Running a marathon

22 04 2013

I still can’t believe I’ve just run 26.2 miles!

In January I started training for this year’s London Marathon. I surprised everyone as I was going to run with only 3 months training behind me. Normally, you need 6 months. I’ve never run a race before. I wanted to raise funds for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, in memory of my hearing dog Smudge. My training regime was 2 or 3 sessions a week on the gym treadmill, with the occasional street running thrown in with a local runner’s club, and a Saturday personal trainer workout followed by a martial arts class with Darren of Meade TKD. Darren is blind and a 3rd dan black belt – he believes that nothing is impossible – which was a great attitude to have. Every trainer should have this attitude! I didn’t do any long runs as I was so bored with running on my own that I just couldn’t face it, and instead I put in lots of short runs on the treadmill. My muscles were so tight that I got tendonitis in my right leg, pulling my kneecap off to one side. I treated this with visits to a physio and sports massage, and using a foam roller. My tip: start using a foam roller daily when you start training, don’t wait until you are in pain!

I’d had issues with getting the right pair of trainers and had 3 pairs that gave me pins and needles, so in desperation I bought a pair a whole size bigger on the day I picked up my runners number, a few days before the race. I had a 2 hour massage at Venus Inspired in Chigwell, and a facial which was just wonderful, the massage left me with a very sore back (which was better by race day) and the facial was so relaxing I almost fell asleep. Lovely!

On race day it was scorching hot. I stuck plasters on sensitive bits and wrapped plasters around my waist, where the waistband of my trousers might rub. I packed my iPod with neckloop, iPhone with direct audio connect leads, and a book (just kidding). I started off the race by listening to music on my iPhone, this was the first time I had used a neckloop and it worked very well with an activated T-coil program on my cochlear processor.

Start line – It took 20 minutes to get to the actual start line as I was in group 9, right at the back of the 35,000-strong crowd. It was a party atmosphere and I had a really good feeling about this race.

Start line, Greenwich

Start line, Greenwich

Miles 1-7 – I had an annoying stitch for the first 5 miles and ran through that. My shoulders were very sore, they felt as if I was running with them around my ears (I probably was!). I spotted a friend Jamie standing at the roadside at mile 5 and it was lovely to get a supportive hug. It was really quite weird running around my old neighbourhood in Greenwich. My longest run to date has been 7 miles and at the 7 mile marker, I was surprised that I could just keep going, my body did what I wanted it to do and kept moving forward. I had warmed up now and was running comfortably.

Mile 12, Tower Bridge

Mile 12 – The halfway point. It was lovely to turn the corner and see the majestic Tower Bridge rise in front of me. As I ran over Tower Bridge, I had a psychological shift and started thinking about how many miles were left, instead of how far I had to go. As we ran through Wapping, the faster runners were passing us in the opposite direction on their mile 22, and I looked at them thinking “I’ll never make it that far!”.

Mile 17 – All of a sudden, it was as if someone had waved a magic wand – everyone else around me started walking – they had “hit the wall”. My quads started to hurt, but I kept pushing through the pain. I slipped into a walk/run strategy. I was getting a constant stream of messages of support on my phone, which was just awesome. I was expecting to be running around the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and enjoying the views, but we were running underneath the walkways and through long dark tunnels – certainly the least interesting part of this course.

Mile 19 – I saw the Hearing Dogs banner, I whopped when I saw my friends there and elbowed everyone else out of the way to get over there for some much-needed hugs. My iPhone battery died at this point, and so did one of my cochlear implant batteries. I was now totally deaf in one ear. I switched my other cochlear processor to the usual everyday program so I could listen to the cheering of the crowds, which was fantastic – they really made my day. I had been worried about sweat affecting my processors but I had no issues at all. I dug deep and kept pushing forward, one foot after the other. I felt like Pacman, eating up the miles, one by one. Each mile seemed longer than the last. I was getting tired.

