This time last year I was thinking about how far I’d come and it was a pleasing picture. However when I look back on the last 12 months I see greyness and disappointment; this 2nd year of running has been a stark contrast to the 1st. In my first year running I’d gone from not being able to run upstairs to completing the Great North Run 2018 – an impossible challenge realised as not-so impossible after all. My race pics show how epic I really felt when I crossed that line back in September 2018. I was 5 stone lighter too and it showed.
Then autumn arrived and I discovered that I loved running in autumn. No rose tinted glasses here. I was still ill and still struggling but running helped it was my thing. It was my light in the dark.
Then winter arrived. Running became difficult. I found the cold had a prolonged effect on me. Once I was cold I couldn’t get warm again. I’d sit for hours afterwards hugging a hot water bottle. Showered and in layers of fresh dry clothes unable to get warm. I’d lie in bed shivering and generally just being so frustrated at myself – get it together! You’re just cold! Some people are homeless, why are you making such a drama?! On bad days I’d refuse to go outside again, too cold.
It really affected my mood. I felt so low and generally just pathetic. The GP said Raynaud’s and the kids would play guess how many layers Mummy was wearing. I still ran, trying to figure out ways to manage the freeze. Some days it bothered me more than others so I still ran, I knew that running was good for me, that it helped my mental health, that I was not going to give up on what I’d achieved.
Finally it was spring, for all of a week or something ridiculous. New race season started and this encouraged me. I was undertrained but loved the Sheffield Half. The Leeds Half was enjoyable too but I had to run/walk it, I felt weak, a general feeling of weakness had been creeping up on me. Blood tests revealed I needed iron. That was ok, easily done…but still the weakness. I began to eat more to try and feel more energetic and then my old eating patterns, my overeating patterns settled themselves back into my daily behaviours.
Summer. Scorchio. Unusually hot. Runners everywhere moaned. Hey don’t moan about good weather! If it makes you ill then it’s not good weather! And yes it DID make me ill. I had my first bout of heat exhaustion after running the Castle Howard Half.
I had been sensible – sunscreen, cap, liquids, electrolytes but in spite of this, a few hours later when I was home alone with my daughter, it struck. I struggled to stand. Thankfully my husband was on his way home and I was taken upstairs to a cool bath and sent to bed. It scared the life out of me that I could be sensible and still get so ill.
I wondered what the point was: I can’t handle the cold, I can’t handle the heat? What a joke. Pathetic as usual. Others managed why couldn’t I just get over it? A bit of discomfort, so what? My husband tried to reassure me: Castle Howard had been exceptionally hot after all. It was no good though. I approached summer running with trepidation and carrying stupid amounts of liquids. I was embarrassed at my having to over prepare for runs. So much for putting trainers on and just going.
I was supposed to be marathon training but as time passed I let my marathon goals slip. The goal would just have to be to get around, that would be hard enough. Truthfully I was bitter about this. I had wanted to tackle the Yorkshire Marathon with so much more but life was just too much for me. I had started my weekly NHS schema therapy, we put our house on the market, my husband faced redundancy, I stepped down as a regional ambassador for Run Mummy Run. I couldn’t do it all, I just couldn’t. I felt like I was going backwards.
I ran events but rarely felt the feel-good that I had so loved before. I tried to approach every run whether it was an event or otherwise with an open mind: be kind to yourself, it’s ok. Afterwards there would be the emptiness, or worse. What achievement? Sometimes disgust at myself. This wasn’t the running that I had fallen in love with.
So what changed? Lots of things I think. As my mental health improved I started trying to do more ‘stuff’, this left less time and energy for running. The pressure of a marathon certainly took it’s toll, runs became something I should do rather than something I wanted to do. With marathon training I was excessively critical of myself – my efforts were never fast enough or long enough. I covered a really difficult 20 miles in Hornsea and felt, largely, nothing. Well, nothing positive at least. My mood has been flat for so long. I think it was back in January 2018 I went to see a GP about increasing my antidepressant and here I now in November, still flat, still experiencing ‘depressed’ as my baseline state. I gained at least a stone in weight. Clothes stopped fitting and I saw it as another backwards slide… I was going back, back to who I was before, the non-runner. I didn’t want that. It felt like it was being done to me, rather than a choice: my problems with temperature regulation; my meds; redundancy and house sales. Everything this year has felt like too much. You know when I booked the Yorkshire Marathon for October 2018 I imagined that I’d ask to take the day off of work on the Monday to recover. Snort?! Work?! I’m nowhere near. I’ve started a Reflexology course and have fallen behind. I can’t keep up.
The other thing, and this is quite embarrassing, that I had imagined is that running a marathon would be a big deal. HUGE, not just to me, but also to others. I’m needy, I know that, and the truth is, when you’ve been running for a while (18 months for me) people are kind of over it. I can’t even explain how much running a marathon is a ridiculously-epic-unbelievable-stratospheric thing for me to have done but meh. No celebration. Runner runs? Err yeah. Over it.
That’s the difference! Right there. That’s it. In your first year of running every step is progress. When you can finally get around 5k you feel amazing and amazed. The people in your life are pleased for you. When it’s your second year of running then you’ve already shown yourself, and others, that you can do it. You can dig deep. You can achieve those goals and, because they’re used to seeing you do it, it is no longer special. It’s what you do. You’re a runner now so you run.
I miss it being special.
I miss every step being progress.
I miss being amazed at myself.
I miss wondering if I can’t do it and then showing myself that I can.
I miss others giving me an ego boost.
I suppose it’s all natural growth and evolution. I’ve identified the grey cloud so now I have to try and change it. I have to resist the BPD self-sabotage/boredom that whispers just quit, you’ve proven your point so now you can stop. No ones looking, you can quit. What I won’t do, however, is make myself miserable with running. No! Come on! That is the opposite of what it’s all about isn’t it?! So I’ve taken time and let some ideas grow: I’ll stop wearing my running watch; I’ll enter hilly trails; I’ll invest in some more winter kit; I’ll do speed workouts on the treadmill (I love these!); I’ll run less and do more strengthening stuff. All good ideas I think, only time will tell.
My third year of running starts in January 2019, a little under 2 months away. I have no idea what it will bring – miles and smiles? I hope so. Exciting running challenges are on the horizon because, did I mention, I am a runner and have been for (nearly) a couple of years now.