What is ‘bonking’ anyway?

Until a few months ago I thought bonking was a euphemism.

That was until I started hanging out with runners, some of whom are also cyclists (I’m looking at you Olney) when bonking takes an entirely different meaning. The best I can deduce is that it is when you run out of energy and more specifically fuel – you’ve not eaten enough, forgotten your last gel or eaten the wrong things and you get the legs of lead! I think when cycling this can normally be eradicated by a cake stop and better planning next time.

Please feel free to correct me on all/part of my bonking definition. 

So I am not proud to tell you that yesterday I *think* I had my first bonk. It started so well, I carefully packed my bum bag race belt with a baby food pouch and Nakd bar on Saturday ready for the 15km I had on my plan from Coach Ralph. Not just a straight up 15km though, sneaking in another medal before Paris was too tempting especially as this 15km neatly fitted with the ‘Richmond 13.1’ 10km race and the 5km it would take me to run there.

I ran the Richmond 13.1 as my first ever half marathon last year and loved every bit of it, despite having run parts of the route/round Old Deer Park plenty of times since then, this felt really special. It was a very different day for me, marking big changes in me as a runner and in my life. Anywho, enough of the sentimental. I didn’t want to get there too early and stand in the cold as I wasn’t going to check in any baggage. I gave myself a (normally) generous 45 minutes to run the 5km to Richmond for the start. I got into Richmond with 10 minutes to spare and then panicked a bit, I was still a few minutes run from the start so I picked the pace up, turned a corner and BOOM, ran into a huge queue of half marathoners (they started at 9 rather than 8:30 like me) shuffling down the road, round the corner and over the pedestrian crossing. Looking back I feel a bit guilty that I insisted on saying “excuse me” to everyone and working my way through the crowd but I hate being late.

Despite the panic and the shuffling I made it into the start funnel with 5 minutes to spare which was more than plenty, lesson learned. I was contemplating having a shlurp of baby food, when I decided that as it was a training run rather than a race I would just have it at the 5km mark or 10km for me. I was testing out my top, race belt and race number combo for the marathon and it would be good to try getting my baby food out.

Richmond 13.1 Selfie

On this note I have a small issue with my belt and number. If I put my number up too high it covers my name, in the middle and it covers my belt. Should I try having it below my belt? Is it going to flap around my upper thighs and really annoy me? Currently I think I’ll just have to cover my name 🙁

The race started in beautiful sunshine and I let myself pelt it off, oops. At about the 2km mark we were on the tow path and faced with intermittent spiky rain and a headwind. My Garmin beeped and I was surprised to see a pace of 5:11 (I work in km) so to keep my head up as I find a headwind really demoralising I decided to try and keep the pace up.

Which I did until km 8. I said to myself ‘take this one easy and then when we hit the park we’ll up the pace again’, except that upping-of-pace never came. Instead, all the people I picked off in km 7, suddenly started picking me off! My legs were going but there wasn’t anything left, even when the marshal told me 500m to go, I couldn’t find any more I was plodding, plod, plod, plodding.

Richmond 13.1 MedalI feared the worst, but as I finished and turned off my Garmin a small smile broke over my face, a 10k PB, at a race where I ran there, had no support and *just realised* I didn’t have any fuel AT ALL. D’oh. I’d got all caught up in my pace and not noticed the kms clicking over. A bigger smile broke over my face, ‘imagine if I didn’t run here and had eaten properly, hmm sub 50, is it possible?!’

So there we go, I ‘bonked’.

Richmond 13.1 TeeLuckily I didn’t have time to mope about my tired legs because the finish line was superbly well organised. My chip was snipped, my medal popped over my head and then I was being thanked by the lady (who sprinted past me in the last 50) for pacing her. Queue more smiles. We were expertly marshalled through stations to receive water, a banana (immediately scoffed), coconut water, a plastic bag with samples and leaflets, socks and then a technical t-shirt in a range of sizes. at £18 for entry, this is a bargain!

As I was on my own, I skulked off back to the bus stop, but before I did I had a peek at all the food stalls. No cash on me – silly. As well as the standard bacon and sausage fayre there was a creperie, oat van (muesli, porridge etc), a cupcakery and more – well done on such imagination race team. I never fancy bacon after a race and if I’d had cash I would have gone for oats and maybe a cupcake to take home too.

I travelled home on the bus, with a smug PB smile on my face, to answer all the stares my medal got, but more importantly a lesson learnt. Fuel properly and achieve your best! It’s even more annoying because during the week I’d received a box of fuelling goodies (header image) for Schneider Electric to get me ready for Paris Marathon.

One more non-bonking related comment – I arrived home at 10am, which was lovely. I sat down and had breakfast with David knowing I had already run a race that morning and had a full day ahead of me.

Lovely Jubbly. Well except the bonking. (stop sniggering at the back)

Have you ever made a fuelling error?

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  1. Nick says:

    i’ve got an explanation of bonking in an old blog post of mine : http://runningforbeth.com/2014/02/02/steves-70-mile-bonk-and-cairn-o-mount/

    It’s a cycling thing, from a spike in HR/power output that cannot be maintained for a significant period of time. Your bodies fuse is only so long to ride at a certain intensity. It doesn’t quite apply to distance running. In running you’re meant to hold a consistent pace, so your body doesn’t need to access this store. So you’re more ‘hitting the wall’ – which, more comes out of nowhere, as it’s not a sudden push of effort that caused it, it’s just that your energy stores have been gradually depleted then you’ve got fuck all left. Hope that makes sense, even thought it’s written badly.

  2. Bethan says:

    I love that feeling of getting up early, running a race and getting home at 10am to enjoy the rest of the day, it’s the best (and makes me a little smug!).

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