When she’s not working alongside her brothers at their family-run audio visual business, Lasyl, in East Sheen, local resident Karyn Adams loves nothing more than spending time with friends and family, nights down at the pub lots and lots of rest and relaxation. So what on earth possessed her to run the London Marathon in 2017? Here, Karyn charts her personal journey from coach potato to toned athlete. Well, from coach potato…
The final installment!
Not sure what went wrong. The training went downhill with the emergence of injury after injury. So here are the highlights of the weeks before the big day…
With a few weeks to go my brother and I set out on our final long run, the twenty miler. With the success of 16 miles under my belt I felt confident but had had some pain in my knee during the week that I was trying to ignore. We set out on a glorious Sunday morning and all was going well, we ran along the tow path, past Hampton Court, across the road to carry on along the tow path towards Weybridge. Here is where my knee gave in and to cut a long story very short I ended up calling a friend who lived nearby to come and pick me up as I couldn’t walk.
Following my aborted effort, the voices of doubt started to whisper in my ears, my head took over my body and so the downward spiral of despair took hold. The goal that was so near in time, had become so far in reality, I found myself making excuses for my failure before I had even started the race! The fire in my belly had gone out and I was struggling to relight it. However, relight it I did and this is what happened.
I spent hundreds of pounds in physio costs, thousands of hours with my head in my PC trying to find some sort of motivation and he was standing right in front of me. My son was the reason I started on the quest for supremacy of the 26.2 miles, I had to prove to him that through adversity anything was possible and I wasn’t going to let him down. I had been diagnosed with Tendonitis in my knee and had suffered with a bout of pneumonia a few weeks before the marathon but nothing was going to allow me to give up. So, thanks to my brilliant physio and the support of those I love, my determination and passion to succeed slowly came back.
The night before the big one…
After months of training, hours of Physio, and hundreds of miles of pounding the pavements, it’s the eve of that day that I’ve been dreading and looking for to in equal measure. With the help and encouragement of all my friends I’m ready to take on the biggest challenge of my life. My brother Dom has been my motivator, inspiration and complete pain in the arse throughout our training but I would not have got to the start line without him. Come on Bro, let’s go make Jonathan, James, Ian and Dad proud of us, we got this!
It’s the day!..
Get to the start line we did. The morning of the marathon was full of toilet visits, lots of energy bars, a healthy breakfast and a body full of nerves. My only saving grace was that my brother’s face matched mine and he was as nervous as I was. We got on the train and quickly met up with more people heading to Greenwich to be part of the biggest race of the year. As we got closer the crowds got bigger, the atmosphere was electric and you could feel the canopy of anticipation in the air. We got to Greenwich and quickly found the loos (they even had women’s urinals!), then we started our preparations for the task ahead. Limbs needed warming up, bags had to be dropped off, nerves needed to be calmed and photos had to be taken. And then it happened, the call to arms… we headed for the starting gates and waited for what felt like an eternity. I was in the last pen to go (as the more experienced runners led the way), I talked to anyone and everyone in a bid to find someone that could possibly stop my legs from shaking and my heart from leaping out of my chest. A 75-year-old lady and a Rhino kept my mind from the task in hand and finally the sea of people in front of me started to surge forward and we were off!
The first couple of miles were tough as I didn’t have my running buddy (he had gone into another pen in front of me), I hadn’t found my groove and I was petrified that my knee would give way, however this was only the beginning of the journey that I had started 8 months before, I was finally going to find out what this girl was made of (as the past four years had knocked everything out of her, or so I thought), so with the advice of my physio to ‘just walk it’ ringing in my ears I could feel my legs get stronger with every mile. I stumbled upon Karen (another of Roy’s Runners), we had already met through the Roy’s Runners Facebook group, so once I had established which Karen she was we ran together for a while. The crowds were calling our names and the atmosphere was nothing like I had ever experienced (I now know how the rich and famous feel). We met up with family (which was the boost I needed) at Mile 9, however they were too busy in the pub to find me at Mile 22!
