Run #20 Reflection: back to reality!

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While I crashed back to reality, facing the brisk wind in the Welsh capital, the edge of this harshness was softened not only by seeing another good friend but softened by my new running tights, a birthday present from said good friend. So I pulled on the junior size jazzy black and white leggings (yes, junior – Nat reassured me they’ll stretch and I’ll fit in them… hmmmmm) and we set off for a short run around the block and the park, with super Seth in tow (the most awesome cocker spaniel!). I must admit, I’m not a massive fan of running with other people. I know I’m not the fastest and I don’t like to push myself too hard; I want to get fit, train well and make sure I get across that finish line come April 23rd but I’m quite happy at going at my own pace in my own time. Now Nat’s super fit, as is Seth! So the pace was a little quicker to what I was used to. Plus, I was a bit rusty. While I’d been doing lots of different kinds of exercise in St Lucia, I hadn’t done all that running – something which I kind of need to be doing! So my legs were a little out of it on this run. However, I did complete it and I did enjoy being with Nat and Seth. Still not something I’d do for every run but I realised much of my dissatisfaction of running with others comes from my own self-consciousness, lack of belief in my own abilities and me comparing myself to others. When I ease off on those, running with others eases, too.

Run #20 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 4

Ran pretty quickly but had to stop a couple of times for feeling short of breath.

Enjoyment = 4

More enjoyable than what I was expecting (no offence Nat!).

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Run #30 Reflection: 2 little ducks 🦆🦆

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It was as if the stars and planets aligned, the various Gods of this world were all smiling down on me, or I’d simply got out of the right side of bed (which, ironically, is the only side of the bed I can get out of in my new flat for lack of space in the bedroom). I can’t really describe to you what this run felt like other than, well, glorious. And I can’t believe I’m using that word to describe a run! But it really was. The night before I’d had a decent dinner (salmon, broccoli and sweet potato), had a decent night’s sleep, got up feeling relatively refreshed and had a good breakfast (my usual porridge, seeds, almonds, cinnamon and honey) as well as a bagel and coffee. A friend of a friend who’s run the London marathon before suggested I had a plan for my race day run, something I hadn’t yet considered. And so in preparation for the day itself, I thought it was worth putting my plan in to action to see how well it played out before I did it for real…

So, as above for preparation. I set off late (I’m always late – better change that for April 23rd!) but it was only by an hour; I was trying to mimic what it *might* be like on marathon day so I felt adequately prepared. So I set off in my shorts, vest, running belt (I look like Lara Croft of Runners World, just not as hot or fit) and my new runners (I’m in love with them, sorry old Asics). The sun was shining proudly against a clear blue spring sky. It happened to be the weekend that there was a mini-kind-of-heat-wave in England. Not ideal although I guess helpful just in case the end of April throws up some lovely weather for everyone but runners (well, I don’t like running in the heat, anyway). At least there was a bit of a cool breeze. But unlike my last long run – the failed – 20 mile attempt – today, I was in the zone.

In. The. Zone.

My music was pumping (thanks to a friend for putting together a unique Spotify playlist for me – old school hip hop with some power ballads!). I was focussed. I just kept on visualising the London marathon. My mind wasn’t wondering, my legs weren’t aching and I didn’t feel sick. The only thing that was a slight discomfort around mile 15 was the fact that I needed a wee, and then the added agony of trying to decide whether or not to have a pee in the bushes (I decided no – I just wanted to keep on running). I was doing 3 loops of a route I’ve come to really enjoy in Swindon, my new home. Running out towards Coate Water Park – a favourite childhood place and actually, still one of my favourite places as an adult – felt so good. A mix of hills and flat running and then, when you get to the park itself, opportunities to shelter from the sun in the shade of the woodlands and the chance to enjoy the view of the lake – not to mention the challenge of darting out of the way of children on scooters at the play area! I’m sure some people in the park had a serious case of déjà vu throughout the afternoon. But it was glorious. Absolutely glorious. It just didn’t feel like that much of a challenge. How can that be, when Monday was so tumultuous and trying?

