motherhood, Running

Running Like a Child and Weeing Down Hill – Discovering My Love of the Trails!

Like many women of a certain age with responsibilities at home, running has become an essential part of my life – some much needed ‘me time’ and fresh air coupled with a sense of accomplishment, as well as a way to connect with others doing the same, having a laugh and generally keeping sane!

And that is really what I had been doing for the last three years reconnecting with the me that ran the London Marathon for a dare in 2005 and found that contrary to her previous belief that she had literally no sporting ability….yes she could! Not to any notable standard of course but to cross a line that she never thought she’d cross and find that running was something that she really loved, well that was the best thing she’d ever done. One foot in front of the other, as far as your mind and your body would go, breathing, thinking, dancing in the streets – true freedom!

Fast forward 10 years – London’s golden pavements have been replaced with the pot-holed roads of West Sussex, but the feeling’s still the same! Freedom, joy and sometimes just sheer elation to feel the rhythm of the road beneath my feet. But after three years of running 5ks, 10ks and even half marathons, becoming slightly obsessed with pace, times and other things that weren’t even possible to track when I had first started running, I was looking for something new. Apart from anything else, I wanted the confidence to explore the stunning countryside I had grown up in. Still feeling like a towny, I just hadn’t quite got the guts to break off down a footpath or bridleway and see where the mood took me.

And then I was lucky enough to stumble across Rachel – the local running superwoman who literally inspires awe in most of the Sunday plodders in these here parts. She told me about the Club KARIBU runs – guided trail runs in West Sussex, easy to access and all inclusive, and invited me to come along!

Needless to say I was terrified. Trail running is for super athletes – geared up to the hilt – not mere mortals like me! But I thought what the hell, she who dares probably falls on her bum, but I signed up anyway! Nonetheless it was with a great deal of trepidation that I turned up at a spot somewhere near East Dean in the same pair of shorts I’d been wearing for 13 years in a pair of comparatively low tech road shoes, to a car park full of confident, rugged, geared up, fit looking people! I had that moment of thinking, what the hell am I doing here! How wrong I was.

Firstly, the moment everyone shot off up a frighteningly steep hill, it was apparent that everyone was chatting and friendly – it was also apparent that it was perfectly acceptable to walk up the hill if you couldn’t manage it, and encourage others along the way.

There were frequent stops for the slower runners to catch up with the quicker ones – no pressure to push yourself, but a sense that everyone was part of the same challenge and group. 6k later and I had had the time of my life! I’m not saying parts of it didn’t hurt – it did, and I got to push myself, otherwise what would be the point! But the countryside we covered was amazing – like nowhere I’d ever run before! Through forests and fields and on terrain I would never have considered running on my own.

Before I knew it I had signed up to one of the KARIBU Trail Running Workshops. And that was the icing on the cake. An amazing day of being taught how to run like a child again – with freedom, and confidence and no fear at all, because that is what trail running is all about!

And who doesn’t love a good whoop through the trees – I just can’t help myself, nor can I get enough of ‘weeing’ down a hill without fear of falling flat on my face. Of course, it is entirely possible that I will do just that, but thanks to Sam’s amazing tips on technique, it is far less likely to happen, and a truly magical feeling!

Is it harder than road running? Yes, in a way it is. The terrain can be tougher, muddier and uneven – tree roots are not your friend. But the rewards are so worth it – and most importantly it really is do-able. For every grinding up hill, there’s an amazing view, a truly adrenalin pumping downhill, a feeling of being away from civilisation and amongst the fields and forests. That is a feeling money can’t buy and I want to keep it forever.

Now I try and run at least once a week with KARIBU – it means that I can see new parts of this amazing county and neighbouring counties, feel encouraged, feel like I am achieving, without worrying about times, and without worrying about anything but enjoying the moment.

They say people are either road runners or trail runners, but I can honestly say that I am bi – I still love the road, but I find I am a much stronger road runner now as a result of my trail running, and the trails give me something else. I can’t recommend hitting the trails or KARIBU highly enough!

Club KARIBU offers guided trail runs and other benefits across Sussex and Surrey.

