Running my way out of a pandemic: Great North Run training weeks 8 and 9

Week 8 and 9 hurrah!

I’ve combined week 8 and 9’s posts because life has got busy, working full time is beginning to take its toll, and I keep finding out the hard way that I need to learn to fuel myself better. Both during the day and more importantly, before a run.

May be an image of 3 people, including Liberty Caithness and Madeleine Hewson, tree and outdoors

Week 8 was slightly different and more busy as my sister came home from uni, the first time I’ve seen her in six months so it was pretty special. I persuaded her, alongside one of her friends to accompany me on my usual Tuesday night run with my running club. It was a nice slow plod, she was tired from travelling and her friend and I were knackered from a full day of work. This week it was Raceday route in reverse, the route everyone who joins the clubs couch 2 5k programme runs, to complete their 5K journey and earn their first running medal. So, I knew this route well, even if it’s back to front. On our way round we accidentally took a short cut, I only realised when we were half way up the wrong path, but no one seemed to mind. It was a good steady run, I ran a bit ahead of the girls for a bit but then dropped back so we could run as a group, although still a bit in front so they had the chance to properly catch up. On the top path I asked if we should take the nicer hill down or the steeper hill. Couchie hill is evil, even more so looking down it. “No, no more cheating!” I was firmly told. We ran on. I even made it to the bottom of the hill without falling flat on my face. My achievement of the day. The three of us finished the 5K in good time considering two of us had been working all day, and the other one hadn’t ran in a while. After the run we were excited for our take away family curry, we really had earned it. Not that you ever need to exercise to earn food, but I’m sure you get what I mean.

On Wednesday I didn’t run but instead used my “rest day” to go on a 10 mile family walk along the Northumberland coast. It was a lovely day, with the whole family, even my brother came along. We even had the weather on our side, sitting in the middle of a pretty empty field to have our picnic before we stomped along the coastal path. Since I’ve started running more regularly my fitness and stamina has definitely improved, long walks don’t seem so long now, and I don’t feel as tired after a day out. On the way back dad declared that he knew “a short cut”, resulting in doubling the route to the car, walking up hill for most of it and avoiding a field of cows. Sometimes dyspraxia and ADHD running in families really does make sense, but I’ll leave that thought there. We got back in the end. On the way back we went in search ice creams. The only ice cream shop in the village was shut, I mean, didn’t they know I was coming? I got over the disappointment quickly because it was such a nice day out. A day of annual leave in middle of the week is always a wise plan.

May be an image of 3 people, including Alice Hewson and Madeleine Hewson, people standing and outdoors

My third run of week 8 was meant to be on Thursday, with my running club and accompanied by my sister again. We were so tired after our long walk the previous day, we decided to give it a miss and have an evening in instead. On Friday my sister travelled onwards to visit a friend, so feeling lost and knackered from work I made my third run of the week Friday instead. I’m slowly getting better at adjusting when I run depending on how I feel, the motivation to stick to my training plan is there, but now with some flexibility. I realise that mornings after a night of insomnia aren’t always the best time to run. This run was quite a rainy run, I did about 7K before dinner and felt awesome. I run for how running makes me feel more than anything else, and as long as it makes me feel like I can conquer anything, the more I will run. I think It’s got to the stage now when everyone even in real life or online, and especially my family who have to hear about running daily, that people must be quite sick of me mentioning running all of the time. My Instagram is now mostly running photos with the occasional cat to break things up. No one has complained yet, although not long to go until September now! Talking about September if you know me personally and would like to come and watch the Great North Run, let me know and we can book a table somewhere after I’ve hopefully crossed the finish line with all of my limbs still intact. Not that I want to jinx it too much. The support I’ve had from all parts of my life has been my biggest motivator to continue with running, even when its raining or melting hot temperatures. I’ll still be there pounding the pavements. And wondering, is this real? Am I actually running and enjoying it? Running and me in the same sentence still feels like something from a mythical land.

On Sunday I ran 10K. A whole 6 miles and I didn’t die. I didn’t plan on 10K, I just kept going. The ability to keep going must be a good thing. I’m not sure if I prefer running on my own or with other people, I know I have the balance right with the club, that motivates me to run on days when curling up with a good book is preferable, but there are times when running on my own makes me feel like I’m totally bossing it. I can lock myself away from everything but the sound of my feet on the pavement and the music in my ears. And that is wonderful. As long as I can still run, and keep going back for more, I know that things are going to be okay. Even when anxiety is shouting all sorts of obscenities at me. This 10k made me think more than most runs, maybe because covering a bigger distance allows for that time, to really think about why I’m here. Not necessarily the fundraising side of things, although that is a massive motivator, but why after all these years or hating exercise and sport, I’ve decided to take all 5″7 of me out for a run on such a regular basis. It all comes down to one thing, support, and that the support I have now is much better than I’ve ever had. I’ve worked out the type of friends I want around me, I’ve understood what a one-sided friendship look like and that I very much don’t want that, and I’ve found a group of runners who take me for who I am. I don’t have to be anyone else for people in my life now, I can just be me. Before, and long before an ADHD diagnosis, when dyspraxia was all I knew and all I wanted to be very much not part of me, I was embarrassed about being me. I worried about saying the wrong thing, or pissing off the wrong people, I didn’t want to seem clumsy and awkward. I really just didn’t want to be me. I didn’t have any sense of identity, other than what was expected of teenage girls. And I knew I was pretty far away from that. I always remember friends commenting that I would say “I don’t know” a lot, because I was cautious about saying what I thought, or really holding that opinion with conviction. Really, I knew lots of things, I just didn’t know it yet! So running for me is more than therapy or something I do to clear my head after a busy day at work, it has helped me to find who I am, and to be comfortable with my identity. That sense of otherness I felt when I was younger was only such a stumbling block because I hadn’t met the right people who really accept me yet. Running 10K gave me time to ponder all of this, to understand why I’m so in love with this sport. It has given me the freedom to be me. Freedom that never existed before.

