Mist

It was time to get back out there.Two days since my maiden voyage on the good ship HMS Get Your Shit Together and I hadn’t suffered any severe repercussions so I had no excuse. Well I had plenty of excuses but none of them seemed to wash with Marc this morning as he reminded me what a total pain in the arse I’d been the whole time I couldn’t run. And he was right, for seven weeks I’ve bawled and bellyached about not being able to run and now I could i didn’t fancy it. The monumentally shit weather isn’t helping, windy rain is my least favourite combination and as I resentfully laced my shoes I cursed the running Gods for abandoning me in my hour of need. 


As I’m back in Rookieville a 5k is plenty challenge enough for me at the moment so to mix it up and motivate me Marc suggested driving me to the coastal path so I could run my 5k there. It seemed odd because it’s only a short way but knowing it would give me the opportunity to run alongside my beach it was also a great plan. He ran a half marathon yesterday (bastard) so a rest day was in order for him, plus I needed to get out there alone, it was time.

But cars are warm…and dry. Hells bum it hurt to step outside, I was so glad I’d wrapped up. I skipped off with more spring in my step than I’d expected but that was more to do with my frozen ass than any semblance of enthusiasm. As my music started pounding in my ears and my legs found their old familiar rhythm I felt a confidence fall over me with fine, wet mist. I am a runner, I am a long distance runner, I am strong, I am at least two sizes bigger than I was when I last wore this aeroloft because I can’t fucking breathe.


Seriously, what was once my trusty top layer had now turned into a tit tourniquet and was rapidly squeezing the lifeblood from me. I zipped it open gasping and coughing and it instantly turned into a sail, inflating backwards into a very expensive flotation device. The ingenuity of Nike though would be my salvation. The aeroloft gilet is designed in such a way that you can stuff the body into its own pocket and strap it to your arm. I’d been secretly dying to do this for ages and now was my goddamn chance. True to form the design was flawless and it quickly converted so I pulled it onto my upper arm and continued on. As the first mile buzzed on my Garmin I noted something extremely important. I was completely fucked. I’m not talking a bit fatigued, I’m talking weapon grade exhausted to the core of my very being. I was comprehensively knackered. My legs hurt, my arse hurt, my arms hurt, even my sodding eyebrows hurt. So I walked a bit.


For some runners there’s a shame and defeat in walking, not for me. I like a bit of a walk break now and again, it gives me chance to reassess, cool down and to appreciate where I am. It rarely affects my pace in any significant way but if it did I wouldn’t give a rats ass. The problem was today that even walking was tough, and everytime I ran all I could think of was when I could walk again and the running intervals became shorter as the walking ones became longer. I did despair then. I despaired because last summer I could run an unplanned 16 miles with Marc then go out all day and party in the night. 7 months on and a 5k was destroying me, actually bringing me to my knees and no amount of words with myself would change that because this was physical, my body just couldn’t do it.

I kept on, the bastard arm mounted aeroloft had now become a mallet beating me on my weedy bicep with mind bending regularity. I ripped it off calling it things that would make a sailor weep and clutched it in my freezing fingers with bitter resentment. I stared straight ahead and resolved that I wouldn’t bloody stop again. But I did. My legs hurt so much and my arms ached, my wound was fine, I was just shattered. I looked out to sea through the cold, misty air for some hope but all I could see was water, cold and deep and chaotic and gloomy. But as I looked more at the sea I have so desperately missed running alongside I remembered that it is also ever changing, ever renewing, ever flowing, deep, strong and powerful. There have been many days I have run this path with pain, fear and desperation in my heart but never hopelessness. That’s just not my style. Yes, I’m hurting now but painful and joyful experience tells me that like the sea I will change, I will renew and reform. A wave crashes on the shore only to grow mighty again at its next swell. And that’s how it has been and will be with me again. It’s tough but I can handle it, I’m down but by no means out, in Marc’s words, it’s hard but I’m harder. 


So as I reached Marc in the warm car I ran past giving him a victory symbol because I know that it will come. Running isn’t easy, recovery isn’t easy but that’s ok because when it is it’s the most amazing feeling ever, the feeling that you can beat any pain, overcome any obstacle as long as you’re mental enough to keep trying when all good sense tells you to give up. It just takes time, support and and plain, good old fashioned idiocy.

And we have that in shitloads.

Back

So today I ran.I guess to non runners that statement would be followed up with a ‘so what?’ or a ‘big deal’ but those of us who know that aching need to hurt all over whilst feeling so fundamentally alive will understand that it really is a big deal.


Surgery was not quite seven weeks ago and yeah, I was told to wait two months but time is nothing but a man made concept, at least that’s what I’ll tell my consultant. But I felt ready, I know my own body and what it can and can’t do probably more than most people and for nearly a week now I’ve known it was time. I’ve been walking a lot these past weeks and lately faster and faster, sometimes just approaching the precipice of running but holding back from the leap. 

