It's the journey, not the race.

Posted on: 25 Feb 2016

Now about half way through my marathon training, I thought it would be nice to do an update for all the people who've been supporting me on my journey and egging me along the way! Plus I think for myself, I need to reflect on things and gauge where my head is currently at, as this race is as mental as it is physical!

My first thoughts are of my relationship with exercise and how far I've come with that. Everyone says it's 'not been good for them' and 'they're unfit' but it's always been a demon for me, a much deeper problem. My earliest memories of exercise and that awareness of my body as a tool or an instrument were in senior school PE. I've always been a bit heavy set, wee bit podgy, not at all fit and at the time was a shy bookish type who'd grown up in a block of flats so hadn't really done a lot of running around as a child! I'll be honest, I was used to being good at stuff. New subject? No problem. Here was my first real hurdle in life which I promptly tripped over and never really recovered. PE became a weekly ritual humiliation by other kids. I had vision and coordination problems as it was, so tennis, netball, anything like that was just next to impossible for me. My PE teacher used to let me bounce a tennis ball behind the swimming baths so I could avoid the ridicule. I hated it, it was torture, I hated not being good at something and I hated being singled out for that fact. If you weren't a champion, don't bother.

Thus my relationship with exercise was forged, not only that, but my relationship with my body too. I shut down and closed off from it, neglected myself and just mentally 'put myself last' all of the time. On/off over the years I've tried to connect with exercise, I remember doing a cycle to Brighton, which miracle of miracles, I completed! Then everyone's inevitably asking you "What was your time,", "I did XYZ" and you suddenly realise they're desperate to establish that pecking order over you. It's human nature I guess, we're all nursing an ego on some level, but that experience burnt me once again. I'm not a competitive person by nature, I don't like winning at something and take little pleasure from that kind of glory, because fundamentally it means you've had to take power from someone else. For every win you get, there's someone else now feeling crappy. I know how that feels, people pulling at your inner power, so I have no inclination to do that to others, let alone strive towards it. So why the hell have I started running?!

About 18 months ago I managed to get my heart broken and evicted on the same day! Boom! I do take a lot of solace from the statistical likelyhood of that ever happening again!! I was in a low place, not feeling great about myself and stressed to boot. I also just happen to live with an incredibly inspiring woman who runs all the time and makes Anneka Rice seem work shy by comparisson. Intially she scared me and I thought she was nuts to be honest, hardcore! Watching her train and do events though, I started to understand that it wasn't about being the best. For her it was about what she could achieve - she was connected to a very personal journey that had little to do with me or anyone else - and she was reaping a lot of rewards from the work she was doing. I needed to feel good, I need to achieve something for myself. So I instantly signed up for a half marathon.

I completed that last March, no exceptional time, but I did it. I never thought I could. And so I carried on. Then I watched the marathon on the TV in April and went straight out and ran my first sub-half an hour 5k. When the ballot opened, I was straight in. Let's do this!

Now I'm half way through my training and I am totally beating myself up and it's showing. Everyone's running farther than I can, people who've only just started out are over taking me already... all these negative thoughts have been racing through my mind telling me deep down, I'm just not good enough. I'm the fat kid who belongs behind the swimming baths bouncing her ball. What was I thinking?! The battle still rages within me. I don't want to compare myself to others because that's not why I started this journey, but I do. You just can't help yourself in these kinds of environments. I've read a lot of runners forums and there are some crazy alpha-runners out there who can be so negative and shut you down. Can't do a sub-hour 10k? Why are you bothering at all then? Then on the flipside, I have all these wonderful beautiful people around me continuing to support me, patting my back at every mile stone - and thank god for every single one of those marvellous people I have in my life!!  

Fear not, it will be ok and I am ok. It's just a journey, with highs, lows, walls, challenges and lots and lots of emotion - a bit like....a marathon! As I started out as saying, the race is mental as well as physical. When I cross that line, I take my 13 year old self with me and the bottom line is, that is what this is all about. 

In a recent 10k, I was coming back from an injury, so was actually running at a moderate pace to get myself back in the game. I was right at the back of the race, only 15 people came in after me! I found myself running along side quite a big girl, I could tell she was racing me but I was focusing on keeping my pace and not aggravating my leg as we went up a series of hills. She was annoying me, as everytime I over took her, she kept pushing back to get in front. Her face was beetroot, wheezing and puffing she was pushing her body to the brink, the finishing line came into sight, part of me thought "Speed up, you know you can run twice as fast as this and show her what your made of" but I didn't. I've been her and I could see that spiritually, she needed this, she needed to beat me and I don't ever want to be the person who robs anyone of that. Take the win, because it's not why I'm here, I want to lend my power to those that need it.

What's the most important thing I'm learning through this process? Sure, you should respect the time, respect the postion because they're incredible achievements for the people who can do it. I am geniunely awestruck by what some people can do. When you do congratulate someone though who's just ran all that way, above all things respect their journey - because that and nothing else is what is unique to them. No one else is running my race on April 24th, just me. 

I dedicate this to Kate, my crazy ass flatmate and chief running guru, love you mate, you are wise beyond your years x

P.S. If you've enjoyed me bearing my innermost and haven't already, please do sponsor me!!

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