Mile 20 – My quads got worse and worse. At this point they were killing me but I didn’t want to stop, I wanted to finish the race – only 6.2 miles to go! I stopped to stretch – St John Ambulance came over to see if I was okay and gave me a quick thigh massage. After that I was walking a lot, in quite a lot of pain. I was walking/running past a lot of street parties – it was hard to watch people with huge plates of hamburgers and glasses of wine enjoying themselves as I ran past wanting to feed my gnawing hunger pangs! I had a bit of banter with people in the crowd and that helped to lift my spirits. So many people were standing there handing out sweets, oranges, drinks, or just with the palms of their hands out for me to touch as I went past. I loved this ‘London spirit’.

A fellow runner, dressed as a rhino

A fellow runner, dressed as a rhino

Mile 23 – Funnily enough it started to hurt more to walk than it did to run. I had sort of got used to the pain in my thighs and was running more, then my lower back started to hurt which I really didn’t like. My feet were sore by this point too – thankfully, I don’t have a single blister anywhere. I kept pushing forwards.

Mile 24 – I ran past St Pauls. Not far to go and I really wanted to push.

Mile 25 – Running down the Embankment, past all the tourists, the cheering crowds were getting much bigger now and I was pushing, pushing, pushing. Really happy.

Mile 26 – Outside Buckingham Palace, I turned the corner and saw the finish line, but when I got there, a roadside notice said ‘800 yards’ …! GROAN. The next notice said ‘600 yards’, then ‘400 yards’, ‘200 yards’ – then I saw the real finish line with all the photographers lined up, and shot through with a finish time of 6:39:54.  I DID IT!

My medal

My medal

I really loved running this race and the best thing of all was the support I got from my friends and the cheering from the crowds. I look like I’ve just been on holiday as I caught quite a sunburn. My legs are very sore and I can’t lift my left leg at all today, so I have learned how important it is to stretch. Tomorrow will be interesting as the pain is supposed to really hit you at 48 hours after the event. I am still in shock that I’ve managed to run so far. I’m so happy I can’t stop grinning.

I’ve run this marathon to raise funds for a fantastic cause, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.

Waking up a friend "Smudge-style" :)

Waking up a friend “Smudge-style” 🙂


Marathon training: Day 32

10 03 2013


The dreaded calf muscle cramp reared its ugly head in my left leg again this week, during my street sprinting on Tuesday. I had warmed up with a slow one mile jog but I hadn’t stretched before my run. I did a street loop with the group as a warm up, then we started sprinting in small groups. It was great to run with the local runner’s group and get some moral support as I pounded the streets – the thing was, this week our route took us past my house – again, again, and again, as we did loops – all I kept thinking was ‘I want to be at home with my feet up and a cup of tea with my dog’! Throughout this run, I felt as if my lungs weren’t big enough and I couldn’t get enough oxygen into them, although my breathing was regular and I kept up my pace. It was cold and brutal, but it was good.

On Wednesday I attended a workshop where the theme was disability access, led by a disabled trainer. With no deaf awareness. The upshot was I ended up lipreading everyone in the room, twisting round constantly in my chair to do this, and the trainer kept moving around as well. I asked her twice to stay still so I could lipread her, and she suggested that I move around the room to lipread her. Don’t think so! So, for the rest of the week I have been unable to look to my left / right without a jolt of pain from my neck down my shoulders and back.

Last Saturday I was able to run up the killer hill with my personal trainer in the park we train in. This Saturday’s session saw me, for the first time, able to run up Killer Hill No.2 without any help – this hill is steeper so I was very pleased! Unfortunately, next week I will be expected to run up both hills. Talk about shooting myself in the foot!

Warming up and stretching are so important, to avoid injury and to take care of injury. Here’s a great article on stretching, warming up, and cooling down.

This week’s workout stats;

  • Distance: 17.8km / 11 miles
  • Time: 3.35 hours
  • 1,922 calories burned

Gotta up the mileage!

Marathon training : Day 24

2 03 2013

… it was 9.35am, I was 5 minutes late for my session with my personal trainer Darren. I’d travelled from Wimbledon to Hackney on a cold Saturday morning. It was shiveringly cold!

