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

#SorryNotSorry

It’s become a popular hashtag for social media users of late but it’s also an apt hashtag for someone suffering from depression, in my experience anyway…

The purpose of this post was to initially apologise for the lack of blogging in recent weeks. When I started blogging, I aimed to post at least every time I went for a run or cross-trained. Seeming as I’ve reflected 9 times in the past 4 months when I’ve actually trained 33 times suggests I’m some way off my target. And for me, that feels disastrous. Extreme to say I know but, as I’ve come to discover in my therapy sessions (more on that to come), setting goals and meeting my own expectations – and failing to do so – is something that’s been causing my depression to hangover from the initial trigger 3 years ago. I’ve been beating myself up for not following my plan which means I’m not developing my writing and I’m not raising enough awareness about a cause close to my heart which then means that I’m letting other people down, not to mention damaging my chances to maximise the opportunity in raising as much money as I can for Mental Health Foundation. And so this storm of thoughts and worries continues to spiral, gaining more momentum, becoming harder to tame and control. The rational part of me knows that the above isn’t true but unfortunately I’m not 100% rational. I mean, who is, right?! But with depression – for me – a lot of time is spent trying to recognise, listen to and believe the what can be tiny rational part of my brain.

So because of those feelings, I wanted to say sorry. Sorry to you. Sorry to me. Sorry to those I’m raising money and awareness for. Yet after some reflecting, I know I’m not sorry, or at least I needn’t be. Using the rational part of my mind and the tools I’ve learnt through CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), I know that I’m doing my best. It might be frustrating when I know I can do better but given the literal context of the past few months and seeing the bigger picture, what I’ve done and continue to do is fine. It’s more than fine. It might not be perfect and it might not be meeting my expectations, but that’s ok (well, I’m trying to be ok with it!). Trying to reconcile this confusion and conflict is one challenge I don’t relish, but one I know I must conquer.

So I won’t say sorry. Just be patient with me while I try to be patient with myself. Be patient with anyone suffering from a mental health illness. They’ll want to say sorry for numerous things they experience, feel and do but they needn’t say sorry, either.

Run #13-19 Reflections: Cross-training in a Caribbean climate 🌴🍍🍌

 

“You’re going home a different person”

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The words whispered in my ear as I’m hugging my sister-from-another-mister goodbye after 10 incredible days in the Caribbean. And she was right. I was going home a different person. I had arrived on the other side of the Atlantic drained, dishevelled and depressed. I was leaving the tropical island refreshed, rejuvenated and regained in confidence.

How?

I was true to myself.

Taking time to do the things that not just give me pleasure but a sense of purpose and identity was critical: dancing; swimming in the sea; spending time with old friends; making new friends; experiencing a different way of life; yoga; reading; podcasts; trying new activities; hiking; writing; trying new food; eating healthily; getting enough sleep.

I was also honest with myself.

I knew I was off balance, out of kilter, off point. I had to put that right before I was completely gone in the wrong direction.

And so I did. My time in St Lucia helped me press the re-set button. Probably seems rather obvious – that’s what most people experience on holiday, right? But this wasn’t simply a holiday. This was one of the best ways for me to recover. I guess a rather elaborate and extreme time out, something I’m only too aware that I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to experience.

And 2 months on, the positive remnants of my time on this beautiful island with beautiful people who helped me make some truly beautiful memories remains.

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MY MINI UPDATES FROM ST LUCIA:

  • Not really a run but after a 30 min strength and conditioning session followed by 3 hours of kayaking, this was all I could manage! My ‘run’ included 25c, a witch’s house, and a stray dog chasing me because it wanted to play!!

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  • 40 minute run in 27c heat plus some strange looks on the way; afternoon spent reading Harry Potter and listening to podcasts on the balcony; a few chores to earn my keep; drinks at the marina; my first St Lucian street party, at Gros Islet, where I learnt to wine to Soca and Dancehall; more sore feet!!

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  • First Soca-cise class (think zumba but Caribbean style!) plus an impromptu dance off at the end of the class; a drive down south; pick Shauna up from the airport; reunite with Seeliy as we hike to the waterfall; drink cinnamon tea; eat cinnamon cake; try banana ketchup and some local spiced rum; drive back up north; stumble across street food where country music’s blaring out at the side of the road; dance (badly) at a Salsa party where I had a go at Salsa, Kizomba and Bachata; meet up with American Med students from Friday night at a local bar; learn to swing dance; teach Irish dancing; have my first PB&J (peanut butter and jelly) sandwich; play Irish poker; go to bed just before the sun comes up; ruin my feet some more – lost a toe nail at Salsa And that was supposed to be a quiet day!

