I had my final Covid vaccine last Sunday, which made me very happy, but interrupted my planned running schedule, because even with this sudden burst of motivation, a vaccine and a run in the same day felt like a step too far. I made up for it by running four times this week, a vaccine was worth celebrating, alongside my sisters 22nd birthday who sadly couldn’t be with us due to the pandemic. But we had a takeaway curry in her honour anyway.
Owing to generating Covid immunity, the week got off to a slow start, I didn’t have any side affects but felt a bit tired and running didn’t seem wise. Work was also exceptionally busy this week, and I’m starting to worry (read: ‘panic quite a bit’) about training for this half marathon while working a full time job. How will I fit everything in? How will I not burn myself out? Helpful advice from lovely people on twitter tells me to use weekends as long run days, to pace myself, find a running buddy, stick to shorter runs during the week and not to beat myself up if it doesn’t always go to plan. At the moment I am a woman with a plan, and so far I’m mostly sticking to that plan. Even pushing myself to go running when sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine feels like the preferable option. This week I’ve been completely re-designing my works newsletter, which has meant turning what was once a simple bulletin, into an all singing, dancing magazine. I’ve written the thing in a week. Magazine journalism training has certainly come in handy, although at uni we had months to write and design a magazine, with a whole team. Doing similar in a week has been wild. I need to keep reminding myself that I’m A) not working for a magazine publishers and B) not chasing that 1st at uni now. In typical ADHD style this has lead to a lot of hyperfocus, working more hours than I should, and feeling knackered in the evenings. Running has sometimes felt like the last thing I’ve wanted to do, but once I get out, it has always been absolutely the best decision.
My plan was a Tuesday evening run, but after ending up working late (Yay ADHD fuelled hyperfocus!), missing my running clubs start time and not feeling up to running on my own, I resolved to getting up early to go for a run the next morning. On Wednesday I wasn’t really feeling it, but as soon as I saw the sun shining through the window, and my cats meowing at me as if to say, hurry up and feed me and then go running, I found the motivation from somewhere. It was a beautiful morning. I enjoyed the first proper outing of Spotify premium as I headed towards the local nature reserve. It was also still the school Easter holidays, that I had forgotten about, until I wondered why it was so quiet and there were no kids out on the way to school. ‘Excellent, more pavement for me!’ I thought. As the dopamine started to flood through my brain I suddenly felt very awake. I paused briefly to admire the ducks who looked pretty disappointed I hadn’t arrived with a morning snack. I apologised and ran on. I did just under 5k with was enough for my first proper morning run in a long time, and with the knowledge I had a lot of work waiting for me at home. I definitely run slower when I’m on my own than with people, as I briefly spotted my pace on my watch as I trotted along. I then remembered being told not to think about times, just concentrate on getting there. I did. I focussed on the novelty of finally having Spotify premium, the warm shower when I got back and that I can actually run. The fact that I’m doing the one thing I was told I couldn’t do, (I was virtually banned from joining the school athletics club or Duke of Edinburgh Award at school because I wasn’t good enough,) will always make me smile.
The endless news coverage referencing the DoE Award has prompted lots of reflections this week, and not for the reasons you may think. I’ve thought about accessibility, the importance of just letting young people have a go and the impact telling someone they “can’t” can have on a young person, even many years on. The whole reason I’m running this half marathon is because I was finally told “I could”, and the enormous difference that had on me as a young woman working out who I wanted to be. I’m in my 30’s now, have a good job and I’ve learned to fall in love with running, but I still think sometimes about being denied opportunities because I’m dyspraxic, and because it was assumed to be beyond my capabilities. They couldn’t comprehend the thought of me reading a map, stomping through fields, camping and all of the things expected of young DofE explorers. But there were lots of things that happened in the early 2000’s that I hope wouldn’t happen now. I think that 14/15 year old Alice would firstly not understand the thought process behind me training for a half marathon, but would then be very proud I’ve eventually been able to push on to do something that was once beyond me. I might struggle to walk across my bedroom without picking up an excellent bruise to add to my collection somedays, but I can still bloody well run. And no one can tell me I can’t now. Hurrah! I ran home with the energy and clear head I needed to start a day of work.
