Friday, 6 January 2012

New Year, Old Me

Perhaps not the title you’d expect, but maybe it’ll all become clear when you read on.  I’ve just been for a run, it was 45 minutes long, my first this year and only my 3rd since completing a Marathon on 23rd October in Venice.  I’ve been reminded how lovely it feels to jump into the shower afterwards, and emerge refreshed and invigorated!  

Just before I finally kicked my butt out the door for this long overdue run, I caught a glimpse of a book on my bookshelf.   The book is by Murakami and called ‘What I talk about while I talk about Running’, and it is a great read. However, the whole time I was running this evening I was convinced it was called, ‘What I think about when I think about Running’.  It made me acutely aware of just how much thinking and growing and planning and reflecting occurs whilst I am running.  For most of my run tonight, I thought about this blog!  This was in addition to a vast array of other intermittent thoughts and dreams and wonders, like, I wonder if I will ever own a grand piano and a horse and a lamborghini and meet a hot attentive man and have 5 children (who will of course look after themselves while I go on a daily run) quickly followed by of course you will, you can do anything. Running makes me feel invincible, even tonight where it was a little tougher than I remember. I started out thinking how much I was dreading this blog, and by the end of my run I was excited about sitting down to write it!  I couldn’t get out of the shower quickly enough.

 I wish I had started to write it straight away, rather than try to be clever and sync my Ipod to Spotify and in doing so manage to wipe over 1000 songs from my Ipod – oops, that’ll make the next run harder.  Anyway, I made lots of decisions about the blog, whilst on my run. The first was to be honest and to write from the heart, not over plan, over think, strive so hard for perfection that it doesn’t get done at all, which is a Helen trait. So please forgive the rambling. 

You see, prior to tonight’s run, I made a commitment, not only to begin regular run training again, but to blogging about it weekly.  For many reasons, this is a very hard thing for me to do. Running has always been very personal to me.  It’s something that most who know me, know that until just over 1 ½ years ago I did regularly and avidly.  They know this because every so often I raise my head looking for sponsorship for the next ‘big’ event.  Friends know I run because the latest marathon sponsorship thank you is released, or I silently slip off semi sober from a night out because I have an early morning training date.  Beyond that it is something I have quietly got on with myself.  There are no smug facebook updates about being the next Forest Gump, I just run, (or did) as part of my daily routine.  It was my thing and I liked to keep it personal.  I’ve never been in a running club, I’ve competed in many races, and encouraged people to join me along the way, but the competition has only ever been with myself, no one else.  A commitment to blogging about running (can’t believe I’ve just used the term blogging -  it took me two hours to even set up the site!) and where it might have taken me in the past – bad and good, where I am with it now, and where I will be with it by the beginning of May is harder for me than getting back into formal training itself.

  However,  the lovely people at XNRG events have awarded me a place in a 60 mile Ultra Marathon at the beginning of May in return for some blogging, some promotion and some sharing of my wisdom and tips on all things running and nutrition with others entering the event. They’ve given me this free place because I have committed to raising money for  Hannah Bradley has brain cancer and together with her partner Pete Cohen they are working to raise in excess of £150,000 to cover the expense of pioneering treatment in Houston, Texas so that they can beat the cancer and look forward to a great future.  Pete can then get back to helping others on their weight loss journeys by motivating them as only he does best.

I’m going to call my weekly blogging event my Thursday date!  Every Thursday, I’ll check in, let you know what training I’ve completed in the past week, the ups and downs I’ve experienced, and how I’m progressing towards my goals.  The blog will never be as long as tonights especially as it’s already 1am!  I consider tonight the background knowledge that you need to travel on this journey with me, and hopefully be inspired to join in, change something in your own life and of course donate to

So why do I say New Year, Old Me?  Well, with regards to running, the old me used to run 7 days a week, every week.  I ran 7 days a week, every week for at least 18 months but probably longer, and before that, at least 5 times a week (I can’t be exact, as I’ve never kept a blog or diary before, but you know that already!) with only a break for weekends away with boyfriends who said an absolute no to trainers in the suitcase. I ran every day like this because I enjoyed it, because I was lucky enough that I could and because I worked in a gym every day so felt inspired to run and wanted to be inspiring. I ran also because I know the discipline helped me in other areas of my life!  I had rest days every week – to me a rest day meant only running and not doing weights. Running (only about 5 miles or so) was still considered a rest – I’d clear my head, get fresh air and ensure that I had a productive day.