In fact, this was such a glorious run that not only did I meet my 20 mile target, but I went for another 2 miles. TWO MILES! That was like another half an hour (my pace had slowed by then!). I was chuffed. So bloody chuffed. Not only had I reached my target, but I’d surpassed it. It was so important for me to try to reach 20 miles before the marathon; mentally, I needed to know that physically (and mentally) I can do the bulk of it. I should have started tapering at this point, doing a 15 mile run today but I just simply had to do at least 20 miles. And I did, and then some. 22 miles. I can’t quite believe it. And yet, I can. I now believe in myself. And that is the best feeling of all of this.

So come on April 23rd and the additional 4.2 miles – I’m coming for you.

Run #30 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 5

Enjoyment = 5

The Cotswold Way Reflection: I did it my way😊

After a bit of an emotional and tiring day on day 4 I actually took the decision to come home instead of going to the B&B for what was supposed to be my last overnight stop on the route. The 4 days ultimately served their purpose: I got fresh air, peace and quiet and time to reflect on things and because of that I returned much calmer. I also feel good for challenging myself, doing some exercise and spending time in the outdoors. Slightly annoyed I didn’t complete the whole thing but I gave it a go and considering how the reality of it all panned out, I think I did myself proud.

I know it must be scary reading some of my posts; I really don’t mean to upset anyone but I want to be honest because it’s helping me recover and I hope it’s helping in a wider sense in contributing to an honest, no-bullshit conversation about dealing with a mental health illness. Showing the ups and downs all at once shows how not so black and white depression is. You can feel elated yet down at the same time; motivated and disinterested all at once; brave and scared in the same instance. It really is bloody confusing! And I know it must be like that for people on the outside looking in, not knowing how I (or others with depression) are feeling. But I can tell you one thing: support, no matter how big or small, makes the world of difference. I don’t expect anyone to understand this illness – especially when I don’t myself – but knowing there are people who care about you along the way despite not understanding is what really matters.

Run #12 Reflection aka Day 4 of The Cotswold Way

3.17m walked, and probably cried the equivalent distance in tears.  This was a tough day.

The pain in my feet was bearable but not the pain in my head. I had a panic attack in the middle of some really pretty woodlands and then I broke down in tears. I realised it was all to do with the break-up I’d been trying to deal with rather than my depression but I also realise that these things are interrelated. So I took the decision to walk to the nearest village, pop in to a pub to warm up by a fire, have a cider and then check in to the B&B as soon as I could to relax, recuperate and re-centre. The whole point of this walk was to give me space, peace and time to think which it really did. It was also supposed to be part of a healing process. While a challenge is good (God knows I love a good challenge), knowing my limits in any given time is good, too. It was on this day that I realised I’d reached my pain threshold physically, mentally and emotionally. And the fact I realised that is a MASSIVE improvement on where I’ve been with managing my emotions and feelings in the past few years. Every cloud…

While updating my journey on Instagram, I shared the above photo of me crying after my panic attack. I felt so alone, so scared, so lost. But I wanted to share that feeling because I know I’m not the only to have felt that way. And I wanted to show that I’m not ashamed of feeling like that, either. I’m not ashamed of my tears. I’m not ashamed of my heart breaking. I’m not ashamed of pushing myself to the edge and feeling like that’s about as much as I can take. I’m not ashamed of having anxiety and depression. I’m not ashamed of being open about my true feelings. And I’m simply not ashamed of being me, like I may have been in the past.

I am not ashamed.

Run #12 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 2

I just could not go on today. I didn’t give up, but I barely persevered, either.

Enjoyment = 0.5

Today was one of the lowest points I’d had for a while. My entire body and soul ached. How I longed for it all just to stop.

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Run #11 Reflection aka Day 3 of The Cotswold Way