Running, Uncategorized

Yes You Can!

I start this with an apology to all of those people who are completely bored with people going on about running, who yawn and groan every time somebody posts their run or their time on whatever social media. But we all have to have our thing, and as  life enhancing things go, I’m afraid I cannot do anything but evangelise. At least it’s not puppies or lost dogs!

Because the message that I really want to get out there to all of those people who I have met over the years who have said to me ‘oh, I could never run’, is yes, you can!!  I too was one of those people, and now I wouldn’t want to be without a pair of trainers in my life.  And I am no spring chicken! At almost 48, I’d expected to be shuffling around in slippers, not Nikes, but that is the beauty of running. Anyone can!

Trust me, it’s not like I come from a  sporty background. I have a highly talented, sporty and athletic sister who likes to affectionately call me ‘un-co’ because I am so un-co-ordinated. I love her too believe me – and above all I am immensely proud of her. My sporting achievements at school were zero, literally. I was a regular in the consolation race, and I always came last in that – still do in the mum’s race on sports day. And I literally NEVER got picked for the school team. It’s not great for one’s confidence I have to say.

Listen, the truth is I only took up running because I met some bloke at a party. He dragged me out to Regents Park on a Nike organised park run and the rest is history. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t love it straight away, but I was kind of keen on him and he was very encouraging!  So, that was the start of it – me trying to bag a bloke at a party! Surprise surprise!

As it turned out he was a lovely fella who totally changed my life. He married someone else, of course, but what he did do was continually tell me ‘yes, you can’ as I plodded my way round Clapham Common. He held my hand all the way around my first ever 10K – the infamous Nike 10k in Richmond Park back in 2003.  And I literally loved every second of it. It hurt a bit but the atmosphere and euphoria of achieving something you never ever thought you could achieve was amazing..life changing..confidence giving…dream building!

Then over a gin or 10 with a work colleague, I took on the ultimate dare – to enter the London Marathon ballot! And wouldn’t you know it, she who wins nothing, got a golden ticket – bingo, full house, woohoo! I was gobsmacked and terrified. But I looked at the training plan – got my head around it – decided to take one step at a time.  Before I knew it I was running distances I could never have dreamed of. I’d ditched the tube in favour of running home! Bridget Jones on my iPod – I was literally in a movie!

I have said it often, and I will say it again, having just relived it with my husband, but the London Marathon was the best day of my life.  The ultimate in achieving that which you never ever dreamed in a million years you could achieve, one that you’ve watched on the telly year after year thinking, I could never do that. And then it’s you, rounding the Cutty Sark, drinking in the crowds on Tower Bridge, enduring the Isle of Dogs, dragging your screaming body up the Mall and over the line. And it truly is awesome.

But I will never do that again.  These days  I get enough of a buzz out of running shorter distances, with  good friends. And this weekend I had the ultimate pleasure of doing both at the inaugural 10k in my home village.  Run Wisborough was another highlight of my life. The run itself was awful, in searing temperatures, with no time to acclimatise. ‘Just get round’ replaced any other thoughts very quickly. But to run in your home village, a village of immense warmth and beauty, was a real thrill. Especially with my beloved running chums – the Buns on the Run, with my beautiful family cheering me on. Even Duncan (the dog), locked in the house, which was on the route – I could hear him barking as I ran past!

So to all of you thinking, I could never do that, I have to say ‘yes, you can’ because  it is literally all about one step at a time. It doesn’t have to hurt – it doesn’t have to be hard, and it can give you so much!  Here are my Top 5 Tips to giving it a go!

