Suspended in limbo with no idea what day it is, or what you’re supposed to be doing. Almost as if you’re having a giant lie in from life! I am, of course, talking about that awkward week in between Christmas and New Year. It’s a period where I always find myself in a reflective mood. So I thought I’d take a minute to put down the box of celebrations, and write a round up of what has probably been my best year of running so far.
After a quiet start to rest a niggling injury, my first run back was in New York. What a place to be. 5 perfect miles. Up through central park and back along the Hudson as the sun set over New Jersey. It was one of those moments where you feel so at peace, and so thankful to be alive. Despite strong competition, that run is probably in my top three of the year. It was perfect.
Thanks to the ‘Beast from the East’ causing utter Mayhem back at home, we found ourselves snowed out of the UK and ended up with a bonus 4 days in the Big Apple. I think it’s safe to say that I was far happier than my bank balance. It did allow me to sneak another couple of runs in however, one of my favourites being along the highline.
More Racing than previous years
My racing year kicked off at Easter with the Rotary quarter marathon. It was the first in a string of races that I had planned to use as structured training runs. Something quite new for me, but I found running too and from a race is a great way to add a tempo section to a long run. Plus, who doesn’t love being rewarded with a medal at the end of a training run?
Another 7 races followed, Bournemouth bay half, Edinburgh marathon, Poole 10K, Salisbury 54321 half, Winchester half, Bournemouth half, and Christchurch Christmas 10K. Unfortunately my final race of the year, Bournemouth Beach Run, will also be my first ever DNS due to my current foot injury. I’m excited to continue racing more in 2019 and I’ve actually entered another five, all before April, including my first ever 10 and 20 milers.
2018 was also my fastest year. I’d targeted Edinburgh marathon as a London good for age qualifier, sub 3.45 for my age group. Training wasn’t without it’s hiccoughs, but then as I’m beginning to find out, it rarely is! Despite the ups and downs, I got to the start line in pretty perfect conditions. For the first time I’d slept well before the race, my stomach behaved, and the weather was cool and dry. Actually, the entire race was a dream, better than I’d ever hoped. And when I crossed the finish with a new 20 minute PB of 3.38.58, I couldn’t believe it. The feeling when a huge investment in hard work finally pays off, is, in my opinion, second to none. It’s the kind that makes you laugh out loud and hug a total stranger. True story!
My next big PB target was my half marathon time, currently stagnant at 1.45.25. I chipped away 33 seconds on a very hilly course at Winchester half marathon, but my main goal was Bournemouth. The build up wasn’t ideal. Again! I trained really hard was feeling great until I got an ear infection with three weeks to go. I finished in 1.40.47, which although I was thrilled with, deep down, I knew that I’d bottled it on the start line. Still, a PB is a PB. But, I know that there is more to come.
Finally joined the park run community
It took me until December to overcome one of my biggest running embarrassments. It used to ring through my head like a confession. Forgive me, for I have never run a parkrun. It wasn’t though lack of want, but when I stopped working Saturdays as a physio, I started coaching gymnastics and so until recently, I really hadn’t had the opportunity. My park run virginity was popped on one of the rainiest days of the year at Kings Park, Bournemouth. I loved every single second of my 24.40 debut. Mud and all. It’s such an inclusive, inspiring event and the buzz of running with so many others (for free!) makes me wish I’d given up work long ago! My only regret, is getting injured almost immediately afterwards and not being able to run since. I’m hoping 2019 will involve many parkruns, as well as some parkrun tourism.
First track session
What a summer we had. Sunshine almost every day and highs of 30 degrees. Like the rest of the UK, for weeks I lived in shorts and left the house without a jumper. Scandalous! And for those six weeks, every Tuesday I set an alarm for 5.50 and met a friend at our local track. 7th August 2018, was the first time I’d run on the track. It’s fair to say that 6x800m repeats was a reasonably brutal way to christen the experience, but for someone who secretly loves pushing themselves to their limits, I was in heaven.
The track combined my love of being competitive, with structure. We ran pyramids, played cat and mouse, tried and failed to finish a conversation at 6mm pace, and counted laps by the number of times we passed the giant penis someone has drawn on the back straight. That summer of track work can be summed up in one word. Fun.
Less fear of running with others
I don’t know why running with others makes me nervous. In the past, I was always the one holding people back, or at least that’s how I felt. I go lobster red when I’m hot and even when I’m fit and running at an easy pace, I’m fairly sure I sound like a train. Not an ideal combination for chatting, or going straight for brunch afterwards. Having run far more with friends over the last 6 months though, I’ve found I really enjoy the company. I love that it makes running more sociable, and also more of an event. So much so, that one of my new years resolutions (which you can read about here) is to finally join a local running club.
The small things
When you look back at the end of a year, it’s easy for forget the small things. The runs where you got up early to watch the sunrise along the river, or went out late after an exhausting day at work to watch it set over the sea. The ones on holiday, where you got lost an ended up finding somewhere completely beautiful, quite by accident. Every short run to get a coffee. Every long run just to clock up the miles. The ones where you dragged your husband along for an impromptu interval session that took him weeks to recover from, and the ones where you just laced up your trainers with no idea where you’d end up. All of those runs, that seem innocuous at the time, are the ones that really matter.
Of course the PB’s are fantastic. The races are great. And the destination runs are memorable. But like much of life, it’s the smaller things that make it truly meaningful. I feel so lucky to have running in my life. The saying ‘you’re only one run away from a good mood’ couldn’t be more true. 2018, as with most years, has had it’s ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change anything about it. My time in Edinburgh has set me up for both London and Chicago in 2019. Something I wouldn’t have even imagined possible 18 months ago. It just goes to show that you should always dream big, bigger than you think, and then work hard to make it happen. I for one, am excited to hit 2019 running.
Happy New Year!