Darren: Where did you phone me from?

Me: [Sarcastically] My mobile!

Darren: [puzzled look]

Me: I called you when I got off the bus!

Darren: I thought you couldn’t hear?

So I explained that with my cochlear implants, put me in a testing booth and my hearing is perfect. But my hearing is only 3 years old, like a baby, and I’m not used to processing sound. I can hear, but I am learning how to listen, to understand what different sounds are, to put complex bits of words together so they make sense. And people talk so fast! With accents. Against background noise. Changing topic quickly. It’s a huge brain stretch and like running, it takes time to learn how to hear. I was happy that I could understand Darren’s voice on the phone, and it helps that he speaks clearly!

Darren: Today you’re going to run, and run, and run some more!

Yep, all I did was run. And actually, it really wasn’t that bad.  I’ve improved a lot since my first personal training session – this is my third. I blasted my way up that killer hill without stopping, crawling or moaning weakly as I did in my last two sessions, I just got pretty tired at the top but I did steam all the way up that hill 🙂

Elroy turned up and I tried listening to his voice as I stretched, but it was hopeless. He’s too deep, way too deep!

Sweatshop, Clapham

On the way home, I popped into a local Sweatshop – did you know they have a running group at each branch? Check out their running community, what a fab idea!

I spoke to their guy about the numbness in my feet, he asked me to run around the shop with shoes on and again in bare feet, so he could check my gait – which turned out to be neutral. My trainers don’t have much wear so he suggested I try thin socks instead of the padded ones I usually wear. I’ll run in thin socks this week and if I still don’t like them, I’ll check back for new trainers, half a size larger.

I thought I’d check how long it would take to walk from home to my training session. Check out the map! Google says it is 14 miles and would take 4 hours 40 minutes to walk it – crumbs!! I’m comparing this to the marathon!! It’s only 1 hour 17 mins on public transport and I have to run/walk TWICE this distance next month! Arrrghhh.

Route from home to killer personal training session
Route from home to killer personal training session

The worst thing about today was travelling home, when I was at street level. It was 4C but felt like -1C with the wind chill. Freezing … when you’re only wearing a runners vest and jacket.

I was waiting to cross the road and a few ladies stood next to me, chatting. One of them had this wonderfully-warm looking fur coat on her, I couldn’t stop eyeing it up and I was THIS close to grabbing it off her to warm myself up. LOL.

This message at the tube station warmed me up plenty though …

 thought of the day

I’m running the London Marathon for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, raising funds to help train a life-changing hearing dog for another deaf person.

Marathon training: Day 19,20

28 02 2013

Day 19 had a 30 minute run at the crack of dawn on the treadmill. Boring as!

So I found a local running club online and turned up tonight – only a 15 minute walk from my house! I was thrilled to discover the running group is based in a huge leisure centre with a proper training centre for elite athletes, over 30 group classes a week … this place has been quietly hiding under my nose for months! Check out that HUGE running track!

leisure centre

Coach Graham is thin as a rake – he really does look like a rake on two legs! He talks a mile a minute with teeth fighting to get out of his mouth … I really struggled to understand him against 20 people chatting loudly as he held his glasses on his nose, covering his mouth with his hand. Thankfully I can lipread and I got the gist of what he was saying.

I still can’t believe I have gone out running after a long day at work. In the dark. Crazy or what?!

We went for a ‘short’ run (LMAO) and did interval training. It was tough going up and down that hill. Up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down I’M GONNA DIE up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down KILL ME NOW up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down CAN I GO HOME NOW? up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down HEEEEEELLLLLPPPPPP  up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down …… Everyone was overtaking me. Even the fattest person in the group was overtaking me.

Hill hell: my running track tonight

Hill hell: my running track tonight

 I kept thinking, Why am I doing all this stupid running?

I’m doing this for a great reason, I’m running to raise funds so that another deaf person can have their life transformed by a Hearing Dog, and because I’ve lost my mind.

Stu ran the last few laps with me and I found I could keep up with him …. group psychology works better for me than solo running! It was great to get encouragement from the other runners as I tried to avoid death and remain upright.

