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.
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!)
More often than not, what I do on a day to day basis is defined by my children. The things we do, where they are, what plans and appointments we make. Toddlers with both – or one at nursery and one with me , or play dates and play parks and what we’re doing that weekend.
So I guess it’s not surprising that I’ve been asked, more than once, how I ‘run’ with two toddlers. My partner works full time, and I don’t drive, so it’s not a simple ‘drop them off and go’ kind of thing. So how do I do it?
The answer is simple – I miss things.
For starters, I miss them; on a weekend long run, I’ll sacrifice sleepy toddler cuddles and Thomas the Tank for wet leaves, hill climbs, and hoping my knee doesn’t give out. Sometimes I miss a ‘normal’ morning routine; getting up before everyone else to climb out of bed, get my run in, and shower while the house is still stirring. Or I’ll miss a quiet evening meal; lacing up my trainers the second the boys are in bed and getting out before the chill really sets in. I miss my family, I miss my sleep. I miss my book!
There’s things I don’t miss, though. I don’t miss the feeling of struggling to breathe climbing the stairs. I don’t miss my legs chafing on long walks. I don’t miss wearing maternity jeans long past the ‘acceptable’ stage because nothing else fits. I don’t miss sweating for no reason, I don’t miss dreading long walks, I don’t miss feeling self conscious.
And there’s things that I, quite literally, don’t miss. I don’t miss buses anymore; I run for them all. I don’t miss sunrises; I’m right there with them. I don’t miss the rain because I feel it on my skin (because I also don’t miss a run just because it’s wet out!).
So I miss my babies sometimes – but no more than any mum who does ‘something else’. And yes, I miss my bed – but so what? I gain my health, I gain my freedom, I gain a few more years at the end to spend with my family because I’m looking after myself. The things I lose are not really a loss, not when counted against the whole.
And when my eldest son, with his beautiful grin full of mischief, sees me lacing up my trainers and asks “You runnin’ Mummy? Shall I run too?” – that’s worth it. That’s how I run. And, I suppose, that’s why.
So a year ago today, I was running the Eden Project Half Marathon. A wonderful, hilly, gorgeous, hilly, inspiring, hilly, 13.1 mile race through the gorgeous Cornish countryside. Did I mention the hills?
It was an odd one. I’d trained so much, I’d literally sweated my backside off, but things still went wrong. What did I expect? I was new, I wasn’t quite comfortable in my own skin, and I certainly wasn’t prepared. I got blisters from my thick cotton socks (I know). My joggers (yes, joggers!) chaffed, and made me uncomfortable. My fringe was probably sticking upright the entire time. I even slowed down at the finish line instead of going for a sprint! I was not prepared.
You might know the wonderful running Community known as Run Mummy Run®, and I’ve previously shared their campaign for fundraising and linked to them. As a member of their Facebook page I love sharing and chatting to other women and Mums about their running stories, experiences, and goals.
I recently had to take a week off running due to an injured knee (the curse of every runner with weak hips!). I founjd myself putting off the day I would get back into it – I didn’t have time, I would rather carry on cross training, I wanted to watch a film… the reasons not to run kind of started to stack up on me. So I thought it would be interesting to find out other reasons that people like me have given for not running.
So (after very kindly getting permission), I posed the question on the Facebook Page – Why didn’t you run?
The reasons I got were hilarious, varied, and sometimes quite sad. Far too many women (although one is too many!) said they felt embarrassed, or lacked confidence. Some felt guilty – guilty for having ‘me’ time, or not being with their families. Some even felt afraid.
Here’s a selection of reasons given, and a nice infographic I put together of the numbers. Unsurprisingly it was Childcare, Illness and Injury that came top!
A few people before now have asked me about my 0-13.1 ‘training plan’ – how I got started in reaching Half Marathon Pace. They usually follow by adding ‘..and are you sure you can do 100k?’
The only concern I had running 13.1 was that I would be too slow within the time allowed. Because of my funky lungs, it kind of hurts when I push too hard, so I’m not a quick runner. I am however a stubborn runner. So it wasn’t so much endurance, as hitting a 10-minute mile mark.
Elitist, I hear you cry, and scuttle away from your laptop or phone. Every runner is a runner! 10 minute miles aren’t for everyone! Well hang on – I didn’t disagree. Continue reading