Well hello 2017, you’ve come around fast.
Tonight I was chatting with a friend, and a few chords were struck. So here I am writing a note to myself. Or to you. Or whoever fancies reading it.
So here they are: lessons from 2017. Big ones. Small ones. But lessons all the same. A small selection: this is by no means an exhaustive list.
It’s OK to say you need help
This lesson was an obvious one, but I’ve usually just ignored it and tried to muddle along and find my own way. It’s all very well being strong-minded and independent, but sometimes you just need to put your hands up and say that you need some help.
First one. I’ve not been loving running for a while now. Ever since I left my training partner Mary, I’ve just not felt much oomph. Sure, I enjoyed the White Rose Ultra last November, but I’ve lost my spark a little. So here it is, my admission that I need some help with my running.
Over the past few days I’ve been reaching out to some runners to ask around if anyone can join me for some runs – both long and short.
I’ve realised that everyone needs help from time to time. Whether it’s a small thing or a big thing, help can be needed and provided in so many different ways.
Friends and family don’t ever think ill or less of you if you open up and say you need to a hand, or some advice. If they do, then they probably aren’t the kind of person you need in your life.
Address the issue, don’t ignore it
This is a lesson that applies to every level of life.
My lesson just so happened to rear its head during the fiasco of not addressing blistered feet in a race.
After 55 miles – 30 of which were with wet, shredded feet – I reached an aid station. Too scared of what I might find if I looked at my feet, I simply ignored the issue and pushed on. Very irrational.
I have vowed that if I ever reach an aid station with feet in that state again, I will address the issue.
Cue another 13 miles thinking I was going to faint because my feet felt like they were on fire.
Never, ever again.
It’s OK to throw it all in and take some time out
Last April this year I saw a job on the Isle of Arran on a Tuesday and applied for it. On the Wednesday I had a phone interview for it. On the Thursday I resigned from my job in the city.
The reaction was mixed from a few colleagues who didn’t know me so well, but in general, everyone was very supportive of my decision to take some time out from London and my normal life.
I think a lot of anxiety surrounding making this kind of leap is because most of us have grown up believing that you go to school, then uni. Then you get a job. And you stay there. And that’s what you do. And that’s who you are.
Last year I snuffled off to a remote location to take a breather, and to take some time to clear my head. Taking this step allowed me to re-evaluate things like my work-life balance, what it is that I value most, and what makes me tick.
Along with this, I met the most incredible lady who I know is a friend for life. Mary. The kindest, warmest, most ‘me’ person I could possibly hope to meet. Mary. I feel blessed to have met such a wonderful lady. A lady who I can honestly say is both a best friend and a role model.
So if ever you’re getting sick of your every day life, it’s OK to take some time out. Sure, think of the practical implications – rent and what not – but don’t let it suffocate you.
Give yourself the chance to breathe.
Care for your mental and physical health. And if that means a time out, do it.
It’s OK to be guided by your body, and not your schedule
I am human. You are human. Some days, even when we’ve had a great night sleep, we still might feel like trash.
It has been enormously liberating training by what I feel like, rather than what my ‘you-must-stick-to-this-timetable timetable’ says.
Last summer, even if I was on the verge of collapse, I’d still be there, slaving away under the relentless queen that was my training schedule. While I admit, I probably did mentally toughen up a lot during this period, nowadays if I felt as weak and horrific as I did last summer, I’d skip it in an instant.
That’s not to say this is the best or most efficient way to train – I’m no expert on this.
I find that I now don’t feel like a total failure if I miss a specific training session, and I that I don’t have to beat myself up about it.
Allowing myself the freedom to go by what my body wants, I find it much easier to do an hour plus of exercise each day. OK, so it wasn’t running. So what? This has been a big turning point for me.
I now let my training take a different approach.
In the past I would feel guilty all day that I didn’t want to run that day, avoid it, then feel even more guilty for not training.
Nowadays I say ‘OK, so you don’t feel like running today…how does stair climbing appeal?’ and chances are I’ll go off and do 60-90 minutes of something else, work some different muscles through cross-training, and feel really good for it after.
So, it’s up to you how you want to train, but it’s OK to go on your gut and not stick to having to run six days a week. Dang, that can get so stale!
People who give love are those who make the sport
With the risk of sounding like an enormous hippy, those who give love, smiles and gratitude are those who have made my running what it is.
I marshalled one of the marathon aid stations in the ‘Arran Man’ – Arran’s solution to the Ironman, and I saw all sorts buzzing through the aid station.
I saw all sorts of speeds, shapes, sizes, physiques…and manners, coming through that aid station.
The one who I will never forget is John. The one who stopped, smiled, chatted, thanked each time he passed.
After hours of physical exertion, he still had the gratitude and the goodness pulled from the bottom of his heart to let us know that he appreciated what we were doing. It was a privilege to meet him, and a blessing to think that we might have helped him along his journey to 140.6.
Whether it’s a smile passing a fellow runner, a quick text, a thanks at an aid station, a hug at the finish line, or indeed a reassurance at the start line – it’s those who give back to the sport who have made my journey this incredible so far.
It’s OK to only give your love to a select few
I think the older I’ve got, the more I’ve come to peace with this.
I only have so much time in my day, and so much love and energy I can give. It is impossible to have meaningful friendships and relationships to everyone who is nice to you. Heck, there are a lot of nice people in this world, which is why I no longer feel bad about trying to strike up a new BFF wherever I go.
It takes time and energy to nurture and bloom those rare and special bonds that you form. And in return you have that same energy and care committed to you.
To summarise: it’s OK if you’d rather have a few solid oak trees instead of a thousand saplings.
Yoga cures all
Ok, maybe not all.
But if you’re sad, stressed, down, feeling bad about yourself or are anything other than happy and zen, do yoga.
Don’t question it, just do it.
Do what makes you happy
Does what it says on the tin!
Sounds obvious, but it’s an easy one to forget.
Have a massive YOLO moment, and don’t give a f***
I think you’ll all know by now that my wedding inspired this one, but doing what feels right for – crazy or not, remember: you only live once.
If someone has an issue with it – unless you’re doing something of detriment to yourself, the environment or others – let them suck it up. Have your YOLO moment.
Over and out
So there we have it, some rambling thoughts on some of the things I’ve learned this year.
With the warmest wishes, and the biggest hug for the new year, let’s make 2017 a blinder.