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

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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 #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!

 

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! 😉🏃🏻‍♀️👟🏅🏆👍🏼💪🏼