Life stresses,  job stresses, relocations and an autoimmune disorder thrown in for good measure, meant that running took a back seat. Change in our routine is often the catalyst for relapse in physical exercise.  This however is a whole other blog about the Transtheoretical Model of change. I moved from motivating people in a gym every day, to sharing my health and fitness knowledge from behind a desk, and the daily running that had slipped away due to illness etc, never quite came back to the extent it existed at before!  Helen likes to compete with Helen, and when the winning form went, the desire to be just okay, just didn’t quite cut it.  The commitment now isn’t to run every day of the week – it’s not realistic for my life anymore.  It wouldn’t be a SMART goal because it wouldn’t be Achievable, but the commitment is to work smart and hard in the time I’ve got. I’ll talk more about setting SMART goals later! 

What do I gain from running? I had a reminder tonight.  I hoped this would happen, it was part of the reason I went running before I wrote the dreaded blog.

I am running whatever my job is, whatever my car is, whatever my life circumstances are, whatever has happened before or will happen after that run.  When I am running, you don’t know these things, they don’t matter, nor do they make a difference to what I can and will achieve.  They are not there with me – it is just me and my music-less Ipod out pounding the streets.  I don’t need equipment, I can do it wherever, whenever, and with dedication and discipline, I can be good whether or not I have all the latest gear. When training I do treadmill interval speed work, but my long slow duration runs are always outside.

The old me, the one that has made a commitment to moving forwards into getting back to running loved to be one of the first people to see the sea in the morning, to make the first footprint in the sand. The Helen that ran every day, got to see the sea, every single day –sometimes first thing in the morning and sometimes, as tonight, guided only by the moonlight.  That makes me feel very very lucky.  I can’t wait until next week when I will say that I have seen the sea every day again.  Having made the commitment today to get back to running I didn’t go out and get all the gear (no idea). I won’t look pretty when I run, no matter what I wear.  I don’t care.  My trainers aren’t old, but even if they were, I’m going to be running on my toes, bouncing forward without even using half of the sole of my trainer.  I might even do a few beach runs in my bare feet (and now that I’ve started this blogging malarkey, I feel sure that at some point I’ll talk about the wonders of using our feet properly!) The discipline I need to get back to my best is inside, some pretty new lycra won’t matter.  Though I might treat myself with the Under Armour discount code in a few weeks!

I gain the chance to give the biggest smile I can to everyone I pass, and when running, people often smile back, or even say Hello!  Who knew that this could happen in England?  Somehow people are more ready to smile at you when you run, whether they are walking or running.  It’s a nod of respect – I respect you for trailing yourself out of bed, when you didn’t want to, or I respect you for moving your body faster than I ever thought humanly possible (this tends to come from the walkers!)

The old me, could sit in a room, usually quietly confident that I was the fittest, fastest, strongest person in the room.  There is somehow a safety or satisfaction with this.  I would like to have this quiet confidence again – though this blog is going to do away with any chance I ever had of keeping it quiet.  There is lots of satisfaction to be gained from every semi sporting boyfriend I’ve ever had joining me on the odd run only to be whipped into submission by a sprint finish, which they certainly weren’t expecting as I keep my relationship with running so personal.

The sweating – there is nothing better for your body than a good hard cleansing.  I usually have an afterglow from a run for at least an hour. I know only one other way of creating this afterglow, and presently running is working out a lot more simply for me!  I love jumping into the shower after a summers day run, when you are so hot, that you simply must make the shower ice cold.  On the contrary, I love jumping into the shower after a winters day run when you are so cold that you stand unmoving, immersed in the water for at least 15 minutes.

