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.

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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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Run #28 Reflection: well that didn’t quite go to plan…

20 miles. That was the aim for what would be my longest run in my London Marathon training. But I fell short of my target. At least I didn’t literally fall over, though – every silver cloud and all that…

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Well, things started off pretty positively. I was motivated for the run but that feeling soon evaporated. I decided to take a different route which I thought would be a good idea just to shake things up a bit but it actually meant I became quite distracted on the run, and not in a helpful way; while the weather conditions were perfect and I love running in the countryside, I was too aware I was running an unfamiliar route and with the roads being a bit busier than what I’m used to, I spent half my time jumping up on to the grass verge with stinging nettles and all to make sure I didn’t get squashed on the country lanes. Then, my thighs started to seize up around mile 7, something that’s not happened before. Another thing that’s not happened before is me getting a stitch. I had no idea what to do except to squeeze away the pain. So with my stinging ankles, my tight, heavy thighs and my pained stomach, my body really wasn’t in the best shape.

Neither was my head.

Barely an ounce of sleep the night before mixed with a stressful and unexpected start to the day had left me in a bit of a fog. With the help of my therapy sessions in recent months and just simple good old practice, I’ve learnt how to clear foggy days. Often when I’m running I’ll either put negative thoughts on hold and deal with them later or I use my running time as a sort of therapy session to sort some things in my head out. I was unable to do either on this run. I couldn’t silence the unhelpful thoughts and I couldn’t concentrate enough to manage them, either. So much so I turned off my music just so I could have a bit of peace and quiet. At least it was a beautiful day, with the sun shining aided by a breeze to keep me cool. And the Wiltshire countryside really is something; trees, green fields, daffodils, pretty little villages – perfection. Just a shame my run didn’t reflect the scenery.

As my legs and head became heavier and heavier, my running became slower and slower. I needed to be back by 7.45pm as I was going to the cinema with my sister. Another unhelpful pressure playing on my mind I realised after. Ahhhhhh, the power of hindsight. So I kept on checking the time, more so than I usually would on a run. And then suddenly I was about to lose the ability to tell the time. My phone battery had plummeted to 2%. Bugger. I was 10.43 miles in to my run (thanks Runkeeper). Half way. It was 6pm. There was no way I was going to make it back in time for the cinema. Panic set in. I haven’t had a panic attack for a couple of months now but the warning signs were all too familiar. But despite all the above, I managed to take a deep breath (well, many deep breaths as I was pretty knackered from running 10.43 miles non-stop!) and work out what to do which turned out to be something I really didn’t want to do and something that I’m still kicking myself for for even considering.

It had already started to play on my mind to calling it a day on the run. I was trying to battle that thought but the thing with having negative thoughts and being in a low mood is that everything becomes a vicious cycle. I was beating myself up for even contemplating giving up. Then I was getting stressed with myself for being so hard on myself – something I’ve actively been trying to do less of through my therapy sessions. My thoughts soon escalated to questioning why I had even bothered entering the marathon and thinking I could do a challenge like this. I was telling myself that I won’t be able to do it, that I haven’t done enough preparation, that if I’m having a breakdown now at 10.43 miles then what will the rest of the race be like?! What was the point?

As I walked to the nearest town – Brinkworth – to pick up a cab from the nearest pub or shop, I realised what the point was.

This.

I’ve had a string of good runs recently. Even better, I’ve had a string of good days mental health wise. It feels great to make progress and take on challenges when you’re feeling positive, encouraged, motivated and energised. When you feel the opposite it can be difficult to see any progress made and everything feels like a challenge. But that’s one of the reasons why I decided to do this. I wanted to be able to achieve something despite my mental health condition. I wanted to challenge the stigma attached to depression and anxiety, showing the different sides, challenges and consequences of the illnesses. I wanted to raise awareness and raise money by being open and honest about my training as I knew it wasn’t going to be easy in and of itself, let alone adding the dark stormy days.

