Focusing on London

After a very happy running day yesterday the focus now shifts to the London Marathon. It’s not far off. I’m happy with the training. I’m getting tired, yes, but that’s normal at this point in the training. The running isn’t worrying me. I know I can complete 26.2 miles, it’s a matter of staying injury free and then giving it my best shot on the day.

What is worrying me a little is fundraising. I don’t often run for charity and this is why – I don’t like asking people for money. I don’t like the whole ‘yay look at me I’m doing stuff that I think you should give money to an organisation I have chosen that might mean nothing to you for’. It’s weird, it’s odd, it’s a little bit embarrassing and I’m not good at it. Some people just seem to be able to be constantly in people’s faces about sponsorship etc. I just can’t do it. Kath’s charity place came with a £2000 fundraising target. I don’t have a target because I am using my ballot place but obviously it would be nice if that actually made a contribution to Mind! In other words we would really like to raise more than £2000 for the charity and that’s a phenomenal amount of money.

As well as not being comfortable constantly being in your faces, there are also loads of fundraising ideas which seem to raise a good amount of money which would require us to step right out of our comfort zones. We could probably do a pub quiz, we probably could have organised all sorts of social events but honestly, the training and the being sociable on the level described below is already pushing me outside my comfort zone. It’s already all quite people-y and maybe I should just get over myself but honestly it’s hard! So apart from really hoping a few more of you might be able and willing to sponsor us (You can do so here), we’re doing a few other bits and pieces.

  1. We are planning a carboot sale and some of our lovely neighbours have already donated items for us to sell there. If you have something that might fetch a pound or two at a carboot sale to donate and can get it to us by mid March or so then let us know.
  2. We are doing a cake bake for our local parkrun on 9th March and a coffee morning for our neighbours on the 10th March.
  3. Time permitting there may be more cake related efforts because – you know, cake.
  4. We have a couple of raffle ideas – we are still looking for a few more prizes for a running related one so if you know of anyone who might be able to donate some running/sport related prizes give us a shout! The other raffle had its soft launch at an event I did last week and is for legal academics. Read more about it on my academic blog here.

I realise this could easily be read as a whinge that people aren’t sponsoring us. It’s not intended to be that. If you want to support us, it genuinely means a lot to us, thank you. If this isn’t your thing, I get that too. I was just trying to share what’s on my mind as we head into the last couple of months of training and preparing

Stunning Running

Last weekend we went to a lodge on the edge if Kielder Water. It was our little anniversary get away. It was lush. We planned on a walk somewhere on the way on Friday, and runs on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

We set off Friday morning and drove north to the National Trust property Wallington. We had some lunch and then walked a little loop through the estate and woodland along the river. Then we had cake. This was a good start to the weekend! We visited the Kielder observatory in the evening but it was ridiculously windy and cloudy so we didn’t see anything much. The talks were interesting though

On Saturday morning we set off on a 7 mile loop around the Bull Crag Peninsula. The running was both harder and better than I imagined it would be. It was surprisingly hilly and it didn’t occur to me until about 4 miles in that one of the reasons the running was tough was because I wasn’t walking the hills. I was just running, looking at the amazing landscape and every now and again stopping for a photo. At the end my legs were tired and I was grateful to walk the last bit and look for red squirrels and very excited when we saw one!

The rest of Saturday was lazy and taken up with reading a whole stack of magazines which I’d left to pile up for ages and ages.

Sunday was long run day and I was anxious about this for some reason. We had decided to run out to Kielder dam and back – a total of about 13 miles. I prepped our tailwind for fuel, made sure watch and phone were charged and off we went. The first part of the route was the same as the day before but soon we were in new territory with Kielder Water on our left coming in and out of view as we zig zagged our way through the woods on the ‘waterside’ path.

I walked a few more of the hills on Sunday. I nearly had a meltdown in mile 2 because I seemed to be really feeling the uphill pull on that section. I got over myself and actually ran almost all of the first 5 miles which took us to the Tower Knowe visitor centre which was closed but did have some toilets that were open. From there it was another mile and a half to the other side of the dam so we jogged across, had a little break as we marvelled at the views and then set off back.

We took more pictures and walk breaks on the way back. By mile 8 though I was wondering if maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew with this pretty undulating 13 miler. For the next 3 miles or so I had a battle in my head to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Then we were nearly there anyway and we walked a bit through a section of wood just before the Waterside Park our lodge was part of, the bit where we’d seen the squirrel.

