Sunday, 31 August 2014

Horror week of non-training

Last Sunday, I was elated.

I'd run 30km - further than I've ever been on foot before; and I wasn't even particularly sore.

I felt great.

Right up until 9.21pm on Tuesday, when I got a text from my son's father to say that his Russian girlfriend was arriving two days later and would be moving in with him. I've been expecting it of course (we've been separated for over 18mths), but I didn't expect to have just two days notice.

I'm not bothered about him moving on and not jealous about them being together. I wish him well and hope they are happy. But it is complicated when there is a child involved.

William's father thinks I should trust his judgement and release my 2.5 year old son into the care of someone I don't know for weekend visits. I have a lot of well-founded reasons for being concerned about his judgement.

I don't want to go into the details here. Let's just say that we fundamentally disagree on when and how children should be introduced to new partners.

I had my last 5 weeks of training mapped out to the day. I was so pleased with myself for getting this far without needing time off for injuries. I didn't see this coming, although I probably should have. Suddenly, everything was thrown up in the air. It looked like my weekend long runs would be history and potentially I would have to pull out of the event because I would need to be here to look after my son.

Things really did look bleak for a while.

Thankfully, I did not smoke a cigarette. Phew!

But I did no runs last week.

I drank more wine than I'm used to, now that my body's a temple!?!?!

I ate cake, chocolate, biscuits .... anything sweet that I could get my hands on.

All of which just made me feel worse and worse.

I discussed the matter endlessly with friends, professionals, relatives. By Friday afternoon, I really was in a desperate hole. Really not the kind of hole I want to feel myself in again.

And then suddenly, just before bedtime, the final answer came to me and it was like a weight lifted and I could finally get up off the floor, and shake off the virtual kicking I'd been taking for years.

I spent yesterday settling into my new ideas and got up this morning ready for my first run in a week. I only did 8kms, but it was a really really good 8km. Not fast or anything, but strong and confident, and deeply pleasurable.

There's no more wine and no more chocolate in the house. Mum has volunteered to stay and look after my son rather than coming to watch me in Berlin. I'll move work around a bit so that I do my long runs mid week. I'll get a bit of extra help in from friends and family at the weekends in particular.

I will do the best I can for my son. I have lots of options. I won't be backed into a corner and forced into a course of action I am deeply uncomfortable with. I will set and hold boundaries and keep control over my life.

Everything's going to be fine.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Reclaiming my body, reclaiming myself

It occurred to me the other day when I was on my long slow run that for the first time since being in my early teens I actually felt like my body was my own again.

Running and training for the Berlin Marathon was putting me back in control of my physical being, in a way that I remember being as a kid. The freedom of tearing around on a bike or on roller-skates or in the swimming pool or on a ski slope used to give me such euphoric pleasure.

Boys, cigarettes, cake and wine (in that order I think) were my undoing. From that point at around 13 until last weekend, I had really lost myself. On many levels I'd given myself away. Lost myself in throwaway moments of no long term value to anyone.

Life's pretty tricky at the moment, but running's helping me through it.

And if I can regain that blissful physical freedom I remember from my pre-teen years, I think I may well fly.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The poor woman's mid-life crisis? Endurance sports!

Eight months ago, I couldn't run for a bus.

Two days ago, I ran a 30km (18.5mile) training run in preparation for the 2014 Berlin Marathon, which takes place on 28th September in less than 5 weeks.

Along the way I've ....

  • Stopped smoking 
  • Cut back dramatically on the wine
  • And the cake
  • Lost 20lbs
  • Fixed my post baby body
  • Repaired an old back injury (tipsy topple down the stairs of a double decker bus)
  • Made new friends
  • Built self-esteem and a greater sense of possibility and accomplishment
  • Gained the strength and energy to be an active and involved 43 year old mum to a very active and energetic 2 year old
I'm still 20lbs overweight and my running pace is slow slow slow. I don't look pretty when I run, but I sure look happy and I get to the finish line in my own good time. 

One of the reasons I've got this far, I am sure, is that I have always included walk breaks in my runs. From the beginning, I used the couch to 5km iphone app to get me going. At the start, running for 30 seconds felt like climbing a mountain.

When the app pushed forward to running all the way, I stopped using it. Put simply, I needed those walk breaks and I quickly settled in to running 8 minutes and walking 2 minutes. It felt comfortable and I was convinced that it would only be a matter of time before I could ditch my walk breaks altogether.

Then I discovered Jeff Galloway's book "Marathon: You Can Do It". Based on my pace, Jeff was telling me that I should be running 3 minutes and walking 1 minute - what a result. He was also telling me that it was a perfectly fine strategy for completing a marathon. Being a bit of a geek, I ran the numbers on a spreadsheet and sure enough, those 1 minute walk breaks would make very little difference to my overall time.

What a result!

And that's what I've been doing ever since. All the way to 30km. Whoop whoop!!

So much of this running stuff really is in your head, it turns out, and Jeff lays out strategies for that too. Of course, something else may work better for you. We are all so different physiologically and mentally. But my point is, that if a really overweight and really quite sad person like me as I was can do it, then it has to be achievable for so many other folks too.

The one thing that has supported me all along the way (apart from family and friends of course) has been an underlying belief that I could do this. One of the foundations for that belief was laid by supporting other people at endurance events. Seeing the participants of all ages, shapes an sizes finishing events that sometimes lasted 15 hours, really gave me the sense that with committed training I could complete a marathon. 

Once I had decided that I was going to run the Berlin Marathon in 2014, I had to act. I gave up smoking just like that after 30 years. It turns out, that I had just needed to find something that I wanted to do more than smoke. And something that I wanted to do more than drink buckets of wine. And something that I wanted to do more than eat cake for breakfast. And at the beginning, taking control of those things felt really easy compared with the prospect of running 26.2 miles. 

Squeezing in the training has been tricky at times. I'm a single mum and self-employed full time in the headhunting sector, so there's not a lot of free time in my days. But it has so been worth it and I hope that one day I'll be running races with my son. Hopefully, I'll be a little bit quicker by then, but I actually think I'll get more of a buzz out of running further. Every time I run further than I've run before, it just blows my mind and my recent half marathon at Kimbolton Castle was one of the best days of my life so far.

Or maybe I'll swim the channel.

As someone said to me recently ... "ah yes endurance sports ... the poor man's mid-life crisis".

That may well be so, but I feel better, stronger and more alive than I've felt for 30 years, and I'm planning on feeling even better next year.