An 8 mile story

Yesterday I mentioned that I think we get (even more) judgy of each other in January. Well I think we also get judgy of ourselves. I have struggled and struggled and struggled to remember that comparing myself to other people who run is less than helpful. I see other people’s stats on strava or on FB posts and I judge them and I judge me. I see them as runners, I feel crap about my running ability… But that’s changed a bit.

I think one, possibly unintended, consequence of joining the #Run1000mile Challenge last year when there really wasn’t a hope in hell that I’d get there was acceptance of different running. In that FB group there are people who routinely run more in a month than us mere mortals usually do in a year, there are people who will have nailed the 1000 miles by spring, people who run up mountains like I run up molehills and there are some who can actually run downhill (I know, weird, right). Then there are those who run marathons, halves, 10ks at speeds that look closer to my 5k PB than anything you should reasonably expect over those distances; there are people who race, people who don’t, people who think 10 minute mile pace is a nice easy run and then there are – wait for it – people who run slowly. People who are amazed and ecstatic that they have managed over 50 miles in a month, people who are slow, people who are building up distance, people who are just starting, people who have started several times, people who have been running forever, people just doing it because it might just be possible – people a little bit like me.

The group supports everyone, we celebrate all successes and I think the people who make that group special, who are always there commenting are people who really understand that running is personal, it’s our own private rollercoaster. We all got on that rollercoaster for different reasons but once you’re on it’s one hell of a ride and that ride is different for each of us. It can be about speed or distance, about climbs, about challenging terrain, about weight loss, about physical health, about mental health, about getting out and seeing the world, about racing yourself or others, it can be about anything you want it to be. And it doesn’t always have to be about the same thing. I had no idea running could be like that – I presumed that runners run to get faster and go further and chase PBs and beat others in races. That presumption shaped my perspective for a long time but slowly slowly slowly I am learning that it’s my run, my rules. It’s funny because I have used exactly that line so often when people have asked for advice on their running – like if it’s ok to take walk breaks or whether that’s cheating. Your run, your rules. Why didn’t I ever realise that this is also true for me?

So recently I have tried very hard to not compare, not to others and not to what I could do at the height of Dopey training in the second half of 2015 or what I once did somewhere on a particularly good day. I have tried to forget about pace and distance and I promised myself that running was always going to be a safe and happy place free from judgment and self-loathing. That’s important because I run mostly for mental health and if running starts to impact negatively rather than help, well then I’m in serious trouble – there’s nowhere else for me to go. It’s sort of working. I’ve said before I try and judge ‘good’ when it comes to a run based on whether I enjoyed it and/or saw something cool along the way.

So this was quite a longwinded way to get to my 8 mile story. Here are the stats – look at them and think about what you see, tell me what you see if you like – then I’ll tell you the story of that run.


So you might see slow (ish) first 4 miles but fairly consistent pace and then it all falls apart. Mile 5 pace drops significantly, mile 6 recovers just a little, one last push maybe before crashing out completely and having to walk the remaining 2 miles home. Yep, well if I look at those stats in a few months time, I’ll probably think something similar (which is why I’m writing about it now and will add a comment on strava too).  So here’s my 8 mile story:

I didn’t really want to run. The black pup has been hanging around wondering if it can be bothered to come and pounce and I’ve rather been hoping it might not find me on the sofa (of course in reality, it’s the depression that’s keeping me on the sofa but stick with me). It was also sleeting. I was scared the canal towpath might be slippery. It wasn’t. So we set off to run across to Bingley and feed our friend’s cats and then run back. 4 miles there and 4 miles back. The first 4 miles were great. For the last few weeks I have mostly been running 1 minute walking 30 seconds; I changed the intervals today to run 2 minutes and run 30 seconds. It felt good to be running a bit longer, my feet and calves were ok with the increase and while it definitely felt harder, it also felt comfortable. The first 4 miles are therefore actually just awesome and about 45 seconds per mile faster on average than I have been doing along the flat – without trying, without being miserable.

At half way we had a few minutes rest obviously as we sorted the cats and I stretched out
my calves. They were ok but just threatening a niggle.


Then we set off back. Mile 5 was great but included the Bingley Locks – 3 and 5 rise and while I ran up the 3, I needed a slightly longer walk to recover and there was no way I was running up 5.  Mile 6 I started to struggle a little but this was close to the furthest I’ve run for a while and I wasn’t struggling in the sense of needing or wanting longer walk breaks or even stopping. I suspect I did slow a little though and then decided to try an new footpath to head home and ended up walking a bit to get onto it and then walking a bit more as it got steeper.

Mile 7 then – well mile 7 was up the muddy footpath and across a couple of muddy fields and then an section uphill on the road. I am struggling with muddy. It’s not normal. I don’t even think I’m scared of falling – I’m pretty well padded all round – I don’t know what it is but it’s panic inducing. It’s far beyond a healthy respect for the conditions and not wanting to fall. So not rational. My instinct was to turn back or to curl up in a ball and rock, or freeze and cry. I didn’t to any of those, I kept moving forward, very slowly and with the odd whimper but I kept moving. It took a while to calm down and then we tried a little jog again. Then came the footpath between two estates – muddy of course – so panic set it in again and I just had to keep moving forward – slowly but surely. I got there.

A last little jog and final walk up hill – done. Longest run this year – and for quite a while. I have also already run more this February than I did in the same month last year. So my 8 mile story is a really positive one – 6 good miles of running and 2 miles of facing fears and battling through. I seem to have banned the pup to the hallway too. So let’s not judge our runs by the stats – they don’t tell us what really happened out there.


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