Reflections on a challenging year

It’s been an unusual year for me.  Unusual in that I haven’t run a single marathon…or even a half.  I do realise that makes me sound a little unusual, the irony isn’t lost on me.

I tried.  I was full of good intentions, and training plans, and I had my sights set high for a post-foot-surgery comeback… but it wasn’t to be.  Instead I didn’t even start the last three marathons I entered.

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My running kinda went downhill after missing my goal in 2016’s London Marathon.  I lost faith.  Then I ended up having surgery to correct a painful ongoing foot problem which wiped me out.  It took longer to get back to running than anticipated and then I got the fear every time I put my trainers on.  You know, the fear that makes you want to do absolutely ANYTHING else other than what you’re supposed to do.

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Sometimes I gave into the fear.  Sometimes I didn’t.  They say things fall apart so that better things can come together.  I guess we’ll see about that.  However, 2017 is coming to an end and it’s time to find some positivity in the things I have done rather than dwelling on those I haven’t, so I tried to find some.

1. I got back on my feet

OK, so I haven’t run all that much this year, but I have run.  I have picked myself up and started the journey back to my usual runner-bean self.  It’s been hard. It’s been physically hard because I felt like I had to teach myself how to run again and it’s been mentally hard because running scared me.  But I got back on my feet.

2. I bought me a bike and cycled almost 3 times as many miles as I ran this year

Yep, me, a bright new shiny pretty blue bike!  And I quickly had to learn how to ride it in cleats, on London roads, because I gave myself just two short months to prepare for Ride 100.

FYI, 2 months is probably, PROBABLY not long enough to go from semi-regular gym spinner to lycra clad 100 mile road cyclist…probably.

First time in cleats on Wimbledon Common

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3. I took that bike and rode 100 flippin’ miles

Which was HARD.  Why didn’t anyone tell me??  Why does everyone have to make cycling look so damn easy?!  Still, I completed my first ever cycling sportive in one piece, and I even started to enjoy it once I remembered to feed myself.  It actually turned out to be 120 miles after I had got myself there and back.  I did not leave my bed for the rest of the day (to be fair there wasn’t much day left by the time I’d finished…)

I cycled 100 miles to the Queens house…I went the long way

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4. I got stronger

Every time I gave into my running fear I found myself at the gym instead.  A lot.  And I had forgotten how much I loved it.  I swapped runs for sweaty spin sessions and went to classes called ‘Broken’ and ‘Insanity’ and ‘Core Wheel’ – you name it, I was there.

I also started lifting/pushing/squatting heavy things again and fell in love with Body Pump once more.  It gives you a different kind of post-workout buzz – and a different type of post-workout ouch (big ouch).

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5. I officially became a Barre Babe (as Nesse calls us)

I’ve been a regular at my Monday night Barre class for about 18 months now and I’ve seen a real improvement in my strength.  Barre is a ballet inspired isometric strength class that works by holding your body still while you work a particular set of muscles to the point of exhaustion.  It hurts, but we do it to hardcore gangster rap (seriously), and have the occasional glass of prosecco after to numb the pain (also seriously).

I absolutely bloody love it and if you fancy it I can promise you that Nesse is the best (and most glamorous) Barre teacher in London – catch her on her website here or on Instagram here.

Nesse on the left…and us trying to be like Nesse on the right.  Photo credit: Instagram @nesseinlondon

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6. I went boxing at the Ministry of Sound

I mean, COME ON!

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So, it’s been an unusual year.  And I didn’t run a marathon. So what?

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Suck it up Princess

Running is hard.  Running is harder than it’s ever been (if you can actually call it running at all) and  I’m really struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel (there’s going to be a light isn’t there…please tell me there’s going to be a light??)

I’ve moved on from the run/walk strategy.  It was good while it lasted, mostly because it took the huge pressure off hitting a pace I was vaguely happy with rather than my foot, but it had to end at some point.  In all honesty I hadn’t planned to end it quite as soon as I did but it was actually snowing in London and my blood is 100% southern so, you know, I get cold and running is quicker than walking.  I didn’t dare look at my watch.

Of course after I had transitioned to continuous running there was no way back, you don’t make progress by taking steps backwards, and so for the last 2 weeks I’ve been shuffling around London trying to remember how to be a runner again.  It was hard and it was scary and it wasn’t particularly enjoyable.  I didn’t know why I was doing it.

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The last two Saturdays I’ve made an appearance at my local Parkrun on Tooting Common.  Running with other people helps me to forget that I’m running and that I’m finding it hard, Parkrun is the perfect place to learn to run again.  It feels kinda safe.

The only problem was trying to run a Parkrun without running as fast as I could, that was another new one on me.  Being much slower than I usually am is difficult to deal with, but I have been enjoying running again and that was the whole point.  You’re ace Parkrun, thank you!

You can’t be at the top of your game all the time, there will always be times when you’re just a little bit rubbish.  But you don’t make progress by hiding away and doing nothing about it, you have to get out the door, suck it up and do it.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’ve also never got as much Strava kudos for so many rubbish runs so THANK YOU for making me feel better about it, it really does help.

I will get faster and I will get back to the top of my game but, for now, I need to suck it up and plod on.  Joy.

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Back to Basics

So it turns out that after breaking your foot you can’t simply throw your trainers back on and run 12 miles.  Not even close.  But that’s OK because, you know, it’s winter and it’s dark, and it’s cold out, right?

Yep, that’s really OK…

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I’ve had some physio. Sometimes we got on (when she let me run) and sometimes we didn’t get on (when she didn’t let me run), so throughout most of our relationship we didn’t really get on much.  But we did have a common goal, and as frustrating as I found it, I did everything she told me to, like rest, and glute activations, and mobilsation exercises, and squats, and more rest…which was, you know, lots of fun.

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On my final physio session, 6 and a half weeks after surgery, and after lots of squatting and hopping and jumping around, I was actually  allowed on the dreadmill. It was the BEST DAY!  We’re talking 2 whole minutes of running…OK maybe ‘jogging’…but still huge progress!

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What I’ve really had to learn is to simply go back to the boring stuff basics, which has been mentally challenging.  When my physio told me I was allowed to go for a little run that weekend, after an excessive warm up of course, BUT I was only allowed to alternate between 1 minute running and 1 minute walking, I wasn’t sure my ego could handle it…I mean, what if people SAW me?

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However, I did as I was told, well, almost, my legs being the little rebels they are settled into a pattern of 2 minutes running and 1 walking but it was close enough.  It was actually quite enjoyable because it took the pressure off trying to run at the pace I was used to, so I just didn’t worry about it at all.  Three miles successfully completed and I was back in the game!

The one thing I’ve found most difficult to deal with is my running confidence hitting rock bottom.  Just the very thought of actually going outside of my house and running in the actual outdoors made me anxious and nervous, how I ever managed to run a marathon was beyond me.  Something that used to be so natural, and a normal part of my life, now seemed a little alien and a little intimidating.  I now understand why people find the thought of taking up running daunting.

Of course, I really didn’t have a choice, I HAD to find my confidence again because, you know, running is like oxygen.  So I’ve been getting back into it slowly with short runs of 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking which has helped both physically and psychologically, as well as getting around because I can finally run home from work again (yeah, screw you tube strike!)

I’ve also taken the running-down-time to up my game in the gym which has helped improve my strength and stability and I’ve promised myself it will remain part of my regular routine, ya hear that body?  PROMISE

It’s taken a couple of months but, this morning I woke up with my entire body aching and feeling exhausted, and that makes me soooo very happy because I actually feel like my old self again! Well, being well rested and ache free is for wimps right 😉

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