‘Body positive’ and obesity – weighing in to the debate

Quite a lot of the bloggers and instagrammers I follow consider themselves part of the ‘body positive’ movement. For those not familiar, this is about celebrating all human bodies, regardless of size and shape. There has been some commentary out there for a while about whether this movement encourages obesity and puts people’s health at risk and I read another comment about it this morning which got me thinking.

I’m obese. I have been for all of my adult life and much of my later childhood years. I have done the yo yo thing – losing various amounts of weight at various times and then, usually quite slowly and insidiously, putting it back on (although never making it back up to my peak weight). I spent a long time feeling bad about it and blaming myself and my lack of willpower for it. For the record, none of that helped. Whether I say horrid things to myself or not, my weight doesn’t change, only my mood.

The message I draw from the body positive movement is to live now and appreciate the body I have. I live in my body 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so I’m well aware of its flaws. However I also celebrate its strengths. I was only saying to a friend recently how much I’ve grown to appreciate my thighs, a relatively recent development since becoming a runner. They’re big and strong and I couldn’t be more pleased with them. They push me through long distances and up hills, keeping going even when my brain thinks they can’t.

I’m aware that my weight isn’t considered healthy on a range of current medical benchmarks and would definitely like to get closer to those targets. The body positive movement doesn’t discourage me for aiming for this and doing my best to work towards it. It also doesn’t convince me that I’m a healthy weight. But it does convince me that, whatever weight and shape I am, I can live now. I don’t have to wait until I’m a certain weight to run, wear clothes that make me happy or enjoy all the wonderful bits of life. I don’t have to apologise for my weight or how I look or wear clothes that hide my shape. I don’t have to use exercise as a punishment for eating certain foods and I don’t have to justify my food choices to anyone but myself. I don’t have to buy into media images of what ‘health’ or ‘strength’ look like and I can celebrate the things I achieve in this fabulous body I have.

Starting the year with a slice of gratitude

I’m starting 2019 with a grumbling achilles which was not in my plans at all. Last night’s walk around the neighbourhood was a slightly grumpy one as I wallowed in the fact I can’t run right now. I’m pleased to say that this morning’s walk had a completely different tone – wallowing done, I had a wonderful walk and spent the 5km thinking of all the things I’m grateful for as I start this new year:

  • I can walk. And walking is great, especially as I don’t have to think about where my feet are landing, how I can barely breathe and which bits might be chafing randomly so I can actually just enjoy the scenery instead.
  • This is not a permanent injury – I will run again soon and I’ll get that lovely surge of gratitude for being back at it. And get to again whinge about having to think about where my feet are landing, how I can barely breathe and which bits might be chafing randomly.
  • I love where I live. I have the choice of so many great places outdoors to enjoy the environment, all within a short walk or drive from my house. I have wetlands on my doorstep, beautiful hills visible from my backyard and a glorious beaches a short drive away.
  • I now have a running husband who is also experiencing his own injuries so he (finally) gets it and we’re able to support each other.
  • I’m part of a fantastic offline and online running community who are listen to me grumble about my injuries and help me put it all back into perspective.
  • The shuffle algorithm on my phone this morning was perfect – every song was exactly what I needed to hear and had me smiling all the way around my walk.
  • I have some great events to look forward to this year – new experiences and new goals to tick off.

Here’s to a 2019 filled with gratitude and, hopefully, some running as well.

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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!

Four Vines Running Festival half marathon – race recap

Those who follow this blog may recall that, ages ago, I signed up for a marathon. It was going to be this delightful event in country Victoria and I was planning on seeing how I went with ‘just’ a marathon (as opposed to a Dopey challenge). About 2/3 into my marathon training, I realised I really didn’t have it in me (just yet) and pulled back to the half.

Husband and I rocked up to the start line this morning, bright and early and with absolutely perfect running weather greeting us – blue skies and crisp air. Being the first time this event had run, as well as being out of the way for most participants, it was a smaller crowd gathering at the start. The start line for most of the events, including the half marathon, was at Tahbilk Winery, just outside of Nagambie and what an incredibly scenic start to the day. We wandered around, took some photos amidst the vines, took advantage of the portaloos (with no queues!) and got ready.

Husband waved me off (he was running the 10km later in the morning) as the small crowd set off on the half. I had known this would be a smaller event and had fully expected to be last as is usually the case. What I hadn’t expected was how inclusive this event was – they had thought of everything and had a tail runner for the half. So my headphones came out and I chatted to 2 delightful runners who happily hung out with me at the back.

The course headed out along a track and then onto the road where it spent quite a bit of time. While it wasn’t a closed road, there was minimal traffic and the cars that did come through were slow, careful and, usually, full of people willing and ready to cheer us on our way. The road was also canopied with trees which was very welcome as the sun was rising and making its presence felt.

Soon we caught up to another runner who joined our merry band and my 30/30 intervals as we headed off to our second winery of the morning – Michelton Wines. We had a brief bit of confusion about which entrance to go in but, once we’d worked it out, we were rewarded with some loops through the vines and more beautiful scenery.