All week I’ve planned to run but each day has brought an obstacle the most significant being last Saturday when whilst walking and laughing through town with Cleo we both fell badly. I took a heavy hit to my arse which is sufficiently cushioned to beat the brunt of a pregnant rhino at the moment but more significantly to my wound. I took it as a sign from the gods and cooled my heels. It was a very hectic working week and with a new home to furnish, free time was scarce and the weather on Thursday and Friday negated any possibility of getting out there. But today nothing would stop me, except maybe the churning fear that had suddenly appeared in my stomach that was threatening to travel through my lower intestine and exit via my rectum. I was lightening struck with worry about how badly it would hurt, how awful it would feel. I’ve been reading and sharing stories with others who have been through similar surgeries and was expecting very bad things. 


But we got out there and instantly I felt that happy rush of air in my lungs and the heat building in my face. We were going very slowly, little more than the pacy walk I’ve become used to but it didn’t matter, I was running. And god, I’ve missed it. In its absence I’ve tried to remain positive knowing that I’m playing the long game but it’s been hard watching Marc going out looking stressed and World weary then returning twice as tired but indescribably lifted. As much as I want that for him, I wanted it too. Added to that I’ve put on weight, yes I’m still very slim but I’m a stone heavier than I’m used to and I can feel it. 


As we ran towards the canal towpath I was aware of how weird and unfamiliar it all felt, my feet felt uncoordinated and clumsy and I wasn’t sure of where to place my arms, my breathing was all over the place and my hips were achy. But still I felt overwhelmingly happy despite the cold and the rain. And I was overthinking it all, the only thing I really needed to do was keep moving forwards. We took little walk breaks to check how I was feeling and before long a planned one mile had turned into a manageable if muddy 5k.  

Marc, as always was my benchmark of awesome, the height to which I aspire and the happiness I get from running alongside him just smiling at each other knowing we share the same joy was enough alone to keep me moving. My site twinged a little but it was my Achilles that called time and reminded me that I had been neglecting it these past weeks. The endless and agonising sciatica is finally quietened. 


We talked about how running teaches you a different attitude towards pain, an acceptance I suppose. During a run there’s pretty much always something niggling physically, some old injury or non specific ache and you kind of get used to it. It takes time to remember when you’ve had a long break from it that running is never truly pain free and that’s what makes it so triumphant and ultimately rewarding.


So I’m back, I’m ready to learn again in slow steps taking care to listen to my body all the way. It’s not going to be easy but it is going to be worth it, it always was that way. I’ve been so lucky, I’ve been knocked down so often but through unceasing, incredible support I’ve been able to keep on getting back up. I’m hoping that this time I get to stay on my feet for a good, long time.

You’ve seen my descent, now watch me rise.

Dawn

Tomorrow I go into hospital for surgery and almost certainly for the rest of the year I’ll be out of action. So today I ran…


It was a ludicrously cold morning, like minus three cold but I had an idea in my head that no hard frost was going to shake. Each morning this week, mindful that all physical activity is about to cease, I’ve taken to walking across the fields that form the country park the canal runs alongside. I’ve been so spellbound by the glittering iced grass and the still frozen plains amidst the watery morning sun that it’s become almost a spiritual thing. 


Each morning before a busy working day I’ve walked a few early miles in frosty silence with just the occasional bird or field mouse to break the stillness and it’s been a very special time for me. My friend, Dawn died this week and it probably triggered these walks, it’s been hard to understand how someone so full of life can suddenly not be there. 


It’s been difficult to watch her family, very close friends of ours, hurt so deeply. But strangely although I hope not disrespectfully I’ve also felt the most festive I’ve been in years; somewhere along the way Christmas becomes about food and presents and drinking and all the other awesome things that make it fun but in these cold peaceful hours I’ve found Christmas deep down in my heart. Maybe it’s been the vivid spectacle of how utterly beautiful this world is or just the uncomplicated simplicity of it all, the quiet, open fields covered in miles of clear skies. Whatever it was, every time I was there I had the overwhelming urge to run, one day I came so close to it despite wearing jeans and a parka, the only thing that stopped me was the knowledge that without a sports bra I would render myself unconscious within a few paces. But I so wanted to run across the frozen grass breathing out white air and feeling the rising sun on my face. So no matter how cold it got I knew this morning that nothing would stop me, in fact the weather report actually delighted me. 


Now you may know I’m not much of a trail runner, truth is up to about three years ago I’d never run on anything but concrete. Historically I’ve had something of a pathological fear of mud on my shoes but lately there’s been a change, a yearning to be away from the noise and surrounded by nature. Maybe I’m just knocking on a bit and getting grouchy with the urban jungle but my need to be in wide open spaces has increased dramatically. So I found myself this morning leaving the comfortable familiarity of the towpath and heading across the glistening grass.The icy ground felt strange beneath my feet and I had to slow down to stop my ankle from turning. In steady degrees I began to freeze from the toes upwards whilst the morning sun beat on my fleecy hatted head leaving me arctic from the waist down and equatorial upwards. It was so beautiful though, my breath flew out in white clouds as the frosty air hit my lungs. I ran onwards on the solitary fields following vague tracks and trails leading to who knows where. At one point I found myself back on the canal and was thrilled to see a layer of etched ice topping it while birds skated and slipped across but I quickly turned back off onto the fields and their hair raisingly fun ups and downs. 

