On Monday Mike and I had the loveliest runs in one of the most interesting places I’ve run in awhile, Thorney Island in West Sussex. Thorney Island is a wild place, an island that juts in to Chichester Harbour encircled by the Sussex Boarder Path. A former military base (with presence from both the RAF and the Royal Navy at different times) it got an air of mystery and adventure as you’re buzzed on an off the island through ominous looking gates, and surrounded by notices reminding you never to stray off the path. With hugely varied terrain it’s the perfect place for a trail running adventure.
Stocked with snacks and time, we pootled around the path clocking up just over 8 miles, heavy legs and big smiles. It was insane running along the sea wall next to crystal clear water on one side and a disused airfield on another. Mike was in his element taking in all the boats in the harbour (I suspect there was a solid amount of boat envy going on too) and I wished we’d brought a box to forage some of the blackberries that lined the path (and wished that I’d worn long socks, really scratched up my legs on those bushes!). It was an awesome day out, but it left me with a hefty dose of maranoia.
Maranoia, or marathon paranoia, is the feeling you get a few (in this case two) weeks from a marathon where you feel like you just suck at running and have no business running a marathon. This run made me feel like I suck at running and like I have no business running a marathon.
It sounds like an oxymoron when I’ve already said it was lovely and I enjoyed myself, but hear me out. I loved our run around Thorney Island, I had the best time, but I also ran crazy slow and at the end I was much more tired than I felt like I should be. It was grim, loving a run but feeling like I was a rubbish runner. The gremlins had crept in. The last week of training has been tough, there’s been some tricky things happening behind the scenes, I left the job I’d had for 8 years and then my period arrived and plummeting hormones left me floored. Blended with tricky terrain and dodging bushes on the trails, and academically I know there’s lots of reasons why my run was slow and my legs heavy. But it doesn’t stop me feeling a bit down on myself.
I do sometimes feel like a fraud when I say I’m a running blogger. I’m not fast, I’m never likely to BQ or score all the marathon majors. I plod along. Most of the time I’m ok with that, I don’t train to be fast I train to be sustainable, to be in my 80s and taking in park run each week, but sometimes I’m not. Sometimes the noise around what runners are and are not gets to me. You know the noise, that to be a ‘real’ runner you should achieve this or that, that a mile should be run that this pace or that pace, that you should look like this or that. It can really drill in to you. But then you remember that all of those messages are just saying you ‘should’. Doesn’t mean you have to. Doesn’t mean there’s not room to rebel. It takes strength to rebel, to redefine what a good runner is, to run for yourself, not for what you’re told you should run for. Having that confidence is powerful. So I’m clawing it back. I’m looking to some of the runners who run for themselves and taking the moment to be inspired and forget those dumb ass gremlins. I will own this marathon!
I love Megs, she’s one of those genuinely brilliant people who you don’t come across too often and she’s also a total badass. She moved to the UK, trained as a PT, found her tribe in the Backpackers and is generally owning life. This year she’s run two marathon majors (London and Berlin), scored a marathon PB and next year I get to invade her personal space in the desert for The Speed Project. Megs is tough, I know there were dark moments during her last marathon, and it’s her guts that I love.
Becca aka Red Faced Runner
Becca is totally honest. She is honest about being afraid. She is honest about finding things tough. She is honest about being pissed off. Last weekend, after a tough year, she scored her London Classic medal. Becca has lived the idea of being scared and doing it anyway, and she’s done it with crazy style. So much respect for this one. (also isn’t this picture just everything?!).
*image: via Instagram
I can’t have a list of runners redefining what it means to run and not include the Backpackers. This crew is my tribe. I’m gutted that this term I have teaching every Thursday so can’t join them for miles (you can, 6.45pm ASICS Regents Street, just saying), but I know the lighthouse will always be there. Backpackers celebrate those at the back of the pack. The runners who are out there pushing through the miles no matter what, who run for themselves, who support those around them, who cheer every person over the line. They’re a really special lot, and you can bet I’ll be relying on our legendary WhatsApp group for motivation come marathon day.
Corey is the most inspiring person. Coming back from injury is never easy, but Corey’s focus and determination post-surgery has been amazing! I am so proud of her, she’s made so much progress in such a short period of time, and I really cannot wait to see how she progresses between now an March when we run The Speed Project together. I know she’ll be a real asset to our team! Oh yeah, and all that’s before I mention how she manages to balance Type 1 Diabetes with ultra running. The woman is something else. And yes, she manhandles me every time we see each other.
*image: Anna Rachel Photography
Captain of the Backpackers, boss lady and all around legend, Leeanne is one of the most wonderful people I know. She’s one of those people that’s always there with a hug, a word or some kindness just at the moment you didn’t know you needed it, and it’s always exactly the right thing. A few months ago Leeanne ran her first 5km after giving birth to her beautiful daughter and smashed it. I knew that she was nervous, her fear of that 5km was palpable, but you know what she did it. She faced her fear. Goes to show that even if you don’t think you can do it, you usually can.
*image: via Facebook
Who inspires you when running feels tough? Let me know below