I can’t believe it. I did it. 153km/95miles run over 31 days, and £185 raised for Mind.
I’m going to do the really obvious thing and write a buzzfeed style lessons learned post…I’m sorry, but at least I didn’t give it a click-baitey title…
10 Things I Learned From Running Every Day in January (You won’t believe the last one!!!!)
Yeah, I lied.
1. I can run!!! – sounds pretty obvious, but the thing is, my mum is a Runner, like proper capital R Running. She doesn’t just do marathons, she does ultra marathons, often ridiculous off road ones that involve big hills and a lot of mud. No word of a lie, the phrase “just a marathon” has been uttered in that house (I should note, it wasn’t used in reference to someone else’s achievement like “Oh it was only a marathon”, more “Yeah I could squeeze in a race next weekend, it’s just a marathon”). And to top it off, my sister is following in her footsteps, she’s currently in training for a 64 miler! So, while there are loads of plus side to this (second hand running gear – I’ve never had to buy running shoes, lots of tips, and there always being a readily available running buddy back when I lived at home last year) the downside is that I have never felt like I could really “do” running, because I was stupidly comparing myself to a completely ridiculous standard, because that was the reference point in front of me at the time. This challenge was the first time I have ever regularly run solo without any other person to compare myself to, and yeah, it turns out I can actually run.
2. STRETCH DAMMIT – for the first couple of weeks I religiously stretched after every run, I had already started to get into the habit of doing 5 minutes of stretching in the morning and so it seemed natural to just do that routine after a run too. Then I got lazy. And I definitely felt a difference. Ouch.
3. A running buddy is great, but solo is pretty awesome too – as it says on the tin really. I’ve felt pretty liberated by running solo if I’m honest, I use it kind of like a mindfulness practice and I can just let my thoughts drift in and out, say what they wanna say, and I can focus on them or not. Most of the time it’s pretty pleasant, which leads me on to my next point…
4. Running is NOT medicine and it is NOT magic – contrary to the Facebook meme, pulling on a pair of trainers and going for a run does not magically cure all your woes. Nope, not even if you do it every day. As it happens, I don’t take antidepressants, but I do get some pretty awful lows hit me, and I occasionally experience panic attacks, and they have carried right on through January regardless.
5. Running CAN BE a pretty great pick me up – having said all of that, I have had days where I have felt like absolute shit, like running is the last thing I could possibly want to do with myself, where the only reason for getting out the door is because I’m stubborn and wanted to complete the damn challenge, and I’ve come back in 45 minutes later sweating and smiling and feeling much better for it. I pretty much feel like running didn’t do much to change my baseline, but sometimes it’s a good way of tackling the lows when they hit.
6. Know your goals and motivations – one thing that I got better at doing as the month wore on was making sure I knew what I was setting out to do before I got out the door. I would be clear with myself about whether I was aiming for distance, or speed, or just to tick the damn day off because I don’t wanna run today but I signed up for this stupid challenge and it’s getting late and dark and I should probably do a quick lap of the block. By making sure I had this in my head I was able to push myself at the right points, and be kind at the right points – I am aching and need to walk? Fine, let’s walk for a bit, today is about hitting that 12km mark no matter how long it takes. I wanna turn for home? OK, today is about speed, sprint the street. I don’t wanna do this? Tough, you said you would, but lets plan a route with lots of possible early exits home so you can take it easy and call it early if you want to (most of the times when I did this I ended up running the full route, just knowing I could cut it shorter was enough to keep my mind in the right place).
7. Beware of moving goal posts – it’s so tempting when you realise one goal is in reach to push it that little bit further, I did it mid-run all the time “Hmmm, I could do that extra loop at the end”. Pushing yourself is great, it’s why I signed up for this in the first place, but there’s a trap here: it’s easy to forget about hitting the original goal if you fail at the new one! I definitely had a moment when I converted my kms to miles and saw I was just 5miles off of breaking the 100 mark, I sat there staring at the screen thinking “Man, if I had just pushed myself a bit more in that last week”, letting myself completely miss the fact that I’d already done more than 50% over and above my original goal! Pursue them vigorously, hold them lightly, and don’t lose sight of how far you’ve come.
8. A bit of mud never hurt anyone – I have really really enjoyed getting out in nature, and with it being January that has meant getting a bit muddy, but skin is wipe clean and clothes can be washed, it’s been worth it! Also, the magpies totally have my back, there’s so many round here and I always make sure to give them a wave.
9. Recovery is part of the program – one of the hardest parts of this challenge for me has been having to admit that I can’t do everything. Two of the four weeks I have pretty much burnt myself out, and that is a horrible feeling. Your body needs rest and recovery, and if I wasn’t so stubborn and determined to complete this challenge I probably should have stopped running a week ago when my ankle first started to swell, as it is, it now hurts to walk. But January is over, so tonight there is no run, there is TV and pizza.
10. Pizza is delicious – unbelievable right?
Anyway, what now? Well as for running, I want to keep doing it, but I also want to be doing Ju Jitsu and pole dancing and socialising and everything else, so running every day definitely isn’t for me! But running 2-3 times a week seems doable, I’d ideally like to keep the runs above 5k because those are the runs I’ve enjoyed most. My thinking at the moment is maybe one or two 5k runs on evenings when I’m not doing anything else, and then a 10k at the weekend. We’ll see.
As for the side quests – it’s time for quest 2 and I have a scrap book to make!