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 #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 #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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£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 #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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To blog or not to blog…

Something that played on my mind when I first thought of setting up my blog was whether or not I should do it at all. My home page explains why I wanted to write these posts but here are some of the reasons why I’ve had some reservations…

Reason 1: Will blogging do me more harm than good?

Yes, a problem shared might be a problem halved but at the same time am I creating more problems for myself in the process? I worry that regularly analysing, reflecting and dissecting how I feel – and why – is draining my energy, bringing me more pain and reinforcing some of the bad feelings and thoughts. I don’t want to identify solely as someone who has depression because that would be losing sight of the so many different aspects that there are to me. But by checking up on my progress, my stumbling blocks, my symptoms and the causes, am I fueling the fire I’m trying to put out?

Reason 2: Will my blog do more harm than good to other people who’re suffering from depression?

I find reading other people’s experiences of depression both comforting and helpful. It’s a cliche but having reference points to relate to not only helps you through coping with the depression in a practical way but it also helps to not feel alone. So I felt compelled to stand up and shout about my own experiences to do the same; if just one person is helped by my writing, like other blogs have helped me, then at least there can be a silver lining to my own personal experience of this rotten illness. And while it can be challenging when writing my posts, I do often find it cathartic. But not everyone suffering from depression will find sharing their experience a cathartic one like I do. And that’s ok. But I worry that in me sharing, I’ll make people feel bad if they feel they’re unable to share. I had an incredible response to my last post, commenting on how brave I was to share my feelings and I do get why people think it’s brave given the stigma surrounding talking about mental health so openly, but I don’t feel like I was being particularly brave; I’m comfortable talking about my feelings (probably too comfortable for some people’s liking!) and I tell stories about other people for a living, so while it is a bit different to tell stories about myself, it’s not all that difficult – just uncomfortable at times. But I don’t want ‘talking about depression’ to be a binary thing when it comes to being brave. I don’t want people thinking that they’re only brave if they’re talking about their mental health openly. It takes courage to face up and admit to your own self in having a mental health illness, like it does with a physical illness. But how that’s subsequently dealt with and managed varies for different people. Just because someone isn’t talking about it doesn’t mean that they’re not being brave; I hope people know that when reading blogs like mine.

Reason 3: Will I lose friends by talking about my depression?

I have had so many messages and offers of support from close friends to acquaintances since being diagnosed with depression. I really am lucky and without this network I’m not quite sure where I’d be. I am constantly told that people are there for me to talk to if I need to and I am so grateful for that – and I do bend a few ears every now and then (sorry if it’s one of your ears I’m wearing out!). But I worry that on top of talking to my friends about my own worries, I’ll end up boring them with my additional blogging. Plus, it’s not exactly the most uplifting of topics is it?! I don’t want to bring everyone down around me…

Reason 4: Will I upset friends and family with my posts?

I’ve had a lot of time to think about my depression. I’ve had numerous therapy sessions – group and individual – and I’ve read A LOT about the illness (perversely, I find it fascinating and I’ve enjoyed learning more about it – weird and sadistic, I know). I’ve had time to come to terms with having depression and what that entails. But I realise that not everyone around me is the same. For some, this will be their first ever insight in to depression, through my experience. For others, they know a fair bit about it from personal experience. Whichever way, no one likes to hear that someone they care about is suffering. And to hear just how they’re suffering is not easy. So I worry that I’m being selfish with my honesty; revealing the truth might be liberating for me but I could be causing pain for those having to read about it. I don’t want to cause even more worry and upset to my friends and family.

So, to blog or not to blog?

Some of my thoughts on the above…

1. Blogging is not going to be 100% healing for me nor is it going to be 100% harmful. It will be both these things in different measures and at different times. I think the important thing is to be aware of that, monitor how I’m feeling and the impact it’s having on me and go from there.

2. I have good intentions. I can’t control how people will react to my blog. I take great care and time in writing my posts so that I minimise the amount of upset, offence, or harm I could cause. I believe in the positive aspects of the blog, for me and others, and so I hope they outweigh the potential negatives.

3. If I lose friends through me talking about my depression then they’re friends that aren’t worth having. I still need to be a good friend myself and be there for others for the good and the bad stuff, but if simply talking about the depression is enough to put people off of me then that’s not my problem. And anyway, I think this is a fear rather than a real problem (I hope anyway!).

4. And that leads me to this point: I worry too much about too many things. But that’s a symptom of depression and something that’s being measured on a weekly basis at my therapy sessions (true story – sometimes I worry about my worrying!). But I also know that worrying is a normal human emotion and many of my worries are because I care. But I do need to stop worrying so much – it’s so bloody tiring!

5. This is a hard one but I think I have to accept that I might upset some friends and family along the way with my blog. Again, I can’t control how people respond to what I write, I can only mitigate it the best I can. But being upset isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s not nice, but it’s life. If I upset friends and family (unintentionally, of course) it’s because they care about me, not because I’ve been nasty and horrible (well, not on this occasion anyway!). And a lot can be learned from pain and suffering. Like I said, it’s life.