It wasn’t until I was around four miles in that I realised I had absolutely no idea where I was. Without realising it I had gone so far off the beaten track I was now in no mans land, there was nothing to see but field after field. And I panicked a little. 


On reflection I accept that I do not live in the green belt and that realistically there’s a dual carriageway and housing estate around pretty much every corner. The fact that I’d only run four miles should have told me that I wasn’t in some immense wilderness but rather about two hundred metres from the nearest industrial estate but I had lost my mind and with it my sense of direction. I started desperately scanning the area for signs of life other than magpies and then decided the best course of action would be to run straight ahead. That way I would eventually meet civilisation, a motorway or an ocean, or die of exhaustion. I met none of those things, what I did meet was a pub called The Cabbage which despite not knowing exactly where I was I knew I was rather disappointingly not far from home. I had essentially run a very tight and complicated zig zag parallel to the first mile of the towpath. 
Now at this juncture any sensible human would breathe a sigh of relief, hit the towpath and head for home. 

Not I.

I decided it would be a good idea to hit the trails again.

I am a knobhead.


It was here that my lack of experience in trail running became glaringly apparent. Being the urban dunce that I am I hadn’t taken on board what happens when you mix a lot of ice with a strong sun. The glittery, frosted fairytale becomes a wet, boggy nightmare. For the next two miles I picked my way through what was essentially a huge swamp, I clung desperately to trees shrieking as I skimmed massive puddles of mud. Finally I found a pathway of blessed concrete, I wanted to thrown myself to the ground and kiss this man made beauty. 

The final mile was a mixture of track, road and the bastard of all hills thrown in for a good measure with legs that had become tired and heavy but I found my down hill at the last minute and stretched my legs for a speedy finish. 


I don’t know when I will next be able to run. I do know that it will be hard and painful and it will take time to find my feet again. What I also know is that the steps I took today will take me through this time and I will think of them with joy and longing. And when the time is right I will stretch my legs again, breathe lungs full of fresh air and see the world in all it’s incredible wonder. 

So today, tomorrow and afterwards more than ever I urge you with all of my heart…

Carpe Diem xxx

Thrush

Thrush

‘You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself’
Glinda from The Wizard of Oz

I have so many failed attempts at writing over the past two months, for all the myriad of emotions I’ve gone through I just couldn’t find the words. Many of you will no doubt have considered that a serendipitous blessing from the gods. 

But I am back.

A lot of shit has gone down since I was grounded by injury in July, I considered putting all of it into one epically blockbusting post but then remembered that much of it was pretty boring and involved me crying a lot and being a whiny ass little bitch and nobody wants to hear about that bollocks. The long story short is that my back hurt then my leg hurt then I stopped running and got depressed. Then my back stopped hurting, my leg still hurts a bit and I did the Great North Run and broke my toe and went on holiday and none of it in that order.


Injury is dreadful, it’s truly soul sapping crapshit. I’ve been through some serious pain in my time but acute sciatica made chemo feel like a mild hangover. I’ve never known pain like it and what compounded the intensity of the agony was the relentlessness of it. From waking to drug induced sleep I was in varying degrees of excruciating torture that simply would not let up. It was the most concentrated and extensive pain I’ve ever known and I fear its return. Coupled with that I developed a drastic leg injury that reduced me to walking with a limp and I had no idea what it was. I wrote this a couple of weeks back after running a mile; what turned out to be the beginnings of my recovery…


‘I have a history of over egging comebacks. If in the past I’d been catastrophically unwell, the first day I no longer felt like I was on the verge of death I tended to announce myself as fully recovered and immediately set about attempting ludicrous amounts of physical activity. Inevitably I ended up sicker than I was in the first place but having learnt nothing. And so the cycle continued. 

Lately though I’ve been unceremoniously floored and it’s left me feeling shaken and without confidence. My until recently triumphantly tough body has now become increasingly frail with injury upon injury. What started as a simple hernia then became compounded with acute (and seemingly endless) sciatica but the worst of all has been the undiagnosed calf injury that has left me wincing and limping when I walk. I’ve seen doctors, a physio and asked pretty much every person who has crossed my path (even my running mates are glazing over when I start talking about my arse ) but no one has an answer. And an answer is what I need, it’s as simple as that. All I need to know is what the problem is, what do I need to do to fix it and how long will it take. That’s got to be simple enough right?

Bollocks.