Karen was suffering badly with the heat and I needed to encourage her to keep going – so I talked to her, told her jokes, rallied the crowds to give us more encouragement and found every excuse I could to keep next to her to get her through those elusive 26.2 miles.
We danced with Rastafarians, joined an elite group of Grandmothers line dancing to ‘When the Going Gets Tough’ and played some steel drums as we ran through the streets of London.
At some point, I decided that I would run on ahead and wait for her to join me, my legs were ceasing up and I knew that this was not a good sign. I didn’t see her for the rest of the race and I was later to learn that she finished about half an hour after me – and we are still in touch.
About 13 miles in my knee started to ache, a little bit of panic set in as flashbacks of my aborted 20 miler came into my mind, so I slowed down to a walk and fell into step with a lady from New Zealand whose bucket list included the London Marathon and two other ladies who had lost their children through horrific circumstances.
There are many memories I have of that day but the overriding ones will be of tenacity, kindness and love of my fellow runners and the crowds that came out to support us. Crossing over Tower Bridge (a favourite spot for Ian and I when we first started dating) was a pretty emotional part of the day. There in the background I could hear the tune to ‘Come on Eileen’ (one of my favourites) and the next thing I heard was the crowds singing ‘Come on Karyn, oh Come on Karyn’ so the tears of a time gone by turned into tears of pure joy. To say that I was an emotional wreck by the time I got to the finish line would be an understatement! My son caught up with me at Mile 24, having run 3kms, he wanted to make sure that I knew he was proud of me and to tell me that they were in the pub and had missed me, he was out of breath and sweaty but I got a hug (and an ‘I love you’) and off I went with a renewed spring in my step. My mum was at Mile 25, again the tears pricked at my eyes to see the pride in her face (or maybe it was just wind!).
I raised over £4,000 – great team effort! The day was an amazing experience, one which I won’t forget in a hurry (neither will my knees!!).”
So, the moral of this story is, whatever walk of life you come from just remember that within all of us is a strength that very few people think they have and anything can be achieved with determination, passion and a whole lot of training!
Thank you for coming on my journey with me, I hope to carry on surprising myself (and my son) and achieving the unthinkable! (whatever that might be).
106 Days to go… 6 January 2017
If someone had said to me a year ago that I would be in Richmond Park running at 6.30am, with the temperature at -2.5 degrees I would have laughed them out of the pub/wine bar/café or whatever drinking establishment I was in at the time! And so, after a slow start this morning (due to my limbs getting used to the fact that it was bloody freezing!), I opened my eyes to the most stunning view – frost covered everything as far as the eye could see, the deer were grazing in the mist and I could hear my heart pumping – every step made me glad to be alive.
I keep thinking I’ve seen it all (having lived next to the Park all my life), then around the corner comes another stunning view. I’m not sure that I would be so enthusiastic about my running and the marathon if I didn’t have such a wonderful place to train in, its beauty and serenity constantly amazes and motivates me. Running can be a very solitary sport, however there are so many people doing it – I didn’t realise how many other lunatics were so enthusiastic at that time in the morning.
My run was short, a mere 1.48 miles (as that’s what my plan has told me to do today), but it’s amazing how different each run feels – sometimes I’m defeated by the first half a mile and other days I can run and run for miles… figuratively speaking, of course! I’ve spoken to various sports people about this and no one can give me a definitive answer – just listen to your body is the constant answer, so I listened to my body this evening and went to the pub!
I know that’s not the right attitude and I will not be drinking again until after the marathon now, but sometimes listening to your body is not the right answer, when it’s screaming to you to turn back and get back into bed before you’ve even run 10 metres. Determination, dedication, enthusiasm and a little bit of madness have been the driving forces for me so far, so let’s hope I can keep them all in abundance (except for the madness of course).
I have a big run tomorrow booked with my brother. I’m dreading it – he doesn’t take no for an answer and stopping is not a choice he is willing to offer. In case he runs me into the ground, it’s been nice knowing you…
109 Days to go… 3 January 2017
Christmas and New Year were fab – it’s the first time in four years that I’ve actually enjoyed the festive season. I was sick of defining myself as the not-so-young widow of a man who left us far too early and so made a conscious decision at the beginning of December to get on with my life. And guess what? I’ve really enjoyed it! That’s not to say that I don’t miss him every day and long for his touch and company, but life goes on, and at a pace.
