I trained but I didn’t train as hard or as much as I had planned or hoped. While I had hoped to run all of it, I ran half of it and walked the remainder.
What was brilliant about that crazy run/walk was it was done at my pace under my terms and as a result I felt wonderful for it.
I wanted to finish as strong as I started and I did. This became my mantra.
However, I’m already telling you about the tip of the iceberg when I should be telling you about the bottom of it and all that preparation to get to the tip to that sweet moment of success.
With the Covid pandemic and working in a busy NHS role training did go out the window Due to long days on virtual meetings. My walks or runs at weekends became sacred due to lockdown.
The focus on the 50 K helped me remain focused on something else during the pandemic. It was going to be a point in time to celebrate my daughters 16th birthday. With the race happening in Windsor at Easter. However due to the pandemic this was cancelled. The date now a day working in the hospital. An Easter Saturday weekend.
I really wanted to mark the day. In my imagined parallel universe I was completing that race . I wanted some positivity to come out of the spiralling pandemic that we were in. I sent a tweet to the world asking them to walk or run 1k for for me and tweet a picture of themselves running with their mileage.and it responded. I imagined I would probably get a few people responding the response was overwhelming. The response predominantly came due to Running Man Jones who through his followers helped create a wave of positivity on that day.. I even had a hash tag #1KforCiara.
I came out of work after that long day my Twitter feed was full. Full of wonderful messages, heartfelt and sincere with pictures of these wonderful people who had run 1 km from me. I cried as I read them with pride, for all of them and that positivity that they had created this wonderful thing. Over 500 km was clocked up and it truly was a worldwide event with posts from America, India, Australia, New Zealand and all over Europe.
The event by now was rescheduled, set for 12th of September which is my sons birthday. Sadly, again, cancelled. This time I wasn’t going to be working at the on the date and as I was raising money for charity I decided I would do the 50 K by myself around my normal running routes in Cambridge.
In the last month my training really picked up mainly as I had this date looming ahead and a target!. I was out running or training at least every other day for two hours at a time.
Oddly, the treadmill became my best friend and the treadclimber a close second. This second machine allowed me train for longer but with less effort on my joints. Helping me maintain that mantra finish as strong as you start.
I’m also conscious I’m 51 and body and bones are not as strong as they were in my 20s.
However I felt strong and that is what was really, really important.
But where to run and how to keep it interesting? I normally just go off running up through the fens but I was conscious that out on my own I had no back up and I need access to people in case anything happens. I started to map old routes and new around the city and the fens and cycling or walking miles, testing the distance.
Close to the day I still had not decided on tne exact route. I did a 32 km walk with my faithful hound Conall took my time as we paced out a route, got scared by several cows (twice) and delightedly realised I was ready for the following week.
The morning of the run before the sun rose my kit ready I got ready, ate a hasty breakfast and left the house. Not before passing the hound looking at me reproachfully for not taking him, past the pile of birthday presents for my son who was under strict instructions not to open them till I returned. My aim was to be home for lunch, and likely only an hour or so after the household woke up. I wasn’t going to be missed.
I started off taking the pace easy, enjoying the fresh cool morning and I ran steadily, each 5K I clocked up my heart excitedly flipping with joy. I managed my longest run of 25 km after thinking I could never do that distance in my life.
However it was never going to be a challenge without being challenging and so between 25k and 30k I struggled to keep running. By this time I was out on the fen trying to steady myself on the uneven ground, my legs wobbly.
Rather than force myself to keep running I reverted to jog, walk jog walk with the mantra in my head finish as strong as you started.
Stupidly, I didn’t bring sufficient water and started to dehydrate at about 35K. This slowed me down distracting me as hydration then became my focus.
A local pub in Fen Ditton kindly filled my bottle with orange juice and lemonade. I think I can honestly say it was the best drink I have had all year.
I finally completed the distance in my village, my legs tired but no injuries. I took a picture of my finishing point looking out across a field towards Wandlebury and I remember thinking now what? I felt almost a little lost.