My good mate Joni Thrush (freakishly tall, northern gobshite with an annoyingly well written and entertaining blog thereluctanttriathlete.com) is currently carrying a foot injury and with a roughly equal lack of tolerance and good spirit as me. It’s amazing though how despite both having totally different problems how similar our experience with medics and sports therapists have been. And it seems to be the case in general; no matter what the injury, how it was incurred, where on the body it resides or what difficulties it produces there is a one size fits all treatment. A treatment so magical, so surefire, so foolproof that every single professional we have both seen regarding our respective and diverse injuries has recommended just one word.
RICE.

Rest, ice, compression, elevation. There is no runner or indeed sportsperson who hasn’t utilised this infamous acronym in their time. And obviously it’s good advice, if you’re injured it’s standard course of action to take to minimise damage. It’s also the most fucking overused word in the sports world. Seriously, over the past few weeks I have pretty extensively researched the most commonly occurring sports injuries (I had some extra time on my hands and Cleo and Marc stopped speaking to me because I’m a crabby bitch when I don’t run) and the treatment for every last one from calf strain and Achilles tendinitis to plantar fasciitis and ITB problems is RICE. Now that has to be bullshit. How can this possibly be the panacea to all sports injuries? The short answer is that it can’t, injury is so complex to the individual and their training schedule, physiology and background that there simply is no singular way of dealing and healing. The problem is twofold in that many therapists have serious problems in correctly diagnosing injury and most runners have serious issues in being told to rest. That said, Joni and I have decided to go into business together as parasportstherapists-it’s a mouthful but a catchy one. Whoever comes to us with whatever injury we’re going to give them some spurious stretches we’ve downloaded from the Internet, a weird faddy elastic band and strict instructions to RICE. That’ll be £40 thanks, see you next week for some more of the same. 

RICE my arse.’


Joni is still injured and we provide each other with daily reports of how shit it is and how useless all sports therapists are despite the fact we refuse to follow their advice. Well, it’s all bollocks anyway. Most of it. Ok the bit about resting was right because what happened to me was a revolution by my body, a mutiny, a vote of no confidence and all because I had over trained. There, it’s in print so I can’t deny it. I ran too fast, too far, too soon and my body told me to fuck right off. 


But I’m back in the running, yesterday I ran eight miles pretty much pain free and although my stamina and fitness are that of an asthmatic geriatric (in truth I know several asthmatic geriatrics who could properly kick my arse at any given distance on my very best day) it felt somewhat incredible to be out there. It still feels weird, nervously unfamiliar and my confidence has been dented but I feel like I’ve started a journey back to somewhere. I think I’ve found the road back home. 

I’m off to buy some ruby running shoes.

Revelation

Revelation

Yesterday I was fed up, really pissed off with myself. After chickening out of a run for the third time this week I went for a walk with Marc to try to get my head straight. See I’ve been running shorter distances and less frequently lately because I have an inguinal hernia which I’m due to get surgery on at the end of November. But that’s only half the story…


In truth I’ve lost my confidence with distance. Since having to take a couple of months out over the summer because of injury I haven’t got to grips with running properly. I winged it through GNR with Marc’s help but it was very tough. Every long run I’ve attempted since then has ended in gastric disaster and the wheels have well and truly fallen off. Added to this I’ve been working long hours so runs have been confined to the hours of darkness making covering any decent mileage more complicated. So I did what I thought best, I cut down on the distance and tried to concentrate on making my runs enjoyable blasts as opposed to painful poo fests. The problem is that I’ve got myself to a place where I felt I couldn’t go any further, I could see my stamina dropping and longer distances started to look scary and daunting. 


So what to do?

Well it’s fortunate that I have the best of running coaches who knew exactly how to help. The first thing he told me was the greatest piece of advice I’ve heard in a long time. Don’t compare yourself to your best. I tend to look back a lot to last year when I was super fit, full of steroids, running fast paces and serious mileage. I forget what I’ve been through since and the simple fact that I’m getting older. By constantly trying to emulate my glory days I’m losing the real reason why I run. For the love of it. And Pie. 


Marc suggested we go out this afternoon together, in the daylight and try an eight mile run. Eight miles, the distance that used to be my short run which now seemed like a marathon distance. What would I do if my stomach and ass exploded four miles in like it has been doing recently? Armed with enough Andrex to mummify a large adult we headed out towards the beach. It was a perfect day, unseasonably warm and with the lightest of breezes. The Met Office had said it was 5mph or less, it definitely felt it and I immediately knew I’d made a poor, poor outfit choice. My legs were on fucking fire. Seriously it was like I had a hairdryer down either leg and it was blowing out of my arsehole. In short, it was hot. Thank Zeus, Allah, God etc I’d worn a T shirt so only one half of my body was insanely overheated. As we hit the beach the pair of us were dying, passers by were wincing in horror as we showered them with a sweat tsunami. We breathed like geriatric huskies as we dragged ourselves along the coastal path. Strange though that despite it all I felt kind of ok, it was a tolerable agony, so much so that as we passed the third mile I decided I was going to try for ten. Marc was in agreement and told me to knock down the pace a little, we still had a long way to go. I’d momentarily forgotten that he’d run a half marathon yesterday and probably needed a ten mile run like a boot in the bollocks. 


