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!

4 at 40

It’s my birthday today. When I woke up this morning I had slept myself happily into my next decade. It was still early. Kath was even still in bed next to me and the cats had only just started pestering. Kath got up and I enjoyed a cup of tea in bed and a lazy start reading and cuddling cats – until they had enough. I think Shackleton’s face says it all!

After another cuppa and a West Wing re-run I had birthday pancakes and opened my presents. All very exciting and lovely. After a while spent looking at today’s and yesterday’s goodies I wanted to go and get some air and move a bit. I was looking forward to a run. We toddled off nice and gently starting with the first part of what we call our sheep loop. It’s called that because it goes past the fields where we used to have our sheep. The name has stuck even though we no longer have the flock.

We plodded through the wood and down the golf course and just as we turned onto the canal towpath Kath saw the kingfisher cut across the canal. I missed it. Never mind, there were plenty of ducks, geese, pheasants, sheep and dogs with their humans to see. We headed towards Silsden a bit and then turned round. Running felt normal, just something I do. Not hard or laboured, not really easy either, it just was. It felt good.

At 4 miles I wanted to stop – somehow it seemed right to do 4 miles today. 1 for each of my decades. I felt like I could have kept running for a long time but I didn’t want to. I wanted to have a leisurely walk along the canal and up home for the rest of the loop and I wanted to maintain the symmetry of 4 at 40 – so that’s what we did.

The rest of the day will be taken up with setting up my new camera (thank you Dad!), having a bath (there is something so luxurious and indulgent about having a bath in the middle of the afternoon) and then tucking into lots of yummy picnic food when the mothers arrive later. It’s been a lovely birthday already!

If you’d like to help me celebrate, seeing the fundraising total for mine and Kath’s London Marathon for Mind creep up a bit more today would really make me smile so if you can, please do send a couple of quid their way.

Happy Boxing Day everyone!

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!

Bolton Abbey Christmas Ducks

Before the last Dopey Simulation which we finished yesterday, we had a lovely little trot out at Bolton Abbey last Sunday. We gently plodded our way round the Barden Bridge loop with just a couple of walks up the hills. We were planning on going round the Abbey but neither of us really wanted to so we agreed to call it a day after that loop and bank a really lovely positive run.

We had our usual coffee and bacon sarnie and then got a second coffee to take away and walked towards the strid to look at the lights lining the way to Santa’s Grotto from the Elf Hut and to be near the river and see if Goddess Verbia had anything to say. She seemed a bit shouty and busy – not in an unsettling or stressful sort of way though. It was quite nice watching the Wharfe go about her business.

We walked the bottom path past the sulphur well and as we walked back up to the main path we saw an unexpected duck off to the side (sorry the photo’s a bit crap). He seemed quite jolly, if a little lonely. There was a female duck on the main path who seemed happily going about her business. Eventually she toddled off in the other duck’s direction so maybe his loneliness was short lived.

It was a lovely calm morning and not even hordes of children with obnoxious parentals and grandparents who get in the way could spoil that. As we walked back towards the car we met a group being led towards Santa’s Grotto by an Elf trying his best to keep the little creatures from running ahead by telling them that if they stayed behind him he’d tell Santa how good they’d been. Both Kath and I admired his efforts but couldn’t help laughing because his facial expression rather suggested he had the naughty list all planned out.

Running for Mind in 2019

I don’t know about you but I have, for at least the second year running, not really managed a Christmas wind down. The first semester has once again been brutal, I finished work on Friday with a mountain of stuff still left on the to-do list and I feel like I have dragged myself to the end of the term just sort of hanging on. Running has been lovely for headspace and to give me some time to not think and let my brain do its thing and it has been good to work physically somewhere near as hard as I’ve been working mentally. But I can’t say I’ve managed to unwind yet. The second Dopey Challenge Simulation which we finished yesterday shows, I think, just how wiped out I am. I went to bed just after 9pm last night and slept until 8am and then had another 2 hour kip at lunch time. I could go back to bed now (it’s not even 6pm).

But slowly I am beginning to feel Christmass-y. The silly music is on, I’ve had a mince pie or two, the fridge is full of Christmas (and birthday) food, the tree looks lovely and I’ve just lit some candles. Dad is here, arrangements are made for Christmas Day and I have a plan for my birthday (read – do nothing). I’m starting to feel calmer and a little more settled and a little more like I might be able to ignore the work list. I realise that I am one of the lucky ones though. Overall the Christmas break is a good time, a time I like and a time for reflection, cuddles, being together and a good measure of silliness. It’s a time to help my mental health re-balance.

I am pleased to see more recognition on social media that Christmas can be really tough for people for all sorts of reasons so this post has two purposes (yes I know I’ve taken while to get to this point):

  • To remind you that it is absolutely ok not to be ok. You don’t have to be jolly and loud and extrovert and festive. You do whatever you need and remember that there are people you can reach out to. Mind has some links/numbers for us on their website.
  • To let you know that Kath and I will be running the London Marathon for Mind and to ask for your support. We’ve had some really lovely and generous sponsorship already and we really appreciate it.

I’ve been lucky I guess. I’ve never needed Mind’s services as such. I’ve had one amazing doctor and a therapist who is incredible and ‘gets me’. I’m making progress and have far more good days than bad days. Sometimes I can even laugh at the bad days. I’m mostly in a good place and certainly feel like I understand my mental health and ill-health more now. Mind helps with this journey for so many people directly through support services and indirectly by providing information and education. I really want them to be able to keep doing what they do because one day that phone number, that online community or that information leaflet might be a lifeline for any of us. So when Kath was offered a place to run the London Marathon for Mind, I jumped at the chance to link my ballot place and also officially run for them.

Running will be my life-line over the next couple of weeks. I get irritated with the Christmas thing and people and the forced, fake cheerfulness all around and don’t even get me started on New Year and resolutions and the huge damage the fitness and diet industry will inflict in January. Running will be my me-time and headspace. It will make Christmas positive and fun because this is how I roll (sometimes literally) and as I run I often think back to the days when getting out of bed was impossible – running is a win, a huge one. So the Dopey Challenge which starts on 10th January and the London Marathon in April are for those of you who are currently facing your own impossible. If any of you can support mine and Kath’s efforts and sponsor us, you can do so here. I know it sounds cliched but it really does mean a lot to be able to do this!

Thank you!