And then we were on our way back along the road where we caught up with another runner to add to our group. We had a final few kilometres to run back in Tahbilk amongst more vines – probably the hardest part of the course for me as I resorted to a power walk and tried to ignore my blisters.

The last stretch felt like forever but it wasn’t that long before the finish line crept up and I ran across it, being rewarded with my medal and a wine. Husband and I then sat around, soaking up the beautiful weather, the entertainment and a beverage while resting our legs before reluctantly bidding farewell for our drive home. I wish I was one of those people who has a really long weekend this weekend but sadly not. 🙁

Absolutely loved this event – it far exceeded my expectations. It’s hard to know how an event will go on its first run but Four Vines just got everything right – enough aid stations, really friendly volunteers, great facilities, perfect event village and vibe and even friendly competitors who all cheered each other on, regardless of distance or pace. And, sealing it for me was the fabulous group of women I got to run with this morning – such an encouraging and supportive tribe who made the time and kilometres fly. Thanks to them and to Four Vines, we’ll definitely be back!

Barossa Brave half marathon – race recap

I didn’t seek out this little half marathon, it found me. After our Dopey challenge, I’d been looking for an event to stretch me and had found a marathon in the beautiful Barossa Valley. Even better, we found cheap flights from our local airport and locked it all in. And then the company that was organising the marathon cancelled the event. I have a lot to say about that but, rather than go into details, I have just learnt not to trust that they’re going to actually run events that they allow you to register for so won’t be bothering with their offerings in other places.

However all was not lost – the fabulous organiser of South Australia’s ‘Coastal fun runs’ stepped in and organised a smaller, charity event in its place and I signed up for that instead.

And so it was that I found myself meeting a bunch of other eager runners at Bethany Reserve in the Barossa Valley on Saturday morning. The distances on offer were a marathon, half marathon, 14km and 7km and I’d opted for the half. There were about 100 runners in the event and it had such a warm, friendly, local vibe to it. Even the huntsman who joined me in the toilet pre-departure seemed friendly and welcoming. Possibly a little too welcoming.

We all gathered at the start line, had a group picture taken and set off. The course was a 7km loop running out from the reserve, along a vineyard and a road before taking us on a creek crossing (dry but fun) and then out along an out and back arm which had a bit of an incline. And then it was time for the main event – the hill in the middle of the loop which rewarded us for the climb with spectacular views over the Barossa. And then it was down the hill, along the out and back arm again and back to the reserve…..to do it all again.

I had known from the start that this was going to be tough because of the hills but the pressure had been taken away by the very generous cut off time allowed. So I was measuring this one by how much enjoyment I could get out of it – a smile PB, not a time one. It wasn’t hard to achieve – what a glorious course on a glorious day with a glorious crowd. The hills were challenging as were the surfaces – longish grass and rutted dirt on some bits, rocks and cow pats hidden in grass on others and the always fun dry creek bed to navigate. The views were ample distraction – vineyards and farmland wherever you looked and the odd cow to say hello to. We even had gates to go through (others climbed the stiles but there was no way my legs would sign up for that so I got used to opening and closing gates). The weather was perfect – crisp and a little cloudy at the start while we warmed up then brilliant blue sky and sunshine by the last lap to bring it home. Magnificent.

Due to the loop and the out and back sections, we also all got to know each and there were lots and lots of smiles, high fives and encouragement from those completing all distances. Whenever I found it hard going, I remembered that, while I was doing the big hill 3 times, the marathoners had to do it 6 times and I couldn’t fathom how much my glutes would be screaming if that were me. So I smiled as I plodded my way up.

Husband had dropped me off then gone to parkrun and made it back in time for me to start my final lap. I definitely was plodding up the hill on that one but was still doing it with a smile – so grateful to be there and was as mentally strong as ever. My physical fitness might not quite have been keeping up with what I wanted but my mind was strong – there was no point where I felt like giving up or that it was too hard. Husband joined me for the last bit and I managed to run across the finish line to lots of applause from the crowd who were enjoying their post run wines.

What an event! Well organised, contributing to charities, a beautiful course with enough challenge to keep us amused and a great crowd of volunteers and fellow runners. Besides, any event where you’re standing at the finish with your medal and a glass of wine has to be a good thing.

parkrun tourism @ jells

I have an apology to make to Jells parkrun – I’ve been pushing you down the list. I had heard a rumour that there were hills and, while I might grimace while saying “Hills are my friends! Hills make me stronger!”, it’s a complicated relationship. When people say ‘hills’ and ‘parkrun’, I picture hills like those at Wilson Botanic or Westerfolds and my calves start to ache.

However the time had come. The thought of ‘only’ having to drive a little over an hour to tick off a new parkrun was too good of a draw card and as for the hills? I just had to pack my charm and hope I could make friends with these ones too.

Jells parkrun is very easy to find – not far off the main roads leading through and out that side of the Melbourne sprawl. Once you arrive, the facilities are great – ample parking and bathrooms that are so much nicer than what I’ve learnt to expect from suburban parks (with real toilet paper!) as well as a playground in case you want to amuse yourself before briefing.

