On Sunday, I ran Day 2 of Race to the King Ultramarathon – 27 miles across the South Downs Way. It was my final long run as training for Race To The Stones non-stop, and a good way to see how Threshold Events worked ahead of the big day(s).
This post was originally published on Huffpost lifestyle – you can read it here (and follow on there to see any of my other posts!)
When I talk about running, I feel like a fraud.
I love it. It’s accessible. It’s popular. It’s everywhere. Running is for everyone and there are dozens of ways to get into it. You can run any distance; do OCRs, Marathons, Ultras, Parkruns. There is someone out there for everyone.
But I’m not a <em>Proper Runner</em>.
On Sunday, I ran my first Marathon. Alone.
It began Saturday night; while cleaning out my hydration
pack for a planned 13.1 miles, I had a mad idea. (As my ideas tend to be!)I was due to run ny 26.2 next weekend – take it slower this Sunday, build up to it. But I was feeling strong. Confident. Annoyed at washing out the hydration pack to *only* run 13.1.
So the next morning I got ready to run a Marathon. Fancy new visor, annoyingly odd socks. I tucked my grizzling boys back in bed, waited for my watch to find GPS, double checked my route, picked out my audiobook… and set off.
I don’t need feminism.
I hear that a lot. Sometimes I think it. It’s a hard thing to admit, but I think a lot of women feel the same. And I’ve come to realise that not only am I wrong; I’m very lucky I can be wrong.
Growing up I wasn’t drawn to anything stereotypically ‘feminine’. The only vague idea I had of ‘boys toys’ and ‘girls toys’ was the fact that they had different sections in the Argos catalogue, that girls stuff was invariably pink, and all the cool stuff (remote control cars, Science Kits, Spy gadgets) mostly had pictures of boys playing with them.
It didn’t bother me. I got my spy gear, my toy cars. I had a microscope and a telescope. I had a Magic Potion making kit, where everything tasted like palmaviolets.
I had other things – I had Skydancers, Polly Pockets, and pink roller skates. I read Enid Blyton and watched Disney Princesses. I didn’t avoid the pink things – just, invariable, the toys I liked came in blue. For a house with three sisters, we didn’t do an awful lot of Pink.
As I got older, pink started to offend me. It made me angry. Shirts that I liked, but which only came in pink. Shoes with pink on. Pink pens, bags. Pink pink pink. The world seemed to throw it at me – to shout This is for Girls! Girls are pink! We’ve made it so damn simple to shop even a Woman could do it – just aim for the pink, put it on, and be female.
My wardrobe was jeans and T-shirts. Black T-shirts, which came in two flavours – either Band or Comedy. If I had feminine things, they were purple (a colour I hated only slightly less than pink. It was pink-ish. Pink lite. Pink without admitting it. Boys didn’t have Purple things).
I was comfortable. But restricted. I couldn’t ‘wear what I liked’. Because increasingly, the things I liked only came in Pink.
Pink was not just a colour. It’s seemed like a state of mind. It was paper-thin blouses, low cut, V-necked tops. It was the impracticality of ‘feminine’.
It’s the stuff I wear now.
Now I’m not very much older, but I came to a realisation not long ago about Pink. About why it’s OK.
I was shopping online for a running top – something cheap, light, for easy runs. I saw someone selling a perfectly good Nike Run top on eBay – unworn, my size, ideal. But Pink.
I started to scroll past and stopped. Why was I avoiding Pink? It’s a good top – not my favourite (I will always be an all-in-black runner, a running Ninja) but it’s a good top. I have a pink shirt, I have pink nail polishes, I’m a grown up. I’m well aware that wearing a dress doesn’t make me a Traitor to The Cause. I can wear a skirt and blouse today, jeans and a nerdy T-Shirt tomorrow, and not one single person will care. No one is going to shout at me int the street, I won’t get arrested for indecency. I can wear what I like. I am very, very lucky.
I bought the top.
The difference isn’t that I suddenly like Pink any more or less than I did. The difference is that I don’t care what ‘image’ my clothing portrays. I don’t care if people see me running in pastel pink and think ‘Feminine’. I am as feminine as I want to be today. I can go for a run in pink, with my nails done and my hair long and look ‘Like A Girl’ if I want, and it doesn’t for a minute negate the fact that this Girl runs 20 miles. I can run all in black, with mud up my shins and my hair tucked back in a buff. This Girl can wear pink, yellow, black, or whatever she damn well pleases.
