super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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On being free to run (and do whatever else you want)

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I had plans to post something about my run from last Thursday today because, after feeling less than stellar for most of the weekend, I’m finally feeling okay. The problem was that I got sidetracked by DOS emulators and abandonware and ended up wasting spending the evening playing my favourite video games from when I was a kid (Micro Machines 2! Xenon II! Theme Hospital!). The whole blog post + gym evening plan was replaced with retro gaming + burgers + more retro gaming and so, here we are right now. I’ve warned you before that this is not a healthy living blog. And no, you can’t have your money back.

But where was I going with this? Oh, right. Last Thursday.

I’ll save you from looking it up – last Thursday was April 25th. April 25th is one of my favourite days of the year. It’s so so good it’s actually a public holiday both in Portugal and in New Zealand (and Australia), which means I get to be home and watch midweek TV (which always gives me a new sense of appreciation for my job) and I get to Skype family back home because they get a day off too, those lucky things.

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It’s a day off in both countries for different reasons, though. I’ll explain: New Zealand celebrates ANZAC day, a day which commemorates all Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought in World War II. Portugal celebrates the carnation revolution, the end of a dictatorship regime that lasted for 40 years and left some pretty big scars in the country.

My grandparents grew up in a dictatorship. We’re talking real dictatorship, not just a stricter-than-average government. These are not distant relatives I’m talking about either, this is the lady who taught me to tie my shoelaces and the man that, to this day, will slice bread for me so I don’t accidentally cut myself. They’re grandma and grandpa, who I talk to every week, who I grew up with. They weren’t allowed to speak their minds. Even my mum and dad lived a few years in that regime (although my dad’s only memory of the revolution is being sent home from school early). In 1974, after 40 years of oppression, everything changed and, every year, on April 25th, my country celebrates that, regardless of how shitty the economy and everything else is there at the moment (and, let me tell you, it’s pretty shitty). No other holiday is as important as this one (no, not even Pie Day) because when you have decades of not being free, you learn to appreciate your freedom.

Two things about this previous paragraph: it proves that you can learn stuff on Super Generic Girl (bet you didn’t expect that) and it serves as an explanation as to why my run on Thursday was so good.

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I headed to the bush early in the morning. It wasn’t even properly planned, but more of a “meh, let’s wake up and see what the day is like” kind of thing. There weren’t many people out on the trail yet so it was really nice and quiet for the first few kilometers. Running that trail gave me a chance to reflect on how we are so used to taking our freedom for granted, like it’s no big deal. That run was the best way I could think of to celebrate my freedom that morning. I mean, holyfreakingmothernature, look at the photos on this post. This is the halfway mark of my run on Sunday. If you don’t think this is the perfect spot to reflect on freedom or whatever else you feel like reflecting on, then we’re just going to have to agree to disagree, and you’re just going to have to be wrong.

The run also gave me a good excuse to go home and nap for the rest of the afternoon, which is pretty much the smartest and most logical way to spend a public holiday. Write that down too, that’s the second thing you’ve learned here today.

I’m all out of insightful stuff to say now. I’ve got some Jones in the Fast Lane to play. I swear I’ll go the gym tomorrow. Maybe.


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Beach bodies and other reasons society sucks

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(image credit: dances with fat)

Ah, Spring. It hits the northern hemisphere around this time every year, plus or minus a snowstorm or two. Warmer weather, blooming flowers, longer days, and a whole load of bullshit inundating the internet.

Unfortunately it’s getting colder where I live, which means less time spent outside and more time getting outraged in front of a computer, as the internet throws at me articles about getting ready for “bikini season” and other infuriating crap.

It’s getting exhausting, you know. Every year feels like a lost battle. The same magazines that spend the rest of the year trying to “empower” you are the same ones that vomit out the “tips to get in shape for summer”.

I’m fortunate to live in a country where, somehow, this feels like less of an issue, to a point where I sometimes wish people would care a little more about their appearance (seriously, you guys, would it hurt to change from your pyjamas before going to the supermarket?). Still, like everywhere else, there are issues.