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I very VERY nearly took this day as a rest day – I even checked the bus times from Painswick to Dursley so I could just get to my B&B and chill. But something in my head just said ‘give it a go, see what happens then make the decision’. My blisters and right ankle were painful and uncomfortable, but bearable – just. I decided to take a slightly different route to help ease the pain – no fields today but a mix of the Cotswold Way, A roads, B roads, a common and some woodlands. With Jack Garratt’s phenomenal debut album buzzing in my ears, I plodded on. The weather was changeable, so too was my mood. I stopped off at a Sainsbury’s cafe to warm up and fuel up. Unfortunately my phone had conked out again and so for the latter half of the day it was just me and my thoughts. As the day got on, my feet got worse. The blisters were half the size of my palms and I had three of them – one on each heel and one on the inside of the ball of my right foot. I was wearing my trusty walking boots and proper walking socks so I’m not sure how they happened, but happen they did. When I finally saw the bright lights (yes, it got dark again) of Dursley, I slumped off to a pub to warm up and treat myself to a well-deserved G&T. And again, I got help from a 4 wheeled friend to get me over to Stinchcombe, my stop for the night. I was just so exhausted, in so much pain and I frankly, just fed up by the end of the day. I had had enough. At least getting sandwiched between my backpack and a gate – twice – had brought a smile to my face that day!

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Run #11 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 3

Well, full marks for me for getting on with things initially. But I have to knock down the score for getting a taxi again. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself – something I’m trying to work on!

Enjoyment = 3

The pain certainly tarnished the day. And the weather turning didn’t help. Some moments were really enjoyable but a lot of the day felt like a slog. I would’ve scored it a 2 but a visit from a good friend at my B&B in Stinchcombe massively lifted my mood… thanks Heather 🙂 x

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Run #10 Reflection aka Day 2 of The Cotswold Way

Screenshot_20170421-091415Not as many animals today nor as many people. A little bit lonely at times but still peaceful. There was another near-spectacular fall as this time I decided to imitate Bambi on ice! Fortunately I just about kept my balance. With my phone having enough battery, I finished an audio book along the walk (“Grit: The Power of Passion and Persistence” by Angela Duckworth – it’s really interesting!). I also did A LOT of map reading as I decided to take a mix of different routes since many of the locations on the route were ones I’ve visited numerous times back when I lived in Gloucestershire. It was lovely having the sun and lovely to get to my B&B in sunlight. Although I did have help from a 4-wheeled friend… For about an hour I was deliberating over whether to carry on today or not, as I was supposed to have walked twice today’s distance.Screenshot_20170421-091458 But it got to the point where I was slowing down so much from painful ankles that I knew I’d end up walking in the dark again – something I really didn’t want to do. So I took the decision to cut the walk short, get to my B&B to rest up and start afresh tomorrow. Part of me feels like I’ve let myself down but then I’m trying to see the bigger picture and why I’m doing this walk. It’s not to do with racing the clock or walking the furthest for the sake of it. It’s about taking time to be in the present, focus on me for a bit and look after my health – plus to enjoy the beautiful countryside. So when I think of things like that, actually I don’t feel like I’ve let myself down after all.

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Run #10 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 2

While I can put it all in to context and try to be kinder to myself and not beat myself up, I can’t move away from the fact that I didn’t walk as far as planned and also got a lift – one thing I really didn’t want to have to do.

Enjoyment = 3

Was much quieter on today’s walk although I appreciated the time to listen to an interesting book and just be.

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£1000 milestone achieved 😊 A much needed boost this week – THANK YOU 🌟🌟🌟

After the shambles that was Monday’s run (see Run #26 post) I was feeling rather disappointed, dejected and, without using the word lightly, pretty depressed. While I didn’t achieve the goal set for my training at the start of the week, I did achieve another milestone this week. Or rather, you did.

Everything I see this in my inbox, my heart jumps:

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It genuinely doesn’t matter what the amount donated is, it’s the thought that someone either cares about me or cares about the cause I’m fundraising for – or both – that makes my heart jump. I’m starting to enjoy *some* running but I’m not doing this challenge for me. I’m doing it because I care about raising money and awareness for mental health illnesses, particularly depression and anxiety, because of my own experience and the experience of so many others I know, whether they may be direct or indirect. So when I’m having a bad day with my head or a bad day with my legs, having a little email drop in my inbox displaying a message of support for me and a figure of support for the Mental Health Foundation, then I know the pain I’m feeling is worth it.

Thank you to all those have sponsored me over the past few months – every single donation, every single word, every single penny makes a massive difference.

Now to continue to rack up those miles and hopefully the pounds, too…

Run #9 Reflection aka Day 1 of The Cotswold Way: 100 miles in 5 days (well, that was the plan!)…

“Where you going to love?”, said the taxi driver as I wriggled across the back of his car with my heaving rucksack. “Chipping Campden please. I need to go to the start of the Cotswold Way”, I reply as my cold breath fills the warm, cosy car with condensation.