Those who know me well will know that it usually takes a tank of water a day just to keep me moving forward.  I’m looking forward to getting even more hydrated again.

There is nothing like running, at a pace which elevates your heart rate, to build the heart muscle.  I am looking forward to the silent peaceful security that my heart is bigger and stronger and therefore better able to do its job.

 I love it being just me and my music, and quite often the sea.  This is a great feeling, though I may have a little music problem now that the Ipod contains precisely no songs. The contrast between Jayz and U2 provides the scientific basis behind my interval training.  I’ll pound it out, or slow it down to the beat of the music.  Note to self though – when I finally do get some songs back on the Ipod – George Benson is never good, he is especially not good for running.  Why was he on my Ipod!? I also love it when I am joined by my running recruits Jen or Kev.  We have trained for and completed marathons, put the world to rights, and over a 3 hour session, it has been the best form of free therapy I, and hopefully they have ever had!  I have also got very vivid memories of rescuing Kev from the most severe and potentially dangerous bonking (hitting the wall, low glycogen levels) I have ever seen!!  He never came running with me having had a digestive biscuit for breakfast ever again.

I love that I have explored many areas, roads, cul de sacs and houses from Sandbanks to Lymington because of running.  Yes, I have ran from Sandbanks to Lymington on more than one occasion, though the thought of doing that at the moment gives me a slightly sick feeling! I used to read Dean karnazes book ‘Ultra Marathon Man’ (another one on the shelf) and relate to him running all through the night just because he could, now I think he’s really rather odd!  I have had the time to look at the sea, and appreciate my surroundings and when training for my previous Ultra, I have run through four seasons in one day.

I have always in the past made it my priority to go for a run when I arrive to visit a new city, or when on holiday.  This has led to some calamities and some good stories.  I’ll mention only one in this blog.  I was spending some time working in Washington DC, and on the Saturday of the 1st week I decided that a long run was in order, with Ultra Marathon preparation in mind. I don’t prepare for things like this, I assume that I have a mouth and I can ask for directions or I will always find my way back.  It is another Helen trait – perhaps I think it makes for a better story if it becomes a little interesting.  Anyway, 3 hours later in the sweltering heat, I had absolutely no idea where I was, but I knew that perhaps I was somewhere that I shouldn’t be; it definitely wasn’t the right neighbourhood.  I asked someone, I eventually took a lift, the journey was over an hour, and I knew that I was completely at his mercy, but, again at least if anything happened I’d arrive at the pearly gates with a good story. He was a very interesting person, some sort of music lawyer, and I vividly remember him telling me about an unknown band called Fat Freddies drop, who he was sure would make it big. I got a lift right to my door, safely.  I listened to Fat Freddies drop last year.  They are pretty big now!!

What else do I gain from running? I love experiencing the tiredness that comes from fresh air and working your muscles rather than the mental drain you achieve by staring at a computer screen all day every day. I love that I never have a phone or a computer (strangely) with me when I am running.

The planning, the doing, the conquering of the world and of the relationship between mind and body reminds me that running is good for me.  Every run I have ever participated in, be it training or racing has started out the same way, no matter how cardio vascularly fit I am.  The voice in my head says, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t complete this, you are going to stop soon, you are finding this so difficult, this is so hard, you are so unfit, stop, you are going to stop, stop now.’ I love overriding it, feeling better, settling into the run finding a song that isn’t by George Benson and feeling great. When I settle into the run I can plan my day, or reflect on my day. What can I do better, what do I really want, how am I going to get there. During my runs you will have been cursed if you have upset me, and then forgiven and I will have said sorry to you if I upset you (even if you don’t know it, I said sorry on my run, I promise.)

