CAUTION: This blog post features much talk about running, that thing where you put one foot in front of the other repeatedly. It features me chatting about mental health issues, and the experiences that got me into this whole running thing. It also features the odd swear word so PARENTAL ADVISORY?
So here goes...
Once upon a time one thing I took great pride in saying was "I hate running" followed by a multitude of reasons why, ranging from how bad it was for the body, to how I'm just naturally shit at it. Fast forward to present day and anyone who knows me well is starting to question whether I have been cloned because I cant shut up about how amazing running is.
To fill in the blanks I'll head back to the start of all of this back in 2017.
Yoga was already in my life in a big way and it had been doing a great job in grounding me and improving my over all health and strength, but I had a yearning for more, to be outside in nature.
Through the yoga community I was introduced to rock climbing and for the first time in my life I felt strong. Inevitably this climbing went outdoors to real rocks in my first trip to Fontainebleau in France, a multi day trip purely rock climbing with friends. Day after day getting my hands on rock, getting to the top of routes, and actually enjoying it. (with a side of pooping my pants ofc)
It was here my love for rocks really started, it had ignited a flame for all things mountain and rock based... if I can climb these boulders why not try getting to the top of a mountain ?
Amongst all of this I changed jobs to work within the cycling industry, I hadn't ridden a bike since I was in school so went full gunho into taking up this new sport to better understand the product I was working on. I started cycling in the September of 2017 and very quickly entered the ballot for ride London which was to be in the following July, and to my shock got a place.
Therein began the training for my first (and so far only) 100 mile ride.
All of a sudden I was that crazy person waking up early on weekends to get up, don full body lycra and cycle for hours on end. The country views, the feeling of getting to the end of the ride off of your own steam, I had never experienced anything quite like it. I was proving to myself my body was actually capable of these things after all.
Whilst in the middle of this training I was convinced to sign up to do the three peaks challenge with a friend from work, this would take place a month before Ride London.
I didnt complete the challenge as I couldn't keep up with the group on the Ben; our final mountain and had to sit it out. It left me frustrated, my asthma had kicked in, and my fitness just wasn't there, even after all of that cycling. Maybe that dream of being in the mountains wasn't going to happen after all.
July came around pretty damn quickly and before I knew it I was waking up the morning of the event with my friend, looking out of the window to a typical British summers day: Rain.
That day I endured 6 hours of pure rain, but I got to the end of it, feeling quite underwhelmed. All of those people talking about what an atmospheric event it was, how kool it was to have closed roads around London, it fell flat on me. Where were the mountains!
Whilst I was beginning to gain some confidence in what my body was capable of, I had started to realise that wasn't enough anymore.
Then this crazy thought popped into my head " what if you started running to improve your cardio?". An internal debate ensued, undecided if this made sense or if it was a momentary lapse of sanity.
It turns out this thought made sense, the only plan was to run around my local park without dying. I laced up my shoes and headed out the door, doing that putting one foot in front of the other thing. To my surprise I could run around it once without stopping. I got back home and felt more pride in myself for doing that than I had at the finish line of Ride London. It's surprising what a lifetime of telling yourself you are incapable of doing something can do to you, and how amazing it feels to tell that voice to fuck off.
For a good 6 months all running was there to do was to help me be in the mountains so I could concentrate on being there, rather than my lungs shutting down. Once or twice a week the odd 5 k , sometimes not even that, there was no goal, just me and my feet moving through the landscape.
From day one all of my runs were off road, choosing the grass at the side of paths , finding local trail runs, it felt like more of an adventure and the views and mild navigation through farm fields took some focus away from my burning legs for a short while.
I continued to explore the mountains in wales and the Lakes, summiting Snowdon several times and Helvellyn twice. Cruising up would be an overstatement, but I could now make fairly good pace and not feel like I was being tortured, leaving more time to look around me and enjoy the surroundings.
Things on the running front were mediocre, still merely a means to an end..... until Chris came along to my birthday house party and fell asleep at 9pm.
Quick detour (Chris was already a great friend of mine and had become my climbing belay partner, I looked at him as this crazy person who ran ultras and seemed to be one of THOSE people who are just good at everything in life, the type that you want to hate rather passionately but can't because they're so damn lovely)
We woke the next morning to him telling me he had a training run to do that day, some part of me chimed in with an "oooh id like to join you for some of that". Oh where those words landed me.
The plan was to join him at an agreed point where he would lead me on a 5 k loop back to my car and that would be the end of it. What actually happened is I ran 5k at a pace that was appropriate and where I didn't feel like dying, more famous last words came out of my mouth a " wow that was a really nice pace, I feel like I could run further". This resulted in me agreeing to run back to his house which would total 9 miles ! Oh yes, by the end I was walking like John Wayne, but damn I could run 9 miles! There went that goal of running 10k!
Long story short I signed up to the Snowdon half marathon, because why not my newly positive self said.
My work friends bore witness to a mini meltdown the next day as it suddeny started to dawn on me what I had done.
Over the next few months I started to run with Chris more often as part of a very loosely based training plan, I was all of a sudden enjoying running. Every time I ran a bit further it felt like such a big achievement. Every run felt different, with encounters with frisky horses, being chased by cows, being startled by pheasants, who were equally startled by us.
This was all leading me to spend more and more time away from my then partner and over a matter of the years I had been drawn to the outdoors, had led us to drift apart.
Right in the peak of the training where I was having to start longer runs on my own, I came home one day to find my ex partner had broken into my house and was still there, it turns out he was installing a spy camera pointed at my bed.
To say this was a traumatic experience would be only a small part of the truth, the following week I stayed anywhere but my house, couldn't go anywhere alone, was anxious about everything and a complete mess. All the effort I had put in and progress that had been made in my mental health and self belief seemed to disappear.
I decided that the one thing that wasn't going to be taken away from me was my ass crossing the Snowdon half finish line. So that's exactly what I did. The training continued, and it helped me start to put myself back together. I could not have done that if it wasn't for the outstanding support of my friends and family and most of all Chris.
I crossed that finish line this is how happy I was.
Running that event gave me a focus that wasn't fear, or how I was going to deal with it all, it gave me strength. Every step along the mountain trail was another step to prove what I was made of.
Needless to say that Chris is now more than my best friend, he is my partner, my rock and most crucially my unofficial coach, with unending support an encouragement constantly reminding me that I'm capable of anything I set my mind to.
Since that photo of me at the finish line, I have gone on to run the great north run, and a 17 mile trail run through the peak district.
Running to me has been a saviour, and is constantly giving me goals to better myself, never running to be good at it, I run to clear my head, to feel that rush at the end , to be able to eat loads because my metabolism is crazy high.
Running isn't easy, I have asthma that is induced by cardio exercise and air temp changes, sporadic b12 anaemia and PTSD but you know what? That makes it all the more special to me when I achieve my goals in spite of those little things.
You don't have to be "good" at running to run, you just need two feet.
Stay tuned for my training for the Scafell skyrace June 6 2020, get ready for some emotional entries my full plan starts 1st week of Jan. I will be sure to keep you posted.......