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Page last updated at 07:53 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 08:53 UK
Life gets in the way of training

By Sophie McDonnell
BBC Tyne

Sophie McDonnell
Feeling awkward and self-conscious in my running gear!

In January I started out with the best intentions of running the Great North Run.

It's now August, and when my race pack arrived in the post and I pulled out my number I felt like being sick.

I've questioned where the time has gone and what happened to my training plan.

Life seems to have got in the way of my ambitious target of finishing in two hours, and now I just want to cross the line in one piece.

In January I struggled to run one mile, and I had assumed by now I'd be able to run nine miles, but my best run to date has been six.

I'm a novice runner and knew it would be a challenge, but I didn't realise just how difficult 13.1 miles would be.

'I am Rocky'

I started running in the evenings in March in a loop around my neighbourhood, making sure the neighbours couldn't see me.

I perfected my playlist on my mp3 player, lots of inspirational music as I imagined I was Rocky, listening to Eye of the Tiger, nothing could stop me.

Runners starting the Great North Run 2008

Except rain. Or a dog. Or a wasp. Or needing to blow my nose in the middle of a busy street, having forgotten a tissue.

By May, I felt confident enough to run in broad daylight and as the weather got warmer I was wearing my ridiculously short running shorts with pride.

In June I sought the help of fitness consultant Steve Harris and during our first meeting he told me my calf muscles would snap during the run unless I did some serious stretching, as apparently I have the tightest Achilles tendons he's seen in 30 years.

This panicked me, and I recently had a dream where my legs snapped in two somewhere around Felling.


It's now August and I have good days and bad days. On a recent run I struggled to even do two miles, and I came back and checked the rules about deferring.

Other times I get a real high and fancy myself as the next Paula Radcliffe.

Steve has told me there is a "quantum leap" between six and 13 miles, and he has advised me to stop looking at speed and hill work.

Steve Harris and Sophie McDonnell
Spot the professional! Steve Harris was barely out of breath on this training run

I need to work on gradually increasing each run to work on my distance, as we're running out of time and I'm nowhere near the time I need.

Work, family, friends and illness seem to be never ending, and I struggle to find the time some evenings to run for an hour.

I read other people's inspirational training stories, and feel ashamed that mine is not - "drama queen who can't run six miles" is not an achievement that will spur others on to run!

But, I'm determined not to be defeated. I will do it, even if I'm the last one to cross the line.

Use the links on the top right for pre-race information, video guides and other, more inspirational stories!


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