Deborah James – Marathon & Race for Life training

In the seventh in our Health Unwrapped series of podcasts, our host, ex Heart Radio presenter and founder of The Fertility Podcast, Natalie Silverman, speaks to Deborah James. Deborah is the inspirational host of podcast You, Me and the Big C, Sun columnist, mum of two and lives with stage 4 bowel cancer, she can be found @bowelbabe on social media networks.

Fascinating and fact-filled, Natalie’s conversation with Deborah looks at training for long distance running and how Deborah copes with, and recovers from, such gruelling training while undergoing treatment for bowel cancer.

Please note this podcast was recorded in early March prior to the postponement of the London Marathon and Race for Life events. However, you can visit Race for Life’s website to find out how you can Race For Life at Home.

Below is a taster – with Deborah’s top tips

Listen to the complete conversation here.

What does running mean to you?

“I have always been really sporty, when I was younger I was a national gymnast so exercise has always been a part of who I am. The medals I have achieved for running in various long-distance charity events mean so much to me because they are aligned with milestones in my treatment and recovery from treatment. After my initial cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgeries, I wasn’t able to exercise and this was really hard for me and my mental health. We all know how physically good exercise is for you, and obviously it is important for me to be physically strong but even more important for me personally is the positive effects running has on my mental health.”

Out running cancer

“‘Out running cancer’ is a term I use quite a bit and I often run to the Royal Marsden for treatment (8km) or run to pick up my test results. I always tell myself ‘If I’m running today, I’m not dead!’ It is my dark sense of humour but I find running really makes me feel alive, it is really positive for me.”

Tell us about your training

“Firstly, it still always entails a mental battle with myself and some serious procrastination! I think this is pretty normal considering the amount of times I’ve had to start back at what feels like square one with my training because of setbacks with surgeries etc. One week I’ll be happily running 10K or a half marathon then I’ll have surgery and be barely able to walk down a corridor – so training for me has always felt like a bit of an extra uphill battle.

I think it is important to mention I am a slow runner, I’m not ashamed of this, it is not a competitive thing for me, I’m just happy to be running at what I call ‘party pace’. And that is the great thing about events like Race for Life and the London Marathon it is the taking part, the emotion, the personal stories and the amazing support we can give charities that are close to our hearts.”

What’s your advice on preparing for a big run?

“You have to listen to your body – this is a big one for me, I have to listen to my body and look after myself. A lot of it is self-belief as well, you need to believe you can do it!

I would advise any beginners to download the NHS app Couch to 5K, it is a great place to start. Then push yourself to say yes to runs, signing up for event runs gives you definitive milestone to work towards and it helps to motivate your training. Then it is important to talk to other runners, online communities are great and so supportive. And, of course, you need to train and eat properly.

Recovery is key, you have to let your muscles recover during training. Relaxing with a bath is something I do a lot of when I’m training. It is important for my body to balance nutrients, such as magnesium, when I’m training – this is vital for muscle recovery. And I love a massage as because my muscles do get extra sore!”

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