More f-ing snow

Right so it was supposed to be spring by now. I did not order this snow and I am thoroughly sick of it now.  There was a dusting of the white stuff yesterday morning and I was grumpy. We had a lazy morning but at some point in the afternoon decided to get out. The roads were clear and in between flurries of snow there was glorious sunshine. So we went for a run. Once I worked out that the road actually wasn’t icy I was quite happy and settled in nicely. I had decided to turn off my run/walk intervals and run by feel. My rule for that is that I can walk whenever I want but before I do I need to pick the landmark where I will walk and the landmark after that where I will start running again. I haven’t run continuously for ages and I think the last few times I’ve tried my feet and/or calves have been sore after about a mile.

It was also a ‘Chase Kath’ run. I don’t actually chase her – that would be pointless! But we set off at the same time and run the same route and at an agreed point she turns round and comes back to me and then we run back together. It works quite well for any route than involves the canal because we can work out a loop or an out and back where we can definitely come back together at some point without risking missing each other. The wind was bitter but the sun was quite warm and I soon realised that I had too much on. My hat came off before I’d gone a mile but I was glad I had my jacket on whenever there was a gust of wind and happy that I could pull my ruff over my ears when needed. So mile one was fine – much of it is downhill with just a very slight incline about 3/4 of the way in. I don’t really remember running mile 1. I think I was just lost in my thoughts really. Not long after the mile 1 beep I passed a woman wrapped up against the elements who lifted her head just long enough to inform me that I must be mad. ‘Yes I am’ I replied quite cheerfully. I think her speaking to me had taken me out of whatever world I was in before because I was suddenly more aware of running.

I crossed the road to continue along the canal towpath and watched a swan trying to get airborne. ‘Bloody hell mate!’ I said as I watched the swan run across the water frantically flapping its wings. ‘You’re making that look harder work than I am!’ Suddenly I felt too loud. My breathing was too loud, my feet hitting the ground were too loud. I spent last week catching up on reading running magazines that had piled up and I remembered something about running better when trying to run quietly. I also remembered reading quite a lot about controlling breathing. So generally it might be best to concentrate on one thing at a time but to be honest I didn’t really concentrate on either – I just kept telling my self to try and be quiet and breathe properly. 2 miles.

My feet and legs felt fine. I passed some Geese and hissed back at them. They’re evil you know, proper evil. I was starting to feel it a little bit but thought that I could probably make 3 miles. I tried to slow down a little bit just to make sure. I said hello to a lone duck, it ignored me. At 2.5 miles I was beginning to wish Kath would hurry up so I could turn around and break up the ‘running in a straight line is beginning to feel hard’ feeling. I got  to where I could see the next canal bridge. ‘I could stop there’ I thought. ‘She can’t be far off now. I’ll just stretch my calves and wait for her’. Hm. I had to give myself a talking to:

  • ‘Do your legs hurt?’
  • ‘No’
  • ‘Are they tight?’
  • ‘No’
  • ‘Then what the fuck do you want to stretch them for – move your moomin butt past that fucking bridge’
  • ‘Oh just fuck off

But I ran past the bridge and just as the canal takes a gentle left hand bend I could see her! Yay! I turned round and managed to run to 3 miles, had a very brief little walk break (less than 20 seconds) and then started again. It was nice listening to Kath talk about her run and the woodpecker she’d heard but hand’t been able to pick out. My feet were beginning to niggle a little but nothing major. I seemed to have decided that I wanted to run to 4 miles. So I did. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t ridiculous either. At 4 miles I had a short walk break and then ran the last bit along the canal over the bridge and to the bottom of the slope to walk home. Happy.

Today I was meant to run 3 miles. I didn’t. There’s this vile white stuff on the ground. I don’t run in snow. Kath did, she had a lovely time I think and when she showed me her photos I almost wished I’d gone with her. Almost. So I’ve done very little today – I did some strength exercises but that’s about it. Never mind, tomorrow’s a new day.

Oh yeah, it’s Sunday – ‘hate the scales day’. The scales are not friendly today. I’d stay off them if I were you.

Re-assessing “Unfuckwithable”

Quite a long time ago a friend shared the following on Facebook.