The quintessential English countryside looked glorious as we rolled on by in the sunshine, talking about the work I do in BBC local radio. That would be the last time I would talk – even think – about work for the next few days. That part is true. But to say that the absence of thinking about work was bliss, as I expected, would not be true. Little did I know that the rest of the walk would be more blister-full than blissful, literally and figuratively speaking.

As mentioned in a previous blog, I’ve recently gone through a break up. I’ve been here before, just like many millions of others have. My situation isn’t unique nor is it special. But it’s my situation. It’s my experience. And I’ve been before. Many times, actually. But the last time I was here, the dark, grey days turned in to a storm full of raging gales strong enough to knock me over and relentless rain, turning everything miserable; my last breakup was the proverbial straw which essentially triggered 3 long years of living with depression.

So I spotted the warning signs. I mean, at least this time I could prepare for what might come and attempt to circumnavigate the inevitable rocky patch. And this was one of the ways I decided to do that. Fresh air. Alone time. Exercise. The countryside. And of course, a challenge. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew some parts wouldn’t be all that enjoyable. I knew I’d cry, I knew I’d hurt – inside and out – but I also knew that this is what I needed to do. I needed to start the healing process and I needed to prevent any further damage. So off I set: 100 miles in 5 days. “Let’s do this”, I thought…

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The first day was energising, liberating, tiring, painful, and, as the sun went down and I realised I was still hours from my B&B in the pitch black dark but for my little head torch, bloody terrifying. Energising because it felt so good to feel the crisp wind fill my lungs and the result of my body producing and pumping around happy hormones. Liberating because my phone had died and so it was just me, the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside. Tiring because I walked 20.35 miles miles with 2o kilograms on my back, which wasn’t helped by me forgetting just how hilly Gloucestershire is. Painful because on day one I gained 3 little friends in the form of expanding skin filled with liquid on the inner side of each foot – typical. And bloody terrifying because my over imaginative mind convinced the part of me that’s a scaredy-cat that I was being followed through the woods every time I head owls – ok, more likely pigeons – sound and flutter away as I walked by (sorry to the people whose garden I trespassed through with all of 5 metres – I just had to get out of the woods and on to the road and when I saw my chance I took it… I promise I was careful and just nipped around the edge once I jumped the barbed wire fence – not an easy thing to do when carrying a third of your body weight on your back!).

What I noticed the most from the first day’s walking was just how often I would stop and be in the moment. I know very little about plants and wildlife but what I did come across I’d stop, look, study and take in what was in front of me in that very instance. I’d notice the tiny leaves on flowers, the eyelashes on a horse that followed me through a field or the shapes of the clouds in the sky as they merged in to the mist in the distance, making the landscape looking something more reminiscent of Lord of the Rings than Gloucestershire. In fact, I was so in the moment throughout the day that I really did take in everything, and for once I managed to remember it all, too:

11 villages. 8.5 hours of walking. 3 blisters. 2 pheasants. 1 pony. 1 breed of cow I’d never seen before (turns out it was Belted Galloway). 1 squirrel. 1 man and his dog (that got lost and I helped to find… the dog by the way, not the man!). 1 dead phone. 1 castle-esque tower. 1 near spectacular fall (I was trying to skid down some mud!). 1 incredibly stunning sunset that distracted me, resulting in 1 missed turn. Numerous ‘diversions’ in the dark, resulting in 1 slightly scared and paranoid walker (I watch too many psycho-thrillers). 1 lost hat. 1 found hat. Tonnes of clumpy, sticky mud. Tonnes of Deep Heat. Too many hills. Too many scary looking sheep. And 1 lovely B&B (once I could get in!).

So with day 1 under my layers of warm clothing and waterproof jackets done, I turned to think about day 2 as my head hit the pillow of my luxurious bed. The sun had been shining all day and, despite the inevitable ups and downs, the sun was still shining inside of me.

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Run #9 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 5

I survived!

Enjoyment = 3

A mixed bag of emotions for the day.