As we turned off the coastal path the breeze found us and it was a huge relief as it found our legs, feet, faces and spirits. At the halfway point Marc suggested we run on a little and I was slightly dumbfounded. Throughout the years on pretty much every run we’ve done together Marc and I have quibbled about the halfway point- I like to go on a bit longer (it gives me a psychological edge) and he likes to turn immediately (he can’t be arsed with a long ass walk home). Sometimes he wins, sometimes I do, but suggesting it of his own volition, well that’s unprecedented. So a little further than I expected we didn’t hang around (in case my ass caught on and decided to obliterate the rifle range) and turned for home. 

It was pleasantly cool until we turned back onto the beach to discover a truth we’d long since suspected. 

The Met Office are a bunch of lying sociopaths. 

In what parallel universe of insanity the bellowing ice cold gale that greeted us was 5mph I do not know. What I do know is that if that was 5mph then my left buttock is a Jammie Dodger. It was strong and bollock shudderingly cold and constant. It also made my insane hair look even more demonically manic than usual. 


The funny thing is that up till that point fatigue had been setting in a little and my legs were tiring but now I knew I was going to have to get into my groove and find my automatic. I’m talking about that mode where you’re just running at a manageable pace and you know you can dig in and slog it out. Some days it’s a good steady speed and other days it’s as slow as barely moving but it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s what I need to get me home that’s all it has to be. So I found my automatic, against the stiff, harsh wind and like a particularly sweaty homing pigeon set my course. 


The final mile came much, much sooner than I’d expected and I realised the method in Marc’s madness, in going further at halfway he’d given me what I needed to get my game back. And in turn given his very tired legs a long ass walk home with a very grateful and happier missus. 

Ten miles done, feeling somewhere near to what I once was whilst accepting it’s what ahead that counts most. 

Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

Runs

Runs

I didn’t take any photos of tonight’s run but I have painstakingly recreated the essence of it for you guys in this hauntingly realistic masterpiece.It went like this…


My hernia has been a bit knobby so I’ve had to dial down the distance and pace before surgery. Added to this home buying is buggery stressful and I deal with stress via my lower intestine, nuff said. 
Twenty minutes pre run I impaled my own ocular cavity (that’s my eye-let’s just clear that up) on my fingertip in a contact lens incident that left me pretty much blind and a bit testy. Still undeterred I headed out into the just perfectly cool and still night, yes I was in hideous pain and seriously sight impaired but I was stretching my legs towards another gorgeous 10k. 

And it was lovely, I was a little tired but I was happily cruising along towards the beach watching the incredible dusk sky swept with orange and purple. As I turned along the Serpentine I sensed a presence as my side, you just know when someone is overtaking you but this felt slightly more intrusive. As I prepared to lamp the suspected serial killer his face caught my eye and I saw it was a gooning Geordie, my gooning Geordie. He had appeared the night before last ahead of me during a 10k and I had to nearly burst one of my lungs to catch him. He was at the arse end of his second half marathon in as many days so we dropped the pace and trundled for home.

Long story short, about ten minutes later my bowel had decided to exit my body with as much brevity as it could muster. My sides ached, my stomach churned and I had to clench my butt cheeks so tightly I could have made a diamond from coal. In the end Marc ran his fastest ever recorded mile getting home for the car whilst I wandered through Crosby village in luminous tights sweating, groaning and whispering very bad words. 

A triumphant run it was not, triumphant runs it very much was.

Vodka me.

Stripped

Stripped

So, after the bumhole of a run on Tuesday I just didn’t feel like getting back out there tonight. In the end I bit the bullet (well tbh I’d eaten pretty much everything else) and headed out. 


I decided to do an evening run, at a shorter distance than usual. I really like running in the evenings at this time of year, there’s something childishly exciting for me about autumnal nights. I love the crunch of the leaves underfoot and the hallowe’eny, bonfire night smell in the cool air. For me it’s the fun part before winter’s butt numbing icy air floods the streets and makes the first ten minutes of your run like some sort of mediaeval torture. Dressed in my spangly Nike flash tights I felt reassuringly light on my feet as I took the long route to the beach for what I hoped would be a peaceful 10k. The streets were alight with the headlamps of cars heading home for the weekend and the air was refreshingly crisp. My hands were cold for the first time since last winter but I felt a little spark as I remembered how much I enjoy the buzz that a Friday night run can bring. 


As I headed towards the beach I was mindful that it was now very dark and I was running alone so I stayed up on The Serpentine, a long sweeping road that borders the seafront which offers a few road lamps for visibility and safety. Turning at the beach I could see the lights of the huge ships heading out of the river into the sea and the moon casting its glittery trail across the water. I could feel the ocean air on my face and the music in my ears and I was smiling, really grinning. I must have looked fucking ridiculous. But I felt good, I felt strong and I knew I had chosen the right distance. I was tired but that comfortable, steady tired and at four miles I knew that I had enough to get me home. Turning away from the beach and heading back up towards home the next mile passed incredibly quickly but as it did my legs suddenly tired and I developed a prodigious stitch. 