6. I really do believe that it’s important to talk about difficult subjects, whatever they might be.  If no one talks about them, then we can’t learn from them and tackle the important issues that need to be addressed.

7. It’s ok to do things for yourself; that doesn’t make you selfish. At the moment, this blog is giving me a huge boost. It’s a way for me to talk about things which, at times, I find difficult to talk about face to face. Because of the blog, I’ve had a number of people who’ve suffered from depression get in touch with me and pass on some of their advice. I’ve also had messages of thanks from others who have said that my writing has been a comfort to them. That means the world to me. And the writing itself has been good for me; I love writing and at the moment I feel like I have something worth saying. Whether people want to listen or not isn’t my business, but I hope they do. 

Now I think you know the answer to the initial question…

P is for Perseverance

Today has been about perseverance.

I woke up feeling exhausted – a feeling I’ve come to know rather well and one that hasn’t left my body for about 3 years now. Some days are better than others, but when it comes down to it it’s just different levels of exhaustion. And when the levels are really low, I feel really low. Despite feeling like this today, I (eventually) got up and ready for work. I never thought that at the age of 30 I’d count getting up and out of bed as an achievement, but that’s where my life is at at the moment. That’s not to say I’m not achieving other things (as this blog and hopefully running the marathon demonstrates) but I have certainly had to alter some of my goals and expectations. I’m slowly coming to accept that but it is hard to do on days like today, when all I want to do is feel like my ‘old self’. Deep down I know I’ve got to accept that that person is gone, just as it would be if I didn’t have depression or if I was a different person. We all change in some way or another over time. But for me, when the change feels markedly different, it’s easy to forget that. Sometimes I feel so different I don’t feel like me anymore. That’s a scary and confusing feeling.

Anyway, I got up and ready for work – yay me. But before work, therapy.

Again, another feeling of having to push on through and persevere. I’m keeping a diary of the things I’m doing at the moment and how they make me feel to see if there’s a pattern in my behaviour that links to my thoughts and feelings, and vice versa. It’s a bit frustrating as I’ve been doing this for the past 2 years. Since being diagnosed with depression, I have taken a proactive approach by reading about the illness (which in a perverse way I find fascinating!) and researching various ways of coping with it and I’ve already done this exercise. However, I do think it’s good to re-visit, especially with my counsellor being able to objectively look at things and give another perspective. Plus, I obviously haven’t cracked exactly what brings me right down on some days so that still needs figuring out. Although I do know that since being diagnosed, I have persevered and made great improvements… if I was writing this 2 years ago, well I wouldn’t have been able to. This time 2 years ago I was in what would become my 4th out of 6 weeks off work after being diagnosed with depression and the doctor writing me a sick note. I was broken. I was beyond exhausted. I was completely lost. I had many, many ‘down days’ and didn’t know how to manage them. 2 years on, and my mood has generally lifted through various CBT techniques, medication and that good old healer, time. But I do still have some ‘down days’ and when they’re particularly bad, I struggle in getting up and out of them. So that’s where I’m at at the moment, trying to find out if there are particular triggers for ‘down days’ and working out a way(s) to cope with them so I don’t let the depression overcome me. I guess I’ve been persevering for a while now – just got to persevere for a little longer.

After therapy, work. A number of my friends/colleagues noticed I was a bit more quiet than usual and asked if I was ok. I said I was fine but they knew that wasn’t true. They know what’s up and I know they’re there if I need them, which makes persevering a little easier. That’s one of the things that has made the past 2 years bearable: understanding, patient and considerate colleagues. Many of them have not only helped me but been the reason I’ve persevered at times. When working in an industry that relies a lot on personality and creativity, suffering from something that can change who you are as a person and how you respond to different things is scary, lonely and bloody frustrating! Having colleagues supporting me has meant I’ve been able to continue working in my dream job, even when I haven’t been firing on all cylinders. At times they’ve carried me, propped me up so I can just about function. So I’ve got to persevere, right? If they believe in me and the fact that things will get better then surely I have to do the same? It’s the very least I can do. And you know what? As today’s gone on, I’ve found that I’ve had to persevere less. The day got a little easier, a little less painful. I got stuck in to some editing and script writing – two of my favourite things to do – and I found that the up hill struggle started to plateau. As one of my colleagues who’s become a very good friend says, momentum is momentum – as long as it’s moving in the right direction, that’s all good.

Now for the final push…

I’ve got to run. I didn’t go yesterday because I’d been to the dentist for a root canal and really wasn’t feeling great. So today, despite not feeling great for other reasons, I’ve got to go. Today’s training is 30 minutes non-stop. Yay *hint of sarcasm*. I’m going to listen to Jack Garratt’s album ‘Phase’ to keep me company and spur me on. I saw him at Glastonbury earlier this year and more recently on Saturday night in Cardiff. His music is energising and his work ethic and talent is inspiring. Let’s hope it carries me for the next 30 minutes so I don’t have to persevere too much more today…

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Progress is progress.