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Run #8 Reflection: First long run of 2017 DONE!

nYou know the bit where Charlie, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, shows Grandpa Joe his golden ticket and, after years of being bed-bound, Grandpa Joe yelps “Yippee” in a burst of glee and springs from his bed, rejoicing with a little jig? Well, how Grandpa Joe felt about Charlie finding the golden ticket resembles how I felt doing Sunday’s run.

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WAS BUZZING!

I went with my old running partner, Rachel. We did the Cardiff 10k together in 2016 and attempted the Bristol Half a couple of years before that (let’s not go there…!). The aim for this run? 50mins, non-stop. Running around the Downs in Bristol on a Sunday morning was very different to running around the small streets of a little north Wiltshire town. Not only were there other runners out and about, of all shapes, ages and levels, but there were loads of people out for other reasons, too; walking, cycling, boot camp, football. I felt energised for running with someone else (Rach is great at setting a pace for me – her stride is longer than mine and so I run behind her trying to keep up), energised for being surrounded by other runners and people, and simply energised by the run itself. The sun was shining but there was a lovely cool breeze to keep us at a comfortable temperature. Oh, and I gave my new bit of kit a go, too: my running belt!

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I decided to get one of these as I get so, so thirsty on runs. I try to hydrate enough throughout the day and ahead of runs so I don’t need to bring water with me but any run over 45 minutes and I’m gasping for a drop of H2O. So I thought I’d give this a go as when I run with bottles in my hands, my shoulders get tight and I my focus moves on to them instead of my run which isn’t all too helpful. And I was really surprised, the belt worked really well and didn’t annoy the hell out of me like I thought it would. Winning.

With people, the run and water fuelling my body and mind, motivating me to put one foot in front of the other, we not only achieved the run’s aim but we surpassed it (ok, only by 5 minutes, but still!). I still can’t quite fathom how I’m supposed to do this just over 5 times more but let’s just keep on taking one run at a time and hope that across that time it just happens!

Run #8 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 5

I don’t feel like this run could have gone any better!

Enjoyment = 5

I felt like I’d won the golden ticket.

Oh, and as a reward, Rach and I went for brunch after – well done to us!!

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Run #5 Reflection: First run of 2017 done!

Wahooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First run of 2017 done and I feel GREAT! It was cold, dark, damp and my phone died during my run so for half of it it was silent… well, except for my panting which sounded like a mix between Wheezy – the penguin from Toy Story – and an old foot pump trying to blow up an airbed.

BUT THAT DIDN’T MATTER!

I went out and ran, non-stop, for 23 mins (I thought it was 20 mins and so initially I was chuffed that I did a few minutes more – turns out I was 2 short, oops!).

And again, THAT DOESN’T MATTER!

What matters is I turned up, I gave it a decent go and, not that this really matters either, but I enjoyed it. I feel pumped because I went despite not really feeling it and I feel pumped because I’ve got my body working faster than Southern Rail (ok… maybe not the best comparison); my endorphins are running around, rejoicing, like primary school kids on the last day of term, bringing in their own games and wearing non-school uniform. I really am chuffed with myself.

What was also nice was running in a different, yet very familiar, setting. While I’m at my mum and dad’s for a bit, I’m running around the town I spent my child hood in. Running around different parts of my hometown brings back fond memories and so I spent pretty much my entire run smiling… I should savor this moment as this could be the first and only time this happens!

So all in all a pretty good damn start to this batch of marathon training… now how to keep it up??!!

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Run #5 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 4

Well, I ran without stopping; I completed tonight’s goal (well, I thought I had – I’ll make those 2 minutes up tomorrow); I smiled; I even tried some new stretches before and after my running (I got Paula Radcliffe’s running book for Christmas!).

Enjoyment = 5

Well, if every run could be like today then I’d be a very happy woman! However I know that won’t be the case and so I’m soaking up this feeling and trying to remember it so when I have bad runs, I know there will also be good runs. I’m also going to use this positive experience as momentum, pushing me forwards on to the next run and training session. A journey of a thousand miles and all that jazz!

p.s. GO ME!

p.p.s This gave me a fantastic boost before I went for my run… from a beautiful friend who has run the London Marathon herself and is one of my inspirations 

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