The last mile was a slog. A constant discussion with myself about not giving up because it hurt, a one sided conversation about managing pain, it was a difficult push. My breathing had become pretty chaotic as a little bit of panic set in. I talked myself down, telling myself that this was the time to be steady, to get myself under control. But the last couple of minutes were messy and sore, I started making those noises that scare people as you get near them, the ones that make you sound like you may not have long to live. And to be fair that’s kind of how I felt. In truth I had a stitch but I’m a whiny little pussy and I make no apology for that. 

As I finished and the Garmin buzzed I thought I’d feel destroyed but in contrast I felt a deep sense of satisfaction, a quiet relief that comes with a job well done. It was by no means my fastest run but I no longer give a shit about fastest, it was solid and strong and that’s what I care about. That and food, and Cleo, Marc and Merlin. The order of those things isn’t important right now.


Now I’m at home having a curry and a glass of port like some sort of geriatric yob and I have that nice glow that a happy run brings. That and alcohol. I’m not sure what my next run will bring, I’m counting down now till the date of my impending surgery arrives, but I know I won’t dread the street like I had done. Sometimes going back to basics is the best way, stripping it all back and grinding it out and if it gets nasty just keeping on. There’s a pleasure in knowing you’ve made it past the tough part and tamed the beast that was all up in your face in your room as you laced your trainers. Because even the whiniest little pussy like me can find their inner lion when they need to. And when it gets hard we don’t cry. 

We roar. 

Deep

Deep

Yesterday I woke up tired, the kind of tired that makes you feel like you’ve got a hangover but without any of the fun of poor decisions, mystery stains or unexplained bruises. We’ve got a lot on at the moment-house hunting, two businesses, a daughter with a newly discovered social life, an emergency medical technician working irregular and unsociable hours and a girl with a body that’s a bit fucked. Don’t get me wrong, there’s not one thing in that list I’m not overwhelmingly grateful for but I do feel a bit shot now and again. 


After viewing yet another home that needed more work than we would ever have the time or energy to commit to we were pretty jaded. At the moment we’re living with my parents and the house is bursting at its seams. We have the combined good luck and misfortune of living in a much sought after area (great schools, good transport links, beautiful beach) but we don’t necessarily have the pay cheques to match which makes house hunting an interesting journey. We’ve seen some of the most ingenious and creative ways estate agents use to polish a turd and we’re starting to feel that a tent on the beach might be an acceptable option. 

We decided to take a little time out, grab a filthy breakfast and walk it off. It was a stunning early autumn day, a warm sun coupled with a steady, temperate wind that was chopping the sea up and throwing it across the prom in glittering showers. 


We strolled along the coastal path and let the stern gusts spring clean our spirits. We could hear the water hitting the shoreline in frothy crashes so we decided to scramble down from the path to the rocky, deserted fringes of the beach. When we got down there (incurring several scratches and a very grassy arse) it was perfect. The tide was just beginning to ebb leaving a tiny, windswept pebbled cove. The sky was light blue streaked with the softest white cobwebs and the sound of the water spilling over and sucking back across the stones was hypnotic. We sat on a smooth, flat rock and fell silent, taking in the magnificent beauty that surrounded us, huddled up together against the rushes of wind we breathed in the salty air. As I watched the waves I wondered about how something so powerful and chaotic as the sea can also be so peaceful. I rested my head on Marc’s chest and let my heart and body relax. Marc leaned his head over my shoulder and said

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!”

Behind us about 50 metres away was a gigantic bright green object bobbing about on the shore. At first it appeared to be a small boat but as we looked closer we could see it was a huge buoy that had washed up. We climbed back up onto the coastal path and instinctively ran towards where the buoy was stranded then struggled down onto the beach again. It was huge, I’m talking monolithic. As the waves belted against it there was an eerie creaking noise as this massive chunk of emerald metal emblazoned with Q9 seized against the force of the water. 


Despite being an obvious maritime feature it looked bizarrely alien and out of place and yet utterly fascinating. We stood for ages taking photos and looking at it from any angle we could before we headed back up to the path feeling like we had witnessed something really special, it had felt like a privilege. 


Later that day Marc decided to go for a run, I opted to stay home as my stomach was in knots (it has been for days) and I still felt done in. As he was getting ready though I changed my mind, I can’t explain why. I really can’t explain why because I really did feel a bit shit, it wasn’t a great idea but I needed to destress, I knew that a run would kill or cure the feelings of malaise. I told Marc I would do just the eight miles and he said that was all he fancied anyway so we would go together. The wind had dropped so we eschewed the shelter of the canal and headed to the beach. Within the first mile my legs had begun to feel heavy but not terminally so and I was pretty convinced I could run it off. The sun was bright but the first whispers of autumn from the day had intensified and as the gusts had abated so had the temperature leaving our bare arms feeling colder than they had done for many months. As we turned towards what was still a steady but now also chilly headwind I found breathing something of a struggle and filling my lungs became more challenging. Thankfully on cornering the beach the wind took to our sides and it became a relief instead of a hindrance. We trotted along for a little while until on the left hand side in the distance we saw the buoy, this time washed up on the shore with the sea on the distant horizon. 


