“The splendid thing about falling apart silently…
is that you can start over as many times as you like”
– A Thousand Flamingos, Sanober Khan
Despite promising (threatening?) to write more often in my previous post, it’s been six months since I even checked my blog. Why? The short answer is that I’ve had a lot on, but never one to give a short answer, here goes.
Although I’m currently laid up with an injury after another epic stunt of mal-coordination (more on which later) I’ve just started an exciting new chapter in my life, which also marks a new era for my favourite hobby/obsession.
As a result of a change of job and a move to the Cotswolds, for the first time since I started running I have access to a wide variety of routes and terrains, and have the stability and time to commit to a running club.
Rather than the mean streets of Peckham, my closest route is along the unspeakably beautiful Thames Path, not far from the source. I’m now dealing with stinging nettles and cows, rather than traffic and scallies with fighting dogs. My new employer also has a very active running club, including free fitness classes tailored for runners.
The change of lifestyle (including more sleep and regular routine), and finally getting my medication right, has made me feel better than I have in as long as I can remember. Although it’s early days, and being all too aware that my condition means that I am always one very small step away from things seeming too great, or very very bad, life is good.
So far, so positive. However, the reason for the gap in writing is that things have been pretty bad, both in life and in terms of running, for the majority of the intervening period between posts.
In fact, as far as running is concerned, only a couple of months ago I was not sure that I wanted to run again. I had completely lost the love, only putting my trainers on when I had no choice, mainly due to Southern Rail’s complete ineptitude.
As a result, I pulled out of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Trail and the Marato Dels Cims, despite being in the best physical shape than I had ever been, and just stopped running.
It all started so well. The training plan from my coach, Robbie, was brilliant; I saw an improvement in my fitness and performance after pretty much every run. I found the structure and flexibility of the personalised plan more beneficial than I thought I would, particularly the tempo sessions. Doing sprint work was, for me, like a trip to the dentist – unpleasant, very likely painful but ultimately very good.
As the race got closer, however, I started to use training as a stick with which to beat myself. I became obsessed with running further and faster, so much so that even Robbie told me that I was doing most of my sessions too quickly. And although he was on hand to adapt my training plan on a daily basis I convinced myself that I could not afford to miss a session.
As my mental health is so intertwined with running, it’s difficult to tell whether this was a cause or just a symptom of a wider problem. It was certainly adding to the anxiety caused by a possible job and house move, and to the normal stresses of modern life, all of which I was not coping with very well. I was becoming increasingly withdrawn, my moods erratic, and to be honest it almost proved too much for my incredibly understanding and supportive wife.
Thankfully, we did not let history repeat itself. Rather than let the problems spiral out of control we hit them head on, admitting that something drastic needed to be done. So we spent a lot of time overhauling the way that we worked together as a family, I left the only career that I have ever known, and we moved out of London for an altogether different life. No less radically for me, I also took a break from running.
As will be evident from the above, it seems to have worked. As with the rest of my life, I’m now enjoying every run. Well, almost.
On only my third run in the country, I was coming up to the final gate before heading back onto the short stretch of road to home. Distracted by a large black and white animal that I think country folk call a “cow”, I put my foot on a loose rock, sprained my ankle and went head first into the metal gate. I limped home, blood pouring from my head and knees, and my ankle swollen to about three times the size. A week later I’m still limping, and sporting a particularly fetching black eye, which would be embarrassing at the best of times, but being only two weeks into a new job I look particularly ridiculous.
But, despite the mishap, I’m now feeling super-motivated, and ready for the next challenge. Once I can walk again, of course.