On Sunday I ran the RunThrough.co.uk Finsbury Park 10k race. It was -4 degrees, I ran with about four layers on, wasn't able to keep my no-toilet-break record, and stopped to walk twice, but I finished! And that was all I wanted.
It’s been a strange couple of years for me. Full of incredible highs, but equally full of lows. Stress, anxiety, grief, burnout…. they certainly make life less fun. They rob you of the ability to see the bigger picture. My wellbeing/self-care is always the first to suffer when I feel like that. But the desire to run, to keep up the kind of training I'd been doing, had completely left me, After years of running a half marathon every weekend, I was exhausted and needed a break.
That's not to say I've not gone running since then - but it's been jogs round the block when I could be bothered, really. But until Sunday I hadn't run a proper race since 2013. Sunday was my first 10k in all that time.
I started running again last year. Once a week, with a group at work. I was in a very apathetic place, very much with a can't-be-fucked-what's-the-point mindset, but figured once a week was better than nothing. Most weeks I managed between 4 and 5k on those runs. It wasn’t a marathon, but, as I say, better than nothing.
I spent so much of last year feeling utterly drained, unable to move forward. Spending such a long time in the company of your past takes a real toll on your sense of self, I discovered. I spent a lot of last year wondering who the hell I was any more. Things that used to be so easy for me were suddenly REALLY BIG THINGS. Like going to parties where I didn’t know anyone. Like writing. Like running. Those things used to excite me, give me energy. But now I NEEDED energy to do them. It was exhausting, frustrating and left me in a bit of a heap.
2017 is only 26 days old but I’ve already bought new running shoes, done two park runs, my standard run with my work running group is now 6k and now I’ve done my first 10k race in nearly 4 years.
Six years ago, almost to the day, I had just started training for the London marathon. I was doing 10ks before breakfast. So you might think it’s a bit disheartening to only be doing 5ks and 10ks considering how fit I used to be. But it’s really not. I feel so happy, so grateful, to be running again I don't care about the distances. I just want to run. It's part of who I am. Something I didn't realise until I wasn't doing it any more.
My life has been a series of ebbs and flows, ups and downs. You can’t have one without the other. The story I shared in The Latte Years keeps going. I’m not the same person who went through all those highs and lows in the book – I’m not even the same person who wrote it, a mere two years ago. I’m a work in progress, always. I’m (still) learning that when life gets a bit much, as it does for all of us, not to let go of the things that take a bit more effort than sitting on the couch with Netflix and crisps, because it's those things that truly light me up from the inside.
Returning to running - not just a jog here and there when I could be bothered - has been marvellous. Not just the joy of being physically active and pushing my body beyond its comfort zone, but I’m remembering how to be my own cheerleader. I’m remembering how important it is just to show up and give it a go - you don't have to be the best, just do YOUR best. How important it is to just run your own race and not worry about what other people are doing, how much further ahead they may or may not be. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my good health, for the ability to run at all. I have been reminded that negative thinking, in running and in life, is a luxury I simply cannot afford.
Most of all, thanks to running, I feel more like myself than I have felt in a very long time.
PS: I totally signed up for that 10k because of the medal. Isn't it beautiful?