I wasn't going to show you this photo for obvious reasons, but M, who has a mischievous streak, said I should. This, my friends, is what running distances over ten miles does to your toes.....
Look away now if you're of a delicate nature or have a phobia about feet.
i've forgotten what it is to have pink toe nails. I've also forgotten that, for most people, it isn't really normal to have purple ones, unless you've painted them, and was wandering about happily barefoot the other day when my eldest niece exclaimed in horror what have you done to your toenails?!
The third one from right fell off entirely last week when I brushed against it, leaving this strange little creature underneath, a baby nail, which is already red. I know, from M and other friends who are endurance runners, that that's it now: my toe nails will never again be fit to be seen in company, unless I paint the other ones the same dark shade of purple to match.
For me, my newly en-purpled nails are a badge of honour; evidence of all the miles I've run this year, each one a memory of a half marathon or a long training run. I've got over my initial panic, fuelled by google-offered horror stories about what bruised nails mean (you'll get septicemia, you'll damage the nail bed so it will never recover and always cause you pain, you musn't run with a bruised nail and it'll take months to heal) and discovered instead that actually all you need do is stick a thick blister plaster over the bruised nail for the duration of the run and it's job done, life carries on as normal. They throb for a day or two but then you don't notice them until someone else says Oh. My. God.Your. Nails!
I have made one concession, which is to go up half a shoe size in my running shoes, and have to say since doing that the nails haven't bruised as easily or painfully after long runs.
On a connected but somewhat healthier subject, I've discovered the 100 Marathon Club: run a hundred marathons and you get club membership, a special t-shirt and a medal. I spent an hour or two yesterday pouring over their website writing down the races that count and loving the fact that the majority of them are off road, trail marathons through spectacularly beautiful countryside. I was toying with the idea of running a half marathon each month next year and writing a book about it, HMs being an accessible distance for everyone with not a huge amount of training, but the idea of running a hundred marathons instead has fired my interest a lot more.
M has around 17 marathons to his credit, all of which count towards the 100, but because he trains hard for them and completes them in spectacularly fast times, he has no interest in doing more than two a year. I'm not Mrs Speedy Pants, so my training would be steadier (run slower, or walk/ run = it takes less out of you and the recovery time is quicker). Of course, I may run Edinburgh next year and say never again, but either way it's on the list of accepted marathons so it will count as number 1 of 100.
I've been inspired by two runners whose books I'm currently reading. Lisa Jackson, whose brilliant book your pace or mine demonstrates how it's possible to clock up a couple of marathons a month if you're not flying along at a tremendous pace. She's often the last runner home after taking 6 or 7 hours, but you would never call her unfit or incapable. She's run Comrades three times (a very tough ultra run of 50+ miles in South Africa that frequently breaks people, including friend B who trained for it for 6 months and found, when she got there, that her muscles seized up and she couldn't compete), and she's also run naked in a couple of naturist races, so she's not a lass who takes herself too seriously. She's now an official 100 marathon club member. And then there's Ira Rainy, who went from (in his own words) fat man to ultra-marathon runner. His story is piquing my interest in long-distance running.
These two runners have one thing in common and it's this: they both thought they could and so they did, which leads me to my current fave quote, attributed to Henry Ford but actually coming initially from Virgil: whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right. I'm going to pin it up in the kitchen.
Lisa's book has a list of favourite t-shirt sayings she's seen in races. I liked: I have to keep going...I parked at the finish best, but the one that made me stop and think most was: I'm over here doing what you say is impossible.
In 1967 Katherine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon when it was illegal for women to take part in races (1967!!! Can you believe that??) because it was believed that a) they weren't capable and b) they would damage their fertility. The deputy race director was enraged and lunged at her, intending to physically remove her from the race. Her boyfriend at the time, an olympic hammer-thrower, pushed him away and her coach who was on the course with her bellowed RUN! so she did, beating many of the men in the race. Interestingly, her fellow (male) competitors, supported her, but she wasn't given an official finish time. She had proved that not only were women capable of running a marathon, but that they were capable of running it well. But it would be another five years before women were officially allowed to compete (in 1972). And it wasn't until 1984 that they were allowed to enter the Olympic marathon. I feel a huge debt of gratitude to the trail-blazing women who paved the way for the rest of us to take part in a sport that gives us so much. The fact that these rules were changed within my lifetime means I feel it all the more keenly.
Hope you're all well?