Category Archives: Ponderings

Squelch

Sometimes planning a run in advance seems like a good idea. The whole “Yeah, let’s do this! It’s going to be good!” vibe … until you wake up, hear the rain, look out the window, feel the cold and think, “Ugh! WTF am I doing?”

That was my mood this morning. I’d been asked by Bronagh, one of my running buddies, to help her run up to 10k. She’s a lot faster than me but hadn’t gone as far as that distance wise before and therefore lacked the belief that she could do it.

It was nice to be asked, and I was only too happy to help although I did warn her it’d be a lot slower than if she’d gone on her own, or with someone else. Nothing like having a bit of faith in myself, is there?

It’s been raining a lot lately so, in our wisdom, we decided to tackle the local parkrun route which is based in a nature park/conservation area on the edge of the town centre through which the River Braid flows. I mean, it’d never floods here, would it?

In theory, a couple of laps of the route would bring us up nicely to the desired 10k but, given the layout, we decided to start backwards and do the second part first. Hey, it made sense at the time!

Anyway, not long after starting we encountered this woman out walking her dog who stopped us to tell us that parts of the course were flooded and whilst it wasn’t deep we would get our feet wet. My trainers needed a good wash anyway so, after thanking her, we continued on our merry way.

Pretty soon we encountered the first flooded part, a good 20-30 yards of it … brrrr, the water was cold. Not long after that came the next one, and the next and the one after that – you get the idea – each one seeming deeper than the one before it. By this stage my feet were soaked through and I was squelching as I ran but it was fun.

Surprisingly, the second part of the parkrun course – the section we expected to be flooded – was clear so we finally got going for an uninterrupted spell, eventually getting up to 5k.

Given the flooding we elected not to bother with a second lap so decided, instead, to head out of the park and into the town, running part of the course covered by the club on Monday night … this meant going up the Fry’s Road, down the Cushendall Road and then the Broughshane Road before bringing us back to our starting point.

This would take us away from the park, and would mean no more flooding. But, as if we weren’t already wet enough, the heavens decided to open. Yeah, thanks for that. I’m sure we looked more than a bit bonkers running along in the torrential rain!

Unfortunately, the fluid in my legs began to flare up around the 5k mark and, much to my frustration, this continued for the next couple of kilometres or so. I had to stop to shake them out a few times which wasn’t in my plan. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to it, if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen. I kept apologising to Bronagh but, bless her, she was fine with it and stressed the distance was the important thing today.

Happily, my legs began to settle again so the run for ‘home’ wasn’t too bad. Getting back into the park we reached the car just 400 metres short of 10k so there was only one thing for it – a couple of laps of the car park in time honoured runners tradition!

Timewise I would have really liked to have gone quicker but – on reflection – given the conditions, which I’m sure didn’t help my legs, I’m not too disappointed. It was within my target 10k time range even if I would liked to have been faster for Bronagh’s sake.

But I enjoyed myself and I enjoyed the company (thanks!) … more than that, I’m pleased to have shown Bronagh she can run 10k and that was the objective at the end of the day.

Relive my run

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Running and my mental health

I’ve often considered composing a blog about how running has helped or affected me mentally but never actually had the nerve or wherewithal to sit down and write it.

But since it’s World Mental Health Day there’s no better time I suppose.

Then again, who cares about what I think? Who set me up as some sort of ‘expert’ on the subject? Who even do I think I am? You get the picture … they’re questions that get to the very core of who I am or, at least, give an insight into my own opinion of myself.

Full disclosure … I’m not a fan of myself. I’ve never been and I doubt I ever will. I constantly fear that I come across as full of my own self-importance, that I’m big-headed, that I’m needy, that I’m lesser than everyone else, a failure.

Earlier this decade I went through 16 months of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy until I was unceremoniously dumped by my counsellor. No warning, no gradual winding down of the sessions, she even gave me ‘homework’ at my last session – a pretty intense task as well – only to abruptly end them, not even in person but hiding behind my GP’s secretary, and for a long, long time that sudden ending to my weekly sessions really hit me badly.

I just couldn’t handle it. She was a professional, she was paid to listen to me but even she couldn’t stick me. If she wasn’t prepared to do it, then why should anyone else?

Then I discovered running. What a revelation! What a change it has made to my life!

From my first tentative steps in putting myself through the NHS C25K programme to my first marathon running has given me the chance to escape all my worries. When I’m out running my only immediate concern is my next step, my next kilometre or my next mile.

Running has allowed me to process the current issues in my life, quite often bringing clarity to a situation where none existed beforehand.

Running has opened up so many wonderful things over the past two-and-a-half years that I would never otherwise have experienced. I have met so many amazing people and felt things I never imagined possible … the sense of euphoria at crossing the finishing line, the pushing of another boundary, the smashing of another glass ceiling.