Although it was now dusk we found ourselves leaving the path and running through the overgrown edges of the coastal shelf then dropping down onto the beach. Now devoid of water the buoy looked even larger but it had an air of melancholy, its vast iron chains sprawled out beside it like the tentacles of some mechanical ocean beast. We found ourselves talking to it, comforting it (yes we are sentimental knobheads) and reassuring it that the sea would come and carry it to where it belonged. As we stood there the green light on the top began winking and yes I know they’re light sensitive and the darkening skies would prompt this reaction but to us it felt magical and a little bit moving. We were glad we’d come back and we left the beach knowing that in the morning help would come to our friend Q9. 


As we turned halfway and headed for home my hips began to tire and pretty soon my legs were sore and tired. My back ached and I started to develop that crazy sort of stagger you get when your limbs decide to stop working as a team and start trying to express themselves via the media of interpretive dance. I was all over the place and my breathing was too. I needed something to focus on so I looked towards the horizon and I let my mind go back to earlier that day. I thought about the sea and how that despite the chaotic tumult of the water there was peace and that peace came from the tide. It occurred to me how similar it is to running, how in the flailing arms and legs and the gasps and sweat and effort there is a rhythmic and meditative peace like the movement of the waves. And so I focused on regulating my breath, on steadying my body and on finding my groove. And yes it hurt, and yes Marc in his usual way quietly and strongly lit my way home but I never foundered. 

I guess at many times in my life I’ve been like that buoy, adrift in an ocean that seemed intent on dashing me against rocky shores but in running I found something dependable and steadfast, an anchor. 

And I refuse to sink.

Baps

Baps

Ten miles down the canal today and a serious error of judgement for me with the temperature. Partially because it looked a wee bit parky and predominantly because I’m a lazy sloth and couldn’t be arsed to paint myself my usual preferred shade of radioactive terracotta, I threw a pair of long tights and a t shirt on. 
This was a decision I regretted approximately seven minutes into the run when my entire body turned to liquid. Coupled with this I was test running a Buddy Pouch which seemed intent on pulling said Pants of Doom down causing me to semi moon the canal dwelling community of North Liverpool. Thankfully Marc was with me and helped me reposition the pesky pouch to a very comfortable location on my hip. 

It was on the whole a challenging run as a combination of humidity and a stiff headwind made the first five miles tough to establish a decent breathing pattern. At the halfway point my legs began to tire and I knew the return section was going to be a grind. With Marc’s encouragement and hauntingly beautiful songs we pushed on for home but with the breeze now at our backs the temperature rose. I have a heart condition and I’m also in early menopause so the heat is my greatest running adversary and I knew I had no choice but to take drastic action or quit.


So Marc suggested I took off my T shirt and ran in my bra (saucy bugger).

Now I’m quite tall and slim but I’m by no means in killer shape. My deep and abiding love of pretty much anything coated in lard means I have some bits that create a tsunami like effect when I move quickly. Added to that I’m getting on a bit, I have a very large birthmark on my mid to lower back and a couple of visible scars from surgeries. Oh and I’ve had a kid and she was effing mahoosive (seriously, she popped out in the birthing suite then stomped off down the corridor in search of a Pot Noodle) so my midriff and hips would benefit from a steam iron. So naturally I momentarily thought I’d be mortified but my fear of melting overtook my fear of humiliation and the T shirt came off. 

And I cooled down immediately. 

The funny thing was that not one singular person looked twice at me as I ran by and apart from the slapping sound of my right armpit (I appear to have just one bingo wing-hurrah) I elicited very little attention. The rest of the world got on with their day and I finished my run if not comfortably (because my legs were bloody killing me) then at least without incurring a cardiac trauma. 

The moral of the story for me was that no matter how vain I think I am, the love of the run comes first. On the road my wellbeing matters more than my modesty and the ultimate object is to enjoy it, not endure it. And also, people care less about your appearance when you’re running than you think they do, they’re either busy being lost in their own universe or just a bit impressed that you’re out there toughing it out and getting the job done. 
Also of course, they’re probably transfixed by boobs.


Either way, it was a good run and as always it was made extra awesome by having an awesomely supportive and helpful running buddy there to silently will you through the final mile when he knows you’re barely hanging in there. But hang in there we did and racked up another double figured debacle.

Rest day for me tomorrow whilst I figure out how to burn off the 22,000 calories I’ve consumed in Pie, chips and cider tonight. It’s all about balance 😉

Wherever you’re running tomorrow I hope you have an awesome time and embrace your own badassery. 

