Health: The diary of a marathon runner

There has to be something that Freud wrote about people who insist on running for long periods. But apparently not. He had nothing to say about marathons. Flicking through indices of his works leads me to lots of talk of human form and nothing on carbohydrate deficiencies, optimum sugar intake or isotonic drinks.

The only reason to mention this is that I’ve unconsciously started sowing the seeds of my running downfall. I’m eating anything I can lay my hands on. I’m drinking more than I should. I’m now smoking with both hands.

This is all new. What’s the point? I run to get fit, to prepare myself for what is going to be – so they say – the worst and best day of my post-21-year-old life. But seemingly without a thought I’m intent on destroying all my good work with the indulgences and weaknesses I thought I’d seen off years before.

This is therapy territory. I’m throwing it all away and I can only think that there is a latent desire to ruin it all. A month into my schedule and I’m up to 22 miles a week but only beery cigarette breath to show for it. So, I’ve decided to see a personal trainer. I want him to be strict, to run my life while I run my run.

When he’s not changing people’s bodies James Nash climbs mountains for fun. He lost a stone on his last holiday. My first meeting with him is promising. He tells me I can eat anything I want – within reason. I can even perk up my running with a shot of coffee before the outset. He knows that’s not conventional but then neither is he.

But James has certain rules which I must stick to. The most important is all about carbohydrates. Under no circumstances go out on a low-carb diet. Cutting down on the carbs – de rigueur in 2001 I’m told – may help me lose weight but will ensure an early exit from the marathon.

There is also an undesirable side effect. Low-carb diets mixed with exercise make you smell – like pear drops. It’s all a bit scientific but James simplifies it. Low carb supplies leads to a higher level of “ketone bodies” in your blood and a distinct pong all round. James promises to tell me more.

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