Life’s Funny Lessons Found In My Pre-Marathon Journey: You. Fucking. Got. This!

Sunday 22nd April 2018 – the day I ran my first marathon. Wow. It still sounds pretty surreal. I hadn’t trained for it properly and consequently, the goal was to cross the finish line in one piece, uninjured, and within the 8 hour cut off time. Regardless of training, I think these are pretty decent goals for a first marathon.

I’ve lived in London for nearly 9 years now. I first got the “It would be amazing to do that one day” was in 2010. I was in town for a photoshoot for a site I was writing for at the time and the marathon happened to be on. We caught a glimpse of it by chance at the north embankment, which is in the final stretches of the marathon route. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to do it within the decade; at the time, I didn’t run. I toyed with it but never kept it up. I didn’t do any formal exercise anymore and when I did it wasn’t for good reason. I wanted to lose weight; exercise was another form of self punishment.

I only really delved into the possibility that I could do it, actually for real, once I started running with Backpackers where I’d hear stories of other people running marathons, and see them with their medals. They survived and often had a smile on their face at their achievement and you know what? They were normal people. They had normal lives, weren’t necassarily highlighted as a running ‘talent’ from a young age but they ran marathons. Not only did they run marathons, they enjoyed them. It was at that point I thought that maybe one day I could possibly do that too.

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As an adult in my twenties I also thought that for a long time my mental health would prevent me from doing anything like this for a long time to come. Then Mind Over Marathon on the BBC happened. I heard of the project via Backpackers (original founder being Chevy Rough) and I heard him talk at the Backpackers launch. I watched the documentary and saw other people with mental health difficulties managing to take the challenge on, and amazingly, it helped them with their mental health. My focus shifted from I can’t do that until I have mastered my mental health issues sometime, in the distant future or maybe never.

I stopped viewing my mental health as an obstacle to what I wanted to achieve and do. I learned that actually running could become another tool in the big box of tricks for managing and living with, not fighting, my menta health difficulties. It was shown to be, very blatantly, that actually you can live alongside your mental health. You can work with it. Sometimes it may dominate your life, every waking moment for periods of time even but I had a new fire in my belly to make sure that I was going to learn to live with my issues and not in constant headlock with them. In the wake of 2017’s race I sined up to run for a chairty place. Shit. Wow.

In the wake of this enthused decision I was questioned. Are you still hypomanic? That’s crazy, that’s what people do after years of running consistently! Well wow, it’s good you’re doing things and aiming high but you don’t have to run a marathon, that’s…that’s…what? Crazy? Maybe it is but sometimes in life we gotta be a bit “crazy”. Life isn’t all that sane. Life isn’t calculated or linear or predictable. So I chose to embrace this and signed up. By winter I was doubting myself. I was depressed. I was barely coping. I wasn’t ready to train for a marathon like everyone else was. I wasn’t going to manage to raise the money. I couldn’t handle a big race because of my start line anxiety, as proven by my opting out of The Big Half for the virtual option.

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Then the hype for 2018 began. The countdown began. I stopped fighting myself and coming down on myself. I listened to the language of the universe and the ultimate summary was to go for it. I had come to the conclusion that I needed to listen to my body, listen to the universe, and ultimately trust in my body that it could manage to complete 26.2 miles. Together, my body and my mind crossed the finish line of The London Marathon 2018. I finished in 6:42:44 without a cut off time panic dash.

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The take home message? If you have a desire to do something and you believe that your life circumstances, or your mental health, or anxiety is a reason to not do it then stop that shit. right. now! I know it’s not easy and I wont say “if i can, anyone can” because we are all different. Our journeys are all different and maybe you have no desire to run a marathon. Maybe you want to paint, or go to art school, or play tennis. Whatever it is, as cheesy as this is about to get, if you don’t try you 100% won’t do it. Maybe it will take a long time to get there, but as long as you’re trying to live with your illness or whatever  it is you face in your life, and you know deep down that you really are trying then you won’t remain stagnated where you are for eternity. I promise you that.

Finally, if you on an impulse whim want to do something – stop doubting and just go. Just do it even if other people think you’re crazy or weird or being unstable. Sometimes, these decisions will retrieve terrible consequences, and other times they will be a major lesson that shows you just how much more you are capable of than you or anyone else ever previously thought. You’re in charge of you. You find you, and you do you – even if it is sometimes clinically diagnosable, trust me, the majority of people are in some way and you may find some doors you didn’t even know existed in life for you – you never know unless you try.

You fucking got this!

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Hey! London Marathon, I’m Coming For Ya!!

Earlier this week, which day precisely escapes me, I had a sudden change of heart. I tried to defer my London Marathon entry until 2019. I had it in my head until this week that I was definitely going to cheer and not run this year. What I do remember about this decision making process is that it was at some odd hour of the night and I woke up friends and family to inform them of my sudden change in life choices.