I love it. I think we should all be unfuckwithable because if we are, if we can achieve that  then the world would be a better place because we could brush of the idiocies of life, we’d be less defensive, more collegiate and more supportive of each other, we’d be more here and now (ok so maybe the therapist is working here – she’s not keen on the past or the future, she’s all about the now). Running helps me get there. A good run can make me completely unfuckwithable because the warm post run glow, the slight smug post run IMG_8580ache, the calm post run tiredness, the heightened awareness of my own body and the mental clarity that follows a good hard run all tell me that I am me and that me is all I need to be. I’m not better than anyone else, I’m no worse, I’m me and if that’s not good enough for you then, frankly, that’s your problem and not mine. You can’t fuck with me because in that moment I am completely and totally in control of who I am, what I am and how I am and who does and doesn’t matter to my world.

IMG_8586Unfortunately though that unfuckwithable state is fleeting and fragile. Or at least that’s how I’ve thought about it until now. Today though I wondered whether the bar really has to be set that high, whether it really has to be something that is so hard to achieve and impossible to hang on to. Maybe there is more than one way to be unfuckwithable. On the one hand there is this almost mythical thing but then there are other things that achieve the same thing but perhaps in a more context specific way. Let me try and explain. I woke up this morning around 6.15, 15 minutes before my alarm, with a very slight hangover, slight regrets about food choices and not really feeling up to going for a run. But then what else was I going to do? I was awake and my hotel room was so tiny that staying in wasn’t really an option. So off I went. It was raining, I was a little grumpy, I wanted to run for 30 minutes without walking. After 3 minutes I was huffing and puffing like a steam train. I kept going, then I hit the busy busy busy just fucking busy Great Portland Street tube station with people everywhere and traffic just coming from all directions (not actually true at all – it’s a fairly orderly junction actually but it felt like it) and I was proper grumpy and even more grumpy that stopping for the lights meant I wasn’t running my continuous 30 minutes. I crossed the road and got into Regent’s Park feeling like all the energy had been sucked out of me by the traffic and the busyness of a Thursday morning on the streets of London. I’d done half a mile. I was seriously tempted to just turn round and go back to the hotel but the quiet of the park felt like bliss so I IMG_8584made a decision. I wanted to have fun – so I ran from point to point taking pictures (some of which are dotted through this post). I didn’t run/walk, I ran/stopped – sometimes to take a photo, sometimes to talk to the ducks or geese, sometimes to look at something. It may have been the slowest 5k in history but I had a blast and it was my run with my rules. I passed other runners (said hello to all of them, mostly they seemed incredibly disturbed by that) and not once did I feel self-conscious or concerned about my pace or odd about stopping. I’d decided that this is what I was doing and somehow achieved a level of unfuckwithableness related to the run. I just decided.

Later this morning I was sitting in a cafe listening to the wonderful Liza Vallance (Artistic Director/CEO of Studio 3 Arts) talk about her work and her running and the importance of helping people share and showcase their experiences and stories and I realised that up until this point whenever I have met my heroes I have been disappointed.  Not this time. We’re part of the same running club online so I guess we’ve ‘known’ each other since I joined the Clubhouse in December 2015. I have looked to Liza as a role model for running and for life more generally. She’s creative, strong and real and today I got to meet her. Conversation came easy and time flew by and I met my hero and she was just normal – basically everything I thought she would be and more. Listening to her I realised that collectively, when people come together to do something that is meaningful, we become unfuckwithable. It’s that being united in a mission, the instinctively knowing and agreeing that something is important and knowing that the people around you have your back… IMG_8576

Then I checked my Twitter on the train home and I had a message from a student I taught in his first year. He’s now coming to the end of his degree. He said:

“You taught me how to think. That’s the most important skill. Cannot thank you enough Jess.”

It’s hard to explain what that means in the current HE climate and this blog isn’t about that so suffice it to say that it validates everything I believe in and do and it makes me – if not unfuckwithable – then lessfuckwithable in relation to how I do what I do. And I don’t mean that I am not open to criticism and debate, just that I’m right to challenge and right to ask my questions and right to keep pushing and that I can’t just be put back in my box.

So maybe it’s time to reassess unfuckwithable. Maybe it is something that is more about being more settled and confident, less concerned about what other people think and more interested in doing what instinctively feels right. The hard run as described at the start maybe makes it easier to remember that but actually thinking about it slightly differently might allow me to get there more often for longer. I’d always assumed I could get there only through running hard and long but maybe I simply have to decide and remember what’s important.

