Learning how to juggle whilst holding a baby

Time is almost up and my preparation for the Brighton Marathon has been what I would describe as ‘ad hoc’. You see, I’ve recently had a baby. Well not me personally, but my wife, Amy did. Although please don’t underestimate the pain a man goes through as his wife swings on his neck, claws at his arms and squeezes on his fingers with all the strength of The Hulk. She broke my finger, too. Pulled it so hard that my already delicate pinky changed shape significantly. I wanted to scream in agony or at least show her my now bent and swollen Syril Sneer’s nose shaped finger, but thought better of it when she eyeballed me and told me to ‘stop being so slow with the gas and air!!!’. She’s a skinny little thing and dainty as a fairy, but as she was bearing down in the final and thirtieth hour of birth, my wife quite literally swung from my neck instead of considerately choosing a chair, or even a bed, to sit on.

That was some 18 weeks ago, on 6th November 2013. Or as I like to call it, the beginning of a long 20 weeks to the Brighton Marathon. Things were going to change. I used to say that training was taking up so much of my time that I had very little time to do anything else. That has changed and I now say that I don’t have enough time to train. Both sound alike, but both suggest very different things – not least my current desire to train rather than my previous struggle to maintain a consistent relationship with it. It’s true that we always want what we can’t have and that the proverbial grass is always a more attractive shade of green on the other side of a training plan. When I see the training schedules of other people, I wonder if I should be doing what they’re doing, or if I really am trying hard enough. It’s rare that we have the confidence to look at what other people are doing and simply say ‘I am doing the right thing, because I am doing what is right for me’. For a start, we shouldn’t compare ourselves to other people – in running, yes, but also in life. I’ve come to realise that I need to work around myself and my family.

So what’s my beef? Why am I blogging about a lack of time and is this my way of already putting excuses into place for why I don’t succeed at the Brighton Marathon? Nope. Quite the opposite. It’s a positive blog about perspective, time management and commitment – learning how to juggle whilst holding a baby!

I quickly learned that after a baby comes along, it’s not just that they take up almost every moment of your waking day, but also many moments of your sleeping night, too. Amy and I were always blessed with a solid (minimum of) 8 hours per night sleep habit. And this paid dividends when I was in the middle of heavy training blocks. Being reduced to 2 hour sleeping blocks was my first ‘awakening’ to the difficulties of both parenthood and run recovery.
I was also blessed with the ability to train, to an extent, whenever I wanted. Amy was very accommodating and I would often leave her at home and go off in the evening or at weekends to get my runs done. That’s definitely not possible now. Not necessarily because she won’t let me (she would, but I’d get some serious silent vitriol fired at me if I did), but because I don’t want to get home in the evening and then go out for a run when I’ve got this beautiful gurgling shit factory staring at me, desperate for me to blow raspberries on his belly before bath time. Running is at the very back of my mind at night. So I have chosen to ‘Flip Reverse It, as Blazin’ Squad would say. I get up about 6am, give the boy a cuddle, change his nappy, blow a raspberry on his belly, drink a brew, let the dogs out, blow another raspberry on his belly, iron my work gear, put my running gear on, one more raspberry and then get in the car. 6.45 – departure. 7.30 – arrive at work, get out of car and either a) go for a plod, b) get on the treadmill and run threshold/progress/intervals or c) do some strength and conditioning at the gym on campus (I work at a uni). 8.30 – shower and clothes on before 9.00 – start work.

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Now, I am very fortunate in that I work at a university with great facilities and that if my lunch schedule permits, I can add in some extra training at lunch time. If I am in a particularly good part of the week, I may be able to claim back a bit of time and do ten miles at lunch before starting work again and eating on the fly. Not many people have that luxury. It does offer a distinct lack of down time, though. One particular Monday I had promised myself 18 miles but couldn’t make it work in one go. So I did a dreaded 3×6 – 6 miles before work, 6 at lunch and then 6 straight after work. I worked it into my plan so that not only was it a long run day, but it was also a speed day. Each of the 6 miles was quick(ish) and certainly pushed the lactate in my legs.

When Jesse hit three months, his neck was strong enough for him to sit in a running buggy. We now parkrun together on a Saturday morning and he joins me for half of my long run on a Sunday – meaning that mum gets to work on Saturday mornings and gets a lay in on a Sunday. He’s up to ten miles before giving in and screaming, now and I must say the running buggy we got is great – cheap and effective (I’m not affiliated and linking at my own free will!). Although the buggy runs don’t always go to plan and do require staying fairly close to home should he decide to make passers-by fully aware that he’s not enjoying the run and that I appear to be stealing him! I do firmly believe that it’s great bonding time for us and it instils in him that an active and physical life is something to be proud of. He’ll thank me when he’s either an elite marathon runner or a Leicester Tigers starting 15 player.

And so, as I sit on this train from London to Brighton at 10am, having got the 05.57 TO London from Littlehampton to visit a school, I challenge you to not be able to find the time to do the thing you love to do. That thing doesn’t have to be running – it just has to be something you really enjoy. You can ALWAYS find the time, I promise you. Me – I work in Brighton and live in Littlehampton and I need to do my final long run before the marathon in a couple of weeks so I’m resigned to running home tonight – all 21 miles of it. Wish me luck!

For now, here’s some things I’ve found useful in finding time to get out and run:

1)      Commit yourself – to other people and to events. If you tell people you’ll join them or you spend money on entering an event, you are more likely not to flake off. Find a reason and run for it!

2)      Run commute – is there a station near your home or work that you could get off at and run to/from? My mate Andy does this. He commutes to London from Bristol and still managed to cover serious miles each week

3)      Design your sessions, don’t just run – your training schedule should outline exactly what you want to do and how long it should take.

4)      Plan plan plan – can you prepare dinner in advance so you don’t have to mess around when you get in? Same with getting a week’s worth of work clothes together on a Sunday. Reduces faf during the week

5)      See a coach or personal trainer – you don’t have to spend a fortune on weekly sessions, but getting an expert opinion on how to structure training may reduce time invested and increase impact

6)      Join a club, group or parkrun. Surround yourself once a week with people who have similar goals and work on them together.

7)      Do core work  and work on your form – running isn’t just about running. It’s about having solid foundations, efficient movement and a fully functioning and coherent physical plan. If you work on your core strength, evaluate your running technique and work on your ability to run comfy, you’ll get quicker without having to run more.

8)      Change your minds et to search for opportunity rather than expect inconvenience – think about what you can change in order to allow you to run rather than what will get in your way and stop you in your tracks.

I want to run sub-3 hours at the Brighton Marathon this year and whilst I admit it is going to be an uphill struggle and require a world of pain, I won’t give in until it’s absolutely impossible. I will run with my guts out and give it everything I’ve got and then just a little bit more. I’m Running For Harvey and for every step I take where I feel like I need to stop because it’s getting too much, I’ll remember that there are many less fortunate, that some children are born sleeping and that some very good friends go through more every single day than I could possibly fathom. www.justgiving.com/runningforharvey

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