The rest of Sunday involved more reading, the hot tub and a bottle of prosecco. I felt properly happily tired. We did go for a little walk once it got dark to look at stars. Wow, even with the lights of the cabins, reception and pub/restaurant, we could see so much more than we can ever see at home. I couldn’t work out the camera settings though to get enough exposure to take pictures so gave up and just looked at the night sky for a while.

Monday we were going to have a little sunrise run. I was tired and my legs were heavy. It was also very slippery with frost on the tarmac bits and I was not at all impressed with that. We went the other way along the water this time and after not quite a mile and a half came to a road/tarmac bit which was frosty and we couldn’t really see how long the tarmac stretch was so we called that it, turned round and then stopped about half way back to watch the sunrise.

We had breakfast, got packed and headed towards home. It was a 23 mile weekend and while I was definitely tired I was not broken. I am getting fitter but actually the most important thing about the running over that weekend is that we were just running for fun, doing our thing and that on all of the outings bits of it were effortless, bits of it were really challenging and I loved every minute, even the hard and bloody awful ones.

Hanging On

So here’s a thing: I am running phenomenally well. Yep, I am. I am running with ease, I am running without walk breaks for far longer distances than ever before (including a 10 miler last weekend which was grumpy but easy) and I feel fitter and stronger than ever. I ran over 100 miles in January and I enjoyed most of them.

Here’s another thing: I am hanging on and only just about keeping my shit together. I don’t know why. There was no obvious trigger. I got pummelled by jet lag when we arrived back from Florida two weeks ago. It took me the week to feel vaguely normal again. I slept lots. I went to London for work last Saturday and that was the first day I felt like the jet lag might be lifting. But maybe it wasn’t all jet lag. This last week wasn’t better. I stopped being hungry at random times and was just always hungry and I stopped being tired at random times and was instead just a general, heavy and dark sort of tired. I liked the sofa, I spent a lot of time on it. Too much time. I struggled to work to anything like capacity. I spent a week maybe doing 2 easy days of work. I got annoyed with myself.

So as I do battle with my black puppy I can’t really be bothered to do anything much and I can’t think. I’ve had lots of stuff to do that is either already late or with very imminent deadlines. I’ve been a grumpy sort of indifferent about all of this. Irritated by the existence of obligations, deadlines and things to do. When I’m busy or have to do things, I want to run, when I have the time to run, I can’t be bothered. But yet I have. In the same way that you might not really want to take a tablet but you just do, I have just run. I have clung to the marathon training plan like it is the one thing that might just pull me out of the darkness and help me regain my ability to think. And maybe it will.

I ran today. I didn’t want to really. I’m scared of slippery surfaces but driven on by something, by wanting to feel better and not foggy, by wanting my little grey cells to whirr round and have ideas and make connections which I can express in gorgeously crafted sentences which make sense… anyway, driven by something…. As I plodded along trying to stick to the least compacted snow I tried to encourage my mind to heal and just go where it wanted to. This is where it went. There was a definite shift around a mile in.

  1. You’re a bit crap at this
  2. You’ve got too much to do, just give up now
  3. oooh you’re super slow today
  4. Your work stuff isn’t going well is it
  5. What’s the point of your sabbatical – you’re just going to mess it up anyway
  6. Careful, icy
  7. Bloody hell sooo slow
  8. What, what was that – 1 mile beep? Hm
  9. Breathing a bit heavy there? Oh no actually you’re not
  10. Still got 5 miles to go – can you do that?
  11. Careful, icy
  12. So that work stuff? What do you mean not now?
  13. What do you mean it’s pretty
  14. What? You’re running and taking a picture? – You’ll fall
  15. Oh you didn’t fall
  16. 2 miles. What. Oh.
  17. You finished that article
  18. Still slow – oh yes, it’s meant to be slow. Plan says slow
  19. In fact you could slow down
  20. 3 miles. Wow. Nice running
  21. Look how lovely it is
  22. *No idea where it went for a while then
  23. Hill. Oh goodness, hill
  24. Yay, top of hill. Not far now
  25. Done

So where does that leave things? No idea. The fog lifts a little when I run. I can appreciate the beauty of the snowy hills. It also lifts as I sit and watch the birds coming to our bird feeders. The long tailed tits are my current favourites. It also lifts a little as I sit on the bed and fuss the cats and feel more than hear their purr. But mostly it lifts when I run. When I run I feel like thoughts process normally. So stick with me while this works itself out, keep encouraging me to run, be patient if there are no posts for a while. I’ll get there, little step by little step.

