(No) Half-marathon Tomorrow

I wrote about my plans for my second half marathon only weeks ago. On 3 March, we had heard of the coronavirus COVID-19 but like every other virus that the media threatened would kill us, we didn’t think about it much. We would have been empathetic to the plight of the Chinese people but would probably not have expected it would affect us. When I say “we”, I mean the majority of Britons. I think there was a “boy-who-cried-wolf” kind of feel to the early reporting. For example, the world was supposed to end when 1999 turned to 2000. We were supposed to all die of SARS in 2003. We were supposed to have been picked off by swine flu in 2009. Ebola was the threat for 2014. SARS claimed 775 lives. Swine flu was undeniably lethal and took around 200,000 lives, with Ebola causing the death of 11,000 people, mainly in West Africa. Undoubtedly 200,000 swine flu deaths (worldwide) is a high number but I don’t remember there being quite as much panic as there is now for COVID-19. This either suggests there was less social media coverage – which, given the fact that social media has a much wider spread in 2020 than it would have 11 years ago, is a distinct possibility – or that COVID-19 is a HUGE FUCKING CONCERN.

For past threats, sporting events were not cancelled. Concerts went ahead. Television shows were filmed as normal. Major businesses did not close. Our liberty was unaffected. Life as we know it has stopped. This is not a complaint. I understand we all have to stay home to do our bit. With my one outing to exercise (per day), I was hoping to run a half marathon myself tomorrow so that I could still mark the day. However, I have decided against it in case I am not the only one. I don’t want to be running along the route with numerous other people who have had the same idea and put myself and others at risk. The half marathon has been rescheduled to the end of September. I’ll wait until then and I will hopefully have gained extra, valuable training time. If liberty becomes further restricted, I can run indoors. I’ve done it before.

In the meantime, we have to believe we are helping by staying home for the majority of the day. We have to believe we are helping to stop the virus. We have to believe in the authorities, NHS staff and other frontline workers. We have to believe in ourselves. 30,840 deaths and counting. Let’s do our bit so that the counting can stop.

 

Why I Run

I wrote this post in April 2019. The reminder of how unhappy I was with my body stings. Despite my protestations that it didn’t matter, it obviously did. However, weight doesn’t seem to matter now. The way I feel is far more important. The original post is included below, in all its harshness, but I could now give a one word answer as to why I run.

FREEDOM.

Why I Run

Sick of piling on weight over the years and yo-yo dieting to no real effect, in early 2018, I decided I would take up running. I found the gym boring and exercise classes only held my interest short-term. It was easy to find excuses not to go. I admit, I started running as a new way to lose weight. I thought it might be torture but maybe I deserved to be tortured. After all, I hadn’t been looking after my body over the years. It was my own fault I was overweight. If I had to suffer to slim down, so be it.

I started strong in 2018 but suffered a few set backs. The gist is, I ended the year heavier than I started, not super slim and fit as I had hoped. However, it’s a new year and I have a renewed enthusiasm for running. I never talk myself out of a run. I always want to go and I always enjoy it. I have found a new love. If you have to find excuses not to do something, it’s not for you. Find something you love. That’s half the battle. Today, weight loss is not my priority. I run because I want to. Weight loss is a positive side effect but it’s not my focus. I love the fresh air, the greenery and scenery (I live near hills) and I love the way I feel when I have exercised. It has huge mental benefits as well as physical. I’m glad I chose to start, even if my intentions were wrong in the beginning. I’ll never stop now I’ve started. Well, until my legs give in – decades down the line, I hope!

Half-marathons

With half-marathon number 2 fast approaching, I wanted to take a glance back at my first one. I’ve come a long way since. Not only have I lost nearly two stone in weight and stopped drinking, but my fitness levels have improved dramatically in thanks to running consistently. I had hoped to have managed a couple of half-marathon distance runs in the first few months of the year but it hasn’t happened as yet and doesn’t look likely due to other commitments. However, two things to be grateful for:

1) I know I can do it because I’ve done it before

2) I’m fitter and healthier than I was last time round

Last time round, I wasn’t thinking about time. I just wanted to complete it. For half-marathon #2, I want to be faster. I’m going to have to dig deep and push hard to shave 30 minutes from my time. Post-match analysis to follow.

In the meantime, here’s the story of half-marathon #1 in all its glory.

Originally posted in April 2019 in a previous incarnation of my blog 

 

We did it!

The night before, I was so nervous I didn’t want to do anything at all.  I went to bed early knowing I would be losing an hour’s sleep as the clocks were due to go forward for British spring time. I set my alarm for 6 a.m to allow time for a sensible breakfast (porridge and banana with a dollop of natural cashew butter) and to get the kids organised for my mum and dad who were bringing the kids to watch us, along with my sister and my niece. On race day excitement took over. I just wanted to go and do it and I did!

It was challenging because although I have ran the distance before, I ran it on my own and allowed a couple of pauses for photo opportunities. There was none of that for the real thing. We kept up a constant pace. Hubby and I crossed the line together (along with the kids) with a chip time of 2 hours and 28 minutes. My fastest practice was 2 hours 20 mins but taking into account the slow start (while the people in front crossed the starting line) I think this could have been my fastest effort. The jelly legs and achy body for the two days after was certainly worth it.