Let’s go back a year or so. Years after I was supposed to have stopped having the skin of a malnourished teenager, a giant pimple grew on my face. It was all the hotness, I tell you. Anyway, I got sick of carrying this thing around with me and having to talk to everyone from behind the giant cheek pimple so I went to the pharmacy looking for a solution. The lady behind the counter listened to my request and instructed me to follow her around the store. I started walking behind her as she made her way to the makeup section and grabbed a foundation that she said would match my skin tone.

That, right there – society’s problem, in a nutshell.

I didn’t want to cover it up. I wanted it gone from my skin. Not because of what it looked like (well, okay, it wasn’t the prettiest I had ever felt) but because of what it meant for my skin. I was looking for some sort of lotion to treat the skin and make the pimple disappear, not just a way to disguise it.

Every single ad that has the potential to be about health actually sends out an obvious message about looks and appearance. Why do we keep confusing these two things? Since when is a “bikini body” a sign of health? Unless I suck my stomach in, I’ve got a layer of nice healthy chubby flesh that hangs over the top of my bikini bottoms. But I assure you I can outrun most of the skinny chicks on the beach.

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The whole perceived beauty thing has been in the spotlight recently because of Dove’s latest ad campaign. As much as I remind myself to take anything Dove says with a grain of salt (they are in the business of making you feel like you need their creams and lotions after all), Dove has been consistently making those “real beauty” campaigns for years. Also, Dove is owned by Unilever, who own Ben & Jerry’s. I can’t bring myself to completely dislike people who make Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream. Regardless of our thoughts on the campaign, it’s getting people to talk. Possibly even getting people to wonder to themselves whether they’re actually more beautiful than they see themselves as being.

I could rant on and on for thousands of words about how many people are judging themselves based on completely arbitrary and subjective numbers, but there’s really no point. Just like I’m ranting about “beach bodies” right now, I’m probably two or three blog post reads away from exploding all over the DietBet stuff that seems to be inundating the internet right now (although, when that day comes, I’m not sure I know enough expletives in just one language to describe what I think of how irresponsible that can be). The point is that there are a number of “healthy living bloggers” out there talking about “bikini bodies” and other related crap and carelessly passing on the wrong “skinny = fit” message. This morning, while emptying out my Google Reader, I read yet another one of those “are you ready for bikini season?” posts and officially reached my threshold. Your pseudo-motivational posters with super skinny chicks in tiny bikinis holding weights are irresponsible. The whole “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” crap that Kate Moss probably said out of hunger is something you’d only agree with if you’ve never found yourself in a room with a jar of Nutella.

Have you ever spectated a marathon, for example, or any other kind of sport that requires a fairly decent level of fitness? Next time you do, notice how different those fit people are from the people you see on catwalks (the ones having 2 lettuce leaves and a pea for lunch). Fitness comes in all sizes and shapes. I don’t want to be the skinniest person in the cemetery. I want to be the last one to get there.

I’m not saying we should all be praising the benefits of a 100% chocolate brownie-based diet (although, admit it, that sounds awesome). All I’m saying is that you don’t have to get your body ready for summer, certainly no more than you should get your body ready for any other season. Your “bikini body” is whatever body you put a bikini on and anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t really helping you at all. So, northern hemisphere ladies, put on your bikinis, bathing suits, onesies or tents. Put on whatever you want. Just enjoy your summer (now that I’m already missing mine) and stop wasting time thinking about what you appear like to others. More often than not, others don’t actually give a shit. And neither should you.

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Getting off my soapbox now. It’s time for a muffin.


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Orewa Beach Half Marathon recap

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Apparently, the secret to getting things done, if you’re me, is to reach your monthly broadband allowance and have your internet slow down to a crawl for a few days. You’ll get so frustrated trying to load websites at dial-up speeds that you’ll actually unplug and do stuff. Offline stuff. It’s amazing. I got a decent amount of stuff done in those 48 hours. Like, a half marathon.