2019, it’s lovely to meet you

Am I supposed to start the 2019 blog posts off all happy smiley positive with good news and excitement for what’s to come? Well there will be some of that but I’m going to start a little bit grumpy: I don’t like New Year! Well I do and I don’t. I have an affinity for points in the year where you naturally reflect or plan ahead, where you dream, where you learn. The start of a new academic year, the start of a new Semester even, birthdays, the end of holidays, finishing a book, sometimes, simply finishing a week or even a day. New Year is simply that for me – or it would be if it didn’t come with all this bollocks about being a better you in the new year. I am the same slightly grumpy, slightly mad and slightly bitchy me today as I was yesterday. I don’t change much! I still don’t like people, I still have broccoli cravings and I will still eat cake. I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions. I have a very simple plan that is completely independent of New Year, or any of those other ‘fresh start’ moments. I plan to keep on running as long as I am enjoying running. If it turns out I hate it, well then I won’t run. There are things I’d like to achieve this year, of course, little challenges that keep pushing me out of my comfort zone because that’s where the fun happens – but resolutions? Nope.

I started today with a Double parkrun. I am not a parkrun fanatic or even fan really. This may be hugely unpopular but parkrun freaks me out a little bit. It’s a bit too cult like. I like going along to the odd one and I really like the idea of doing them when we’re on holiday. I have so far ticked off the Brisbane one and then 3 local ones. I’ve only done the Cliffe Castle one twice (new PB today after doing the Myrtle Park one first – happy Jess). I am looking forward to maybe trying a Washington DC one and the new Hamburg one in 2019. Anyway, I digress. Double parkrun this morning. The first was Myrtle Park in Bingley. Hilly. But really not impossible. However, as we waited the place seemed full of club runners and cocky buggers talking about course records for their age groups etc. I felt out of place. I mean FFS, I felt out of place at parkrun! I got a grip and remembered #myrunmyrules. It’s a 4 lap course which I thought would be dull and hard but it’s a lovely and twisty or as one of the little lads we saw said, ‘twiggly’ course. After the first lap I wasn’t sure I’d manage the hills another 3 times but after the 3rd lap I was pleasantly surprised to still be running and to want to finish running. The last hill was a bit of a push but it felt good. The course measured a little short on the Garmin but whatever the actual distance my pace was decent and I felt strong (Home at 36 and half ish minutes)- good sign for Dopey next week!

Then we hopped in the car and drove across to Cliffe Castle. This was the second time for us at this venue. I had a few doubts here. There were people. I don’t like people! But I wanted to do the Double. Finally we set off and settled into a slow trot at the back of the pack. The course is quite narrow making overtaking tricky particularly when you are a slower runner who has to negotiate getting past those even slower while not getting in the way of those runners lapping us. Cliffe Castle is a 3 lap course which is actually mostly downhill with all the up coming in one stint. I walked that. Maybe one day I’ll run it but not today. Again it was a nice plod round in January sunshine in a lovely park setting really. On our final lap we seemed to fall into step with dog Diego and his human for a while. Diego was distracted by everything and ran head first into one of the parkrun signs. I don’t think he hurt himself so it was ok to laugh. Cliffe Castle has a nasty little incline as you approach the finish and I’d watched it come closer as we plodded the final stretch. I was a little concerned about this incline, I wasn’t sure if I could run it. Then Kath said, ‘come on my little Dopey, finish strong’ and out of nowhere I found the energy to power up the hill feeling surprisingly good. Parkrun 2 done. This course also measured slightly short. So maybe my Garmin just doesn’t fancy the distance today.

So that’s the first 6 miles of the year bagged. I am ahead in the #Run1000Miles challenge. I doubt I’ll stay ahead for very long but it feels good to start as I mean to go on! Anyway, here’s my 2019 pledge. I am going to have a crack at the 1000 miles this time. My A Goal is to get to 1000. B is to run a little further than in 2018 and my C Goal is to run and enjoy it whatever the mileage. In fact goals A and B are premised on enjoying the running. I won’t be a mileage slave, it doesn’t work. However what does seem to work is enjoying being out, not taking things too seriously and just seeing what happens – miles take care of themselves that way. I am really excited to be able to share my running adventures with the #Run1000miles gang again this year, but more importantly I am excited to see what everyone else is up to and I’m looking forward to again being inspired by the mileage, the elevation, the scenery and crucially the sense of joy that is so ever present in the Facebook group. If you are a runner, wanna be runner, maybe runner or a I could maybe possibly, perhaps but not really sort of runner, come join us and see if you can surprise yourself running further, stronger and happier like I did last year.

