My 2016 (and it’s not all about Running)

I was very taken this year by Tim Minchin’s speech made to accept his honorary Doctorate from the University of Western Australia.  Okay – so it wasn’t in 2016 – but I first saw it in 2016 – so that counts in my book!  I found it funny and thought provoking – so much so that I was tempted to suggest all my patients watch it before they saw me – maybe they wouldn’t need to see a Clinical Psychologist if they just followed his rules for life.  Do watch it if you have not seen it before……………….  (I hope my link works)

– but if not just Google it.

There has been much to worry about in 2016 – but in this blog I am going to follow (fellow runner) Tim’s Point number 7:

Define Yourself By What You Love
I’ve found myself doing this thing a bit recently, where, if someone asks me what sort of music I like, I say “well I don’t listen to the radio because pop lyrics annoy me”. Or if someone asks me what food I like, I say “I think truffle oil is overused and slightly obnoxious”. And I see it all the time online, people whose idea of being part of a subculture is to hate Coldplay or football or feminists or the Liberal Party. We have tendency to define ourselves in opposition to stuff; as a comedian, I make a living out of it. But try to also express your passion for things you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Send thank-you cards and give standing ovations. Be pro-stuff, not just anti-stuff.

This is what I have loved in 2016:

  1. Celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary – 30 years with David – how did we get to be so old?? We’ve done well boy………………..
  2. Just being able to run – the Brighton Marathon of course – and the Sussex Grand Prix – but really just running outside in the heat, and the cold, and the rain – on streets and trails and even over the odd stile – on my own or with friends.
  3. Watching Rosie and Sam grow up into their own people.
  4. Being the support team – with Julie – for David, John, Sam and Lewis – whilst they walked the 100km of the Trailwalker – amazing to watch them get through this gruelling experience.
  5. Friendship – and if you are reading this – count yourself in there.
  6. My cats.
  7. The most astounding art gallery I have even been lucky enough to visit – The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASSMOCA) – if you ever find yourself in North Adams – go there – you will not be disappointed!
  8. David Bowie – so sad to hear about his death in January 2016 – but thank you for the reminder about his wonderful music that has punctuated my life and gives me my running track of the year…………….Heroes – what else?
  9. Meeting Eddie Izzard (another runner).
  10. Did I mention running? This time with the Heathfield Road Runners!

Thank you to everyone who has been part of my 2016 – and here is to an action packed 2017!!

On Setting Targets and Keeping Going

It is that time of the year – Christmas is over and the New Year is in sight – time to make the resolutions and make some changes in your life.  But so many fall by the wayside – how can you set yourself a target and make it stick?  This is a blog about running and running targets – and maybe other targets as well.

In 2014 I ran the Brighton Marathon.  Aged 55 and having just retired from my job in the NHS I needed something to aim for.  The last year at work had been horrible – the service I worked for had been out to tender and then taken over by another Trust.  Cost savings were being made and senior staff were expensive – so I retired rather than be made redundant.  After 32 years in the Service my new manager didn’t even learn my name.  I needed something to aim for and a marathon seemed like a good idea – well I had spent the last 10 years saying “I’ll never run a marathon” – so I thought I’d shake things up a bit.  I talked Julie (my long standing and very patient running buddy) into it as well and we started training.  Sadly Julie didn’t get very far into the training before she started to struggle with her health and had to give up …….. so I went it alone………….. week after week of gradually extending my long runs – 16, 18, 20, 21 miles until I was ready for the day.  And I managed it – 26.2 miles in 4 hours 47 mins – I still count it as one of the greatest achievements in my life.

But it is what happened afterwards that was shocking – I just lost my running mojo…………….  Okay it takes a little while to recover physically from a marathon – but nobody talks about how you recover your passion for running again.  I struggled on from week to week – a short run here and there – but never got back into the rhythm.  I even ran a couple of half marathons – Tonbridge in September 2014 and the off road Weald Challenge in May 2015 – but with little enthusiasm.  In fact I’d have given up in the Weald Challenge if I could have found a marshall to give me a lift……………  What had happened?  It was like the marathon had drained my will to run.  Was I too old?  Too weak?  Too rubbish at running? Had the target just been too big?  I know now that it wasn’t just me.  I have met so many people since who have run a marathon and then…………. Just stopped! At least I kept going……… sort of……………….