I’m not sure everyone is aware of this but, as it turns out, not training for half marathons (and not running much at all in the lead up to those), means you won’t have a very good time, in both senses of the expression. My time sucked a bit (not my fastest, not my slowest) and I didn’t exactly feel thrilled about running while I was out on that course. In fact, I kind of hated running a little bit during it. Not training certainly contributed to that, but the fact that 4 out of those 21km were on sand didn’t do much for my enjoyment either. Running on sand sucks and this is as politely as I can put it.

It’s no one’s fault but mine, though. The Orewa Beach Half is a really nice little local event, starting and finishing near the surf club on Orewa Beach. The course gives you a little taste of everything, with a loop that starts on the beach and takes you through bush, urban areas, and a park, before finishing on the beach again. There are no bib numbers and no time chips, just a clock near the start and finish line. You time yourself if you want to or you run for the fun of it. The volunteers are all locals and did a wonderful job of keeping everyone smiling along the course. Orewa residents come out for additional support and the whole race has a neat small town kind of amateur feel to it.

I hadn’t been running much in the weeks before Orewa, because I’ve been worried my IT Band issues might come back (this may or may not be the last time I complain about that). My longest run since Coatesville had been 10k and my weekly mileage hadn’t been anything to write home about so I wasn’t expecting miracles in Orewa. I could have enjoyed it more with some training but I think I was also having one of those off days when you’d just rather not run. I only really managed to get into it about 16k in and, soon after, the final stretch on the sand started. Running on sand always takes away my will to live. The best part, if you exclude the cute little girl handing out dinosaur-shaped lollies along the course, came after the finish line, when one of the organisers came up to me with a worried look on her face and asked if I really was over 16 years old. I laughed and told her she’d just made my day. Sweating bucket loads will make you look young, Like, really freaking young apparently.

I’m pretty happy to have gotten this one under my belt – I remember entering their 10k event a couple of years ago and jealously looking at the half marathoners, wishing I would one day, maybe, who knows, perhaps, hopefully become one of them.

So let’s look on the bright side: I managed to run another half (which brings this year’s total to 3 half marathons, plus the marathon, so far), my IT Band didn’t complain much, I got another start and finish line by the sea (my favourite), and I learned that if you don’t like running on sand, maybe entering events with “beach” in the name isn’t the thing for you. Or maybe you just need to harden up.

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Speaking of hardening up, in sort of related news, I bought weightlifting gloves the other day. Watch out, world, one of these days I’ll start being able to open jars on my own. In all seriousness, I’ve realised the importance of working the entire body if you’re a runner and, one of these days, I’ll graduate from the baby-weights and join the grunting crowd. Maybe. That stuff looks like hard work.


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B for Boston

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The plan for today was to be jealous of people in Boston, running the world’s most iconic marathon. The plan was not to feel fortunate to not have been there. Then the plan changed. Instead, I decided to run a B-shaped (almost) 10km course as a tribute to the victims of the tragedy in Boston, where I was joined by two other fellow runners. It started and finished on the aptly named Boston Road in Auckland. We ran along our route chatting away about running events we’d entered, sharing tips and tales of running achievements. Not a sad word was spoken, except when we complained about the rain hitting our faces.

I followed the reactions on the internet all day today. Never had I seen Kathrine Switzer’s quote used more often than I did today. The first woman to run the Boston Marathon, back in 1967, famously said: “if you are losing faith in human nature, go and watch a marathon”. It has never been simultaneously as appropriate and inappropriate as today. The race famous in 1967 for Switzer’s entry is now famous for being the scene of a crime. Watching what happened at that finish line does nothing for anyone’s faith in human nature today.

But watching what happened after that does. There are a number of examples of people offering others a roof in Boston, or any other sort of help. The Red Cross doesn’t need any more blood because it got so many donations from selfless people. The NBC reported that some runners crossed the finish line and kept on running towards the hospital to give blood. People offered food, shelter and any kind of assistance to those who needed it. Humanity wins (Patton Oswalt has a good post today about that).

