Life Lessons from Running

Life Lessons From Running

My name is Caroline and I’m a runner.

Even now when I say that I feel like a bit of a fake. It seems to me that there’s some unsaid, definition of a runner, and somehow I don’t match up. I hardly look like a wippet, and believe me I don’t run like one either. However, a guy called John Bingham summed it up nicely when he said – ‘If you run, you are a runner.’

2008-07-19 342My running history began in 2003 when I ran my first half marathon, the Great North Run (GNR), with my Dad. I was 37 and my Dad was 66.

He beat me.

Life Lesson #1 – Don’t worry about what others are doing or seemingly achieving. It’s only important to challenge yourself.

 I had trained for the race but by the end, I was utterly finished. All I could think about was who would contemplate the complete madness of a full marathon? That involved doing that whole thing all over again –and at the time that seemed like an impossibility.

I did get over the pain though and I entered again in 2004 and then a third time in 2008.

 That last GNR was SLOW and it hurt like hell. Life Lesson #2 – No matter how many mistakes you make, or how slow your progress, you are way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.

 In 2008, I moved to India for a couple of years, which rather limited my running – it’s too hot, there are no pavements, and too many people staring at me in my lycra! Actually this was a bit of an excuse and reveals Life Lesson #3 – don’t be stopped by not getting started. Often the most difficult step in any endeavour is to actually make a start.

So at the start of 2011, while living with my sister in Brisbane I trained for the Twilight half. This one felt better, easier, less utterly exhausting that the previous 3 attempts.

The fact that it wasn’t quite so exhausting and my training that year to become a life coach, inspired me to up my game. I wanted to challenge myself in various areas of my life and to get out my comfort zone with some big goals and a marathon seemed just about daunting enough!

Life Lesson #4 helped big time at this stage – Set yourself a goal and break it down into smaller chunks.

Wellingborough cross countryThinking about running 26.2 miles is overwhelming. By breaking it down into smaller goals, it becomes more achievable. If you can run 13 miles, it’s likely that 15 is possible, if you can run 15 then 18 is possible, and so on. And then you reach a point at about 19 or 20 miles when you start to believe you might actually be able to do a marathon.

Up to this point, I had always run alone. It hadn’t occurred to me to join a running club. That was for runners and I wasn’t a runner. However, I realised I needed extra motivation and support so I joined Bedford Harriers. Life Lesson #5 – Connecting with people, especially through common interests, helps to inspire and motivate us to achieve more.

In March, the Oakley 20 mile race which was part of my training plan, was cancelled due to snow. My delightfully mad friend Sarah thought it would be a great idea to go to Grafham Water instead and go round it not once, but twice which we did, through deep snow and slush, with a bit of wind thrown in for good measure.

Snow run GrafhamLife lessons #6 – hang out with people who get you out of your comfort zone and push you to do things that you wouldn’t normally do in your life and to achieve more than you would on your own – it keeps it interesting and rewarding.

Grafham Water was a beautiful run that day, and Life Lesson #7 is to be present in the moment and aware of your senses. It’s easy to be so much inside your head that you lose the chance to enjoy what is actually in front of you.

Sams 6For as much time as I remember to, as the thoughts do take over, I focus on enjoying the sights, sounds, smells around me and on how my body feels, and how the wind feels on my skin. And I think to myself – this is it, there is nothing else apart from now, and it’s perfect.

I’ve done a lot of challenging and exciting things in my life, and the marathon is probably my favourite. I loved every minute of it until I stopped and completed seized up. So once you’ve done a marathon, what’s next? Life Lesson #8 – Don’t get stuck in a rut, change things, keep things interesting and challenging.

This year, my friend Kim and I wanted a challenge to keep us running long distances regularly rather than training for a peak and then lessening off. The ‘12 in 12’ challenge has given up that. 12 half marathons in 12 months, with a cheeky sub challenge to do 3 in 3 weeks at some point.

I have now completed 11, and our finale is on 16th November at St Neots. From doing 3 halves in 5 years, I have progressed to managing 3 in 3 consecutive Sundays – which I did in September with Northampton, Richmond and Ealing.

1977114_10152655667603833_5851137282106676993_n-2Life lesson #9 is an important one – celebrate your successes. I suspect we spend more time thinking about the things which didn’t go so well, rather than cheerleading ourselves for our achievements. Thankfully after so much practice, I am no longer good for the nothing after a half marathon, and can now function pretty well, so Kim and I will be having a good lunch and a celebratory drink or several on Sunday 16th November.

Half marathons are run of the mill for me now – a phrase that I would not have expected to say in 2003 after being beaten by my 66 year old Dad in my first half marathon. And I have now also run a marathon, something which I used to strongly believe was impossible for me.

I leave you with Life Lesson #10 – Don’t listen to the voice in your head which is saying you can’t – it’s a liar.

Kim and I are using our challenge to raise funds for Bedford Samaritans who support people in distress and despair and have a page on Virgin Money Giving for people to donate to support us. We also have our 12 in 12 facebook page if you’d like to follow our finale.

Marathon Euphoria

I am a marathon runner.