We don’t need feminism, if we’re lucky. But it’s something we do for the people who do need feminism. Who can’t wear what they like, or say what they like. Who can’t read or learn what they like. We need feminism for everyone – men and women, so we can stop having this stupid fight, so we can just get on with bigger and better fights, as allies. We need feminism. And some days, it’s something we need inside our own heads.
Some days, I run in pink.
Today, it’s time for #MumTalk . Sports Relief has started a hashtag, teaming up the the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and other related Charities and Organisations, to get a conversation started. A conversation about Mental Health – and one that needs to be had.
Across Twitter, people are using the hashtag #MumTalk to share stories about Maternal Mental Health. So I’m getting involved.
I recently started cross training more. I have always been a big fan of HIIT training, cardio, body weight and all that horrible sounding stuff. With my dodgy hip/knee, I need strengthening exercises so I can keep running without any more instances of Runners Knee (the dreaded words!) or hip pain. On my last Long Run of 13.1 miles a very kind cyclist veered into me, meaning I had a quick leap into a ditch – meaning I twisted my leg and my knee went. Luckily the pain hasn’t lasted – but it reminded me that I need strong muscles if I’m going to manage 100km of trail running.
I decided to give the Focus T25 workouts a go. Not cheap and not easy – but I’m 3 days in and I can honestly see why.
The workouts are intense 25 minute bursts that send your heart rate up and down; mixing cardio, body weight and ‘focus’ – intense movements that require muscle control and balance. It’s actually great fun, incredibly sweary (the sign of a good workout!) and the modifier is wonderful when it comes to push-ups!
Burpees squats and jumping do feature, but for the short amount of time you do expect to be leaping around like a madman or where are the results coming from?? You also get a calander to mark off exercises and how you think you did, and track your measurements (not your weight – finally a progress tracker that makes sense!).
My first workout was great, although I did step on my son’s toy dinosaur, which I’ve now taken as my mascot. A few days in and I’m still enjoying it, my glutes are definitely feeling it and I’m hoping for success.
I’ve been off for a few weeks now with illness. Unfortunately it happens, and a part of training is recognising when you can’t! Super irritating I know. But sinuses are clear, cough has gone, and I’ve been back this week. Six months to go to the big 100k!
As part of my training, Thursdays have become the dreaded Intervals/Hill Repeats day. So wheras usually I’ll be running at race pace or recovery, on Thursdays I’ll be going all-out. Here’s why.
Your body gets used to running. It doesn’t feel like it sometimes, but at a steady running pace you eventually get a little complacent. You need to put stress on your muscles to burn fat, improve your form, and strengthen yourself for long, difficult runs.
Interval training does that – short bursts of hard running, followed by periods of easy running. I tend to like 1-2 intervals – run as fast as I can for 1 minute, then rest for 2.
There are a million ways to interval run, as well as different ‘types’ – the hilariously named Fartlek, for example, is a less planned-out version of interval running, where you run til your body hits it’s stopping point and then slow it down until you’re recovered, then go again. Many people swear by it. I personally like my interval training as I like ‘timed’ bursts of speed. I like the discipline of running at high intensity for a little longer than I want to, and I think it prepares me mentally for long runs when I really, really want to turn around and go home!
So that’s my plan for today. Next week is hill repeats, but that’s basically a swear word so best not mention it ’til I’ve done it!
Wish me luck!
I watched a video today that someone shared, and it made me pretty emotional. It showed a man who has lost 300lb through doing Yoga at home. Here’s the link:
The reason I think this got to me wasn’t because of the weight loss itself – which is completely incredible. It was what he said. He said that something changed in his mindset – something clicked that made him want to change, to make a difference. He named the reasons he had to lose weight, but said he couldn’t pinpoint ‘why’ exactly it just changed in his mind.
I get that.
The first time I went for a run, I felt a bit crazy. I was wearing £8 trainers from Tesco, dressed in my OH’s t-shirt and my materinty joggers. I couldn’t tell you why I went.
I also can’t explain to you how hard it was – how much it hurt, how uncomfortable I was, how sad I was to find I couldn’t actually run for more than one minute at a time. I really can’t explain why I went, and I really can’t explain why I carried on. I just know that I wasn’t happy, I was tired of not being happy, and I knew my health and fitness were making me unhappy.
