Yesterday I went for a little run in Swindale and thar got me thinking a bit about my running. I’m not a great runner, I’m not even a good one; maybe an average one on a (really) good day. Until I was about 20 or 21, I couldn’t imagine anything worse than going for a run. But then something changed and somehow I decided I wanted to run.
I’m easily influenced by what I see and when I guess running was always something that seemed like a “cool” thing to do (because God knows, I’ve never been cool in my life and yet it is my life goal to be cool!). I’m not a natural when it comes to any sport; probably spending the first two decades of my life avoiding any physical activity didn’t help. So my running started with 200 m and them collapsing in a heap. Slowly I started to get a bit of a hang of things and managed to run a few kilometres and then 5 kilometres and so on until few years onwards I ran my furthest race in Estonia: 13.6 kilometres.
When I moved to Cumbria, my running took a bit of a hit because when you’re used to running on the flat roads, the smallest of the inclines seem like mountains. However, for some reason I still signed up for the local half marathon in March 2016. I did actually train for that: got my runs in and did circuits and HIIT training and for the first (and only) time in my life I felt like I was in good physical form. The half marathon felt great. I was still slow, I finished in 2 hours and 13 minutes but I was never planning on breaking any records anyway. I was happy with my results.
After that though my running became incredibly sporadic. I tried to start again and again but never got very far. The decline of my mental health wasn’t helping the matters along. I also have a tendency to compare myself to others, so spending a lot of time working alongside with a freak of nature, who runs ultramarathons, the hilly ones, for fun, wasn’t the comparison I could deal with. A five-mile run around the block looked so pathetic next to his 30-mile loop up and down hills. I struggled with motivation, everyone was just so much better than me and I couldn’t find a reason why I should even try.
When I mix my anxiety with an unhealthy relationship with work, it’s not a good mixture for a healthy lifestyle. It basically means that I’ve felt exhausted for the 99% of the last few years. And that’s not great for doing any physical activity. The chronic iron deficiency isn’t helpful either.This year, I’m working on doing things differently. It’s not a smooth path (I had a major meltdown on Thursday night..) but I’m trying.
One thing I realised while out yesterday is that if I want to run (and I do want to run), I need to change the way I look at running. I can’t exactly turn my anxious brain off when I go running, worrying for me is like fly paper – it sticks to everything around me. So whenever I go for a run, the first few kilometres I struggle because I worry about not being fit enough, about being tired, about feeling crap etc. When I did the DaffyDo (a 21-kilometre run/walk that was NOT a race), I struggled for the first 4 kilometres because I was so nervous about running. It was only after I managed to let go of my expectations and just allow myself to not worry if I can’t run, that I started enjoying the running. (The last 5K of that event were again a bit of a struggle with a sore hip and being tired, because my preparation for the whole thing was about 6 runs over the course of 3 weeks, but it was the thought of cake at the finish that kept me going.)
I didn’t plan to go out for a run yesterday until about 30 minutes before heading out. I had promised to take the dogs out and they would’ve been just as happy with just a walk. But with that aforementioned freak of nature running a 53-mile ultra on that day, I felt inspired to do more. But instead of saying to myself that I’m going for a run, I said that I’m taking the dogs out for a walk / run over in Swindale. I said I would run a bit and walk the bits I couldn’t run (mainly uphills and some of the downhills). The result was that I ran most of the way and even decided to extend my route half way and ended up doing 12 kilometres.
Because I had taken the pressure off myself that I have to run and assured myself that I could always just walk, I was actually able to run and enjoy it. Yes, I was slow. And yes I still did 73 kilometres less than that freak. But I learnt something on that run and that is not to obsess over running. Because I have regained some of my confidence about walking, it has allowed me to start building my confidence about running: at least I love I can walk back to my house/car when I can’t run anymore.
So I took home a few new understandings from my little run with the doggies. I don’t have to run the whole way. It’s okay to just break and enjoy the scenery and catch your breath for a few minutes or even for 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter if I don’t run fast, I’d much rather keep going for longer (and further) than breaking my PBs. I also made a promise that when I have a few hours to spare (which I won’t this week, which will be hellish…), I need to make an effort to go for a walk in my running gear and without putting the pressure on myself, try to run as much as I can or want. Maybe this will help me find my way back to running. And maybe it’ll give me the confidence to challenge myself with 20 miles in October…
Post script – I also finally discovered yesterday how fucking boring and dull it is to run on the road! As I was making my way back from the waterfalls, I thought that once I cross the river it’s just a little bit on the road until I get to the car park… except that then I remembered that I had parked my car at the crossroads, which is two more kilometres further up from the car park. Despite being the fastest, those were the worst 2 kilometres of my run…