I haven’t written, or even ran as much as I’d like recently. I don’t know why I thought I’d keep up with writing weekly running blog posts, on top of working full time, when for half of my job I’m paid to write, alongside eating, sleeping, keeping up with friendships so I don’t become too much of a distant memory to those closest to me, and of course training for this half bloody marathon. A half marathon that feels so so much closer and intimidating than it did a few weeks ago. The only running I’ve kept up with as if my life depends on it, are the long weekend runs, the weekday shorter runs have been a bit hit and miss, but I’ve never missed a long run. Today I got up to 10.5 miles, all of which I ran on my own, I’m proud, but it wasn’t easy. It was the hardest run I’ve ever completed, not necessarily because of the distance, but because of where I am emotionally. My life on social media in various Facebook groups is consumed by people posting their running times and distances, always accompanied by a grinning photo, and nearly always faster than me, but I rarely read about the runs that have gone wrong, or had the potential to completely derail. That’s why I’m writing about this mornings run, that instead of being a “yay! I ran 10.5 miles!” post, could have very easily led to me completely throwing in the towel and declaring that the Great North Run is beyond me.
“What makes you stick to running?” my ADHD therapist asked me one day, “I have a massive timetable staring me in the face stuck on the wall, that I tick off. And smile at regularly. Also because of how it makes me feel,” I told her. We were exploring doing nice things for myself, that I’m notoriously bad at, and worked out that running is something that despite everything going on in my brain, has managed to stick. Having the routine, sense of achievement and positive feeling all seem to be good for me, and are something I’m trying to work into other areas of my life. This conversation made me ponder for a while; why do I keep going back to running? Why am I pushing my body to do things that are incredibly hard? Why didn’t I lose interest a while ago? I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I do know that it has always been the hard things that have always motivated me. Hyperfocus is either driven by things that I absolutely adore, things that I know I am good at or activities that once felt impossible. I’m sure you’ll see the category running falls into.
The last few weeks everything has felt awful, I’ve struggled with the continuing pandemic and not being able to hug a friend, the demands of my job and the impact Covid has had on young people I work with, I’ve really missed my friends who live miles away, I’ve missed things that were once in my life that don’t seem to be there anymore, I’ve found the ADHD diagnosis suddenly very difficult and grappled with being in my 30’s and not being quite where I want to be yet. To compensate for this I’ve thrown myself into work, working more hours than I probably should or is healthy for that golden “work-life balance” we keep hearing bandied around. My way to compensate for everything that feels like it’s imploding is to stick to things I know I’m good at, professionally I’m a media and comms officer for a charity, with a bit of youth work thrown in too, and working from home has meant I can hyperfocus on something that I know I will always be able to do well; writing. Running has been my focus for the weekends alongside anything I can do during the week, but I know this method of blocking out all of the big feelings is not sustainable. No one can fuel their runs with a whole week of work and not a lot else. Running makes me feel free, it makes me feel like I can conquer anything, it makes me feel more me. That’s why I keep going back. It gives me some stability in a very turbulent brain when I’m always waiting for things to”go wrong.”
I’m following a running programme set out by my running club, including a long 8am Sunday run. This has helped to take some of the organisation away from me, as I don’t have to plan long routes, remember where to go or worry about getting lost. I know I will always be safe when I go out with the club, and someone will always run with me. Long runs are really really daunting, and getting lost is even more daunting. I’d checked the route posted for this mornings run, and it was just a straight out and back 10.5 miles. After getting up early, shovelling down some porridge and a banana, I set off for my 20 minute walk to get to the what I thought was the start. The last couple of days my executive functioning has been all over the place, I’ve forgotten to eat, missed deadlines, been so distracted that I wasted more time than I should, gave up with lunch completely and resorted to a cereal bar at 4pm and just felt very low. I’ve felt awful about not being able to function like a fully functioning adult, and that I get overwhelmed by the most straightforward, everyday things. I’ve lost count of the times when I’ve opened up the fridge, starred at it for a moment, and then gave up on working out what to do for lunch altogether. I’ve had everything that screams the diagnostic criteria for ADHD this week.
Halfway to the runs start point, I remembered that I’d forgotten sun cream and had managed to leave my water on the side. I headed home for both of them, stressed that I wasn’t going to make it, and annoyed with myself that I managed to forget when I’d made sure I had everything ready the night before. As I left for the second time, the front door wouldn’t close, so I had to fight with that for a moment, leaving me 10 minutes for my 20 minute walk. As I finally got there I didn’t see anyone, have they left bang on 8 for a change? I wondered. I posted to ask to on the Facebook group, and found out that they were at a completely different starting point to where I was. I felt broken. Broken that my brain somehow misread the post and I was now facing a 10.5 mile run without my usual Sunday morning support. There was no question about doing it. Bailing was not an option. I started to cry, I was overwhelmed, the Great North Run is only weeks away and at that moment I questioned if it was even possible. Running through floods of tears is not a good look or ideal for first thing on a Sunday morning, but there I was more determined than ever to make it to the statue of Paddington bear in the garden and back. I put my music on, blocked everything out around me, and focussed on me. once I’d stopped crying, I realised there wasn’t anything I could do about today, but I could push on to make sure I got to where I wanted to be. That I got my 10.5 miles in no matter what it took. I ran on and stopped at a bench for a while, questioning everything, that moment of pause seemed to be what I needed to hyperfocus on making it to Paddington. I ran like I’ve never ran before. Like I actually knew what I was doing. I refused to give up until I made it to the end. I saw some of the club as I ran, always being greeted with a cheery hello and a “keep going”. I didn’t stop to explain what had happened this morning, that I felt completely useless until I realised the opposite. I just kept going. It’s beautiful up that end of the path, the Paddington house is in a lovely village surrounded by fields of horses and miles of countryside. There were moments when I stopped and thought “god is Paddington much further?!” He was where he has always been, and I got there. I really got there. All on my own. As I got up to Paddington, Thea Gilmore’s ‘Beautiful day’ came on, and I broke down again. It really was a beautiful day, so much more so because it felt like the opposite several miles away. As I turned around at the village and headed back, I knew today would have been impossible a few years ago. I would have decided to give up when I realised I got the meeting point wrong. I stuck with it today because I have so much support spurring me on to get there and I understand why my brain works the way it does so much better than before. The anger with myself is short-lived because I can get out there for some of what running makes me feel. I am so bloody proud.
Thank you so so much to particularly my friends, family and Red Kite Runners for all of the support so far, without any of you I’m certain today wouldn’t have been possible.
The Great North Run is well and truly on; if you were thinking about sponsoring me and wanted to, you can do so here.