And I have chatted at races to people who don’t reach their target.  Someone I know wanted to run a half marathon in less than 2 hours.  She finished in 2 hours and 2 minutes – was she disappointed? – she told me “I ran as hard as a could – how can I be disappointed?  And anyway the target is still there for next time………..”  Which got me thinking about the whole nature of targets and what happens when you achieve them and have nothing else to aim for.

In my (non running) life I am often involved in helping parents to change their children’s behaviour.  I help them to set targets that are clear (it’s no good asking a 5 year old to “be well behaved”), achievable (it’s not good aiming for perfection when just getting breakfasted and to school is a battle), are rewarded immediately (with praise and attention and small treats), involve fun (children get bored easily) and become part of a way of life (you can’t just “fix” children’s behaviour – it’s all about the way a family works together).  Would these principles work for other targets…… my training tells me they should………

So two years on – when Julie came back to me and suggested that we have another go at running the marathon together in 2016 – I approached it rather differently.  I loved the training the first time around with a goal every week gradually building and moving forward.  And the marathon was not my only target for 2016 – but part of “A year of Running” – the marathon was not the “be all and end all” –  just one of the races – all important in their own right as well as part of the whole.  In 2016 I have run one marathon (PB), three half marathons (PB), one 10 miler, four 10k and one 5k.  And I’ve been part of the Heathfield Road Runners women’s team who ended up placed 3rd in the Sussex Grand Prix.

How do the principles apply?  Well the races were clear targets; they were all achievable – but did require some hard work to make them happened; they were rewarded immediately (I do love a medal) and the fun came from running with Julie and as part as HRR.  I’m back to running being part of my life.  My targets won’t work for everyone………… we are all different and that is the point.  But maybe try out the principles and see whether they work for you in 2017.

And my target for 2017?  Well that would be a half marathon every month with the lovely Gill B – watch this space to see how we get on…………………

A Sunday Run – Why Blog?

I have known for a long time now that this is not my favourite time of the year. I wake up in the dark.  And the days draw in before the afternoon is over.  Sometimes this is irritating – at best – and makes life hard work.  On mornings like this morning I feel like all the light has been sucked out of the world.  Last night I made a promise to myself – “tomorrow I will run” – it helps to make that promise – because when tomorrow comes there is nothing I feel less like doing.

And it was on that run that I decided to start this blog.  I know running makes me feel better. EVERYONE knows running makes them feel better – so why tell people? Well I need reminding so maybe other people do too!  So I set out on one of my favourite runs – starting with a long (2 mile) downhill into Horam.  I can’t lie – the first mile is horrible – my right knee is niggling – and every step feels slow and heavy.  By mile two I’m beginning to find a comfortable pace – the aches and pains have faded somewhat and its refreshingly cold – I start to feel better!  Mile three – a couple of sharp up-hills – warmed up now and I begin to notice people around me – cheerful and off to pick up the Sunday paper or maybe a visit to church.  It is good to pass by these people and exchange a greeting or a smile.  Some people smile first and are obviously happy and enjoying the day.  Others look like they are in their own world – thinking – what? Happy thoughts? Sad thoughts?  But almost everyone responds to a smile and a greeting.

Through Horam and onto the Cuckoo Trail – I feel lucky to live near here and to be able to run off the road – other runners – dog walkers – cyclists and horse riders – all out this early on a Sunday morning………………..

And that’s when I started to think – I need to share some of this.  I am no longer dragging myself along.  I am no longer counting the miles.  I am running.  Thinking.  Listening to music (I usually do when I run on my own) and I feel just fine!  And that’s the simple point of this blog (I have lots to say) but the most simple message is – that being outside in the daylight – and moving your body just makes you feel better.

And so I am set up for the day – refreshed from the cold – but feeling hot.  Hungry and thirsty.  Ready for a shower and a cup of tea.  And back in touch with how lucky I am to live in this part of the world (despite the short days).  Who cannot feel good …………………….  And thanks to David – out walking and taking photos of this lovely place in East Sussex.

8 Miles done (more of my targets for 2017 next time).

And as an afterthought – I think I will share my running track of the day – it’s got to be “The Only Way is Up” – but you can take you pick as to which version you prefer – upbeat with Yazz or acoustic with the awesome Stornaway (matched my mood today!)