I use the term 'racing' in a loose sense as, although I am strictly in a 'race', I am only really running for and against myself, therefore, whether it should be called a 'race' for me or a 'challenge' is probably another question.
It's December and, having started in February, I've run at least one, if not, sometimes two races each month, clocking up somewhere around 130 miles in races and much more if you include the training that has gone alongside.
|One of the ghastly early races in April 2014|
The icing on the cake came this weekend when I made a rash decision around three months ago to run my first half marathon (that's 13.1 miles to those of you with better things to do with your lives than follow the aches and pains of runners!).
It was a bit hasty, I think I'd just done a sub 30 in a park run, was feeling rather high on the endorphins that followed and noted that December was 'race-less' so I needed something to fit into this month.
Milton Keynes Winter half seemed to fit into the criteria I needed: flat (ish!), not expensive and local and on a day that I was able to do.
I had a training plan, then life took over. The nights got dark, my job turned nearly full time, we had some family stuff going on that needed some tlc and some wine and the training plan got kyboshed.
The day arrived upon me without really having run more than 8 miles ever. Was this foolhardy - well, to the seasoned runner, yes, probably, but I figured I had nothing to lose. No one was watching me that I knew; I wasn't running with anyone that I needed to keep pace with; if I needed to walk any of it, who would care other than me?
I'd love, at this point, to tell you it was easy...but my nose would be cracking my computer screen right now. It was nothing short of bloody hard! Probably one of the most demanding things mentally that I have ever undertaken.
I arrived at 9.30 only to queue in the freezing cold for the best part of 20 minutes for the loo. Was I that desperate? Well, I was certainly more desperate to use the loo than I would be to squat halfway around with my arse exposed to the elements...I presumed that as there were at least a 1/4 of the runners behind me in the queue, the organisers would have the common sense not to start if the queue was still snaking round the park, so there was no choice but to wait.
It was freezing - did I say that? We had to avoid the ice on more than one occasion - so there was the dilemma of standing shivering waiting to get going, then that hideous few minutes where your body temperature still hasn't reached sufficient high levels to reduce the running shakes.
The course itself was probably the only saving grace. It was slightly undulating, but primarily flat and ran all around areas of Milton Keynes that you never see from the roads. We ran along the union canal for many miles, into outlying villages with beautiful tudor homes, past fields of cows and then through housing estates. There was time to think and dream.
My pace was very steady, far steadier than I'd run a 10K, but I thought this was a tactic I would need for survival. I got to 10miles without too much trauma, but then suddenly my mind seemed to turn a corner for the worse. I noticed a blister on my heel and then spent half a mile fighting the urge to stop and take off my shoe. My head was telling me this was a death sentence, my heart said I could fix it if i took off the shoe and fixed my sock. Luckily I have learned that my head does in fact, rule my heart, even though my teenage self may not have realised that!
Then I felt aches...everywhere, my thighs, my pelvis, my ribcage...The last 3.1 miles may well have been the whole 13.1 all over again. It used every ounce of my mental strength not to give up.
But! I didn't and now I am proud to say I have achieved half of my goal but it's not just the physical that I'm proud of, I proved my ability to physically challenge myself on the top of Scarfell this Easter, but the whole challenge of keeping going. I have kept going, from January, I have kept running when I've wanted to stay in bed or go home. I have kept going with blisters and when I've wanted to cry and give up.
I've run in rain;
In hideous heat,
In foreign countries,
In a tutu;
With my youngest in our tutus at a race for life in June
Through mud and cow pats.
I've gone from this:
I'm no faster than I was in January really, but I don't care. I have lost weight and yes, I'm very happy about that, but whilst we can change our outward appearance, I have found an inner me that was lurking below the surface. It's a me that can say what I want (I'd say pretty tactfully except my kids will tell you that I must make an exception when I'm in the car - running does nothing to hone road rage!), what I like and what I am able to do and I like that person. She's okay to spend 2.5 hours of solitude with on a Sunday morning with only her thoughts and a few of the negative conscience for company. So I'm going to stick with her and with it, it has been good for me, not only for my health, but also for my brain and my character and...well, I like that.
I'll see you at the Brighton Half in February!