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The briefing was friendly, welcoming and brief – all good qualities to have! Very soon we were gathered around the starting area and setting off. Up a hill. Now is probably a good time to discuss these so that I can reassure any of you who had heard the rumours I had – it’s really not that hilly. Yes, it has hills but I would call them more undulations and the upside is that for every up there is a down. The first downhill stretch is absolute bliss and I found myself gliding down it happily, soaking up the blue skies of this gorgeous Spring morning.

The rest of the course has some flat bits, some inclines and another short downhill before the gentle climb back up to the finish….so you can do it all again on your second lap! I’m normally not a fan at all of multi lap courses but this was great – I felt like the first lap had gone too quickly and I was grateful to have another chance to go around again. And I enjoyed the looong downhill just as much the second time.

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Another particularly wonderful thing about this parkrun is the variety of people it attracts – runners, walkers and run/walkers of all speeds. I’m often out on course on what feels like my own (although I’ve obviously in front of the tail walker) but there were people around me the whole time today and it was great.

And then it was done as I ran the last up and down hill bit to the finish.

There are some parkruns I’ve visited and enjoyed but probably wouldn’t choose to go back to – this is definitely not one of them. Jells was great. Not sure if it was just the right combination of weather, people and how I’m feeling but this morning was fabulous and I loved every minute, up or down hill and would happily come back and visit again. These hills and I are definitely friends 🙂

City2Surf – race recap

2 years ago today, I ran my first City2Surf in Sydney which was absolutely incredible. I remember thinking at the time that it was probably going to be a one off and I was just grateful to have been able to do it.

And then my husband became a runner too and decided he wanted to give it a go, opening the door for me to have another turn.

Running an event for the second time always makes me somewhat nervous. The first time, you have nothing to compare it to so the experience is unique and whatever time you get is great. The second time? There are pressures. Will it be as good? Will I beat my time? These were definitely the thoughts swimming in my head as we gathered in our hotel lobby and walked the short distance to our blue start corral at City2Surf on Sunday.

My self talk was all positive and realistic. I’m not as fit as I was 2 years ago and have had some big gaps in training so, in the spirit of meeting myself where I am at (rather than where I wished I was), I was aiming for a PB of smiles rather than time. Since Disney, I’ve struggled a little with the whole ‘love of running’ thing – I’ve seen it fleetingly but not consistently and I want it back. City2Surf was about reclaiming it. Because really, if you can’t have fun at this event, give up running. The crowds, the atmosphere, the entertainment, the views – all of it combine to the perfect blend.

Actually, before we hit start on this thing, let’s talk about crowds. If you don’t like them, don’t do this event. They advertise crowds of 80,000 and, even though they’re spread quite well into separately timed corrals, it still equates to a lot of people on the course at all times. They’re also a very varied bunch with elite runners, first event runners, costumed athletes and ‘enjoying the sunshine and a chat’ walkers. Not all of them start in the corral best suited to their speed so there is some dodging and lots of patience required. And I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

So it was time to start. I kissed goodbye to the speedy husband and set off at my own pace. I ran a comfortable pace and wanted to keep at that but was pleasantly surprised that I was keeping up with many of those around me. The spectators in this event are great and added to the smiles and, before I knew it, the first kilometre had ticked by.

I vaguely remembered the course from last time so didn’t quite have the same allure of the unknown but instead some comfort of mild familiarity. The police band at Rose Bay Police Station, the views of the harbour at different points, the undulations along the way and then Heartbreak Hill (which, again, was not heartbreaking). All kilometres flew by and my grin seemed to just get bigger and become more embedded. I was loving it. All of it. The scenery, the people and, most importantly, the running. I ran the bits I wanted to at the speeds that made me happy then walked the bits I didn’t feel like running (mostly the uphill bits).

And then there were the crowds. I’m not a huge lover of crowds but these were different, despite the frequent ducking and weaving and the odd accidental elbow. I felt like I got some of the Disney magic back – these were my people. People who moved at all sorts of speeds in all sorts of ways and without judgement. There were people around me the whole time, from start line to finish chute and that created the supportive atmosphere that did so much to keep my spirits high. An event where I felt I belonged.

Coming back down the hill towards Bondi, I saw that I had 3km to go and looked at my watch, curious about how I was doing in numbers. Even in long run fog, I could see that there was a chance of a course PB if I kept up my current pace. This was way beyond what I had hoped out of the day and pushed me along. At the bottom of the hill, the course loops past the finish to an out and back and, for the last kilometre, I ignored my watch and ran my heart out. As I crossed the finish, I stopped my watch and looked – a 2 minute PB. Not only did I love every step of it but I’d also managed to run it faster than before. Yes, I cried. It’s becoming something of a theme but they were such happy tears. I made my way to our meet up point in a smiley, happy cloud and floated on it for the rest of the day.

To City2Surf and all that ran her, a hearty thank you. Who knows how long it will stay but my ‘run happy’ is definitely back 😁