My thoughts kept drifting back to Boston today because, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m really into running. And Boston is, as many describe, the holy grail of marathon running. As runners, we’re part of the same tribe, a global community of like-minded people. Those were my people out there in Boston today, we’re part of the same group. Messing with my people messes with me.

Plus, this is a sport event. A charitable event. A symbol. The triumph of men and women going further than they thought possible. It is linked to camaraderie, to the best of the human spirit, to overcoming adversity. It’s not meant to be linked to any of this bombing bullshit. If an event like this isn’t safe, where’s safe? The sad realisation is that nowhere is safe. It’s hard to look at images of people with missing limbs and not lose faith in human nature, wherever those people are from.

Today sucked. It sucked in every direction. It sucked in Boston, and in Iraq, where lots of lives were also lost in explosions. It sucked in the Koreas (damn, just get along already!) and it sucked in a bunch of other places I won’t even mention here because this is a blog about running so I’ll ask you to go elsewhere for the news of all the suckiness in the world today. I’m going to focus on the good: I went for a run in the rain with two fellow runners, it felt great. On days like today, I feel even more fortunate to be part of this crazy community.

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon”, yes. If that marathon turns out to be a horrible tragedy, you can still admire the amazing feats of those who finished it (please, 2013 Boston finishers, don’t feel bad for bragging about your time!) and you can also admire the amazing acts of kindness that came out of it. That, if nothing else, should help restore that faith in human nature.

I hope you get out there and run today. Just because you can.


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Stuff and some unrelated pictures of other stuff, while I think of something better to say

Well, well, well.

So much to talk about in general, so little to say in particular.

But I suppose I should update this place, especially since Mal Law’s review of my review last week brought so many new people over. Hi everyone, old and new. Sorry if you came here thinking there’d be something just as interesting to read. I got nothing.

Well, sort of. There’s stuff.

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I managed not to forget my running gear at home and make it to the Adidas store in time for their weekly group run last week.

I’ve been getting my running groove back, slow and steady, ever since my leg stopped hurting a couple of weeks ago. Now that I’ve gone through my first period of injury and forced rest, I’m ultra careful about trying not to get hurt again. Those weeks without running were mental agony and if running less means I can avoid going through that stuff again, then I’ll be patient.

So that’s what I’ve been training lately – my patience and my discipline.

To say that I’m failing is a bit of an understatement. I’ve been running often but I’ve also been noticing how a Cadbury chocolate-based diet carries few fitness benefits (it’s one of those studies I had to conduct so you don’t have to. You can thank me later). My pace is slower, my legs are heavier (well, my everything is heavier) and, some days, I’m less motivated to run than Lindsay Lohan is to go to rehab. But it’s a phase, right? Coming out of injury is a funny stage to be in, a struggle between wanting to make sure you don’t completely lose your hard-earned fitness while also ensuring you don’t go out too fast and can recover 100% before breaking yourself again.

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That’s AM, people. Not PM. I know, I’m shocked too.

As part of my efforts to stay motivated and to become more disciplined, I’ve done two things in particular lately, which are also #5 and #8 on my list of new year’s resolutions (yes, I’m still talking about those).

In the beginning of the month, I started a 30-day photo project (which explains the random photos you see appearing throughout this post). No themes to follow or any of that stuff, just me challenging myself to remember to take a photo a day and post it to Instagram. It’s not about taking 30 photos in a hurry on the last day of April, it’s about a consistent ongoing effort to complete an easy task every day. Much like training for a run, it is something that doesn’t allow for laziness or procrastination, something that you can’t just go and cram into the very last minute. Ask anyone – I’m the queen of last minute. So far, I’m doing okay-ish, but the first few photos were pretty much all taken in the last few minutes before midnight.

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Morning run along Hobsonville Point last Sunday. Hello, Autumn!