My pace is too fast at the moment. I’m going to have to take off my headphones (with which I can’t run) and listen to my breathing and slow my pace down. My thinking behind running so fast is that the faster I run, the quicker I will get to the finish and the pain will be over, however that theory works for a short distance and not for 26.2 miles.
After much pontificating, I signed up for the Park Run in Richmond Park. A jolly, dedicated bunch of enthusiastic runners meet at Richmond Gate every Saturday for a leisurely 5K run. All levels, sizes, ages and fashions grace the green banks of my ‘back garden’ and it was heart-warming to see everyone gathering together for a good cause – to get fit!
Yesterday I was dragged out of my bed by an enthusiastic sister in law (who is determined to get fit this year), and we did a steady jog/walk around the park. We were out for over two hours but by the end of it I was in a considerable amount of pain in my shins (not sure how I managed to do it but I did). Feeling apprehensive about seeing my physio this morning I was prepared for her to tell me I couldn’t/shouldn’t do this Marathon as I keep injuring myself, but too my astonishment and relief she said she would fix me and I will fulfil this year’s dream!
Off to bed to mend the bones for a frosty run in the morning – I think I’m starting to love this running business…
114 Days to go… 29th December 2016
Oh my God! Having just read how many days there are left to go before the London Marathon, I’m officially terrified.
With the run up to the Christmas festivities, the only training I’d done is running from the lounge to the kitchen to fill my face with yet another mince pie. I’m sure since the first week of December I’ve eaten my body weight in those little delights and drunk my son’s body weight in alcohol. Today is the first day since 1st December that I haven’t drunk a glass of bubbly and, quite frankly, I didn’t miss it (oh OK, maybe a little bit).
Having panicked for most of the morning I decided not to procrastinate any longer and heaved on my running gear and off I went.
I downloaded a new plan, which is fairly brutal in my mind, however there’s no turning back now. I’ve converted my run tracker to miles and was pleasantly surprised at how good the countdown felt as I was coming to the end of my run. My legs were aching so doing the extra few minutes was not an option. The plan needs 25 weeks from start to finish, I have 114 days and even though my maths is not my greatest subject even I know the sums don’t work out, but as Roy Castle used to say ‘Dedication is all you need’.
I did a run the week before Christmas and it was the longest distance I have reached, I did my normal route (which I’m bored of now), then just kept running – it was in that moment of getting past my usual 5K that I knew I could do this. It felt good and my body was working with me for a change and not screaming against the agony of constant exertion.
176 Days to go… 30 October 2016
After trying to find an excuse to get out of the Trick or Treat 10k run in Richmond Park I realised it was too late. I was at my brother’s house donning the face paint (which, quite frankly, after the night before was not needed) and listening to my sister-in-law howl with laughter at how ridiculous my brother looked. I was met by my nephew at the front door who was dressed from head to toe in orange as a pumpkin and the fun started.
We got to the park an hour before the race start. This was my first 10K and I was both apprehensive and excited. All the marketing for the race billed it as a great morning out for all the family and gave nothing away in terms of the ‘surprises’ that were in store for us around the course. So being a jumpy, shy and retiring soul I proceeded with caution.
Everyone was in the spirit of the occasion, with great costumes and scary noises coming from all directions. I still haven’t worked out if that was the mating deer or ghostly ghouls hiding in the woods.
As the race began, my brother was beside me, checking out the competition and the women. My heart was beating fast, my palms were sweating – and we were off. My brother stayed with me for at least a whole 1km before he decided I was far too slow and chuffed off into the distance. I actually enjoyed the run on my own as I was able to take in the other runners: their style, their pace, their outfit. I was also able to read the signs on the side of the road, giving some great facts about Halloween and its origins and traditions around the world. Throughout the course we had Mummies jumping out at us, skeletons hanging from a tent that we had to run through and a water station that had witches brew on offer!