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The next day, I honestly have no idea what day these events occured on, I decided to start pushing on the fundraising. I also dug around in my e-mails and realised my place hadn’t been officialy deferred. This seemed to be somewhat of a message from the nuiverse guiding me towards realising my personal legend (more about this later). It is my part in realising my personal legend to heed the signs laid before me – and so with confidence that the universe is colluding to guide me on the right path I decided to grab me confirmation email with my number on it and head over to the ExCel centre to collect my race pack and bib.

It’s been somewhat of a hectic week since. The excitment since going to the expo hasn’t really left me. I went back to my crew last week, another guiding message from the universe, and have been really welcomed back into the crew. (Honestly, there’s no love like crew love!). Everything was pointing me towards getting to that start line and that’s where I’m at right now. I have my race pack, bought a few essentials (read: high SPF bodyglide!!!) and everything is working out nicely. So what do I hope for on Sunday?

I hope I see more messages in the language of the universe because since embarking on my personal legend and listening to the language of the universe I feel more powerful than ever. I hope to enjoy the day and that it becomes the second day of 2018 to make the Top 10 of the year. I hope I am aligned with my feelings and let myself cry when i need to, laugh when i want to and generally have a bloody brilliant day. I hope I don’t cry so much that I can’t control my snot emissions. I hope I don’t get heat stroke and over heat. I hope I find the balance of hydration. I hope I can walk to the pub across from my home for the free Sunday Lunch they’re offering up.

Of course there are fears roaming around my brain’s white matter but right now I firmly believe that naivity is my friend. Let’s keep it that way until I hit the docklands part of the route notorious for breakdowns and seriously questioning life choices.

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virginmoneygiving.com/Monandthemarathon

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Example “MVLM69 £5” to 70070 to give £5

Thanks so much to everyone supporting me on this venture.

Why I Didn’t Run The Big Half, But Will Still Complete It

Today was the day of The Big Half in London.First of all a massive well done to everyone who got out there and ran today. Well done to everyone who smashed a PB and to everyone who didn’t and still ran. So many people ran and so many people keep saying they had a tough race and wanted it to be over quite early on, and still they pushed on and finished. The outlook on the conditions was uncertain throughout the week and luckily the forecast was accurate that the snow in London had melted and we had a relatively usual March day of weather.

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Source: thebighalf.co.uk

I had signed up a while ago with a local resident discount because my borough was one of those featured in the route. For some reason I really thought it was going to be a local race that was not going to be a really big event. Then Mo Farah was announced to be running it along with some other international professional athletes. And the name remained as The “Big” Half. And literally every single person that I follow on social media who runs, i.e. the vast majority, were also due to be running the race. With this in mind, I began to get nervous about the sheer size of the event.

I’m not too good with big crowds except for on good days. I just don’t like it. I get overwhelmed. Often there are times when the tube is too much, and rooms full of milling people are a problem, and just lots of people in a compact area are, you guessed it, a problem. Sometimes they’re not a problem at all, but I find race starts at big events particularly difficult because there’s a lot of people and you have to do bag drop, and get ready and try and go to the toilet 2-3 times in a short space of time where there are loads, maybe thousands of others doing the same, where oftentimes the queues eat into the start gun and it’s just panic central, with an extra of tears included free of charge.

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Source: thebighalf.co.uk

This is something I probably need to bear in mind for future half bookings until I’m at least super comfortable with the distance so that is half the nerves dealt with already. However, The Beast from the East has brought yet another surprise perk to my life in that they are accepting virtual entries because so many people were unable to manage the travel to get to the start – because people signed up all over the country and not just in the featured boroughs as I initially thought, because it was actually a pretty huge race and not a wee little local thing – so that’s the plan. All is not lost. I’m going to cover the 13.1 miles on Wednesday and submit the Strava data on a route that I get to choose.

In the meantime I’m probably going to get a whole lot of sleep in my tank because I’ve got some form of cold battling it out with my immune system right now, and that won’t be helpful for getting myself around 13.1 miles with my legs and jelly babies alone.

 

 

Cancer Research UK Tough 10, Box Hill

I was looking for some trail races a while ago. I like running. I love natural environments so it feels like a natural progression for me to take my running from the city to the trails.

For me personally there’s only so much city running you can do and feel inspired. There’s also the niggles you have to take into account like traffic lights, pedestrians that are waking, cars, bin bags, lamp posts… it’s a concrete jungle that leaves me feeling lack lustre at times.

To me my relationship with running feels like I would like it to progress as a way to get in nature, a method by which to explore the world and an experience that makes me feel very alive. Sometimes pollution fumes and sirens don’t quite do that for me. So I looked for some trail races and found the Tough 10 series by CRUK.

They rate the difficulty of their races by the number of trainers, 1-3. This race took part on Box Hill And was rated three trainers tough. Box Hill is known by cyclists and was one of the steepest ascents in the 2012 Olympic cycling events. The steepness of the ascent is quite brutal.

