January 2018 saw me make the decision to take up running again. Spending two weeks at home for Christmas and New Year festivities with my family drew my attention towards the fact that I was not happy. Don’t get me wrong, things were great with the relationships I had with other people; my other half and I were celebrating our sixth Christmas together, and our four children were being delightful…well, most of the time. Where the problem lay was with me; and more specifically the relationship I had with myself.
Physically I was not in bad shape for a 38 year old. My friends would get annoyed when I moaned about my clothes feeling tighter, after all I was still squeezing into a size 8-10; but I was carrying a few extra pounds than the year before… and certainly feeling the effects of all that extra booze and sugar. Whilst my friends thought I looked fine I was not happy with how my body looked and felt.
Mentally I was probably in worse shape. My other half works a physically and mentally demanding job that often means he is working away from home, or as was the case then, working night shifts. The result of this is that it would fall to me to be the primary care-giver for the children as well as completing my own full time job. The balancing act of getting children to and from the right activity at the right time, be it school or activity club; whilst also getting myself to and from work is never easy. What didn’t help was the fact that once we were all home it would fall to me to do the night shift too. Our youngest had just turned 3 in October and was finding both settling for bed and sleeping through the night impossible; so my evenings often consisted of creeping down the stairs when he had finally settled to sleep at 9pm, washing up, tidying up and getting everything ready for the next morning…before crawling into bed myself.
The days and nights felt like they rolled into one long conveyor belt of demands, and there was a voice in my head growing ever louder that had its own demand….what are you doing for you? The answer to this was nothing. Everyone else came first, and I could see no way of ending the cycle we were in.
Having that two week break at Christmas made me realise that something needed to change. Breaking down in tears on my other half’s’ Mum on Christmas Day made me realise that I was not the person I should be; and that the only way to change this was for me to make a change.
Back in 2011 I was going through a very stressful time in my life, dealing with the breakdown of my first marriage. During this I used running to help me escape the pressures of the family home; perhaps this would be the way to go? I spoke to my other half and we worked out that I could fit in two early morning runs a week so long as I left when he got home at 6am. So that was what I did.
Anyone that knows me will tell you that determination and drive are two qualities that I possess in the bucket load. These are also accompanied by a huge competitive streak and a passion for organisation. It is therefore no surprise that I drew up a basic training plan that I could use to tick my sessions off, and I also registered for ParkRun…although I wouldn’t have the guts to show up until March (something I will write about in a future post).
I won’t lie, to start with it was not enjoyable. The first run I did showed that it had been 5 years and one hard pregnancy since I’d done any running, or proper exercise at all. I couldn’t even make it a mile long; 12 minutes of running and 0.84 miles is what I managed to complete. Could I really do this?
But I stuck with it and it wasn’t long before I was running for over half an hour at a time and also realising that whilst I was running I felt not only free in a physical sense, but a mental one too. I had half an hour where I was focusing just on me and what I needed. There was no one to call “Mum” or interrupt me from achieving my task. The benefits were felt not only during my run, but after it too. I felt less resentful when my other half made his way to bed for the day, and I had more patience for the children . Moreover I felt that I had reclaimed my identity as Claire again. I had that thing that I do back again “oh that’s Claire, she runs”.
Physically it didn’t take long for those pounds to shift, and my confidence grew again knowing that I both looked and felt better. I was able to run further and faster with each week that passed.
Buying myself a Garmin Forerunner watch to track my time and mile splits made me realise that I had made the shift from running for fun, to someone that had well and truly fallen in love with running again and the way it made me look and feel.
We have now entered August 2018 and I am still running. Still feeling the benefits from it, and have very clear goals set. There are races entered; and I am waiting to hear back from my ballot entry for the London Marathon next April… and if I don’t get a place in that I have already made a plan B in the form of the Southampton Marathon.
I have Personal bests over the 5K, 10K and Half Marathon; and whilst my pace is certainly not world class I certainly feel like I’ve won a gold medal each time I make an improvement on these. I’ve made sure that I give myself a reward when this happens which could be anything from taking an extra long soak in a bubble bath, to a nice big glass of red!
Beyond the physical and mental joys I have also started to form an additional social circle. This week I have joined a local running club and am looking forward to meeting up with other members for training runs. There is also a great running community on social media that I am starting to interact with on a regular basis. I love sharing my progress with them and hearing how they are doing against their own goals.
So, to anyone feeling stuck in a rut, feeling stressed or just down on life I would urge them to give running a go. It’s not about how far or how fast you move. It’s all about how it makes you feel; and if its half as good as it does me you will feel on top of the world!!
Claire – running up the miles and smiles!