I’ve discovered muscles that I never knew existed. During tonight’s training, my right peroneus longus kept clicking as I worked that hill, a really strange sensation.  My right adductor muscle is starting to make a lot of noise, here’s hoping I haven’t caught an injury!

We got back to the leisure centre and I stopped to talk to someone, they offer what looks like a GREAT class on Thursdays – Supple Strength, using a foam roller with yoga, pilates and stretch techniques. I’d love to go to their boot camp sessions but they are on Friday mornings … bah. I almost fell over as I hobbled outside, then I really started shivering, so I ran all the way home to keep warm. I barely made it up the stairs in time to have a wee – I’m peeing every hour, like a pregnant woman!

Whittard's chai latte

A hot bath and a milky chai treat helped – check out my chai latte collection from Whittards – always so hard to find as Whittards sell out so quickly – psssstt! you’ll find these in the Wimbledon branch, next to the train station.

Today’s tip: Put the central heating on so you come home to a warm place. Wear gloves when night running, and a hat to keep your hair out of your eyes / your ears warm / your cochlear implants dry in the rain.

New pet hate: Wearing a huge water bottle on my waist. THUNK THUNK THUNK against my side or hugging the bottle as I run is no fun. Too much baggage.

Today’s chalkup: 1.5 hours running & interval training, 11 km

…. I haven’t reached the depths of Hell yet!

Inner ear cells have been created in lab

14 05 2010

Hearing could be restored to deaf people using artificially grown ear cells. Scientists have created specialised ear cells in the lab for the first time.

A team from California’s Stanford University were led by Professor Stefan Heller. They have found a way of creating, in a petrie dish, the hair cells within the ear which detect vibrations and convert them into sound. This cure for deafness may be only ten years away. Fancy it?

Further details on the story can be found here.

Genetic deafness

14 03 2010

At my annual ENT consultation, we discussed the possible cause of my hearing loss.  I was born 3 months premature and stayed in an incubator for 3 months, so the cause of my deafness may have been environmental, from the noise of the incubator’s motor.  As part of the cochlear implant assessment process, I had a CT scan and MRI scan, which showed no skull or ear abnormalities. The consultant said the cause of my deafness is therefore at a microscopic level, and decided to carry out genetic testing as a permanent hearing loss is genetic in 50% of cases.

There is no one else in my family with deafness (apart from age-related). I may have inherited one faulty gene from my mother or one from my father (dominant inheritance), or the same faulty gene from both parents (recessive inheritance). My parents may be carriers, having the altered gene but not the characteristic of it. Occasionally, a gene mutation can be a one-off.  Not all hearing loss genes have been identified.

(Graph source: Centre for Genetics Education)

In 50% of deaf persons, the cause of deafness is a combination of genetic and environmental influences such as noise, age, ototoxic drugs, head injuries or infection.

In the other 50%, genetics alone is the cause.  If other symptoms present themselves in conjunction with a genetic hearing loss, these can point to a syndrome (such as retinitus pigmentosa for Ushers) in 30% of these cases. The other 70% of this group are non-syndromic cases, i.e. deafness occurs by itself; over 100 genes have been identified to cause this type of deafness.

Within the pre-lingual non-syndromic hearing loss group that is genetic, 75%-80% of cases follow a pattern of autosomal recessive inheritance in families. Where both parents are unaffected carriers of the faulty gene involved, there is a 25% chance in every pregnancy that their child will be affected. The most common gene involved in this group is called Connexin 26 but there are many others. An altered Connexin 26 gene affects the functioning of the cochlear hair cells, causing a sensori-neural hearing loss, where the sound cannot be transmitted to the auditory nerve and onwards to the brain. I had a blood sample taken to be tested for Connexin 26 and await the lab results.