So this training session was just part of the whole experience. It wasn’t ideal, it wasn’t enjoyable and it wasn’t reassuring. But when I placed it in the context of remembering why I was out in the middle of the countryside in my shorts and t-shirt, running belt around my waist stocked up with gels and water, I felt *marginally* better about things. And it was at this moment that I saw assign for my home town stating it was *just* 4.5 miles away. 4.5 miles. I could briskly walk that in an hour at worst. I could manage that. That would be better than getting a cab. I’d still be falling short of my target, but not by as much.

And so with the calming reflection and realisation along with the encouraging sign – literally – I continued to put one foot in front of the other through Brinkworth, on towards my destination. I may not have achieved my initial goal, but I achieved something else along the way which, in hindsight, is far more important. And it turns out not all was lost anyway; my heavy legs were able to manage a bit more than a brisk walk. It’s funny what you can achieve when you think you can’t.

Run #28 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 3

This is tricky because technically I should be scoring this ‘0’ having not accomplished 20 miles. On the other hand, maybe I should be scoring it 5 for not giving up, managing the situation and seeing the bigger picture? So with both of those in mind, I’m going bang slap in the middle.

Enjoyment = 0.5

The sun was shining and the countryside was beautiful; the only saving grace.

Pre-marathon-training ‘training’ reflection… 

“So how’s the marathon training going Rhiannon?” is a common question that’s been asked many times by friends, family and colleagues in the past few weeks. It feels good to have people take an interest in something you do. It doesn’t feel good when you give the answer I’ve been giving. “It’s… er,” I stammer. “Well, it was going and now it’s… well, now it’s kind of not going,” I mutter, with my cheeks blushing the way they should blush after a run, not a sheepish admission. 4 runs achieved out of a planned 24. A sixth of runs completed. 16.6% of runs done. Or you can look at it as 20 runs not achieved out of a planned 24. Five sixths of runs not completed. 83.3% of runs not done. Those aren’t great stats.

When I put it all in to context, I’m not surprised nor am I as ashamed with my minimal-track record. The past 3 weeks have been emotionally and physically turbulent to say the least and with a routine going out the window with moving house plus Christmas and New Year, I’m amazed I even know what day it is. And before the break up (see next post) there was the week that knocked me for six as my (then) partner was in hospital and I literally worried sick about them. I don’t want to make myself sick in this process; that’s the opposite to the desired effect! Running on empty is going to do me no good, literally and figuratively speaking. So I get how around 12 runs have been wiped out right there in one big swoop.

But what about the other half? Indeed. What about the other half?

While I keep reminding myself to strive for progress and not perfection, I’ve got to remember that I’ve actually got to put the effort in to make the progress at the very least. I knew that committing to the training would be the hardest part for me, especially when going through a tough mental period. But somehow and from somewhere I’ve got to suck it up. I decided to do this, no-one forced me to do this. I wanted to take on this challenge. So now I’ve got to show up and do that: take on the challenge. I’ve got to go out and train, even if I end up walking for the duration/length. Because come the marathon day, I will complete those 26.2 miles even if I crawl across the finish line with stewards patiently meandering behind me clearing up the banners and barriers, hours after everyone else has finished. I owe it to the Mental Health Foundation, I owe it to those who have – and hopefully will – sponsor me and, finally, I owe it to myself. So yes I might not make every training session becuase life/shit happens, but man alive do I have to give myself a good kick up the arse to get those stats more in my favour because otherwise I’m not making the most out of this experience, I’m not giving myself a good chance and, ultimately, what’s the point if I’m not putting the effort in?

So next time someone asks me how the marathon training’s going, I am going to say “it’s going and it’s going well, thanks.” And I’ll say that with a smile on my face from the satisfaction of knowing that I’m telling the truth because I have been training. Just if you see me over the next few days, hold off asking that question until the start of next week, thanks! 😉🏃🏻‍♀️👟🏅🏆👍🏼💪🏼