Happy January and Happy 2019. Keep being the amazing, fabulous you!

2018 Running: Further, Stronger, Happier

2018 pledge!

2018 started with a pledge try and run 1000 miles. I never really thought I’d get all the way there. I did say in my first post of the year that I really wanted to have a crack at it but in my head my A Goal was 750 miles, B goal was to run more than in 2017 and C to get out and run and enjoy it. Well I have well and truly smashed 2018! My Year end total is 810.34 miles

January was cold and icy and I struggled to get myself out the door on loads of occasions. I found running hard but I still had some fantastic adventures running at the Bolton Abbey Estate and in London’s Hyde Park with Kath, running to work meetings in Saltaire and surviving a work team building couple of days in the Lake District. I was pushed out of my comfort zone which basically set the tone for the rest of the year – but in a good way.

February saw a fair bit of canal towpath running and it also saw me not finish the Harwood House Half Marathon. It was the first time that I really didn’t mind a DNF and enjoyed the part of the race that I managed. My hip was sore though and took a while to recover. February gave way to March and my running mojo and mileage didn’t pick up – in fact they plummeted further. There was snow and I was restless and grumpy about running. My chart shows a scattering of short runs with long gaps in-between.

April was better. I got my shit together and I got my backside round the Hawkshead 10km run and enjoyed it. In spite of the very slow pace and the terrifying downhill I loved it. I look back at it often and it somehow seems like one of the defining moments of 2018 in running terms. I found it impossible, the uphill, the mud, the slippery slate downhill but I loved it. And the adventures didn’t stop there. We ran in Bronte country, we ran almost to Burnsall, we ran our canal loops that were beginning to look alive in the spring sunshine and I meandered happily into May.

May brought more epic adventures. We conquered the Toronto Half marathon and I suddenly believed that I might have a 2.45 half marathon in me. I missed it this time but I hadn’t really believed I could go under 2.50 so a 2.48 was awesome. We ran on the Moors here and I ran in London and it was all quite lovely. In June the mileage dropped a little and I don’t really remember much about June running. It was fairly consistent but I didn’t blog much so maybe it was just uneventful. It ended with Day 1 of Endure 24 and July began withDay 2 and saw me go beyond marathon distance for the first time ( 6 x 5 mile laps) even if mostly walking.

July was all about low mileage but epic locations. We were in Australia. I ran on the beach, in the rainforest and the Brisbane Parkrun as well as tourist-running epic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House. Australia running was mind-blowing. We also registered for the Dopey Challenge while we were there so our running adventures were set to continue!

August saw the mileage increase again and I broke through the 500 mile mark. While that was fantastic I mentally struggled in August and my black pup was hanging around. September started well with the Great North Run (which I never did fully blog about but it was a solid half marathon which could have been epic if I’d been able to keep my head together. I learned a lot!). Then after that I got a horrible cold/flue thingy that I just could not shake off. When I eventually did I came back strong. The last three months of running have been solid. Mostly they have been enjoyable and while there have been tantrums and meltdowns – particularly on the long distances – I have not, other than in the heat of the moment, fallen out of love with running. I want to run!

December has been my highest mileage month ever. I haven’t pushed for that, it just happened. And I have enjoyed December and still feel physically strong. It’s almost like I might actually feel ready for Dopey! So what has 2018 taught me? Well, it’s taught my to enjoy running and to focus on enjoying it, to make that the key motivation not a side effect or nice to have. I’ve used my hashtag of #MyRunMyRules less but embraced the spirit of it more. I am getting much better at ignoring what I think is a respectable pace and doing my thing. I am growing in confidence and I am embracing a spirit of adventure. Looking back at the year I know I had low points, I know I had a fair bit of ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘it’s all f-ing pointless’ but I don’t really remember that. I have run better, further, stronger and most importantly happier than ever before. The pictures dotted through this post show some of the running moments and memories that encapsulate that (although many of my favourite moments weren’t captured because they were not that sort of moment). I am excited to see what 2019 brings.

Happy New Year!