I have all my medals, 40+ and counting, on the wall beside my desk but deliberately just out of sight. Looking straightahead at my monitor typing this I can’t see them, but turn my head a little to the left and there they are, in all their glory, reminding me what I’ve done and what I can do. I always get a little lift seeing them there.

I’m chronically shy. I withdraw in a crowd of people. I lack the confidence to engage with others. I worry (no, I know) this makes me appear aloof and unwelcoming when the polar opposite is the case … but my own insecurities stop me from being any different.

Yet, because of running, I joined my local club. That in itself was a huge leap on my part. I’m slow, I’ll always be slow and I really worried that I’d be like a fish out of water amongst the rest of them. A little fat 46-year-old alongside these athletes.

But, in less than a year, I now look after the club website and the majority of press relations. I often worry that I don’t do a decent job, that I’m only in the position because no-one else wants it yet when I get positive comments (oops, remember what I said earlier about being big-headed?) I’m on cloud nine, I feel like my very existence and presence is vindicated.

I can go to club sessions on a Monday night and feel I’m amongst friends. For a notorious loner that is a huge thing. I can go to races and be guaranteed support simply because of the shirt I’m wearing. That is massive.

I still worry myself sick before each and every run, even a short training outing. What if I’m even more useless than normal? What if I can’t do it? What if someone sees me and mocks me? I favour running in the dark or running in quiet areas for those very reasons.

However, I keep doing it, I keep putting myself through it even if sometimes it takes me all day to work up the courage to go out.

Why? Because running has really helped me develop as a person. It has taught me that no matter the hurdle or challenge in front of me I have the strength buried deep within to handle it, to face it head on.

I guess that’s the point of this blog.

Running is much more than putting one foot in front of another, it has instilled within me a belief in myself that I never realised existed before.

I’m not fixed or cured. I’ll never be that, but I am a much ‘better’ person because of running.

Apologies for the length of this post, and well done for sticking me out until the end, but thank-you for doing so. I hope I’ve helped or inspired you in some small way.

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Broughshane 10k

I went into tonight’s Broughshane 10k not really expecting much. Despite my best intentions I’d only run once since last week’s jaunt up to the Brighton Marina so I knew tonight would have been quite the struggle … or at least I feared that’d be the case.

The reality was a bit different. Beforehand. I had two objectives, namely don’t come last and be relatively pleased with my performance. With that in mind I suppose I can write tonight off as a guarded success.

Weather wise it had been an interesting day. Lots of thunder, lightning and heavy rain earlier in the afternoon and more forecase for exactly the time of the race but, come the start, it was a glorious summer evening, a perfect night for a run.

The start was also the most picturesque I’ve experienced to date, beside a river and in landscaped grounds, befitting of Broughshane’s status as the ‘Garden Village of Ulster’.

It was also uphill. Ok, it was only a little rise but it was still strange to run uphill at the start of a race … thankfully it then dropped quite steeply before going onto the main road through the village.

Of course that meant I went off far too quickly – my fastest opening kilometre since I started measuring runs with a Garmin …. and we all know what that means. True to form I felt the pace after the first mile and, perhaps, my lack of running recently came home to roost.

I ran with a group of ladies from the club for a while, which was good, but the pain in my legs meant that I wasn’t quite able to keep up. I had them in my sights all the way round the course but I just couldn’t catch them.

However, after a couple of miles, I was joined by Mairead – one of the two tailrunners – who offered to run with me the rest of the way. I was most appreciative of this because the company was good, and the chat kept me focused on something else other than my legs, comparing running stories and experiences.

She also kept me going when otherwise I might have stopped plus there was the added incentive of the other tailrunner encouraging a couple of others behind us … they were about a minute further back, but we could hear them and there was no way I was letting them catch us!

The course, as it left Broughshane, turned into a bit of trail which was a new experience for me but, at the same time, was a bit of fun.

After a short while we were back on good old tarmac but then the heavens opened! And how they opened! It was torrential – and there was some good old thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure – but I didn’t mind, not really. In fact, I had more sympathy for the poor marshals being stuck out in it waiting for us slow coaches to pass.

Up to a certain point quite late on in the run I was on course for a PB. It didn’t happen due to a couple of quite steep hills that I just walked up but, as I said at the outset, as long as I was happy with my performance tonight then I wasn’t going to worry too much.

By and large I was happy. Maybe not because I went off too quick but, timewise, it was amongst my quickest competitive 10k, and faster than my last three races, although still someway off my PB.

Well done to everyone who ran tonight in those conditions, and many thanks to Mairead for helping me round. I hope I didn’t complain too much!

Relive my run