Fear

Fear

I find it difficult to write when I’m not running for more reasons than you’d think. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, I’m a runner and this is a running blog. The past few weeks have left me feeling less than authentic at best and utterly fraudulent at worst, I mean who the actual fuck writes a running blog about not running? Aside from that it’s just boring, without running the world seems a little more sluggish and the technicolor has faded as if life had been filtered to shit by an over zealous hipster instagrammer.

Because running has as much to do with my mental health as it does with my physical wellbeing. You’d have thought that when my treatment finished all my troubles would too but physical recovery is bringing with it a rash of emotional issues that I am still learning to navigate. Don’t get me wrong, my world is unquestionably transformed, my life is one hundred percent better but that doesn’t make it flawlessly perfect, no ones is. Along with feelings of guilt, shock, fear and confusion about everything that’s happened I seem to have also turned into a hypochondriac, which is not as uncommon as you might think. Recovery is a weird dichotomy, after the relief of survival washed over me it gave way to fear and self doubt. After years of having the minutiae of my physicality explained to me in painstaking detail I am now left adrift with a substandard body that I don’t understand. Aches and twitches that I once ignored in order to deal with more pressing issues like MRSA and neutropenia are now the subject of overwhelming worry and concern. I don’t know what normal feels like, I have no frame of reference for ‘nothing to worry about’ and so everything is terrifying. In the past month I’ve been to see my GP four times and to A&E once; worrying about my hernia keeps me awake at night, my calf pain might be DVT, my headaches a tumour. It sounds laughable but it’s seriously real and having lived with explainable pain for years I’m struggling to deal with a condition that can’t be cured by chemo. The main source of my pain is sciatica closely followed by a hernia in my groin and topped off with an inexplicably painful calf. The result is that I’m in pain pretty much round the clock. The funny thing is that I could deal with the pain if I could run. If was able to push my body forward in that old familiar way, feel my legs ache, my heart pound and my body sweat it would provide its own kind of anaesthesia to the relentless electric agony that runs from my backside to my ankle. But I can’t run, my calf cramps, burns and aches with every step making the hope of running seem increasingly distant. And the further away that prospect becomes the less balance I maintain emotionally. 


Running isn’t just exercise, in fact if it’s exercise you’re after then there’s about a billion easier ways to get it because running is really hard. But it’s in the hardness that it gets beautiful. Recently Marc wrote his thoughts about running and struck a chord with not just me but many other runners who read it. He talked (rather more eloquently and less faffy styled than I can) about his recent ambivalence towards running and his frustrating lack of desire to run. His conclusions were that he had lost his focus upon where the enjoyment of running really lies, his frustration was because he wasn’t finding running easy but the reality was that it was the hardness of running that made it so enjoyable. He’d remarked that running isn’t easy but that was the whole point of it. It was the challenge, the toughness and the sense of achievement; the feeling of overcoming insurmountable obstacles that made it so worthwhile. Once he acknowledged that he found his joy again. 


And that’s what I miss so badly, as much as I miss the wind in my face, the rush of strength and the smooth automaticity that a fantastic run brings I know that those runs are very few and far between. What I miss most is the push, the acceptable adversity, the achievable Everest. Running instills in me a fortitude that I carry through into my everyday life, it is a daily reminder that perseverance and hard work wins out over luck and charm. And it helps me to uncover mental toughness and grit, the strength that I’ve cultivated over six years of routine grind. It’s ironic then that the times in your life when you need most to run, to feel that control and power, are the times when you typically can’t run. And I miss running with Marc. Yes, we run separately and alone a lot and it’s something we both cherish but a huge part of our life is running together. It’s in those long sometimes silent miles that we have our own intimacy and communication is no longer about words but in breath and movement. I miss moments of wonder that we share when we see something beautiful like a watercolour sunset or an amazing sky. And I miss laughing with him, the manic laughter of two idiots who really should know better but often find themselves in the most ridiculous of circumstances.


So I do what I can, I walk when I can and for as long as I can. I have mini panic attacks that I’ve lost my fitness, the fitness I worked so hard to build. And I worry that I’ll reach a point where running becomes something I used to do, someone I used to be. As the days have now nearly become a month since I ran properly I actually dream about running, of feeling my feet hit the road and my heart race to the steady beat of my footfall. I watch what I eat too, my body has become accustomed to high mileage and my mouth accustomed to pie. But if I trowel down my usual barrow full of fodder my arse will need its own postcode. Which is also a horrible irony because right now what would really make me feel better is cake, and vodka, and pie, in no particular order. 


And I watch other runners, enviously yes, but joyfully too because there’s no happiness to be found in denying others the light I so desperately stumble towards myself. I’ve delighted in seeing Joni smash her Ironman and my heart pounded during her marathon as if I was running it too (only from a sofa with coffee and snacks). And she gives me hope that returning from injury is possible, even for a factory second like myself. And when Marc runs I tell him to think of me when it’s tough, because I’m right there with him at his side, breathing hard but laughing. Because I’ve learnt that my desire, my persistence, my dogged belief that things will be ok have got me this far in life and will get me back to where I want to be, where I need to be.