I loved the sense of community spirit the race brought with it. People lined the streets of every town we ran through. We high-fived kids, people handed out jelly sweets and others cheered with such gusto that it was hard to believe they didn’t know us personally. We even passed a couple of women with a horn and some bells. It was also nice to see some familiar faces along the way. A special mention should be given to our friends who gathered to cheer us on (loudest crowd, I’m proud to say) and even decorated the front of the house for the occasion.

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I expected to feel total elation after the race, a heightened runners high, but that didn’t seem to be the case. While people told us they were proud of us for doing it, I felt that I was more proud to be on the receiving end of all the love and support than to have been proud of myself for doing it. I’m glad I did it and I wouldn’t be put off doing it again. The community spirit was one of the best things about it though of course I am grateful to my feet for carrying me 13.1 miles.

Another thing of note is the amount of money we raised for charity. We chose to run for SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and at last check, we had raised £555. I was blown away by the support and generosity of people for this charity.

You can read more about SAMH and the work they do here.

If you would like to sponsor us, the page is still live and you can do so here.

Click here for info about Alloa Half Marathon.

 

 

 

 

Discomfort Zone

Comfort zones are only supposed to be half-way houses

It’s probably unusual to quote yourself, but this one has stuck with me. I’ve learned a lot about myself, particularly over the last year or so, and this resonates with me so deeply now that it’s like the marrow in my bones. Comfort can be good. Comfort is necessary but can also be restrictive and can lead to discomfort – and not in a good way. There’s a good discomfort? That makes no sense. Or does it?

Ever heard the fable about the boiling frog? The story goes that if a frog is thrown into boiling water it will jump out immediately, but if the frog is placed in tepid water which is slowly brought to the boil, it will not perceive the danger. It would most likely enjoy the warmth (comfort) until it is too late and it will be boiled alive. I hope nobody has actually tested this theory on frogs but the moral of the story makes perfect sense – being too comfortable can get you in the end.

Think of comfort as home. The comfort zone is a place to retreat to when you’ve stretched too far and the discomfort becomes too much, and that’s ok. But, stay there permanently at your peril. Discomfort is necessary for growth. You have to strive to thrive. Yep, I can keep the cheese coming. Push out of the comfort zone, jump out of the boiling pot. Don’t be stuck at home, in your comfort zone, like a hermit crab never venturing far. Spring free little frog, spring free.

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                               Photo courtesy of Pam via Flickr

 

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

For most runners, the great outdoors is part of the appeal of running. The benefits of exercise cannot be disputed but the addition of fresh air, connection with Mother Nature and (depending on the weather) the feeling of sunshine on your skin can ramp those benefits up substantially.

I read an article in The Guardian recently about Pan Shancu, a runner from Hangzhou in China, one of many cities currently under lockdown until the Coronavirus has been controlled. Pan felt bored and frustrated at the loss of his liberty. He was quoted as saying, “I could not bear sitting down anymore.” And, after being housebound for weeks, who could blame him? I know that if I can’t leave the house even once in a day, I feel trapped. If I see someone out running, when I have missed a run, I feel envious. Therefore, although my situation has never directly correlated with Pan’s, I can understand his despair, to a small degree at least.

So what to do when you are a frustrated, housebound runner?

Run indoors.

Pan set up a makeshift track (consisting of 2 long tables) in his apartment and started running. He documented his run on social media using videos and his run tracking app and clocked up 50km (31 miles) in 4 hours, 48 minutes and 44 seconds.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

My husband was away from home this weekend (Friday – Sunday) and as I have children, I was unable to go out running. I could have taken them with me on their bikes but with Storm Dennis making wet and windy threats they would have been less than enthusiastic about accompanying me. Rather than missing out completely, I have been inspired by Pan’s story and I have completed a run a day indoors. I did not run a marathon but my overall tally is 12 miles. I’m happy with that. Something is always better than nothing and while I will always enjoy running outdoors more than on a treadmill, or tearing up and down my stairs and in and out of rooms, it is an option when needs must.

 

If it's good enough for Pan...

 

 

 

This blog

This blog has gone through many reincarnations over the years.

I enjoy writing. I thrive on the process of thinking and writing but the sharing part always feels uncomfortable. I send my words forth from captivity out into the wild and then get cold feet, round them up and close the gates again.

As a teenage guitarist/singer/songwriter I felt exactly the same way. I loved writing songs but it took a long time to feel comfortable performing them. I used to rewrite over and over, always striving for perfection. I even used to stop playing when I heard my parents or my sister walking around the house. Paralysis took over. Eventually, I found the confidence to keep going and furthermore, I learned that comfort keeps a person stuck. Comfort zones are only supposed to be half-way houses, not permanent dwellings. I have boosted my confidence several times over the years by making myself uncomfortable. I have conquered bigger challenges and squashed bigger fears than whether a blog or social media post will go down well or not. So what the hell – from now on, anything I deemed good enough to post in the first place will remain out there, static on my page, internet alive forever.

Fortune favours the brave said a person in Latin at some point.

It pays to keep pushing forward. It may be small steps and you may be pushing against the wind but one day, you will go the distance – and then some.

Comfort zones are only supposed to be half-way houses