Did I mention that I had done no training for it and since the Duathlon, a month and a half beforehand, hadn’t really run, so needless to say, I was hurting the next day. Everything was on fire from my hips, to my calves and to my shins – lesson learnt…
231 Days to go… 5 September 2016
Back at my happy haven again. My mother has been afraid to come to here for over four years. There are a lot of ghosts here for her, but none that she needs to be afraid of. I’m trying to make our short trip as memorable as possible, so that she can smile when she thinks of her time here and not feel sad because the people she once shared the good times with are no longer here. It is good to look back, but not if every time you do so a great sadness overwhelms you.
I’m not sure what most runners think about when they are running, but I tend to reminisce a lot. Sometimes this makes me run faster and sometimes it stops me in my tracks. So now I tend to choose a subject in the first five minutes of starting my run. It’s usually a subject which requires a lot of concentration, a lot of thought but most all something that will inspire me to go faster and further than before.
I’ve read a lot recently about the pros and cons of listening to music whilst running and at the moment I would be quite lost without the beat, rhythm and familiar sound of the music that I love. I’m happy to run to anything – as long as I can identify with the sentiment of the song and the bass can be felt in my bones. So it is with dismay that I remember that I’m not allowed to wear headphones during the duathlon – what the hell is going to keep my rhythm?
A few laps of the pool later and I’ve come up with a plan! I’m going to run with my phone as it keeps my pace for me. I can play my music through it, but not so everyone can hear it – so I can’t wear it on my arm. I have no pockets to put it in, so the only other place where I can carry it is, yes, you’ve guessed it, in my bra!
233 Days to go… 3 September 2016
I need to make sure that I remind myself of the highs and lows. Today is a high, so I thought I would write about it before I forget how good it felt to go that little bit further and faster, when I thought all was lost. It’s amazing the power of mind over matter. My running/cycling buddy swears by it, but I’d like to argue that if the equipment is not fully functional in the first place, then no amount of self-belief or training will get you to where you want to go.
I’m hoping I’ve turned a corner today, the last couple of days have been really hard for me – an ear infection, coupled with my late husband’s birthday tomorrow (big milestones always make me miss him even more) and my son starting college (OK, so he got his grades…), has made it easy for me to turn my back on the running, lie on my sofa and feel sorry for myself.
However, that’s not usually my style, so following a fairly sleepless night (during which I gave myself a good talking to) I got up this morning determined to get the legs working again and make it a good day.
Monday sees me off to Spain again, my happy and peaceful place. I’m taking my mother, who hasn’t been back since my father died, so the trip is important for many reasons. Firstly, for my mother to be able to smile again when she thinks of the house that they built together. Secondly, to get my body in shape for a duathlon which happens two days after we get back (left it a bit late, I hear you say?). And, lastly, to get some sun on my skin as the British summertime never actually made an appearance this year. The bike is hired, running shoes packed and I’ve called ahead to make sure the swimming pool is at the right temperature! Viva Espana!
So, the duathlon… To say that I was unprepared would be putting it mildly.
In Spain I managed a total of three runs and several hundred lengths of the pool. No cycling! My mission for the race was not to embarrass myself too much and come in at a fairly decent time. Not finishing was not an option. I did consider not competing at all because of lack of training, but I need to get used to not quitting at the first hurdle.
So with little sleep and very little preparation I got my gear together. Bike labels – check, time chip – check, telephone in bra – check, helmet… as I check to make sure it goes over my substantial bouffant to my horror I find the straps are broken. I cast my mind back to the last time I used it and, embarrassingly, it was the triathlon I did about 5 years ago! I now remember ripping the straps off as I couldn’t get the buckle undone and eventually threw the helmet off, ready for my run. With panic rising I called my fellow duathlete, who came to the rescue with a spare helmet.
At the London Duathlon we make our way into the transition area to rack the bikes. Then, with 15 minutes to go we are corralled into our starting gates.