I walked slowly home.
On arriving home I was straight back into celebrating a birthday with my boy. My race seen by the family as no more than my usual Saturday exercise. No celebrations, no balloons no medal, though I did afford myself one glass of champagne.
If I had allowed it I could have seen the end of the race as an anti-climax. If anything it has made me realise how capable our bodies are of doing things even when we are older that we don’t think we are capable of. It was the first time I didn’t stress myself out about being fast or slow or “ploddy.” The only person I was competing with was myself. I listened to my body, trusted my training and kept to my mantra “finish as strong as you start.” This didn’t necessarily mean run the whole 50 K (now that would’ve been amazing) It meant to finish in a positive, happy frame of mind. It meant being able to walk later in the day to celebrate a birthday with no aches and pains so as not detract attention from the birthday boy and it meant being able to go for a long walk the next day with my hound.
On a positive note I haven’t let up my training regime which I usually drop immediately after an event. I walk as much as I can and now the gyms are open I am finding new machines that will help me with sustaining and improving my stamina. It is difficult to know what to sign up for as a challenge next when all the challenges seem to be cancelled. However, what I will do in a few weeks time is test myself again on gently running 25K. Who knows I may even get to 30k …..finishing as strong as I start.
Getting older has never bothered me, aside from a minor blip when I was about to turn 40. Happily it disappeared on the morning of my 40th birthday, which turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant anti-climax. Fifty was an excuse for numerous parties and despite Facebook sending me funeral ads, I didn’t really bat an eyelid.
I put this down to a number of factors: my husband is 9 years older than me, meaning I am a perpetual Spring chicken, relatively speaking; a group of wonderful life-long friends who both remind me of some of the idiocy of my youth as well as making sure we relive parts of it on a regular basis; and adult children who refuse to let me take myself too seriously.
There is one element to being over 50 however of which I am increasingly conscious : time speeds up.
By that I don’t mean ‘Gosh, hasn’t this year flown by?’ (although it has). I mean that I realise that time is an increasingly precious commodity. I am much more aware of having to actively carve out time for the things that I want to do, otherwise days and weeks just sort of…go.
I was in my last organisation for a long time, and while I didundoubtedly learn and grow professionally, and enjoyed many happy years, I think it’s fair to say that my rate of development slowed down. I felt very comfortable, and stopped thinking about the next step. I was frenetically busy and dealing with multiple issues and challenges but stopped feeling any particular sense of achievement. One month followed the next.
Joining BT last year, after 15 years out of the sector, has been very good for me. It put me on a steep learning curve. I regained a sense of awareness of how much I had to learn, and a sense of wanting to make each day count. I know that sounds pompous and I don’t mean it to – I suppose it’s just that going through a significant change professionally has refocused me.
This has bled into my personal life as well, helped partly I think by the experience of lockdown. The first few months went by in a blur, and while I never subscribed to the belief that we should all take the opportunity to better ourselves by learning to paint or speak Chinese, I did feel I should use the time to do something.
The something ended up being the Couch to 5k. My body is not a temple. I like a glass of wine in the evening, followed by another, and the first few weeks were a far from joyful experience. I plodded on however, both literally and metaphorically, and having completed it am still hauling myself round the park about 4 times a week. (Gosh, you must have lost weight, I hear you all think – nope, not at all). I do, however, very occasionally and for some fleeting moments, not completely hate it.
Where am I going with this? My experience has not been unique and I have no blinding insights to astound you with, but I do feel that doing something new is increasingly important. As much as anything else it stops you thinking that you can’t.
So in conclusion I would suggest you guard your time ferociously. Recognise it as the greatest gift you can give to someone or something, and be unapologetically selective. Bythe same token acknowledge and appreciate the time that people choose to share with you. And if you want to stay where you are in life because it suits you, then good for you, and I hope you do so happily and as an active choice. In my experience, it’s worth taking some of your valuable time to think about it.