Thursdays run happened after work, with a small group from my running club. I ran just over 5K, slowly. Like a snail because spending so much of the week in hyperfocus has been draining. So much of this week has been fuelled by the euphoria of finally being fully vaccinated. I still feel wary, and the anxiety won’t go away over night, but I now have a sense of calm and peace of mind I didn’t have before. There’s less fight, flight, freeze, going on in my brain. I met up with four other women and the run leader for a gentle five K loop. When the route was explained to us I was a bit wary because it involved a route I hadn’t ran before (despite knowing the area like the back of my hand), and involved running along roads, and crossing them, with a confusing roundabout, making it difficult to see which way the cars will go. My awful spatial awareness makes me cautious about crossing roads around other people, (unless they know me well), because it’s so obvious I sometimes struggle and I don’t want to look like a fool. I can run good distances quite happily, but I panic when I see a road because I worry about getting squashed. The saying “you’re more likely to get ran over than….” probably doesn’t help. Yay anxiety. We set off and one of the girls said she would run with me because she wasn’t planning for a fast one as she had a race at the weekend. We ran along, the cars at the roundabout behaved themselves, but I wasn’t happy about how long the road felt, you don’t think it’s that long, but it went on forever. And if I’d kept going I would have eventually ended up in Consett. I didn’t though. We turned onto the safety of the Derwent walk, away from any drivers tempted to beat their horns at us, and put us off. It has happened before. I nearly crashed into a wall. Drivers: please leave runners alone. once we reached the paths, I felt my speed increase for a bit, but I could still hold a conversation. I worked out during the chat that I probably need new trainers. “My feel hurt, and they shouldn’t hurt,” I said. “No they shouldn’t, Alice.” I’m going to phone one of the running shops in town to get a gait analysis, the last thing I want is to do damage because my trainers are too old. I haven’t managed to get through yet, they must be busy with other runners having the same post lockdown problem. I enjoyed Thursdays group run, but I didn’t like the low sunlight as much, not being able to see where I was going at times isn’t helpful for someone who already struggles with balance and coordination. My dads solution to that problem is to get a cap. I have never owned a cap in my life. As we ran back around to the finishing point of the car park, I felt pleased with myself, I always feel accomplished after a run. The rest of the group were much faster than me, I was at the back of the group this time, but that didn’t matter, I got there too. “Thanks for not leaving the slow person behind!” I commented on a post in the clubs Facebook group. “No one gets left behind,” I was told. And that says it all. The reason why I joined this running club is there. You don’t have to be the best, you just have to turn up. And even if you don’t turn up for a while, someone will always message to check you’re okay. Brilliant people.
On Friday it was my little sisters birthday, she turned 22, how I’m old enough to have a 22 year old sister I will never know. She’s in Scotland and we’re in England, and as we’re still under Covid restrictions, we couldn’t see her. My morning started with face timing her as she opened her presents, and wishing it wasn’t her first birthday without family around. She’s had a cracking time with her small uni bubble, so I didn’t need to worry. Virtual birthday presents done, I then headed up to my desk for the day. I spent another day in hyperfocus trying to get a draft of the magazine finished and sent to my manager for proofing. I did it! But it also meant I worked slightly over the hours I should have, and I was pretty knackered by the end of the day. I’m sure I was seeing magazine pages in my head as I headed down the stairs looking for food. I had a Friday night run on my plan, but I was so tired, and it was Friday night, can I just skip today? No. My need for routine would not allow that. We were going to get a takeaway curry in honour of my sisters birthday, despite her not being able to be here, and so I decided to run to pick up the curry. I needed something to aim for. The restaurant I was running to was a bit further than my usual runs, and away from the safety of the nature reserve. There would be more people about, and a few weeks ago I would have absolutely avoided going anywhere near there. There’s no way I would volunteer. Something made me run there, I mean I was literally running for food, the best kind of motivation. At the nature reserve, I knew I had to go on ahead, I listened to my music which was an excellent distraction, and there wasn’t as many people as I thought there’d be. It got a bit tricky when there was some people at the traffic lights, and I considered turning round and running home. Flight response trying to kick in there. I didn’t though. “I’ve had my second vaccine. It’s not common to catch Covid outside,” I chanted in my head over the top of the music. It helped. I pushed on. Anxiety didn’t win. And y’know what? I’m so bloody proud of myself.
Sundays run, and the fourth run of the week. I had spent most of Saturday thinking about this, planning my route and being determined that I was going to go. Last night, I entered the virtual Blaydon Race to give me a 10k to aim for in June. This morning, after debating if I should go, if maybe running a GNR was a step too far, and then telling those negative thoughts to bugger off, I ended up running 8.5K, the furthest I’ve ever ran, and walking 2k home, which turned into a nice cool down. It wasn’t quite the plan to run that for, my legs just kept on moving, the plan was just to get out of the door. I began being able to run further and faster, although I did break into a walk at points. Before I set off I was worried about too many people being around, not being able to do it and bailing at like 3K. But I did it. And I’ve never felt more proud of myself (and knackered!). Spotify helped me keep going and singing along helped me to regulate my breathing. I’ve reached the stage of not caring what people think, I was out, having the best time, when a few weeks ago, I could barely walk around the block without panicking about Covid. It was a great end to a good week of running. For the first time, I’ve actually believed that I can run this half marathon. I am capable of conquering GNR. I just need to keep on going.
If you’ve got this far, and have been following my mission over the last few weeks to use running as a tool to feel better about going out as we emerge from this pandemic, it would mean a huge amount to me if you could consider sponsoring my half marathon. GNR emailed earlier to say, at the moment it’s still going ahead, but if it does need to get cancelled again, all 2020 roll-overs will be eligible for a place on the 2022 GNR. SO I WILL RUN IT EVENTUALLY! And even if you are unable to sponsor me, sharing on social media will be super lovely too.