Stress and tinnitus

7 02 2010

Ulf dedicated a blog post to me on his tinnitus management …. thanks Ulf! Ulf has a very scientific viewpoint and I’m sure his journey on his tinnitus management course will make for very interesting reading. I have had tinnitus all my life and it has been particularly bad for the last 2 or 3 years, and it seems to be getting worse. There’s not much that can be done about tinnitus medically. I think the battle is a psychological one. Hopefully my cochlear implant will make it go away as my brain works hard at decoding sound and has less time for generating white noise to fill the hole my hearing loss has left behind.

Ulf was recently given 2 cochlear implants and writes about his experiences on his blog Becoming Deaf in Norway 2007.

Ulf > Stress and tinnitus

Living life out loud

30 12 2009

I came across Bonnie Cherry’s story and it brought a tear to my eye. Bonnie lives in Lawrence, Kansas. She had a brain tumour and the removal of this meant she lost her hearing. She can’t get hearing aids because her insurance won’t pay for it. Bonnie has fought a lot of side effects from the surgeries as her mom says…

…a soft spot in her skull, paralyzed vocal cords and the inability to speak, useless and atrophied muscles in her neck and shoulder, constant excruciating pain, a paralyzed tongue and the inability to swallow food or liquid without choking, scars not only from the surgery to remove the tumor and the nerves it was wrapped around on her brain stem, but other scars from the tissue transplants they had to use to patch her up again, and another at her throat to let her speak at all. She couldn’t hear out of one ear, and the other was getting worse all the time. They said she would need a feeding tube for the rest of her life.

Throughout all this, Bonnie has remained cheerful and positive. She has never given up and has carried on fighting. I love seeing that kind of spirit in people.

We often forget how lucky we are in the UK to be able to get a referral from a doctor and with that, walk into an audiology centre and be given hearing aids for free. They are upgraded for free. They are repaired for free. If we lose them, they are replaced for free. If you medically qualify for a cochlear implant, that’s free too.

Aren’t we lucky? I know we moan a lot online about the shortcomings of the NHS and the woeful underfunding of the audiology departments, but at least the service is there for us. At least we have got access to services and medical products to improve our hearing.

Hop on over to Vinland Valley Nursery to read Bonnie’s story. The Facebook group for Cherry is named “The Bonnie Cherry Ladies Hearing Aid Society.”

Sounds – imagined and real

27 10 2009

This story illustrates the nightmare of tinnitus and noise sensitivity known as The Hum. Article after the jump with some interesting comments.

I find my best coping tactics with tinnitus have been a few painkillers and a nap, trying to be philosophical about it so I stay in a calmer frame of mind, having a low noise source to take away my mind’s focus on the tinnitus, and keeping busy so I am distracted. It’s always worth talking to your doctor and audiologist.

Alleviate your tinnitus

20 10 2009


My tinnitus has been particularly bad for the last 2 years and it’s horrible. It’s as if I’m listening to a constant concert with a crap conductor. My audiologist has recommended I try a tinnitus retraining course and I’ve agreed to give it a go. If I get the go-ahead for the cochlear implant, the hole drilled into my head will very likely decrease my tinnitus or even make it disappear completely. But yeah, there is that hole in the head first. So I was very interested to hear about this particular tinnitus alleviation treatment.

A young company called Restored Hearing Ltd, based in Sligo Ireland, had their first major breakthrough with a competition project in sound therapy for tinnitus sufferers in 2009. They developed a therapy for temporary tinnitus sufferers, i.e. concert-goers or those who listen to an mp3 player.

They say “After one minute of our therapy 99% of the candidates that we tested said that their tinnitus was gone. The project received huge attention from tinnitus sufferers and sympathisers alike and we were fortunate enough to receive 2nd prize overall in the competition and to win an award for medical innovation too.”

Restored Hearing say their therapy can also provide some relief from tinnitus for those with hearing impairments. If you wear a hearing aid, they advise you take it out and wear the headphones. It will work – get this – even though you won’t be able to hear it.

This sounds like quack-a-doodle to me. I’m going to try this though, what harm can it do? Tempted? You’ll need €2.50, a pair of headphones, and internet connection to access the customised one-minute therapy session at Restored Hearing. If you fancy trying this therapy, do let us have your feedback. I’m all ears!!