The other thing I did in the interest of motivation was cough out $295 on Friday for the XTERRA trail running series pack. I could have sat here and promised that I’d run all 6 events this Winter but we all know that I’d find excuses to skip one or two, in favor of staying in bed or watching the Come Dine with Me omnibus that airs every Saturday morning. But nothing like seeing triple digits coming out of my account to get my butt into training mode. Excited? Yes I am.

Lastly, a few blogging words about blogging, just to be really meta. In the last couple of days, I got mentioned in the blogs of three awesome ladies: slowgirlfastdog, some kind of runderful, and barefoot marathon momma. They all thought I deserved one of those “Versatile Blog Awards”, which automatically makes them awesome so you should head to their blogs if you don’t read them yet. Anyway, the rules dictate that I link to them (done), post an image of the “versatile blog award” logo thingie

(hang on)

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there you go.

And it also says that I have to list ten things about myself. I’ve done more than that a while ago, when I wrote the 40 things you don’t need to know about me and stuck it in the About page (go read it if you need to feel normal). I really can’t come up with 10 other things so pick 10 out of those 40 and be amused. Done. I’m also supposed to choose 10 or 15 bloggers (the rules differ on this) and nominate them for the award. Since I’m not sure what exact number to follow, I suppose I can just nominate everyone on my list of daily reads. Done.

A few hundred words about nothing in particular. Seinfeld would be proud.


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If you only read one book about running…

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Malcolm Law at the Pt Chev Bookshop and Resource Room, talking about his book, last month, four days after running 100km at the Tarawera Ultra.

I really dislike writing book reviews because whenever I read a disappointing book, I always feel like the horrible mean lady telling the mother their baby is ugly. So, instead, I just give them stars on Amazon and Good Reads and carry on with life assuming I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings about their babies or their books.

When a book is really, really good, however, I have no problem writing a review. Look at the words flowing out of the keyboard, straight onto the WordPress screen like nobody’s business. This review? It’s practically writing itself.

First, the jist of it: One Step Beyond chronicles Malcolm Law’s crazy ass idea of quitting normal life and running New Zealand’s Seven Great Walks (in the mainland) in Seven Days to raise money for the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation (which is now called Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand). If you’re not from New Zealand and/or you’ve never heard of the Seven Great Walks, you can read about them here or you can just trust me when I tell you that this is one of the craziest ideas a runner could have (the equivalent of running 9 mountain marathons in seven consecutive days, having to make your way to all these remote places in different parts of the country).

The book documents the entire process from planning to training and execution, along with all the crazy bits in between. If you’re a runner, it’s the book you have been waiting to read. If you’re someone who likes adventure, it’s the book you have been waiting to read. If you love sitting on the couch doing nothing but deep down wish you were out there exploring, then you should already be halfway through this book. What are you still doing here?

By the time I first heard about Malcolm Law, a couple of years had passed since this first 7in7 adventure. His website was one of the first I discovered when I first started getting into trail running a couple of years ago. At the time, he was gearing up for his CoastPathRun an epic adventure to raise funds for Mental Health Foundation NZ. Mal at the time emailed me saying thank you for the donation to his cause (sending personal thank you notes to donors was important to him, as he talks about in the book) and I thanked him for the inspiration (I was training for a 35k trail, and felt like I needed all the extra inspiration I could find). From then on, I’ve followed his adventures closely (like that time he “climbed Everest in a day” in preparation for the CoastPathRun) and his website – a trail running bible for New Zealand – became a sort of manual of reference for me, whenever I want a new trail to explore.

In the book, he makes no secrets about all the work that went into organising 7in7, about the decision to quit his day job and run after his passion instead. The market analyst turned adventurer extraordinaire did exactly what each one of us secretly dreams of doing and turned his passion into his full-time job. What’s even more awesome, I hear you ask? He has single-handedly raised over a quarter of a million dollars to the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation in the process. Don’t even try to pretend that’s not what you want to do too.