On a slightly different note – we’re starting a 15 week marathon training programme – possible with a couple of adaptations for me – mostly during the week where the runs go to 7 miles and I might do them by time rather than distance. More on that another time. For now have an unfuckwithable evening and rest of the week

I do like pretty coffee

Mileage Check in and Stuff

Right well it was beginning to feel like I’d dropped off the running waggon, like the metaphorical treadmill had finally given up the ghost or I’d fallen off or something. I was really struggling to get out. My tracker shows days and days without running. A whole 11 days and then another 7 and when I did run, well the distances are pretty short and even though reading back it seems I wasn’t not enjoying my running I don’t really remember enjoying it either (apart from the Harewood House route which I did like very much). It was just all a bit like hard work and felt like a chore.

In the back of my mind there’s the niggling doubt going on and it has been getting louder. ‘That Hawkshead 10k you’re doing in April – pull out now, you can’t do it and someone else might want the place.’ it says. ‘Toronto Half? – You’ve seen last year’s finish times right?’ The voice goes on. ‘Let’s not even think about Great North Run or the Dopey Challenge and when that deferral  sign up for London 2019 comes through – just ignore it because you won’t get there anyway’. All of this has been swirling round my brain while I’ve not been running much. It’s annoying. I’ve got enough crap in my brain without running being something that adds negativity.

Yesterday we wanted to run at Bolton Abbey. I was a bit anxious about that. It’s not exactly flat and it’s too gorgeous a place to be grumpy about running (not that this has stopped me before). So we set off – Kath to do the Barden Bridge Loop and me to do the shorter loops crossing at the aquaeduct. I ran the 2 minute runs as they fell with 30 second walk breaks in between apart from a slightly longer walk to get up the uneven bit past the Strid and then again on the other side up my nemesis hill. I swore lots at the hills but kept moving – maybe partly spurred on by the notion of Kath chasing me. She didn’t have a great run with not quite getting her fuelling right so didn’t catch me but on a good day I think she might just have done. I was quite pleased with the run overall and enjoyed hearing the woodpeckers and seeing all the chaffinches being busy.

Today was the day of the Keighley 10k but neither us could really be bothered to be organised and herded round a course with a load of other people. By the time I got up Kath was just coming back from her first run of the day. We had some porridge and then slowly got sorted to head out for a joint run. It was a lovely 5 and a bit miles. It just felt positive and not pressured. At about 5 miles we decided to head off the canal and go the shorter route to Kath’s mum’s because Kath’s ankle was getting stiff and really needed the loo. After a quick break at Anne’s we headed home. Later on in the afternoon I ran down the hill to see Mum – I went a long way round to make it a mile. I had planned to go further but it was too close to lunch and I didn’t fancy seeing my pizza again. 6.31 miles for today.

It’s been a good running day. And the mileage is ticking over. I’m behind on the Run1000Miles challenge but it’s early days. I’m at nearly 117 miles for the year and every month I have gone further than the same month last year. This time last year I’d run about 44 miles. My Bolton Abbey miles are also ticking along – just short of 12 miles now. It’s all good really and I’m looking forward to increasing the miles now.

Snow, Cabin Fever and Planning

17103419_10155109272833923_4410991487500202616_nI haven’t run since the Harewood House Half Marathon. I was quite sore on Monday. My hip flexor was not happy at all and my calf was painful rather than just tight so pulling out was definitely the right call. Then the snow came. I’m not ready to run in the snow. It’s also been a tricky week with the anniversary of my ex’s death hitting as a slow burn this year rather than a short sharp meltdown. In some ways I find a short sharp meltdown easier – a day or maybe even two curled up in bed a sobbing mess rather than a week or two of not really quite functioning.  All in all I have spent too much time on the sofa and too much time in my head.

The snow has been pretty but the novelty has now worn off. I wasn’t able to get into IMG_8532work for my teaching yesterday and I’ve only left the house once since Tuesday. Silly. I know better. Cabin fever has definitely set in for all of us and I’ve been watching our cats swipe grumpily at each other and demand attention from us. I’ve been a funny sort of restless where I actually never get my act together to really do anything but never settle either. I’ve played candy crush, tried to focus on work stuff and half heartedly watched athletics on telly.

So today I thought I’d better just get a grip. There have been too many tears, too many “I can’ts”, too many “there’s no points”.  I started tidying and sorting stuff. Everything feels chaotic (it is but not really anymore than it always is) and I thought sorting, filing, working on clearing the box room and sorting the study might actually help me get a grip. So this morning we sorted travel stuff, applying for travel authorisations, printing confirmations, checking what still needs booking, adding frequent flyer numbers to bookings and that sort of stuff. As part of that I also made a

During Half Marathon
Dopey Half Marathon 2016

note of the races coming up. As the day went on doing stuff got harder and the sofa kept calling. I started working through some old paperwork and some photos – I’m years behind in terms of sorting out photo albums/books but I did finally finish the Dopey 2016 one! Looking at the Dopey photos was nice though – motivation to get out there and start working now to hit the training plan much more prepared than I was last time. Anyway, here’s what’s coming

Keighley 10km: – maybe. We haven’t booked this one yet and might just decide on the day and enter then if we can. I’d quite like to do this if the weather improves and I can get out for a little stretch of the legs this week. It’s next Sunday.

