Oh my goodness, is it really nine months since I first had the crazy, crazy idea of running a half marathon to mark my fiftieth birthday? It feels like it’s been quite a journey since then and with just days to go before we start travelling north in readiness for the big day, I think it’s time for a little reflection on the ups and downs of the last few months.
For starters, I’d like to say that no-one warned me running could be such an extreme sport. Living where we do, I always knew the training would be hard because there is no way of running from home without encountering hills. Steep ones. Lots of them. What I hadn’t bargained for was the effect of the weather. Take the last week, for example. First, I found myself getting up at 6am to go out and run before the sun crept over the mountain and temperatures soared into the thirties. I don’t mind an early morning but I prefer them when running isn’t in the mix. I have also been out on several short runs in unbelievably high humidity where it felt like there was a hot, wet rag covering my face; it was hard to breathe properly and so energy-sapping, I felt nothing but admiration for runners who train in similar conditions all the time. Then today, for my last really long run before the race, the heavens opened and rain poured down in torrents for the entire two hours.
Now funnily enough, running 10+ miles in a non-stop torrential downpour doesn’t appear on my official training programme but after today, I think it should because in lots of ways, it was a really good experience. Whenever Roger has run the Lake Vyrnwy half marathon the weather has been perfect but having lived in mid-Wales for 17 years, we know what the weather is capable of and there’s a chance it will be pouring with rain . . . and several degrees colder . . . with a driving wind just for good measure. There is no way I can poke my head out of the door on race day, see horrendous weather and wimp out so it’s better to be prepared. I don’t intend to take up distance running with several litres of water sloshing about inside my running shoes any time soon but I do at least know now that it is possible to keep going under those circumstances. Ditto soaking wet running clothes (and underwear!). At least the great thing about skin is that once it’s wet it can’t get any wetter. After the initial yuk! moment, it doesn’t get any worse. Honestly, it doesn’t. 🙂
In a very strange way, I actually enjoyed this run because it reminded me why I wanted to do this in the first place and how far I’ve come in the process. I wanted a personal challenge and I certainly got one: this has been SO hard, physically and mentally. I have managed to find the self-discipline to train which has surprised me, but I still don’t ever look forward to a run. There have been days when I felt like I was running in concrete boots through treacle and others where my feet had wings. There have been low points with aches and self-doubt and tears, but like all bad times in life, they have passed; equally, there have been high points and surprises and things to celebrate and smile about. Have I changed? Well yes, I have. I am certainly much fitter than when I started (Roger says faster, too, but I’m not so sure about that one!) and if nothing else, I have proved to myself that with the right attitude, determination and effort, it really is possible to achieve what I thought was beyond me. That alone is a great lesson for life.
In a former life I would have spent several days this week in an empty classroom, putting up wall displays, sorting out piles of new books and generally organising my plans, materials and thoughts for the new school year. Nowadays I run in torrential rain in northern Spain, causing some bemused looks from the cows and many smiles from my neighbours. Yep, there’s another deep notch carved into the post of Crazy Inglesa but you know what? It feels so good, so free and ridiculous, that several times during Drowned Rat Run I found myself laughing aloud at the nonsense of it all. Mad? Maybe, but it feels like living and that is a wonderful, wonderful thing. So I’m fifty and a granny but I still have plenty of living left to do. Here is a gift I hadn’t expected from this challenge, an even deeper zest for life and all its opportunities.
Of course, this challenge has been all about fundraising in memory of Lewis and he has been foremost in my mind on every run. I have been truly touched and thrilled by the generosity of others – not just in terms of donations, but also in messages of encouragement and support. I am completely delighted that over £500 pounds has been raised so far, money that will I hope bring some comfort and pleasure to the children and families in Rachel House Hospice. A HUGE thank you to everyone who has supported me – you’re all brilliant! I can’t say how excited I am starting to feel about catching up with friends and family on race day: there will be CHAS balloons and badges, fun and laughter, probably a few tears, too . . . but most of all, a celebration. Of Lewis. Of love. Of life. Am I ready? I think so. Bring it on! 🙂