  1. When I say it doesn’t have to hurt – it doesn’t! When you get out of breath – walk – nobody wants a burning chest, and you will naturally make progress without getting one. Most 0-5K training plans start with a running and walking pattern which builds up your fitness and distance gradually and genuinely doesn’t hurt!
  2. Pick a goal, whether it’s a particular race or event or a distance you want to achieve, and download an app or a plan to follow. But don’t think you have to stick to a plan rigidly. You don’t. Just do what you can do. You will be totally amazed at the speed of the progress you make I promise you!
  3. Get some good gear – good shoes really!  Ones that you can love, preferably from a running shop that can advise you – and good socks even better (my Balega Hidden Comfort seldom leave my feet, even when I’m not running!!) Happy feet make happy runners! And who doesn’t love to shop.
  4. Run with friends! Yes, that is a new one on me. I only started doing that last June. I always ran alone, me and my iPod.  I was terrified people would be going too fast for me, or would want to talk when I had no breath, or would be better than me. But let me tell you, they are not. And it’s a wonderfully social thing to do.
  5. Don’t panic. There will be days when you feel dreadful. When you do think – I can’t do this. And then the next day you will feel on top of the world. There are many reasons for this. But one thing is for sure, this too will pass.

Here end-eth my sermon!  I thank-eth you for reading it! x

 

 

Running, Uncategorized

The Real Runkeeper

So this morning I headed out on what I had intended to be a lengthyish run.  I had 10km in my mind, and I knew that with the right head on my shoulders, I could probably manage that without too much trouble.  But the truth is, you never know just what is going to happen until you get out there.  You never know whether it’s going to feel good, or bad or indifferent.  Sometimes you need every tool in the toolkit just to get you to the end of the road, and other days you could fly forever.

Of course, these days we have some very sophisticated tools in that toolkit to help us out.  And this morning I took extra care to ensure that my phone was fully charged after last week’s minor disaster – battery died at 2km – no tunes and no encouraging words from Runkeeper for the remainder of a 7.5km run.  To my surprise it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but the more serious implication of such a technical failure, was that my beloved Runkeeper didn’t log what I know was a particularly good run!! And there’s nothing you can do about that! No pat not he back, no glorious moment for posterity!

Now I love Runkeeper. It was my first bit of running software, and much like your first bank account, although you know it’s probably not perfect, and there are better ones out there, you have an emotional attachment to it.  It knows your history inside out and you’ve been intimately acquainted though some real highs and lows in your life. When everybody else is bored out of their minds at you droning on about how much you love running, Runkeeper is whispering in your ear, ‘good job’, ‘well done’, and ‘that’s a new record’ even if that record is the fastest walk round the block in the last week – it can find good in everything.

One of the lovely features about Runkeeper is that you can take a photo to remind you of that run – be it with friends, on your own or just to remind you of a particularly uplifting view.  And alongside that it allows you to rate your run with a smiley face – with poor, okay and great as your three options.  But it occurred to me today as I was trying to work out which smiley face I would be clicking on at the end of my run, that the reality is that it is hard to categorise your runs within these parameters.  For me, I have to categorise them as follows:

  1. A Forever Run – the ones where you feel like you can literally run forever!  I can’t remember the last time I had one of these, and I am pretty sure it was before any form of technology came into our lives to whisper pace in to our ears, and make you run a little bit faster than you might normally be inclined to do. I think they tend to come either with youthful enthusiasm or massive amounts of experience, and I have neither.
  2. The Flyer – more common these days.  It’s when everything just goes right – ambition, distance, pace, weather and general state of health. Usually more likely to occur when you haven’t had half a bottle of wine the night before, and have prepared appropriately with porridge.
  3. The Social – running with friends, with no particular goals or ambitions in mind, at a gentle pace, having a good chat. I am lucky enough to have my beloved Buns on the Run who have made running so special.
  4. The Grinder – ambition and preparation have not quite matched.  You are determined to get out there and do as you’d intended, but today it really is mind over matter.
  5. The S*d This for a Game of Soldiers – it just all goes wrong.  You go into a blind panic.  I can’t run.  I never want to run again. It happens to us all and 9 times out of 10 we feel 100% better next time.

Of course, on Race Day, there is one further category and that is the ‘I think I am Going to Throw Up on the Finish Line’.  I haven’t done it yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

So there you have it.  I’m not sure what the developers of running software will think of these variations, but it gave me something to occupy my mind as I fluctuated between a Flyer and Grinder this morning!  Thanks to an awesome mix of running toons provided by my lovely Runkeeper, I would have to conclude that this morning on balance was all good.  With grateful thanks to Example, Robbie Williams, Duran Duran and the lovely Barry Manilow!  Not to mention Sing by Gary Barlow which had me shedding tears at km 5!