Lakeland Trails Hawkshead 10km: I’m looking forward to this one. The course should be stunning and the Lakeland  Trails races have a lovely atmosphere and maybe 10k is really more my level than anything longer. With hindsight I don’t think Helvellyn was a sensible idea as the first one! I’m also looking forward to meeting up with some of the #Run1000Milers

Toronto Half Marathon: I’m really excited about this – what a fabulous way to see a city. And it’s flat.

Endure24 Leeds – Team Dopey in action. This will officially kick off our Dopey training I suppose and if the weather is as good as it was last year this will be so much fun – not sure I’m looking forward to that hill leading up to the finish though.

IMG_7791 (600x800)

Brisbane Southbank Parkrun – Yes, we’re planning on a bit of parkrun tourism and this one should work out really nicely

Great North Run – Another tick on my bucket list and probably the last chance for a Dopey proof of time

Maybe a Lakeland Trails autumn series run

Dopey 2019 – it’s crazy, it really is and I don’t know whether knowing what I’m getting myself into makes it better or worse. I want to do it because it is so utterly impossible.

Toy story

I’m pretty happy with that list – not too many races there but enough to keep me honest. I need to get back out there! I did 42.60 miles in February and haven’t yet done any in March. I’m still way ahead of last year but I can feel the lack of running mentally. I need to get back up to routinely running 8 miles plus to really get the benefit and keep the puppy at bay. Looks like I’ll have to get myself to the gym at work on Monday as the snow doesn’t seem to want to melt.



Inspire Someone – A Response

On Sunday a fellow #Run1000Miler Paul Newey posted an entry on his blog titled ‘Inspire Someone’. It begins with two pictures of fat people running and the line: ‘What do you think when you see this?’ Well I think the best response in the group was Gary’s: ‘I see two runners competing in a race’ which is what I would have said. Mostly the responses to Paul’s blog were positive, agreeing with him that fat runners are inspirational and it’s so hard for us because were carrying all the weight….blabla. There were a couple of negative comments about how this was just another personal trainer trying to flog his business (don’t think it was) or how it was using fat people or whatever. I tuned out as I scrolled. One comment stuck with me though ‘If I was big and someone used my pic like that I’d want to die of embarrassment’. Oh my. So if someone used an image of me without my permission I’d be pissed off. If someone used it to be offensive, take the piss or whatever I might be a bit upset (depends on my mood on the day, I may just be fucking furious) but embarrassed? Nope. The comment suggested that the person posting it would be embarrassed IF THEY WERE BIG. I sort of wish I had a bikini pic of me I could plaster all over with all the wobbly bits in all their glory – but I don’t. I don’t own a bikini. Don’t get me wrong, I have my insecurities, I’m not a huge fan of my flabby wobbly bits, I get self conscious but embarrassed? Fuck no.

Anyway I digress. So I read most of the comments before I read the blog itself and I wanted to love it and be firmly on Paul’s side. I wanted him to have got the message right. I read the blog. I read it again. And then I posted this:

Hi Paul. First of all thank you. I’m a fat runner. I appreciate the support and the sentiment behind the post. I really do. I really really do. I know how hard it can be – for a long time I preferred to run in the dark when nobody could see me, I’ve been laughed at and commented on – not often but enough. But there is something slightly patronising about your blog. I know that you don’t mean that and it might really just be me and my insecurities. Maybe it’s the them and us – you know the fatties over there compared to the rest of us… I don’t know. Can I think about this a bit more and then maybe do a response to your blog on mine? I don’t want you to change it, I want to love it but there’s just something niggling me. Second issue – the photos – just because they’re on google doesn’t mean the people in them gave permission so this is something you might want to think about. if you do decide to swap them you are more than welcome to a picture of fat me running.