On the first ascent we climbed the steps by the stepping-stones. 270 stairs but not equal stairs, these are slippy woodland stairs which tend to be much more of a step than your average stairwell. I walked up and felt every breath and tiny oxygen atom mattered. Once at the top there were some flatter stretches, some down hill and a few more uphill.

I really enjoyed the variation of the terrain. I loved the views even though I’ve been and seen them before – there’s nothing more rewarding for climbing something than taking a breather to look around and admire the views you earned from the climb. The ground was quite slippy and I didn’t lose my footing.

I rolled my ankle once and didn’t go over or injure myself thanks, I think, to the ankle wiggling exercises I do before a run. Running on the slope down hill felt amazing when it was a gentle gradient. I felt like I could relax and my legs just carried me along. I felt so free and alive just running through the woodland. My legs just carried me and I breathed easy.

I honestly feel like I’m starting to get the going for a run to relax and unwind thing. It’s not always super hard work anymore – and it now is very enjoyable. I’m definitely going to be hitting up some more trails – it wasn’t as hard for me mentally as I expected it to be.

This race was 10k and I feel like I’m finally comfortable with than distance so now it feels like the right time to started increasing my distance up to 15/20km. Bring it!

I went to Kobox yesterday and although that was a 50 minute class it felt much harder mentally to stay in the class and push through despite being less time – I think this was because we did exercises by the wall as well as punching the bag and the exercises were weighted so I struggled quite a lot with them. Whereas I’ve been running more consistently for a few months now so my body is quite used to t by comparison to weighted squats, trunk twists and mountain climbers.

I mean I already established last week that my core isn’t strong enough and that I’ve lost some of the core strength I did have – and this class confirmed my thoughts further.

So here’s to getting my mojo back. Here’s to trail running being bloody fabulous. Here’s to increasing the distance and getting stronger in order to do this.

Marshalling Run Wimbledon 2017

At the weekend I did something completely new. I did something that brought me joy, another something that I came across as a result of my running journey. I entering the world of being a race marshal for the first time.


I marshalled for Run Wimbledon, by Perseverance Events. This is a tough course of undulating, i.e. very hilly, difficult and sometimes loose ground. I ran a 10k loop here in 2015 at the Summer Breeze Running Festival, to date this remains the hardest race I’ve done because of the heat paired with the course. It was a looped course, with one lap for the 10k, 2 laps for the half marathon and 4 laps for the full marathon – read, those guys are batshit bonkers!

My job was to direct people in the right direction on a sharp turn, up the hill and onwards with the course whilst handing out sweets and cheering the runners on. On that day I considered myself Captain Morale Wimbledon. I had great fun cheering people on, dare I say possibly more fun than some of the runners seemed to be having as they edged to the foot of ‘that bloody hill’. This was especially relevant towards the end of the day for the half marathoners and the marathoners.


Having run a few races, I know how welcome a well timed cheer or music zone can be, I know how welcome a snippet of conversation and encouragement can boost a mindset of dwindling positivity. Hearing someone tell you that you can do it when your mind is telling you that you can’t, someone cheer and pass on some infectious smiles of good will to a grimacing face, or someone to just clap your efforts around a course can really help garner extra energy from god knows where, and sometimes it’s enough just to get you up that sodding hill a bit easier than you would have otherwise.

I felt like it was time to give something back to the running community considering how much I have gained over the years. So many times have strangers, friends and family cheered me on and congratulated me on my achievements – now it was my turn to believe in someone. I doubt I will ever be able to give as much as I have received – but to give back something is better than nothing.

The thing about seeing people push themselves on a difficult course is that it can make you want to get out there and do it yourself. You get race envy. I often get race envy when I see an event that I think I would have enjoyed.  On Saturday, there were times during the day when I was inspired to get out there and run. There were also times when I was put off it for the day when I saw how worn down many people got by the course. From this, I think I’ll take that when I sign up for this run next year, I’m going to do a lot of training on undulating ground to get my body used to it. Road running isn’t going to cut the mustard with this beast of a course. This isn’t the kind of race you rock on up to without proper consistent effort going into your training. It isn’t the kind of race you rock on up to the start line of in the hope of winging it because those rolling inclines will get to you and they might destroy you for the day. They might not but I doubt it’s worth taking the risk.


I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy marshalling. In fact I was pretty anxious the night before and wishing I hadn’t agreed to it. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to project my voice loud enough for people to hear me. I wasn’t sure if I could be brave enough to talk and cheer on people I didn’t know on my own. Soon enough however, as with many things I have doubted of myself in my running world, I got into it, even as a relatively shy and awkward person, I got into it and received only positive reception for my cheering efforts which only encouraged me to crack out the shit jokes department of my personality.

To everyone who ran, a big well done to those who finished, those who didn’t finish and gave it a go, hats off! It’s a tough course on Wimbledon Common and I’m sorry for my shit jokes.