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!

Christmas 800

I hope you’re all having a lovely Christmas day. Mine’s been quiet and nice. Most of it spent preparing Christmas dinner and eating it and then we watched the first Fantastic Beasts film which I like. I’d like a niffler – they’re a good mix of cuddly and mischievous.

Anyway we started our Christmas with a short run at Bolton Abbey when Kath finished work yesterday. Just a mile out and a mile back weaving round people on the out and choosing the top path to avoid them on the way back. I could definitely feel the weekend’s 11 + 17 miles in my legs but nothing was hurting or even achey – just a bit tired and heavy. It was the perfect stretch of legs on a perfect, lovely day.

Christmas Day began with a short run. It was still pretty much dark when we set off. Just at the end of our road we bumped into a lovely little dog called Rosie and her human and stopped to say Merry Christmas. Then we plodded on towards the canal towpath and along the silvery magic of the early morning canal. No people, just moonlight, a few ducks and some geese.

We walked up the former golf course and stopped for a Christmas morning kiss half way up the first slope. As we were about to carry on we heard deer off to one side – we saw a hint of movement but nothing more. We walked on up and then through the wood and stopped briefly when our favourite tree came into view.

Then we jogged down the other side until we got to about 2.25 miles and a formerly icy puddle which marked my 800 year to date miles spot.

800 miles. I feel a bit overwhelmed by that. I’ve done it without chasing the miles or pushing and I still have a few days left even! So maybe 1000 miles in on for 2019 and I am very much looking forward to having fun trying and taking the pledge again.

Anyway, Christmas morning started with a really lovely run and I went because I wanted to not because it justified my Christmas dinner or something silly like that. I went because being out on a foggy, dark morning like today makes you believe that there is just a touch of magic in the world. And who doesn’t need that!

Run 1000 Miles Ambassador

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness… so I can’t quite put into words just how excited I am about this. I’m jumping up and down squealing kind of excited and a little choked up and overwhelmed. But let’s go back a bit. In November Trail Running Magazine asked for expressions of interest for becoming an ambassador for the 2019 iteration of their Run1000Miles challenge. I paid no attention. Kath commented on the post saying she nominated me, I still paid no attention because, come on, it’s me. I’m no running ambassador. But there were lots of positive comments and ‘likes’ and encouragement so I thought what the hell and sent the email.

I didn’t expect to get picked. I am not the obvious choice when you think ‘running’ so not an obvious choice for promoting a running challenge or for encouraging others. I’m not your typical running role model or poster girl for physical activity. I thought that maybe I could be a good ambassador precisely because I’m not what you might expect in that role and it seems that some agreed. So let me tell you a bit about the challenge, a bit about me and the challenge and a bit about why being an ambassador for it means the world and confirms everything I love about the challenge and the group.

The challenge is simple. Sign up, join the facebook group, run, track your miles, post about your runs, share pictures, encourage others, be encouraged, see where you get to, done. Some will reach 1000 miles before Easter, others won’t get to 500 in the year. It doesn’t matter, it’s about the journey (sounds nauseatingly cliched, I know but it’s true). It’s about having a great running year however you define ‘great’. It’s about getting outside, enjoying being out, about encouraging and being encouraged, about learning and sharing and most of all about enjoying running.

I first joined Run1000Miles in 2017. Kath had joined and she kept saying how lovely the group was and that I should join. I just thought it wasn’t for me – it’s a 1000 mile challenge by Trail Running Magazine – not for me. 1000 miles was so far beyond my imagination and trails were and often still are scary things that cause me to fall over and/or freak out. But then curiosity got the better of me and I joined and lurked in the Facebook group for a bit and I realised that the group of people were my kind of people. I’d found my running tribe. They welcomed me, slow, ploddy, fat, scared of trails me into the group and they were (and still are!) prepared to share my little successes and wins, help me through my tricky patches when it seemed me and running were going our separate ways and share their experience and knowledge to make me a better runner. With their help and encouragement and, frankly, their belief in me I pushed myself through a tough 7 miler on News Years Eve 2017 to finish the year on exactly 500 miles.¬†

