering since my long run on Sunday. My mid week "recovery runs" (30 or 40 minutes) have been getting steadily faster till this Wednesday. Despite warming up and stretching every muscle hurt all the way round, and I was so slow by the end, even the local park keeper commented.
Two days later, my knees and shins are still hurting. I hate cutting training, but it doesn't make sense to run in such circumstances. I've decided not to do my 'speed run' (a training session made up of short bursts of speed with time to catch my breath in between) . Hopefully this will give me time to rest and stretch my legs, give them some ibuprofen gel and perhaps get a swim in. When I was on holiday I was able to rest after training and I'm sure swimming after a run, helped my muscles recover. From now on I'm going to ensure there is swimming in the training schedule and make sure now I am back at work I get up from the desk and stretch regularly. Hopefully it will be enough to keep my legs on the road till race day.
I realise this sounds a bit masochistic, so why do I put myself through tiring training that makes my legs hurt? There are several reasons, but the first is the simplest. Running fills me with joy in a way that no other sport can match. As a busy working parent, a long run of an hour or more provides me with valuable thinking and prayer time. There is also the satisfaction of setting a challenging goal and achieving it. I am phenomenally lucky to have the time to run, the money for a pair of running shoes, and the legs to do it. So whenever possible, I take the opportunity to raise funds for causes I care about. And since this race has coincided with my starting work here at Ekklesia, I've decided it is only fitting for me to fundraise for us.
Over the next few weeks I'll be blogging about my training and reflecting on the work we are doing as a Christian think-tank. Given this race will literally be my home run, I will be thinking in particular what 'home' means in a world that is so often unjust, and how Ekklesia can make a contribution, to creating a fairer world for everybody.
If you are interested in supporting my half marathon efforts, you can donate via pay pal (state 'run' with your donation) or send a cheque to the office at 235 Shaftesbury Ave London WC2H 8EP. Please make cheques payable to Ekklesia making it clear the donation is in support of the half marathon.
You can also follow my progress on twitter by following me at @run_ekklesia
© Virginia Moffatt is chief operating officer of Ekklesia. Her blogs can be found here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/blogs/virginiamoffatTweet