One of the reasons it took me longer than usual to finish this book was because of the amount of times I got distracted and found myself drifting away, having flashbacks of past trail runs and an unbelievable envy of Mal for having dared to even dream to do something like the 7in7.

I’m pretty sure that was his point, though. He wanted to create that envy because it is that envy that gets you out there doing stuff. His premise is that, if he can do it, anybody can do it. Yes, even you. Or I. It’s the triumph of the “average” man. Mal doesn’t break any records other than the ones he sets for himself (which are pretty damn huge anyway). The point is, he’s just a regular person, not an elite athlete who’s been training for this his entire life. You know what that means, right? It means there’s hope. That if we suck it up and get out there like he did, if we harden up about the blisters and take the hills head on, we can do it too. That’s pretty damn exciting.

More importantly, though, he had a cause. He did it for his brother Alan, who died 40 years ago of Leukemia – something Mal could never quite get over. On his feet, during the adventure, his running shoes. Around his neck, the photo of his brother Alan, the real reason for this whole thing. Let’s get one thing straight: no one just decides that they feel like going for a massive seven-day trail run, up and down mountains and through rugged country. This was his way of finding closure for his brother’s death, an issue that had gone unresolved in his heart for 40 years. In the process, he helped a whole lot of people going through the same thing his family did back then. You know how running makes people awesome? It’s for stuff like this too.

By the time I got to the epilogue, last night, I was experiencing some weird symptoms: teary eyes (his son Beinn running the final few meters of the Kepler Challenge with him? Stop it, you’re making my heart hurt!) and really, really itchy feet, desperate to step on the trails.

If you think things have now gotten a little out of hand and he can’t get himself into anything crazier, think again. He’s plotting an even more outrageous adventure so keep an eye on Running Wild NZ for details. Also, that’s the same website where you can buy his book from, if you want to read an amazing story and get inspired to do epic stuff with yourself.


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Do as I say, not as I do

A surprisingly large number of people arrive at this little magical corner of the internet by searching for a training plan to help them prepare for a half marathon in two weeks time, which is crazy because I have no advice to give to anyone on anything, other than perhaps some tips on what ingredients can/should have chocolate sauce on top (answer: all of them). Anyway, search terms. This week, so far, for example:

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My thoughts on each of the people who came here after searching for something similar to the above?

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Two weeks to train for a half marathon sounds a little crazy to me so I look at those searches and I judge. Silly people, thinking two weeks is enough. Two weeks is nothing. Even if you’ve run before and half marathons aren’t that big a deal (although, considering you’re searching for a training plan, I think it’s fair to assume you feel like you need some guidance), two weeks is too short to properly train for anything that you’re so convinced you need to train for you even Google training plans for it.

So, hmm, yeah. Two week training plan, bad idea. Funny story: this morning, there was an email in my inbox. It was from the organisers of an event I apparently signed up for a month or so ago. They’re wondering whether I’m planning on walking or running the half marathon, as I apparently didn’t specify that in the form and they’re in the process of posting out the bibs to entrants. I quick hit reply and let them know I’m planning to run it, then opened a new tab and typed in the event’s website to remind myself when it was.

April 21st. Two weeks away.

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For those who arrive here using those search terms I mentioned above, hi. Picture me cleaning up the egg off my face (I’d search for a suitable gif but I think I’ve reached my gif quote for this post). I’m one of you. And I have no clue either.

I guess only one piece of advice comes to mind, and I’m not too sure it counts as a training plan per se but… let’s hope for the best and plan things properly next time, alright?

To all the other sane people who arrive here by searching for other stuff, sorry about the lack of naked Ryan Gosling pictures. Also, any advice on how to train for a half marathon in two weeks is appreciated.

Thanks.

(On the plus side, knee pain update #589357: no knee pain. I’ve run on 7 out of the last 9 days. Short runs but, nevertheless, pain-free runs. You may very well never hear me complain about my knee again. Success!)

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