I really never thought I would say that, and how wonderful it sounds. I think I may even become a serial marathon runner, which is even more unexpected. I had it in my mind that one would be more than enough, when in fact I loved every minute of it. Having said that if you asked me to run another one today, I would politely decline. There is a significant amount of grunting and groaning going on whenever sitting down, standing up or going downstairs is involved.

I got up on Marathon Sunday knowing that large part of my challenge was already in the bag. With the generous support of my friends and family I had already exceeded my £2,000 commitment for the Samaritans through sponsorship alone. That made the day all the sweeter.

Marathon 1

The day got better and better as it went on. The preparation of those long runs, sometimes in pretty harsh conditions, paid off. I paced myself well, slowing myself down initially, and ran between 7.92 to 8.68 km per hour throughout. This really helped as I had plenty left in me by the time I got to the 20 mile mark. That famous wall didn’t hit me at all.

The crowds were brilliant. There were so many people out and so much encouragement  along the way. Wearing a vest with my name on was definitely a bonus. When I felt that I needed a boost I ran closer to crowds and smiled, and immediately got a response with people calling my name and telling me how well I was doing. The only time this didn’t work was when a rhino, Andy Pandy or Super Man was running near me – I didn’t get a look in then!

Marathon 2

There was some fabulous music along the way – steel, brass, and rock bands as well as my personal favourite – the Taiko Drummers. There’s something primeval about that sound, along with the great memories it evokes of the time I spent living in Japan, that always moves me. It was the only time in the race that I felt near to tears. Emotion welled up inside me. It was a feeling of joy; of great connection with people; and gratitude – for the chance to experience such an incredible race.

People were so generous along the way with their endless clapping, cheering and smiling, as well as many who must have spent a lot on jelly babies, Haribo, Starbursts, oranges and bananas, all of which were very welcome. The volunteers on the fuelling stations were also really enthusiastic, shouting words of encouragement as they handed over the water or Lucozade.

I’m so grateful to my friends who came out to support me on the day. I didn’t manage to see all of them which is a shame although it helped my time – I stopped for a sweaty hug about half a dozen times and am blaming that for not getting in under 5 hours! It was worth the stop every time – I felt euphoric to share that moment with people dear to me. I didn’t even feel daunted by starting off again which I thought I might. I was excited to finish, which I did after 5 hours, 2 minutes and 45 seconds. I expected to cry and didn’t. I hugged the lady sobbing next to me and felt alive and invigorated.

The Samaritans had taken over the Playhouse Theatre and my friends had gathered there to see me and it was a great feeling to walk out on stage to a welcoming cheer. That first pint of lager shandy was amazing, as was the hot shower, the massage and the second pint.

I wore my medal with pride for the rest of the evening, and wore it again last night at the Bedford Harriers induction evening for new runners. And I will again this weekend when I see some other friends. It was hard earned and I value it all the more for that.

If you ever had even the smallest desire to run a marathon, I urge you to stop procrastinating, join a running club and set yourself a target. The sense of achievement is unbeatable.

£2,295 of my £2,500 target raised so far and still time to sponsor me here!

 

Ten Days to Go

Ten days to what?

My first ever marathon – 26.2 long miles of running – in London.

It is the biggest physical challenge I have ever undertaken and until about 18 months ago I had always said to myself and others that I could never do it. Strangely enough, once I decided that I was going to enter then it immediately entered the realm of possibility.

I had set myself a goal. I  then went about reading up on training plans and made one for myself. In doing this, I broke down the goal into small achievable chunks. I wasn’t focussed on running 26.2 miles but on adding 2 or 3 miles onto each long run. This made it seem far more manageable and as each week passed the end goal of the marathon became more and more achievable.

Next, I thought about what else I might need in order to motivate myself to keep going with the training. One of the things I came up with was joining a running club. I had always run alone while training for previous shorter runs. As a result I had always trained for an event and then immediately after I had stopped completely – such a waste. I had the belief that all people who run in clubs are elite runners. Thankfully I decided to go anyway and find out for myself rather than make assumptions.

Sandy 10m 2012

Joining Bedford Harriers was the best decision I have made in my running career. Not only has it kept me running regularly during what has been a challenging winter for running (see photos below), it has also introduced a variety of training sessions into my routine which I didn’t previously use – intervals, tempo runs, and hills (previously consistently avoided). I have also made some good friends who are a great source of motivation and encouragement and I liked the club so much I decided to join the committee.

Lazy Gang in the Snow

So now it’s countdown to the big day. I am tapering, thinking about my nutrition and rest, and hoping that I don’t catch a cold or get a ridiculous, badly timed injury. I pick up my number next week from Excel in London and get a taster of the atmosphere and excitement of marathon day itself. I have my shirt with my name on it so others can shout for me. Many people have said that it’s this that will get me through those last few miles.

I am very excited and at the same time a little worried about what to focus on next. This has affected my life decisions for the past 4 months – not going out, not drinking, spending many whole Sundays running and travelling to races. I have a feeling I’m going to feel a bit bereft. And I am wondering if this will be my first and last marathon or whether after a few weeks to forget the pain, I will be looking to book my next one.

I am running for Samaritans and many of my friends and family have been extremely generous in contributing to the fund which is now almost at £1500, for which I am extremely grateful. Should you feel like you want to sponsor me this is the link:

Caroline Clark’s First Marathon