I started week 9 of training with what was meant to be a 5K run, that turned into a 5K walk with little bits of running in between. I learned the hard way the importance of properly fuelling yourself before a run, and that sugar levels dropping are something you should probably avoid when out running. “I haven’t eaten since lunch, I feel a bit wobbly,” I declared. “Your sugar levels are probably low, I was told.” I walked for most of this run, chatting to one of the run leaders who set up Red kite Runners. We talked about dyspraxia and ADHD and my work as a youth worker with young carers. I talked about never really being encouraged with PE at school, and finding a really different atmosphere when I joined the club. I mentioned that I “wasn’t bad” at writing too, leading to being asked to join the running clubs committee. I said I would think about it. Later deciding to say yes. It was nice to have a bit of a fast walk and a chat, and probably what I needed after quite a heavy few weeks at work recently. We talked about mental health, and the benefits running has had on both of our mental health. I want other people to discover the wonders of running too, and realise you don’t have to be chasing personal bests all of the time. Sometimes a fast walk, with low sugar levels is enough. I was given an emergency banana bar as we neared the half way point of the 5K, this gave me some energy to not literally fall over, and reach the end.

Towards the end of week 9, my parents travelled south to visit my grandma in her care home. She was diagnosed with dementia at the beginning of this year, and it’s tough being so far away and not being able to go anywhere because of Covid. Friday night was tiring after another busy week at work, who knew being the sole media and comms person for a charity could make you feel like you’re working several full time jobs at once? Throw in executive dysfunction that doesn’t warn me before it’s here and we have a recipe for constantly chasing to-do lists. Saying that I’ve some how managed to stay mostly on track. This Friday run was a slow and a short one, a little plod around the block is all I had the energy for today. Even if the run is short and not as I had planned, it’s all worth it. I never ever regret a run. This is the most important thing I’ve learned this year, running may feel like an effort as I slip into my trainers, but once I’m out, I know why I have made the effort. That freedom I mentioned earlier, I feel it more on the hard runs.

May be an image of one or more people, tree and outdoors

My final run of week 9 was another 10K, the more of them I do, in theory the more comfortable I should feel about this distance and gradually increasing the millage. This 10K, however glad I was that I completed it, was tough. I didn’t even think I could complete 3K at one point. Everything felt wrong about this run, I was slow, it was warm, I couldn’t get my pace right and don’t even mention breathing. I’ve written a lot in these training blog posts about loving running, and I really really do, but sometimes we need to talk about when its not so great. The runs that feel impossible, when it doesn’t feel worth going out for, when everything feels wrong, even down to the joggers you chose to wear. The bad runs are important to talk about too. About 2 K into this run, I began to doubt the whole thing, not just that particular run, but if I even have it in me to run a whole half marathon. Is this just a massive step too far? I thought, as I chugged along. I can’t do this. What was I even doing believing that I can? Running is hard, and sometimes it feels impossible. It feels like I’ve been fooling everyone I know, telling everyone that I’m going to run the Great North Run, when sometimes, I can barely run around the block without panicking about running such a long distance. I want people to be proud that I’ve done it, not disappointed because I discovered in the middle of the race that 13.1 miles isn’t something an Alice can do. I can quite easily (thanks to overthinking!) come up with lots of reasons why something is a bad plan. But thanks to shit loads of therapy, I was able to push on. I walked if I needed to and kept thinking about something to keep me going, this changed from my fundraising, to eventually meeting up with friends who’ve had two vaccines, to the summer and seeing my sister when she’s back again at the end of June. I kept going, and by 6K when I’d finally warmed up, I realised that these thoughts, feelings and moments of doubt were just a wobble. One of many wobbles in the weeks to come, I’m sure. As I was turning my thoughts around, I heard over the music in my headphones, “You alright?”, I looked across the road to see a man who was probably at least 80. I must have looked really awful, I thought. One thing I’ve learned from running is sometimes runs will feel really shit before they feel better again. That 10K wasn’t my best and no where near my fastest, but I’m proud I did it. It means more after shit runs.

On Monday I was invited onto Radio Sheffield to talk live about dyspraxia and the importance of continuing support into adulthood. I mentioned running, and the difference having encouragement can make to a clumsy, dyspraxic woman who was always told that she couldn’t. It was a good interview, and I’m told I spoke well, given that I was asked a lot of big questions, with no prep time to plan my answers. Speaking off the cuff will never be my forte’. I’m a good public speaker, but always with a script and a plan. I do like a good plan. I was pleased to speak about dyspraxia as an individual and not attached to any organisation this time, after the awful trolling I experienced this time last year, it shows that I’m still around and doing much better for it. You can listen to the interview on BBC Sounds here, my slot appears about 1:44 into the show.

Following this interview I received a very lovely and generous donation towards my Great north Run fundraising from someone I don’t know. At least I don’t think I recognise the name. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! And if you feel able to and are reading this, please get in touch so I can thank you personally. I really wasn’t expecting that. And to the rest of you who have got to the end of this blog post, and can, please consider contributing to my fundraising. You will help to make the bad runs seem worth it. And support a fantastic charity who I will always hold close to me. I’m me because of them, and there’s no better reason to fundraise and run many miles than that.

Thanks for all of the support so far!

This entry was posted in ADHD, Adventures, Covid-19, Dyspraxia, Great North Run, Mental health, Running. Bookmark the permalink.

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