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!

2016 – What a Year

I am so ready for 2016 to be over. I really am. It’s been horrible in so many ways, it’s been, well it’s just been crap. Or has it? Am I ready? Isn’t there a small part of me that doesn’t want 2016 to be over? 2016 has been a year of unbelievable achievements, a year of learning so much about myself, a year of hitting a new all time low and reaching dizzying highs, a year of standing firm and sticking to principles, of being confident and smiling when inside everything was crumbling into tiny little pieces that didn’t seem like they would ever fit together again, a year of walking away, of giving up, of re-building and of persuading others that I am brilliant when I felt anything but. 2016 taught me that I am superwoman – a very very fragile and breakable one, but superwoman. 2016 has been a bitch, a complete bitch but here I am right at the end of 2016 and I’m going on – the bitch isn’t. 2016 will turn into 2017 and there is something about the turn of the year that I like. It’s just another day but somehow it is a day that holds promise and excitement…

So let’s take a look at 2016.

  1. In January I travelled half way round the world (well, sort of) to run 48.6 miles in 4 days. The training leading up to it, the Disney World escapism and the running itself helped me make huge steps towards recovering from the anxiety and depression that had been with me for longer than I care to admit. In January 2016 I was physically fit and healthy but my mind was still a bit of a mess. Messy mind or not I dragged my butt round the 26.2 mile Dopey challenge marathon after having run the half marathon the day before, 10k before that and 5 k the day before that. I may have hated most of it at the time, I may have walked almost all of it but I kept putting one foot in front of the other until I got to the finish. I went through every emotion on that journey but I never wanted to stop. I thought I might not make it but I did not want to stop. Stopping is something I had to learn.
  2. In April I had another go at 26.2 miles and as I made my way round the iconic London marathon course I decided that 26.2 miles are not for me. I don’t like that distance, it’s not fun and I never want to do it again. I didn’t want to stop though. I remember the finish line, I remember the excruciating walk/tube ride/walk back to the hotel and I remember feeling completely empty. I had nothing at all left physically, emotionally and mentally. I felt like I should be proud and excited but I was just empty. Looking back now I wonder whether I needed that. Looking back I wonder whether after that complete emptiness I slowly started rebuilding.
  3. Work was – for the first half of 2016 – hell. I went back to work after the Dopey Challenge after a period of time off sick . I kept going, I didn’t stop. I did my best and it was, I know now, better than good enough, in some ways too good for the institution. Looking back I can see the bullying, the nastiness, the unreasonableness of it all. I accepted panic attack after panic attack, I accepted the tears, the exhaustion, the lack of support, the loneliness and isolation; I accepted it to get a job done. But as I went through the rest of April and then May it became increasingly clear that I needed to change something. And yet I kept going
  4. In summer my previous institution went through a ridiculous process they called an Academic Review – the paperwork was idiotic but I did it, the review was bizarre (more so in the light have what has happened since) but I did it. On the days of the meetings I had panic attack after panic attack, I had to get off the bus several stops early because I couldn’t breathe – and yet everyone said I did an amazing job. As I walked out of the final meeting I knew I had decided to leave. I finally gave up. I finally learned to stop. I had to stop. I was once again off sick
  5. Through August I began to get my shit together. My brain started working again, slowly and the running was fine too – I was getting out at least. Then I started my new job and somehow the rest of 2016 has been uneventful really – trips to Paris and California to complete the Disney running journey – it ended in a failed half marathon but that’s ok.  I found a better balance between work and the rest of life. I have been panic attack free since the day I resigned. It’s all good
  6. Or is it. My anxiety levels are normal but there is that silly black puppy dog that is just waiting on the other side of the door and every now and again it nudges the door open. It’s bounced it’s way into the room just recently and is zapping all my energy. I haven’t run since the abandoned half marathon in November. I sort of want to but I can’t be bothered – what’s the point, I can’t do it anyway (erm – look at points 1 and 2!). I am slow with everything I do. Writing anything useful is taking an age, preparing for teaching is taking far longer than it ever has, just getting through a day without doing anything in particular is somehow hard work. My reaction to any world events are extreme and I cry at anything. But it’s ok. It’s ok because I know. It’s ok because I understand that I’m ill and that getting better takes time, more time than I will ever really want to give it because I’m a perfectionist and impatient.
  7. I look back at 2016 and apart from the world going totally mad with Brexit and Donald Trump, senseless violence and hate as well as heartwarming acts of kindness and the beauty that can be found in just sitting watching birds in the garden – here’s what I see: 2016 has seen me being stronger and more resilient than I ever thought I could be. I had the strength to hold my head up high, to walk out of a high profile high paid job, not lose it completely and to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. 2016 saw strong legs and a stronger, if sometimes wobbly mind, that made me rise to the Dopey Challenge and the London marathon.  In a year where so much went right and so much went wrong I didn’t once waiver from my principles, I didn’t once compromise on the important shit and I didn’t once cross a line I didn’t want to cross. 2016 showed me that however crap,anxious, depressed, wobbly, dark or whatever I feel, I like being me and I can be me – no more than that, I’m good at being me. 2016 has shown me why I am so drawn to the picture and mantra below – it’s because it’s true and I believe it. At the start of 2016 it was a mantra to focus on and keep repeating to myself in the hope that I could fake it –  at the end of 2016 I mean it.13892263_1250624888305675_5708983427789361893_n