I love the challenge that is laid down with myself.  I have begun a few marathons with injury or illness and a great deal of doubt as to whether or not I will complete hanging over my head.  No one else needs or expects me to complete, except me.  The mind keeps going, long after the body wants to stop.  Running is good for my body mind and soul. 

 The body changes are a secondary thing to me.  I know how to work my body smart.  I’m happy that when I run every day my legs are pretty toned and my calves and glutes are solid, but I’m really not that vein.  I was reminded tonight just what it helps achieve though.  My back was hurting a little where the TVA ( transversus abdominus -  deep internal abdominal muscles) weren’t quite as strong as they used to be.  I’ll be happy when these are strengthened again and I constantly walk tall and feel strong.

Running keeps me positive.  It reminds me what’s important to me and helps me put what matters less in its place.

So as I reflect tonight on why I ‘lost my running feet’ I recognise that it was perhaps a process I needed to go through.  When you run every day of the week without fail clocking up between 45 and 55 miles weekly, running each race harder and faster, the pressure is on, with myself.  I have to keep raising the game.  I cannot return from the next race saying that I have completed it in a slower time than before.  I cannot let an injury get in the way when I can just pop a valium and run on through the pain (this is a great story, for another time) and if life changes, I will persevere.  Competing in an 80 mile Ultra marathon when I was suffering from exhaustion, had just started a new job and had commitments to Weddings in 3 different countries 5 weekends in a row just before the event was perhaps one ask too much for my body!!  It didn’t cross my mind that something could, should or would give.  It would be okay. I’d just get up at 4.30am 3 mornings a week.  I’d be my fun self at the weddings (this did not happen - I slept through most of a wedding in Paris and thoroughly pissed my boyfriend and the groom off.  I felt rough as hell through most of a trip to Germany for a wedding, where I arrived minus a personality. I lost the ability to converse completely at the other weddings and my constant thought was I should be running, I should be running, I should be running.) I completed that Ultra Marathon. It was one of the toughest things I have ever done due to the circumstances.  I am now officially the 6th fastest runner in the Uk at this distance.  I completed the race, I became ill for months, and I fell out of love with running, strangely.  It was not worth it. There are a few things though that I didn’t miss when I wasn’t running!  My feet are almost pretty for the first time ever.  This will soon change as they revert to their scaley, hardened, bruised nailed former ugly selves.  I am also slightly worried in my current financial plight about the impending extra food I will require.  Running makes me eat and eat and eat, and we all know that I’m pretty good at that when not running.  So while I reflect, I commit to regaining my love for running, in balance.  It won’t overpower the other things that I have to be committed to, and that I enjoy.  I am looking forward to becoming a rising star, rather than maintaining the pressure of a 3:08 marathon time.

So here are my goals in planning. To train smart.  To get the fast twitchers stimulated again and get my pace back to 7 min 30 sec miles.  I didn’t wear the forerunner tonight, there didn’t seem any point when I only had the old running me to compare with, and there wasn’t a chance in hell of making that pace.  Let’s see if I can pluck up the courage to start timing the runs and monitoring the distance by next week. My first goal is that when I revisit next Thursday, it will be with some SMART – that’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed goals and an official training program that suits me.  Then you’ll really know I’m serious about running 60 miles in two days on the 5th and 6th of May for Team Hannah. 

A little request – if you are thinking of getting married on any of the 5 weekends before the 5th and 6th of May – please don’t, or at least don’t invite me to the wedding!  My 33rd year is going to be my best running year yet, closely followed by my best duathlon year yet!  So actually, again on reflection the title should be New Year, New Me!

It’s been a week of firsts – my first ever sharing of the running experience that is very personal to me, and tomorrow, I’m off to be horsewhispered for the first time! I’ll let you know all about that next week as well, and I promise not to make it as long!

I'll leave you with one of the many quotes that have gotten me to the finish line!

Nobody trips over mountains.  It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble.  Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find that you have crossed the mountain!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.  As it’s my first ever blog, I’d love some feedback.

Big Phat (very late to bed) Running Love, Love Love... H x

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