I was excited to sign up for 2018. I really wanted to try and run more miles. I won’t make 1000 but I’m going to get closer than I ever thought possible. 1000 miles was my wildest dreams goal, my ambitious but possibly realistic goal A was 750 miles (I had B and C goals to but they don’t matter now!). I’m less than 5 miles away from achieving the 750 now. I love the group on Facebook. There is a notable absence of arrogant, patronising, rude or all of the above twats. There is a genuine understanding and acceptance that we are all at different levels and that my lightening fast run pace might well be someone else’s slow recovery jog; that a mile can be a huge challenge and covering it a big win; that miles and pace and hours are just numbers. I am in awe of some of the runners in the group – some because they’re fast, some because they can go so far, some because they can go so high (and come back down in one piece), some because they deal with mud like it’s nothing, some because they get up every morning and despite (and sometimes because of) the demons we all have pull their trainers on and run. Most of all though I have valued the the stories, the encouragement, the support and the inspiration and I have loved being able to be a part of that. 

Having me as a 2019 ambassador confirms that I was right about the trail running community and particularly the community we have built in the Run1000Miles Facebook group – it really is for all of us. It doesn’t matter where in our running journeys we are. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow we go, how much we walk, where we run, whether we can run far or not, whether we can run vertically up and back down, whether we splash through puddles or slide through mud, get stuck in boggy moors or stumble our way through woodland tree roots. What matters is that we all run and get outside and that is somehow important to us in and that we understand that and that we support each other and celebrate each other’s successes. I don’t have any sort of sporting memories that go anywhere near that so I’m making new ones and maybe as ambassador I can help others re-write their relationship with exercise and running in particular. 

Join me  – sign up here and then join the Facebook Group and see for yourself – try it, you might just surprise yourself by running a whole lot more than you thought you could. 

September round-up

September has been a miserable running month really. It started so well. It started with relatively happy running and a decent build up to the Great North Run and then overall a solid GNR and an awesome post GNR run and then I got this hideous cold/flu/chest/throat thing. Then I thought I was getting better and got out for a 5 miles come-back run which I loved and then I wasn’t better so I have now had 3 weeks with hardly any running and it is annoying the hell out of me.

I will finish September on 31.2 miles – my worst mileage month by over 10 miles. I am stuck on 532.51 miles and my hope of reaching 800 miles for the year is slipping away. I am behind on my Dopey Challenge training plan, I am losing fitness, I’ll be putting on weight (I haven’t bothered getting on the scales this morning for my Sunday Weigh-In because I actually just don’t want to know today). I have spent three weeks mostly on the sofa and trying to push through to get work stuff done and keep things ticking on as best I can so I don’t get even further behind. In short, I’m grumpy.

I’ve had two back to back nights of 11 hours sleep and I think I am beginning to feel a bit more human again. I’m working at home tomorrow so will aim for the same again! There are still extraordinary amounts of snot but I don’t feel poorly today. Tempting as it is to pull the trainers on I am resting today. Tomorrow evening I’ll be off to my yoga class for the first time in what feels like forever and then on Tuesday I am back on the training plan – 45 minute run. I should be ok. I was half marathon fit for the GNR and I have only missed one long run of 13 miles so while it might not be pretty I should manage the next scheduled long run of 15 miles if I take it nice and steady. I know I have time, I know I don’t have to go the full distance as dictated by my training plan and that I could afford to drop back to the ¬†previous long mileage on the plan but not running is playing havoc with my head. The enormity of taking on Dopey is there in the back of my mind and I don’t want to just drag my butt round, I want to enjoy it. Or at least most of it. Chances of enjoying ESPN Wide World of Sports are pretty minimal – it’s the part of the marathon I am least looking forward to – though if I can make it through that I’ll finish!

So, it’s 100 days until we fly out to Florida. 100 days to get Dopey fit. I’ve just been looking back and in 2015 I had flu a little later than this cycle and I still got myself Dopey fit (ish). I should stop worrying and just get on with getting better and then get the training done. I know I can do this, now I just need to believe it.