Looking back and looking forward

I swear the end of the year has snuck up on me this time around and I really can’t believe it’s already the end of December. Strava reminded me with their annual funky video that it was time to reflect on my running so here it is!

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I snuck over the 1000km mark in my running which I was happy about – less than last year but still feels like a lofty enough amount and something I wouldn’t have dreamed of a few years ago.

It has been quite an interesting year of running and one in which I’ve certainly encountered struggles. Completing the Dopey challenge in January with my first marathon was both an incredible way to kick off the year and a difficult one. After that, all goals seemed lacking and I found motivation hard to come by. I convinced myself to ‘just keep running’ and hoped my mojo would return which it did yet it really ebbed and flowed all year.

I had a couple of setbacks which were tough at the time (including 6 weeks out with a sprained ankle) but which made me appreciate being able to run when I was able to. The hardest things to push through have been the mental barriers – quite a challenge that running helps me keep my brain and moods balanced and yet is also sometimes the cause of the imbalance in the first place. I started then gave up training for my second marathon, deciding I just wasn’t ready to give it the time and energy it deserved. Yet.

Losing my Mum halfway through the year coloured everything including my running in both hard and wonderful ways. I’ve learnt that grief just does its thing and takes over when it wants to, sometimes leaving me unable to get out the door to run. And then other times, I wanted to run because I knew Mum would have liked that. It was funny that she was never a runner and it wasn’t something that played any role in her life but it had become something we talked a lot about in the last few years so I connect her with it and I know she was proud of what I’d achieved.

This all seems a bit flat but there are many things I’m hugely proud of this year – here are my highlights:

  • Completing the Dopey challenge and my first marathon. Seriously nothing has ever (and probably will ever) compare to that. I still get goosebumps thinking about it and it’s the thing that gets me through all tough things ever since – if I can run a marathon, I can do anything.
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  • Finishing the Surf Coast Trail half marathon. It was the second time I’d attempted this beast but did it on my own this time, fighting both the demons in my head and those in my body as I left my stomach contents on the trail. Several times. So many reasons to give up and yet I just kept going. I can do hard things.
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  • City2Surf. My second go at this event too but just as much fun as the first, if not more so. I loved having my husband there to share the weekend and a PB topped it off delightfully.
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  • Barossa Brave half marathon. Every now and then, I like to do something that scares me, just to see if I can. And this scared me with its big hill in the middle and the thought of doing 3 loops of it. Without my usual running buddies. I loved absolutely every minute and smiled so much my face hurt.
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  • Portland Winter Solstice Run. This was another one where I proved to myself that I can do hard things. I could have stayed in bed and listened to the wind and rain but instead I sucked it up and ran in all that the weather could throw at us. And loved it.
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  • My running friends. I spend so much time running alone but, whether they’re with me in person or in spirit, they’re always there and always offering encouragement and understanding without judgment. When I am lucky enough to run with them in person, the kilometres fly and we solve the problems of the world. I wouldn’t have been able to complete Dopey without them and cannot stress enough what a better place my world is for having them in it. Some are in this picture but I extend this to my wider running family, some of which I only catch up with occassionally at far off parkuns but who still have a significant impact. As do those I’ve only met online in the two running groups that are a big part of my running life – their constant encouragement and advice boost me up.
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So that’s my year. 1001.8km. 1 marathon and 4 half marathons. 34 parkruns plus another 8 as a volunteer. 11 more medals to add to my bling collection. And a whole lot of new and precious memories to add to the store. On reflection, I’m feeling very blessed and grateful for what the year has brought, despite any hardships. It all balances out in the end and the dips really do make you appreciate the heights. Looking forward to what 2019 will bring!

Letter to my 15-year-old self

This is a bit of a different blog post – I had a birthday recently and it made me reflective, as birthdays tend to. I was wondering what my 15 year old self would have thought of my life today. My 15-year-old self wrote my older self a letter all those years ago, saying what she hoped life would be like and it was full of all sorts of half formed plans (working for Reuters) and little girl dreams (marrying my Prince Charming). The usual.

What really got me thinking about all of this was reading blog posts by one of my favourite bloggers, Kelly of ‘Run, Selfie, Repeat’. It made me think how far I’ve come along the pathway of accepting me with all my complexities and peculiarities. And I wished I could tell her, 15-year-old me, about that to help her shortcut some of the angst…

Dear 15-year-old me,

Greetings from the future! You wrote me a letter so it only seems fair that I reply. Expect that, as your letter was full of half formed dreams, this will be full of the advice you’ll need to get there. And I expect, if I could deliver it, that you’d probably disregard most of it, thinking that you’re doing ok on your own. See, I know you well.

You know how you think everyone is staring at you when you walk into a room? How you think they’re all thinking terrible things about you, your clothes and your body? Most of them are not. They have enough to worry about in their own lives. And those of them that are? They also have enough to worry about in their own lives which, oddly enough, is why they add so much trauma to yours. That same girl who bullies you relentlessly and makes your life hell would probably give anything to walk in your shoes and she doesn’t know how to deal with that. I know that doesn’t make it easier but keep that bit of knowledge and use it to walk past a little taller.

In fact, that’s the biggest bit of advice you need – be brave. Walk with your head held high and fake the confidence you don’t yet feel. You will. There are so many doors which are starting to open for you and which will continue to open – walk boldly up to them and go through; find out what adventure awaits. Don’t fear failure – it’s how you learn and all of those dreams you have will require you to mess up frequently on the way. Mess up often and use those lessons and feelings to pick yourself up and do it again a bit differently.

Value yourself and believe you are worthy of being loved. I know that boy you’re after might seem like a greek god but he’s just a boy who knows who he is just as little as you know who you are yet and hormones are screaming so loudly for you all that it’s hard to hear much else. The tears you shed over him won’t be the last but know that it will all end happily. Eventually, you’ll meet someone amazing who ticks all of your long held criteria and who will be the prince to your princess. It’s a cliche but you’ll find your soulmate and it will make you wish you hadn’t spent long nights stressing over others who really weren’t right for you anyway.

Some of the dreams you thought about will come true, others won’t but you will achieve things beyond what you ever imagined. You’ll graduate from University multiple times. You’ll work in a myriad of jobs, some of which will be scintillating, some awful but all memorable. You’ll have some incredible high moments – being speechless while standing in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence and standing on stage receiving your Masters degree are 2 that spring to mind. And yes, there’ll be low ones too but they’re worth it for the balance and gratitude they bring.

And, eventually, you’ll discover running and that will bring you so much that you’ll wonder why you put so much effort into avoiding it. You, who feigns illness to get out of cross country and dreads every PE lesson, will run half marathons for fun. You’ll travel across the state, the country and, in fact, the world to run in different events. And you’ll hang out with incredibly supportive friends who run with you and inspire you to go further than you thought you could. It will help you see yourself as strong and capable and stop you hating your body for what it isn’t, instead loving it for what it can do. And, out on the trails or surrounded by thousands of runners at an event, you’ll fall into a zen like state that calms you and guarantees you’ll run again. Because it’s part of who you are.

I know – that’s all a lot to take in. It doesn’t even sound like you. But it is – just the best you that you can be. You’ll spend a long time and a lot of air travel trying to ‘find yourself’ – be assured that you do find the version of you you’re seeking and it’s all worth it in the end. I’d advise you to try to chill a bit along the way….but I know that’s just you and how you do things. It’s enough to know you’ll get there.

With love,

your older, wiser self.