And finally, one word about my husband, because this week it is definitely not about me, it is about him.  This weekend he will be running the London Marathon.  It’s something he’s always wanted to do since I did it in 2005!  Can’t have the Missis having one up one you can you? But he’s 10 years older than I was, and has a family and a business to look after.  He is the most driven and determined person I know and his marathon training has been no different. He has definitely ‘ground out’ the tough stuff, he doesn’t love running like I do, but I have no doubt he will do brilliantly on Sunday and we will all be there to cheer him on.  He’s been ably and heart warmingly assisted by his wing men Gareth and Bill, who have been beside him every mile of the gruelling training regime, and he and I can’t thank them enough for such extraordinary friendship.  Let’s hope fate is kind to everyone running on Sunday! As a wise man said to me once, Marathon Running is 10% physical, and 90% Mental. It is definitely mental!  That is for sure!

Running

ONE STEP AT A TIME

Back in 2005 when I crossed the finish line of the London Marathon, I wasn’t the only one to be completely amazed. My name was only ever mentioned in the same sentence as the word sporty when in reference to my far more athletic and talented little sister who affectionately calls me ‘unco’ (short for unco-ordinated!).  I had spent my school days painfully competing in ‘consolation’ race after consolation race, races which were in fact no consolation at all.  I even had the unique accolade of being a member of the victorious netball team in my third year at high school, having never actually been entrusted at any point with the ball.  And although I was a regular member of the Major League Baseball softball team in my professional days, that was only because there was literally nobody else in the office to use as canon fodder!

Perhaps that is why I often look back on the day I ran the Marathon as one of the best days of my life.  For most of my life it would have seemed inconceivable so to me it proved that if you approach things the right way, just about anything is possible.

The truth is I am always up for a challenge. If somebody says, no you can’t, then I will generally say, well, yes I bloody well can!  So when I got that letter through the post telling me I had a coveted place on that race of all races, once the horror of the task ahead had subsided, the regret of that gin soaked dare faded, I stuck on my ‘yes, I can’ attitude, and started looking at the training plans.  All of a sudden it seemed do-able.  One step at a time was the order of the day.  Little by little.  Step by step. And on that day in April, those were the words that kept going through my head – that and pass me the jelly babies, which way to the gin tent, etc!  I didn’t actually think of the finish line until I could I see it, until I realised I would get there.  I always knew I would get there if I used that strategy and when I did, I forgot all of the pain.  And that wasn’t just because I was eyeing up Tony Cottee’s bum!

This weekend I will be running in Cancer Research’s Race for Life.  I only really signed up because I wanted to get back into doing a bit of running which funnily enough I really enjoy. But as it turns out, I’m going to be running it for a far more important reason – the most important reason.  This week we received the devastating news that my lovely friend Hazel’s little boy Tommy has been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  Tommy is the most gorgeous scrumptious little boy you could ever hope to meet and he is only 18 months old.  Hazel, James, Peggy and Joe face the longest of roads and an unenviable battle.  If I could do anything more practical, believe me I would, but at the moment all I can do is run on Sunday with Tommy in my heart, Tommy in my mind, and hope that my tiny effort will help in some way.

For that reason, I am also going to ask you all if you can find it in your hearts to sponsor me.  It is at times like this that you realise just how valuable all of the research that charities like Cancer Research carry out truly is.  The outcome for diseases like AML have improved immeasurably over recent years, and that is thanks to people putting their hands in their pockets and funding the amazing research that is going on out there.  We are all guilty of fundraising fatigue – there is always somebody asking for money for this or that, but think of it as an appointment to give – an opportunity to put your hand in your pocket where otherwise you might not have done.  After all, you just never know when it could be you.

If you would like to make a contribution to Team Tommy this weekend, then you can do so at my Just Giving page.

http://www.justgiving.com/heidilang?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=fundraisingpage&utm_content=heidilang&utm_campaign=pfp-share-mobile

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