The first 5K run was a relief – to be able to get started, enjoy the other competitors company and take in the surroundings of the majestic park. All these runners were raising money, reaching their personal goals and being the best they could be in that moment. The cycle didn’t give me much time to contemplate anything apart from not crashing into a fellow competitor or a local deer (we did have to put the hard brakes on at the bottom of a steep hill otherwise we would have had to be answerable to either the Queen for injuring one of her finest or the ambulance drivers for the mess we had made with our broken bones and blood).
The last leg of the race was brutal. My legs were like jelly when I got off the bike, feeling like heavy weights were tied to my ankles, I needed to take stock. I got shouted at by a fellow runner to ‘get those legs working’ and off I went for my final lap to victory – a victory over my prevaricating! All I needed to do is get into my stride and get into my stride I did.
My friend and fellow athlete completed it a lot quicker than I did and she was at the finish line, along with most of my family, to welcome me home. My son popped his head out from the crowd of spectators to tell me to hurry up because he was hungry. I must remember to talk to him about his style of motivation…
As I crossed the finish line, a loud yell erupted from my stomach and out of my mouth. Tthe commentators were horrified and remarked on the fact that I was louder than, them despite that fact that they had microphones!
The race for me was a mix of frustration and elation. Frustrated that I didn’t complete it in a better time and elation that I completed it at all!
245 Days to go… 24 August 2016
I’m feeling inspired. Tired, but inspired. Following the success of Team GB at the Olympics I know anything is possible with hard work, determination and a lot of self belief.
An OMG moment today: my marathon running vest arrived, it’s all becoming very real. I have signed myself up for a duathlon next month, so tonight I will be running 2 x 5K and cycling 20K – I’ve arranged for the paramedics to be ready and waiting for my call!
Did you know that only 1% of the UK’s population run a marathon in their lifetime? Why, oh why, do I feel the need to be part of that percentage? This is my tiredness talking and tomorrow I will be back on the road, pounding the pavements and proving to those younger siblings of mine that there is life in this old bird yet.
Tomorrow morning will bring another 20 minute run, hopefully some sunshine and GCSE results for thousands of teenagers around the country, including my son. The run will not just be another day and part of another training session, but hopefully a message to my boy (who probably won’t even be aware that I’m out), that whatever his exams results might be he can always strive for better. It will also be a stress buster for me and give me some calm before the storm that will erupt once he shares his results…
283 Days To go… 18 July 2016
I’m in Spain, I’ve got a text from my brother telling me I have a place in the 2017 London Marathon. My first reaction is pure elation and delight, then the cloak of despair slowly wraps itself around me and I wonder how the hell I’m going to achieve this mammoth undertaking.
I had convinced myself that it would take at least a couple of years to get a place, therefore giving me enough time to sort my leg issues out and get my couch potatoesque body into shape. But as luck would have it, I scored first time!
The most exercise I have done recently is walking to the office which takes 10 minutes… downhill. I have done a few triathlons in my time, but those came about from somebody telling me I wasn’t able to do them and, true to form, when I’m told ‘you can’t’ I have to do it!
My brothers are fairly fit. The two younger ones have completed the London Marathon, so discussing the pros and cons of this ‘old’ goat running a marathon with them quickly turned into a laugh a minute. The barrage of old, dwarf (I’m 5ft 1) and zimmer frame jokes were coming thick and fast, so true to form I’m out to prove them wrong.
The absurd idea of running a marathon was borne from the notion of ‘I don’t want to die wondering’. Since the death of my husband (suddenly) and my father (not so suddenly) in the same month, I constantly remind myself that life is too short. This is to my detriment sometimes, but other times that thought has taken me to places that I didn’t think I would ever go.
My two younger brothers look on their 3 older siblings as ‘past it’. On a very regular basis, I hear them say ‘how old are you?’ and being the shortest and gobbiest of five I feel I have to prove to them that I’m really not as old and decrepit as they think I am. I also have to prove to my 16-year-old son that even through adversity anything is possible.
However, the person that I have most to prove to is myself. I need to see this through from start to finish, all 26.2 miles of it, and so the journey begins…