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  • ROAD TRIP to the south; trip to local village with our new BFF Seeliy (whose daughter happens to live in my home county, Wiltshire!!); Atlantic Way walk with Seeliy’s son Kiandi; my first St Lucian cocktail at The Reef; a relaxing read in a hammock; first taste of bake and soya with some local juice; a walk up to a lighthouse; kettle bell swings with a coconut; watched Ciara and Shauna ride the waves; drive to our Airbnb place for the night; a challenge to find any food; after eventually finding food, we cooked way too much of it; an early night which turned in to a sleepless night thanks to the karaoke bar blasting out the tunes (and screeches!) until 3am

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  • Road trip continues in the south; tour with St Lucia Eco Adventures started with a hike up to an incredible spot with a view of Gros Piton and Petit Piton, 2 mountainous volcanic plus which are a UNESCO world heritage site; learnt about indigenous plants to St Lucia; tried a few fruits (tamarind, gooseberry); got battered by some plants!

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  • My final day… a chilled morning around the house, taking time to soak up the amazing  view of Rodney Bay; afternoon on the beach reading, dozing and swimming; another amazing (and exhausting) Soca-cise class; dinner at the marina and drinks with friends; my first proper Caribbean rum (with ginger – so good!); salsa social which included a new dance I really want to do more of, Tarraxinha – a form of Kizomba. A perfect end to a perfect wee tropical adventure!

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Run #13-19 Ratings & Reflections

Achievement = 5

Enjoyment = 5

I think all the above says it all for both!

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 #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.

Running on empty, stopping to refuel

1 film (Ab Fab – I love Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley), 2 (mini) bottles of red wine, the usual (rather plain) assortments found with an in-flight meal all done and dusted yet I still have 6 hours to go. I’m typing this from 30F, my aisle seat on a flight crossing the Atlantic Ocean as I make my way south-west to a part of the world I’ve never been before: the Caribbean.

Idyllic. Paradisiacal. Heavenly.

That’s how I’ve always imagined the Caribbean to be and if I were to ever visit one of the many islands making up the archipelago, I’d be doing it in style. Why? Well, because I never imagined I’d be able to afford to go the Caribbean. Growing up it was always the destination for the rich and famous; not the likes of a small-town girl from England who considered her holidays at Eurocamp in France to be a luxury growing up. No. If I were to ever go to the Caribbean, it would be when I’ve ‘made it’.

Well, I can tell you something. I haven’t ‘made it’. But here I am on my way to much warmer climates (not that that’s hard when living in the UK) in a situation I never thought I’d find myself in. How? Why? It all began with the warning signs…

You may have read this post from a few weeks ago. If you haven’t, I’ll save you the awkwardness and anguish as it’s not a happy read; essentially I felt like I was falling apart, for a number of reasons to do with my recovery from depression as well as dealing with the aftermath of a breakup. After writing that post, things didn’t really get any better. At the same time, though, they didn’t get any worse. They just, well, stayed. I felt stuck. It was as if each day I was trying to wade through treacle and yet I was getting no where; I was waking up and going to sleep in exactly the same spot. In a sense that was ok. I actually felt relatively stable. But at the same time, I could see that this wasn’t a long term viable situation to be in. If I stayed too long in this spot, I’d sink.

So, to get unstuck and to get some sort of forward momentum going. In order to do this, I had to expend energy. Energy. That elusive property that we know exists, but often feels absent from our lives for a multitude of reasons. I know I have the energy to do things, as me doing things is evident of that, but I can’t remember the last time I actually felt like I had the energy to, well, do anything – even sleep. So any little energy that might exist in some sort of form in my life, I knew, wasn’t enough t0 power me to fight the sticky, gloopy mess I was stuck in. I needed help. I would need wrenching out of the treacle, hosing down from its grips, and being allowed a little time to take stock, re-build and get going again, as that sticky, gloopy mess won’t be gone forever, I know.

After some serious thinking time, self-reflection and a lot of honest chats with friends, family and colleagues I came to the decision that I needed a chunk of time off work. Now, for those of you who don’t know me, while I love holidays and taking breaks, I hate taking time off work otherwise. I do my dream job and I love it. But with recent events, working has become hard. Very hard. We all have our off days but I started to have more off days than on. I was working on my own original story idea, being left to my own devices to set up things for radio, TV and social media, taking the lead on editorial and creative decisions; I should’ve been in my element but, instead, I felt like all the elements were drowning me, burying me, burning me, leading me in to a whirlwind of a storm where there was no escape. I’ve been in the eye of that storm before. I don’t want to go there again.

