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Monday Inspiration: Vicki Weitz the Running Artist

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Posted by Vicki Weitz of 26 marathons in 26 days under Running on 22 September 2013 at 11:00 PM

Running a marathon is a huge sporting accomplishment, so when we heard from Heather J about a performance artist who was running a marathon a day for 26 days as an Edinburgh Festival performance, we felt it was time to find out more about the artistic side of marathon running!

Vicki Weitz - 26 Marathons in 26 Days

Where did the idea for 26 days of marathon come from?

Previously I've looked at the cross-over between sport and art (I'm a performance artist), focussing on spectatorship, preparation and performance. This piece is an extension of that, looking at commitment, endeavour, endurance but also participation and motivation.

Fear was another important factor, I've never done anything like this before so I had no way of knowing whether or not I would be able to complete it, other than a huge determination to do so, and repeatedly saying to myself: Failure is not an option!

Do you still feel there is a connection between art and running?

Vicki Weitz and Tribesports' Heather J Definitely! For me, performance art is way of noticing the world in which we live in, it's not about providing answers, it's about asking questions and giving the space for conversations to develop.

It's a way of marking the moment. I've always been interested in using repetition as a way of highlighting a moment or a thought or an action and running is a perfect example of this.

It is a simple repetitive act, which I believe that most people can do (with some training). I think running had an important part in the development of the human race and it continues to be important now because of the way it can unite people across different backgrounds.

What was your training regime like on the build up to the Edinburgh Festival?

When I decided to do 26 marathons in 26 days (August 2012) I started to go out 3 times a week for 20 minutes, until I could run for 20 minutes 3 times a week! After this, I added 10% to my runs each week so it built very gradually. Eventually I reached the point where I was able to do a 10 mile run comfortably.

So the last few months I was running 10 miles a day from Monday to Friday, but on a weds or a thurs (depending on work) I would do a 20 mile run. I would go to boxing on a Saturday morning for cross training and I had Sundays off. In order to fit the running around my life I would get up at 5am each day to run (so I would be home in time to get my children to school), apart from my 20 mile run, when I would get up

at 5am to eat and then run from 8.30am after my children had gone to school. 

Sometimes I would also go to boxing on a Monday and/or Weds evening and I also did some training with the men at Braintree Rugby Club

Many runners experience hitting The Wall - was there a day in your 26 day Challenge where you didn't think you'd complete the challenge?

The 9th marathon was the hardest, I found out after I had finished (and been home a week) that I had broken a bone in my right foot towards the end of the 8th marathon. So, without realising it, I was learning to run on a broken foot that day. Normally, I didn't count my mileage until I got to the 20th mile, at which point there would be only 3 more ups!* But that day, I counted every step as it was so difficult to take every step! I still didn't think I would give up though.

3 more "ups" The Royal Mile Marathons

On the 12th marathon I felt that I wasn't good enough and had some doubts about my ability (this was about the 18th mile), but after a good cry I felt a lot better and gritted my teeth and carried on!

On the 23rd marathon I had a moment where I thought, "I'm done, I don't want to do anymore", but that passed as quickly as it came and I was ok again.

How were you feeding yourself during the running each day?

My producer, Edd Hobbs, waited at about the half-way point (outside The Scottish Story-Telling Centre) and I stopped here each mile to drink water and/or lucozade and eat something. I had sweets like tangfastics, wine gums, jelly babies and towards the end I was eating a cheese sandwich for the last 13 miles of each marathon. Initially, I lost my appetite and found it hard to eat but eventually I found that I was getting very hungry.

I also ate fudge (delicious!) and sometimes had anti-bar. I ate about 700 calories per marathon.

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh is absolutely packed with people - did it feel more like a slalom than a marathon sometimes?

Yes, one of the people that ran with me said it was like trail running (particularly where the flyerers stand), and I often felt like a mountain goat picking a path through the crowd.

Slalom on The Royal Mile

But this was my favourite bit - there was so much going on that it was easy to be distracted and in the end I knew lots of people along this stretch who would offer me encouragement.

Many runners feel a sense of post-race-blues, how are you coping now your big challenge is finished?

The end of the marathons has been very surreal. It's an odd feeling to have completed them, especially after all the preparation. I'm not allowed to run for 3 months!!!! to allow my foot and my body to recover and I'm finding that very frustrating! I can swim though so I'm doing that. I've also found it hard to sleep at night. I feel as if I have a lot of energy and I'm not quite sure what to do with it! I'm back at work now (doing drama workshops) so that helps a bit.

And finally, what's next? 

I worked with The Human Performance Unit at Essex University before and during the marathons; they gave me advice and testing and have collected lots of data. I'm now in the process of putting this into a performance about the marathons.

In terms of other challenges - I'm still very interested in the links between sport and art (and life) so there will definitely be something else.

Vicki Weitz

There is a big part of me that thinks: if I can run 26 marathons in 26 days, what else can i do?

Vicki's first Tribesports Challenge to tick off was the Run your own marathon Challenge which is pretty epic - could you go 26.2 miles of your own race?

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