So, I don’t love the blog post. It’s been on my mind and I think I’m getting closer to being able to articulate why. So here are my thoughts

  1. I think Paul is genuine. I think the blog post is well intentioned and genuine and I think Paul is really trying to be supportive and lovely and caring and I think he really does see the hard work, mentally and physically, that these runners put in as inspirational. The blog comes from a good place, the right place.
  2. Mostly I like the blog
  3. There is something slightly patronising about it though – the tone is a bit them v us. Us is the ‘normal’ folk, the runners. Them is the fat runners, the not normal. He says:

To go out running when you have this shape takes much more mental strength than physical fitness. You’re not only fighting a battle against your own body but also against your own mind, more so than the rest of us in my opinion

Hm, well does it take more mental strength than physical fitness? This is loaded with assumptions. Fat does not necessarily equal unfit. I’ve always been fat but not always unfit. I’m not as fit as I’d like to be now but I know plenty of thin (or are we calling them normal?) people who are less fit. There are also assumptions about what goes on mentally. Yep I used to be a bit (ok ok A LOT) self conscious and I liked the cover of darkness but not anymore. I no longer care who sees me in my running kit. Wobbly bits will wobble – that’s life. And I really really don’t think we’re fighting against our own bodies. I mean really? Ok so granted, my body doesn’t always make this running thing easy but I’m not fighting it. I actually think it’s quite amazing really. I do fight my mind – daily. But that’s not because I’m fat, it’s just because I’m a fruit loop. So I think the thing with the paragraph is that it assumes that fat people struggle more than ‘normal’ people and I don’t think that’s right for either fatties or non fatties. I think running can just be bloody hard. I think sometimes the battle is physical and sometimes (mostly?) it’s mental. If the #Run1000Miles group has taught me anything it is that runners are not really so different from each other – tall, short, fat, thin. It’s kinda the same battles and where the emphasis falls is far more about where we are in our running journeys than about whether we’re fat or not.

4. Paul refers to the comments and and abuse fat runners face. Yep. Been there. But I’ve also been lucky. It’s been minor. The idea that a running club for obese people had to close down because of it is heartbreaking. People are cruel sometimes and I want to say thank you to Paul for calling out that cruelty and for adding his voice to the opposite message.

5. ‘These ladies and gents need to be encouraged’. Hm. Do we? Or rather: Do we need to be encouraged more than any other runner out there? I don’t think we do. Surely all runners like a bit of support and encouragement. Actually those who do need encouraging are those not yet out putting one foot in front of the other. And this is why actually Paul’s blog is important (thought possibly unlikely to be read by those it could benefit most). Fatties stuck on the sofa need to know that for every abuse shouting twat out there, there are 50 (at least) supportive, encouraging, friendly faces excitedly waiting to hear about their journeys, ready to be proud of them and their achievements. I can say all of that – but I’m also fat so that leaves room for doubt – normal people might not be so encouraging. Well Paul, sorry to label you normal but thanks for adding your voice.

6. Through the blog post and the comments on it in the group there is also an implicit and almost hidden assumption that fat people run because they want to get thin (normal!). Actually in my experience that’s mostly not true – particularly with fat people who have been running a little while. I think I probably started running to shift pounds – that hasn’t been my ‘why’ for a long time and it’s not the ‘why’ for many fat runners I know.

7. Something that was said in comments (Gary again I believe): ‘sometimes people just want recognition as a runner not because of their size’. I think Gary is my new hero. A while back my osteopath told me I was quite flexible for my age. I felt like punching him. I’m actually probably quite flexible for someone 10 years younger too so sod off. There’s the same thing with running sometimes and there are undertones of this in the blog – a sort of ‘aren’t they doing well for fatties’.  This is coupled with a slightly irritating ‘oh my god they’re so amazing’ attitude and ‘I couldn’t do it if I was that size’.  You don’t know that, you’re not this size, you’re just saying that because it sounds like the sort of thing you should say (Paul – I’m being unfair here I know).  Sorry but sometimes being told that you’re ‘brave’, ‘inspirational’, ‘courageous’, ‘strong’ is really exhausting (sometimes it’s also uplifting and amazing – sort of depends on the context). No I’m not. I’m just a fat person who runs. I’m delighted if by me being out there doing my wobbly thing others can take something from that which helps them go chase their dreams (or let’s face it – just get off the sofa). I’m not inspirational because I’m fat. If I am at all it’s because of my story in the same way that every runner is because of their story. We all have our whys and we all have our demons and we all run… So yes, inspire someone and hell yes keep running ladies, gents and unciorns but don’t make exercise of any kind about size, don’t assume fat means it’s harder, don’t assume thin means easier. I’m with Gary, I see two runners. The rest is kinda irrelevant.

BTW – I’ve been ignoring my Sunday weigh-ins – because quite frankly, they’re irrelevant!