At first, part of me felt like I was being a wimp and running away from things. Other people are going through a shite time too and seem to be handling their own shit, so why can’t I? Well, I came to realise that I’m not other people, I don’t really know the extent to what others are going through, and the only thing I can really do is focus on me. So, here I am, on a plane to the Caribbean to spend some time with one of my best friends, Ciara aka Cheera / Cipidi / Ci, who’s working and living over here for a wee while (she’s Northern Irish – had to put the ‘wee’ in there for effect!).

*****

UPDATE: It’s now day 3 of my trip to St. Lucia. It’s 11am and I’m typing this as I’m sat in my forest green bikini that perfectly camouflages with the scene in front of me (which is ironic as I’ve learned camouflage is illegal here in St Lucia!!). I’m on the balcony of Ciara’s house. Directly in front of me is a bay leaf tree, a mango tree and an orange tree. Further ahead is a large, rocky, mountainous outcrop covered in green vegetation that goes on to meet the Caribbean Sea. To my right down the steep hill littered with an assortment of colourful houses is the Rodney Bay marina; white masts of yachts poke up out in the distance as if they were pins pricking up from a blue, silky pin cushion. Some sort of saw or sander is working away a few houses below this one and the hum of traffic can be heard in the distance, along with the occasional plane jetting overhead. I’ve taken a break from the local ‘Soca’ music to enjoy some chilled neo-soul; a weird juxtaposition of sounds surround me but I feel truly mellow.

*****

So back to the point of this post. I’ve been running on empty and I worked out I needed to refuel. Some might call me a bit of an idealist / hedonist / day-dreamer or simply a fool who gets carried away with the fairies from time to time. All would be correct to a degree but I do often manage to mould my free-flowing ideas into something a little more realistic and concrete. At first, I thought about buggering off to somewhere like Thailand and doing a 4 week yoga/detox retreat kind of thing. I knew I didn’t want to spend my time off just sitting around at home. While I needed some time to recuperate, this was not the way to go about it. But neither was sodding off to be on my own for so long and spending a fair whack in the process. Ok, plan B. I’m good at coming up with plan Bs. I made a list. I’m good at making these, too. One list checked off the reasons why I wanted to take time off with what I hoped to achieve. Another list checked off the things that are truly good for my soul, carefully balancing the fun with the healthy, purposeful things (something I’ve tried to practice since reading Paul Dolan’s ‘Happiness by Design’ – an interesting perspective / approach to achieving happiness, one that I don’t entirely agree with but useful and insightful nonetheless). This is what I came up with:

And so this is my plan B:

WEEK 1: 

– Weekend with friend to take the sting out of having to take on the necessary but unpleasant task of picking up some things from my flat with my ex

– A night spent with my family playing cards (we love a games night) and celebrating my dad’s 60th birthday

– Long run for marathon training

– 5 days walking the Cotswold Way in Gloucestershire, staying at 4 B&B’s on route from Chipping Camden to Bath – this would involve time to listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks and simply be in the beautiful countryside as well as the warm and cosy accommodation

– A night spent with my twin (not really my twin – we’re both called Rhiannon and have been best friends for 24 years – but we might as well be twins)

– Time spent updating my blog

– Getting my nails done – hands and feet as a treat for doing the Cotswold Way and a pre-holiday prep to get me in the mood (plus, I STILL have the terrible habit of biting my nails and the skin around them which I don’t do when I have my nails done so in some ways, a healthy preventative measure and not simply a frivolous and vain activity 😉)

WEEK 2 & 3:

– Go to St Lucia to stay with one of my best friends who I know from uni (we were both Cardiff University Snakecharmers, the uni’s competitive and national winning cheerleader team… Go Venom Big Pop!)

