“It’ll be snowing next week,” I was told. It bloody well did.
Thank you to those of you who have said nice things and read my first post about beginning training for the Great north Run, and more poignantly using running to deal with my anxiety about restrictions easing as we emerge from this pandemic. You can catch up on week one here, if you missed it.
This week started with much colder feelings than last, just as I was starting to get excited about my summer wardrobe, I found myself in oversized wooly jumpers, and shivering by the fire, AGAIN. Running this week has been so much harder weather wise, but so much easier in other ways.
Tuesdays run, was a run alone as I was working late and wouldn’t get to the start with my running club on time, so I aimed to jump into my running kit as soon as I finished my online session at half 6, and head out the door. An online session that took an unexpected turn when we ended up doing plank competitions and having mini egg eating competitions with our young people, there’s no better way to prepare for a run, or make people think that you are, actually bonkers. I was very proud to get my headphones to cooperate with the bluetooth on my phone this week, so I didn’t have to run in silence on my own, however lovely the birds singing to me in the trees were last week. In fact, I was so pleased with myself after Tuesdays run, that I upgraded to Spotify premium when I got home. About a decade behind everyone else, but now I can make an excellent running playlist, that isn’t just Scandinavian, Scottish and Northumbrian folk music – hurrah! Feel free to suggest excellent running songs that will encourage me to keep going.
As I set off on Tuesday, I quickly realised that A) I wasn’t expecting it to be so chilly and B) I haven’t quite got my kit right for freezing running. I really need to invest in a long sleeved running top, at points I was mildly concerned that I might literally freeze. I do have some running gloves, but forgetting to wear them isn’t much use to me, or anyone having to hear me complaining about the cold. That sentence makes me sound like a terrible northerner. I was more surprised as I should have been by the cold. I had been watching it snow on and off all day from my window as I worked, even screaming “bloody hell it’s snowing!” during a staff meeting. Armed with this knowledge of snow and that this usually meant it would be accompanied by cold, I plodded on, out of the door and down the hill. I remembered to press start on my Fitbit this time, so I can attempt to properly monitor my runs and progress. I’ve never really been bothered about pace, or times, or if I’m doing it “right” before. I decided that if I focussed on any of that, I wouldn’t feel motivated to run and I would spend all of my time worrying, instead of just doing it. I don’t really know what pace means or even if my pace is alright for someone aiming for a half marathon. I’m sure I’ll know if the people who come out to watch me on Great North Run day, give up and go home because I’m taking too long. Remembering to press play on my Fitbit will be useful in tracking my progress and prompting any happy dances for minor, or major achievements.
As I ran on Tuesday, the wind was biting, my hands felt like they were going to fall off and I thought I was going to get blown into the road at one point, but I carried on. I kept a steady pace so I could keep myself warm. The cold made me want to run for longer, maybe because I wanted this run to be over quicker, or because it was just a sensible option given the circumstances. I learned very quickly to make sure I’m dressed for the weather, even if I am running, and will likely warm up. I ran past a field of kids playing football, and freezing parents standing on the sidelines, probably wishing that outdoor sport wasn’t back on. In the field I saw daffodils and blossom coming out on the trees, all the signs of spring, which felt juxtaposed against the cold arctic wind on my face. The music in my ears was helping me to push through to the next tree or the lamppost up ahead. Thea Gilmores “beautiful day” came on and I welled up, it really was a beautiful day, I felt knackered from work, the cold was irritating but I was surrounded by spring and families out having fun. It was beautiful. I was enjoying running. And I was aiming to do a beautiful thing. Something that years ago felt impossible. I managed to run 5K, and gave up going any further because it was just too cold, and I was still worried about the path getting narrower and seeing too many people. I keep having to remind myself that it is highly unlikely that I’ll catch Covid outside. The only people I really did see were the kids playing football on the field quite far away from me, so my anxieties, as always, are disproportionate to reality. As I headed home, and tried a bit of hill running (I live on a very steep bank), I felt proud of myself for motivating myself to run, when curling up on the sofa with a film or book felt preferable after work. I’m still getting my head around new priorities that come with starting a new job, and running is helping me to process that. It gives me space where I don’t have to think about anything else other than getting to the next landmark.
On Friday, and my second run of the week, I ran with Red Kite Runners after work, I was tired from the long week, but I was on a mission to complete my minimum of three runs every week. And no one can stop a dyspraxic/ADHD woman on a mission. I made the annoying error of forgetting to pick up a banana as I left, so spent the whole walk to the start line wishing I wasn’t so forgetful, and dreaming about how I’d feel if I’d eaten that banana. I walked fast to get there by 6, which I found to be a helpful warm up prior to running. The walk gave me the dopamine I needed, and I suddenly felt very focussed as we set out to run. I met about eleven other Red Kite Runners, who like me were getting back into running as a group again, and also like me had chosen a Friday night to do it. After the group warm up and obligatory photo, we set off. I kept to my steady pace, and found a spot comfortably in the middle. As the run progressed, I felt I was getting better, I aimed for landmarks, avoided dogs, and ignored the lad who blatantly laughed as I went past. “Well, if only you knew where I’d come from to get here”, I thought. I remembered the dips in the path, and where I needed to weave around any puddles of water, I’m extra careful about not falling over these days, probably too careful. I thought about why I was running, why I was going out whatever the weather to push my legs to go that bit further. I was doing it for Gateshead Youth Council and every young person in the North East. Youth Work; my profession matters, and I matter, and running is quite a wild way to show it. I told mum about considering getting my school on board, her response was: “Well, girl who was shit at PE, runs half Marathon, has quite a ring to it”. That says it all.
Towards the end of the run, I heard, “You’re doing great Alice, keep going.” It was Paul, our run leader, behind me. He ran with me towards the end, and like last week, told me I was doing well, and that I could do it. We talked about times and he said to just focus on completing the distance. “You can do it Alice” “keep going” “only 1K to go,” he kept telling me. Our finish line was the bins, so I focussed on that on the final stretch. Using landmarks as a way to measure my progress helps to motivate me, I feel that I can go that little bit further and feel proud of myself for doing it. As we cooled down, we were told to keep getting out, meet up with others to run and motivate each other. Red Kite Runners is mixed ability, with people who run marathons and ultras, to those of us who are just pleased to be enjoying running. There’s no pressure, or competition, the only competition is with yourself, and to do what makes you feel comfortable. If I’d had this kind of support with exercise years ago, maybe my PE days at school would have been slightly different. I can be a runner. Anyone can be a runner. And that’s the most important lesson my 30’s have taught me. After the run I walked home and the temperature suddenly dropped, so it turned into a very brisk walk. The walk there and back, alongside my run, totalled to 10k according to my Fitbit. 10 happy K. I got in, collapsed and ate pizza.
Tomorrow is Sunday run day, and also second vaccine day. A day of big feelings I’m sure. I’m writing this now because tomorrow, I’ll likely be too exhausted or too full of adrenaline to think straight, let alone form coherent sentences for you to read. I really can’t wait to be fully vaccinated. In the morning, I plan to get up early to go for a short run, my training plan tells me to do 1.5K so I’ll probably do just over that. Running post vaccine might be slightly problematic, and I’m sure avoiding will be wise, but I’m determined to fit a short trot around the block in before. Yay to running! Yay to vaccines! All of the feelings. If you’ve stuck with me through reading about week two of my running adventures, it would mean a huge amount to me, Gateshead Youth Council and my past hiding in the corner at PE, uncoordinated self, if you could consider sponsoring my half marathon. And as always sharing on social media and encouraging me in other ways, or telling me how mad I am, is super lovely too.
Will report back on the post vaccine feelings…