Running is more than just pounding the streets! It is the road to freedom, friendship, focus and fulfilment!

Like most novice runners you immediately think about taking up running as part of a fitness regime, a weight loss goal or setting yourself a new challenge.  However, since the beginning of my running journey I have discovered that it is much more than that.

When I started running back in 2012 it was to complete my first 10K and in the process I wanted to raise awareness of my mum’s health condition (Alpha one) .

Running for Alpha one
Mum

After achieving that initial 10K I built on the sense of fulfilment that I got from fundraising and making a difference to those that struggle with long term illness on a daily basis.  I therefore, started searching for my next challenge.

I have always naturally been quite competitive and enjoyed challenging myself.   Therefore, rather than aim for the next, most obvious, distance of a half marathon, I decided to go for the big one….  Running the 2013, London Marathon!  As you can imagine this was not easy but I thankfully achieved it.

After this I did another couple of half marathons: Bath in 2014 and the Great North Run in 2016.

Great North Run
Great North Run

Now I am not going to lie, training for these distances was part of an overall lifestyle change. I did not run for short periods to conquer these running challenges; it was a constant in my life.  It was part of my daily, weekly and monthly routine.

I truly believe that if you embrace running as part of your lifestyle it truly helps you to grow both physically and mentally.

Not only, do I feel incredibly proud and satisfied to have achieved half and full marathon distances.  I also feel proud because I helped support my mum and other friends with Alpha One and Cancer illnesses.

During the process I have learned a lot about myself and that running, for me, has been an enabler to other things.

Firstly friendship, running with other people either socially or at running club, sharing training tips and life’s challenges on a personal level.

Secondly freedom,  getting out there on the open road sucking in the fresh air. Feeling like a free spirit as you either pound the streets, off road trails or sand dunes,  it does wonders for the soul.  The feeling of peace you get as you release and let go of life’s daily frustrations.

Thirdly, it gives you focus, a desire to want to catch up and go for a run with your friends. Even challenge yourself on a solo route, thinking about how you will feel at the end of it.  The sense of achievement from the physical endurance you have undertaken and a sense of emotional empowerment at having completed it.

Finally, running gives you a sense of fulfilment and an opportunity to learn more about yourself and try other things.

Because of running, I have started coaching a couple of my friends in pursuit of their first half marathon challenge.  Seeing their progression, determination and their evolvement as individuals has been incredibly rewarding.

Running Buddies
Suzi, Lisa and Heidi

Running has enabled me to push my own physical boundaries and try other activities such as cross fit, surfing, swimming, yoga, coastal walking and hard-core gym training.  It has empowered me as an individual.

Through the increase in my fitness levels, I have sought to further improve the delivery of my business,  Ship Shape aerobics class .  It has given me the desire to deliver fitness provision to more specialist clients.  In the longer term it has motivated me to work towards obtaining my personal training qualification.

So whatever level of running you are at and whatever your reasons are in the pursuit of pounding those streets…. Stop! Take a minute to reflect on your experiences and ask yourself this question: is it a short term goal or subconsciously are you on the road to embracing running as a longer term lifestyle? A platform to bigger and better things for your mind, body and soul!

Whichever you decide happy running!

 

Vitality 10,000, 10K May 29th 2017

Best played plans….

So here I am, looking forward to running Vitality 10,000 with my running buddy Suzie and for reasons beyond her control, she is no longer able to go.  Therefore, before we even get off the starter blocks, we are both equally devastated, as this was meant to be us conquering not only the 10K but the world of large-scale races too!!

So after much deliberation on my part and cajoling on Suzie’s part I find myself in London the evening before the event minus my running buddy.  Thankfully, though I have another couple of friends running it, so I am fortunate not to be completely alone on the day.

Catching up with friends ….

Since I used to live in London I was quite excited to be back and had arranged to catch up with a friend the evening before the race.  Despite planning to meet in a pub I had promised myself I would not drink alcohol before the race and would get to bed at a reasonable hour.  After all I really did not want anything preventing me from completing this event.

The excitement of seeing my old friend was too much to bear and foolishly my good intentions went by the way side.   One bottle of wine later I stumbled back to my hotel room and bed.  The room was really hot, it was humid and there was no drinking water available.  I struggled to get to sleep but once I finally did, I then struggled to wake!!  When I do manage to wake up I am late, seriously dehydrated and hung over.  Not a great start to say the least!

Dehydration…

This is where things begin to go down hill rapidly.  I rush to the station to meet my friend Nicola who will be running with me.   Nic then guides me to the bag drop and we start to look for some means for me to rehydrate.  We could not find any stalls to buy Lucozade to help get me round despite the run being sponsored by them!!  I managed to find enough water to fill my 500ml water bottle.  The choice was I either drank it all now or drank it during the first 2k as after that there were water stations where I could top up.  I chose to have a few sips now and save the rest for the run.