– Get some (but not too much!) much- needed vitamin D

– Eat fresh, local produce including my favourite fruit, pineapple

– Go for runs around the Caribbean island to continue my marathon training

– Not set an alarm clock for 10 days, enjoy the fresh sea air and get some good sleep and rest

– Swim in the warm waters of a sea I’ve yet to have experienced before

– Go to Soca and Salsa nights and dance the night away

– Yoga on the beach

– Drink some rum

– Meet Ciara’s Lucian friends, learn about another culture and experience another way of life

– Explore the island with Ciara and one of her good friends who’s also coming to visit

– Spend time reading and writing

– On return from St Lucia, celebrate me turning another year older with friends I’ve spent the last 20 or so years making crazy memories with

– Spend a day hungover after drinking too much prosecco no doubt, with that being the last time I drink until I complete the London Marathon

WEEK 4:

– Go for a walk with my dad

– Go back to therapy

– Get my hair cut

– Go to a spa

– Visit both my nans

– Practice video editing on Final Cut Pro (I may have invested in myself with a certain new lap top…)

– Run some more

– Blog some more

– Get prepared for going back to work

Of course, plans are likely to change, and in fact I’ll be writing a separate post about week 1 since that’s been and gone and, as you’ve guessed, didn’t quite go to plan…

So as I sit in the shade accompanied by a warm breeze, typing away, listening to some of my favourite music, being surrounded by green lushness and a place I’ve only just started to explore, I know I’ve made the right decision. And I don’t just know it, I feel it. In my aching muscles that have been painful for months and months from stress; in my tight chest that’s been hard to control at times with threats of panic attacks; in my mind that’s been full of emotions that were becoming tricky to handle; in my aurora which was becoming subdued and dull. As the clouds lift and the mist evaporates from the horizon, I can see the next Caribbean island of Martinique which reflects exactly how I feel right now: things are becoming clearer but some things are still far off in the distance. But that’s ok, as I already feel as if I have more direction and with a little more time, I’ll have the energy to go in the right direction, too. No longer will I be running on empty; I’ll be re-fuelled, ready to face the sticky times if/when they come again.

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 #6 & Run #7 Reflections: AM v PM

Last week I finally got a good run of runs in: 3 in a row (that’s good for me!). Being new to running like this with a proper schedule is taking some time to get used to. It’s fine in theory but juggling ‘real life’ with the training isn’t always so easy in practice (as me writing this post a week late shows). So I was really proud that I got 2 short runs in last week followed by the long Sunday run (see next post). And this is how those 2 runs went…

Run #6: Early morning run in the fresh air and frosty countryside

Wednesday morning. Clouds criss-crossing the blue sky as it the white fluffy lines were scratches and tears in the smooth sheet above my head. The ground glistened as if a million slugs and snails had conquered the land at night, leaving their mark behind as dawn broke. But really it was just frost. And as I drew in my first breath as I took my first steps on the run, my trachea felt like it was frosting up, too. The air really was icy. Despite this being a bit uncomfortable, the run felt so good for my feet, my body, my mind and my soul. I love running out in to the countryside. The mix of green, gold and brown fields sprinkled with sparse trees, silhouetted against the sunshine just brings me so much joy. Adding to this, music. While I do enjoy running in silence at times – just taking in the sounds that surround me at that one given moment – on this particular morning I was joined by Witney, MJ and Bowie to name but a few. Music is also something that is medicine for my soul. And the mix of that morning’s sights and sounds really felt heavenly. Isn’t it amazing that you can have a slice of paradise simply on your front door? That morning, I felt incredibly grateful and at peace… despite the puffing and panting!

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Run #6 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 4

I got up, got out and got on with it. I did have to pause a couple of times to catch my breath and I would have liked it to have been a bit quicker but I’m really pleased with my progress.

Enjoyment = 5

I’m sure you’ve got how much I enjoyed this run. So many good things came together at once on that morning. 

Run #7: Late night run in cold, dark night

My Friday night run couldn’t have been more different. I ran through the streets of my home town instead of going out in to the countryside but it was quieter on the concrete roads surrounded by houses instead of fields. It was rather eerie, actually. While there wasn’t much to look at compared with Wednesday’s run, I still found inspiration from the sky: the stars. I love looking at stars. I know a few constellations and I know a (very tiny) bit about the formation of stars. I find them enchanting, fascinating and weirdly humbling. So as I do my run on that cold, dark evening, I look to the stars to give me some perspective to help me stop worrying about the little things and let go of all the stuff that doesn’t really matter because, at the end of the day, we’re all bits of star dust and we will, one day, become just dust. 

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Run #7 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 3.5

While I got up and out straight from getting in from work, I did find it difficult to plough on through on this run. There were times when I wanted to turn back and I know I didn’t really push myself, which is something I need to start learning and applying if I’m to make any progress in this training for the day itself.

Enjoyment = 3.5

While I didn’t get the same joy from Wednesday’s run, I did like this run. I wonder whether it was more the fact that I got out after work and did a run when I was supposed to. But, like I said, the peace and quiet, along with the starry sky, did play a major part in making it a good run. But you know what, whatever it was that made me smile rather than grimace, I’m grateful for!

 

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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