It wasn’t my clothes size that made me sad. It wasn’t my measurements or the number on the scale. It was that I didn’t fit into myself – I was bigger than I was happy with, I wasn’t comfortable. I’d had health problems so I needed to be in good health and I really, really wasn’t.
I don’t think I looked awful! You have to bear in mind, even on the cruelest day I wasn’t going to get anyone stare at me as I passed in the street – I was a size 16, which is a perfectly okay size that many people are very healthy being. I wasn’t. My weight didn’t fit my frame, or my build – none of it was muscle, none of it was natural for me. I wasn’t healthy. That’s the most important thing to note – I wasn’t healthy. Forget skinny or slim or even fit. Healthy is the word.
And I lost the weight and I’m fine now and whatever. That’s not the point. The point is – when I started, I don’t know why I did. I can’t pinpoint what happened. And this video got to me because I SO wish I knew – I wish I could bottle it and give it away and show people what happened, because being happy with yourself is so precious and important. Again – there is no ‘right size’ to be, there is no ‘correct weight’. The goal is, always should be, being fit and healthy enough to do the things you want to do. If your size is holding you back (as mine was), that’s the time to change.
I wish I’d taken more ‘before’ photographs. I wish I’d written it down, I wish I’d made more of a record of where I was. I guess it’s OK to reflect on it from where I am now. And remember it, the next time I have a goal I don’t think I can achieve.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Just realised that this time next week I will have started my 100k training plan! Eek! I’ve got it all planned out (I think) and I’m super excited. I’m also pretty nervous about my knee, as hip problems have caused me issues a few times in the past. Please keep fingers and toes crossed that it holds up (I’ve been very good and kept up my hip stretches, which seems to have really helped!). Here’s a blurry photograph of a training plan that I should have just screenshot, because why not!
I’ve allowed on my plan a few days off (Christmas for one!) and also given myself a little too much to do, probably. We will see! But I’m very excited to get started. The plan includes some 2k runs which will be very weird as they’re lots shorter than my normal easy runs, but overtraining is the enemy here. Will try and stick to it!
Also, I received my UKrunchat and RunningShoes4U prize today – some shiny new Asics! Definitely needed with the mileage I’ll be clocking up, can’t wait to give them a go. Plus they match my kit (always a bonus!)
So. It’s a bit windy.
Having lived and started running in beautiful Cornwall, it might surprise you to learn that I’m not super experienced at running in the wind! Cornish weather is very mild – mostly damp, occasionally sunny, usually grey. On very windy evenings the beach did become a wind tunnel, but otherwise it was mostly rain and fog that slowed me down!
So, with a storm we have for some reason named Barney whipping leaves up, how easy is it to run in the wind? As I discovered earlier – not very. But the howling wind sounded very much like a challenge to me, so I put on my pinkest top, tied the girliest plait I could, and laced up.
1) You might not have control over your legs.
I am a very ‘springy’ runner. Being used to trails and hills, I have some spring in my step. And at one point I rounded a corner, and a cross breeze lifted my legs clear off the ground. It was magical. Or pants-wettingly terrifying. Not sure.
2) Autumnal leaves become dangerous.
Have you ever dodged a 20mph leaf? It’s not okay. I’m glad I opted for long running tights because although my gloriously grippy shoes save me from slipping, I think my ankles might have regretted being let out to the air.
3) Try daylight running for goodness sake woman
Wind plus darkness equals enormous ballet leaps to avoid the curbs. Which equals more danger of blowing away. Seriously, trying to keep your eyes on the road while wincing from the wind? Not fun.
4) Cover up – but you don’t necessarily need thermals!
Long sleeves, long tights, yes. But the amount of extra effort you exert running uphill into a gale will keep you warm enough! I was sweating after 2k.
5) It’s a whole body workout
This evening, my abs got a workout. No, really. Running against the wind is apparently hard on your core, because of the extra balance and effort required, and possibly the jumping. My shoulder ache from keeping my arms up, my ribs hurt and I don’t know why.
I have dry skin anyway, so Argan Oil is my best friend in the cold weather. However, a combination of cold, wind and sweat has dried my face out even more. I’ve taken to rubbing my face in the oil just before I go out to create a kind of barrier – and so far so good! Unless I wake up with scales tomorrow in which case, disregard my advice.
7) It’s really, really fun.
So if I’ve put you off, I can only apologise! Yes it is hard. Yes it does hurt. But you’re a runner! You’ve got this. So get your flourescents on, cover up, lace up, and stay safe. When the wind is at your back, you’ll realise why you did.