To exacerbate my situation further the weather was hot with 70% humidity, which would only add to my level of dehydration.  At this point I was seriously regretting the decision to drink the previous evening and the urge to self flagellate was ever-growing!!

Nerves

By the time I got to the start line my nerves had really kicked in.  My stomach was churning, my mouth was even dryer than before and I had the headache from hell.  Why, oh why, oh why, had I been so stupid?

Luckily I had Nic running with me who understood that this was my first 10K race and seemed determined to help me complete it.  Nic was sure going to have her work cut out to achieve that!

And so the run begins..

The start gun sounded and we were off.  OMG I was running the vitality 10K; OMG I was running the vitality 10K;  OMG I WAS RUNNING THE VITALITY 10K!!!!!   What the hell was I thinking,  what if I can’t do this?  I had no choice I was going to do this for Suzie and Heidi (fellow runner and my coach) if it killed me.  Which it very nearly did….

I started well, although my pace was constantly interrupted by people over taking and then some of those that overtook me, tired and slowed and I ended up passing them again.  To add to this the route would narrow at certain points and this caused a bottleneck which almost bought everyone to a standstill.  I found  it quite frustrating as it really did mess with my ability to get a rhythm going and pace myself.  In order to overcome my frustration, I decided to run on the pavement so I could get out of the way of the other runners and keep a rhythm and pace myself better.

First 1k down – checked myself – thirsty, hot and sweaty but managing,  I might be OK after all.  I ran past people playing bongo’s, along with banners reading you can do it, keep going!  It was lovely to feel so supported and at that point, It made me feel incredibly proud of what I was doing.

Photo Opportunity

On route to reaching my 2k I came across the courts of justice which I promised I would photograph for a friend who works as a court clerk.  I can safely say it was not the best photo I have ever taken as you can only see the bottom of the building.  I am not the best photographer anyway but when your running and taking a photo……  But at least I took it!

Getting hotter….

The Kilometres seemed further apart now and so the 3K felt like it was taking forever.  I was hot dehydrated and growing ever more tired.

By the time I got to 4K  I started to struggle to keep my temperature under control.    I was sweating profusely and becoming increasingly more dehydrated and tired.  Nic, was helping me to keep my temperature down by handing me discarded bottles of water so that I could pour it over my head to cool down.  This certainly helped but only for brief periods as no sooner I poured it over me, my body was on fire again.

I was seriously struggling and the 5k felt flaming hideous.  By this point in the race I was not only hot, dehydrated and tired but I was beginning to panic.  None of these emotions were going to help me reach the 10K in fact the panic and the ever-growing negativity  were setting me up to fail.

All time low…

I made 5K but it had been the hardest 5k I had ever run and I knew I simply did not have the physical capacity or mental strength to carry on.   I knew I was finding it harder and harder to control my temperature and before long would be headed for heat stroke.  I was not going to make the 10K so at 5.5 K, I threw the towel in and started to walk.

Crowd support…

Then I heard a yell from the crowd ‘don’t stop, keep going you can do this’.  I began to feel pathetic and knew I needed to complete this somehow.   I did not have the ability to run constantly so I decided to adopt a run walk strategy.  At the 800 meter mark a friend of mine who had already completed the race was waiting to cheer me on.  It was really great to see him and that support along with Nic finding water for me to pour over my head and feet, I did manage to complete the 10K in 1 hour 20 minutes.

The finish line…

At the end I was given my goodie bag with my medal in it but I felt so undeserving of the medal that I felt ashamed I had it.  The race had been much worse than I had ever expected due to my own lack of self-control.  I had basically let myself down.

Rationalising…

Yes, I had let myself down but 1 year ago I could not run for a minute, 5 months ago I had only just completed 5k.  I had just run 5.5k of Vitality 10,000 non-stop with the worse hangover ever and seriously dehydrated.  I did in fact complete 10K with a few walk breaks, so I really did earn that medal because I could have just as easily walked off the course and not complete it at all.

Lessons Learned

  1.  Don’t get drunk the night before a race!

  2.  Drink plenty of water and ensure hydrated before and during race.

  3. Don’t start too fast

  4. Train for all weathers

  5. You always deserve a medal if you reach the finish line

Although running Vitality 10,000 was hell this year I do intend to repeat this race next year.   Next year there will be no drinking the night before and so no hangover and I will prove to myself that I can complete this race and I will do it under 1 hr 20 mins.  I know it sounds like hell but I cannot recommend this race enough it was really exciting and would have been amazing if I had not set myself up to fail.