Run for Joy

What's your mantra? When you're near the end of your run and need to push yourself, what do you tell yourself to get you through?

A lot of running is in your head. It's about overcoming the little voice that tells you that you can't. The voice that tells you that you hurt. The voice that teases you because you have more miles that you can imagine left to run. You can have miles left in your legs, but if your your mind is in the wrong place it's game over.

I wrote a little while ago about my mantra for the Great Birmingham Run -

run for joy, enjoy the run

I wanted my first half marathon to be enjoyable. I wanted to feel good and focus on the sense of achievement and fulfilment I get from running. When things felt hard I repeated my mantra and focused on the next step. I felt strong and confident. It was pretty amazing! 

Another aim for Birmingham was to run in the moment. I wanted to be present and really enjoy the unique atmosphere of a big city race. Repeating my mantra helped me to achieve this. It kept me focused on why I was there, why I run and what really matters - something I never want to lose sight of. 

Reflecting on Birmingham there were so many points where I could have packed it in. Where my head could have won over my body. While the first 10 miles were awesome, the last 3 were hard. Through the final 800 meters I felt really quite ill. The whole race was deeply emotional, there were times when I was chocking back tears. My body hurt. I couldn't chew a Jelly Baby. My body was at it's peak, but my mind still could have won. I credit my mantra for not letting that happen.

I don't know if I will use the same mantra for Paris, but I do know that I will have one, and that it will be one of the most important pieces of kit I take with me.

Great Birmingham Run, 13.1 miles

I very nearly didn't run this race.

You see, it turns out that between us me and my mum have some pretty questionable navigational skills. Well, unless we had wanted to go to Wolverhampton. Then we would have been bang on.

So, with half an hour until my pen closed, we found ourselves careering around the 'A' roads of the midlands, trying to find a motorway and attempting not to be involved in an RTC. I was pretty sure we wouldn't make it, but in some feat of (possibly illegal) Mad Max style driving we did, with moments to spare. I've never been so relieved to see the start of a race.

Unfortunately the missed exit means I can't tell you much about anything at the start. I have no idea where the bag drop was, although I can tell you that I did find a portaloo without a queue, which is always a good sign! 

The upside of spending the 30 minutes before a race in a state of abject panic is that you don't have a lot of time to worry about the race. Even once I was safely in the green start pen I was just so happy and relieved to be there that what I was about to do barely crossed my mind. A couple of quick repetitions of my mantra between flinging my arms around as part of the customary awkward group warm up and before I knew it I was moving! 

I didn't have an agenda when I went in to this race. I wanted to get around, ideally in around 2 hours and 10 minutes, but any result would have been a new PB. I didn't watch my pace, I just went with how I felt. If I felt good I kept my pace steady, if I felt tired I slowed it down a bit, when I felt terrible in the last 800 meters I ignored how I felt and focused on finishing.

The first 10 miles of this race were awesome. I felt really good. The atmosphere was amazing, the route weaves through residential areas and everyone had come out to see what was going on. Pubs and churches were playing music, and I've never had so many bowls of jelly babies thrust under my nose in my life! I felt like I was part of something really special - especially when I got to mile 9 where my Mum and cousin were waiting with the most spectacular sign! Having fans is awesome - I want them at every race!!

By mile 10 things started to get harder, just in time for 'The Hill'. Birmingham is a hilly course, with ups and downs the whole way around, but 'The Hill' is a bit of a beast. Close to two miles all uphill at the very end of the race is hard psychologically. I had to focus so hard to push myself through those last few miles, mustering everything I had to get to the finish line. I had never imagined that this run would be emotional, but in those last three miles there were moments I was howling. I was so happy to be there, so amazed at what I was capable of and so proud of myself. Stumbling over the finish line in to the arms of a Red Cross medic who beamed at me and told me that I'd done it was the most amazing thing. I still can't quite believe that it happened.

And I finished in 02:02:12!

I don't know whether it was the stress of my journey to Birmingham, the range of emotions I felt during the race, or simply the fact that I had just run over 13 miles, but when I came off the course I really wanted a drink! While gin probably isn't an approved recovery strategy, it is one that definitely worked for me!

The Great Birmingham Run was a fantastic experience. It was beautifully organised (although I can't talk about the bag drop) with more water stations than I could count, awesome supporters and a brilliant atmosphere. It's one I would definitely recommend, and entries for next year have opened already! Although if you are driving there I would recommend investing in a sat nav.

24 hours to go





foreword: my mother has commented that my blog posts have been a little 'thin' lately, so these words are for her.

Over the last 12 weeks I have run around 170 miles, completed four races, paced my Dad around his first 10k, been covered in paint, taken in some spectacular views, made some wonderful new friends, explored my city and got fitter than I ever imagined I could become.

It's been amazing. Truly inspiring.

Tomorrow I take on my biggest challenge yet - 13.1 miles around Birmingham. Sitting in bed at my parent's house (resting my legs) I feel a little emotional. The journey to get here has been one of the best of my life. It has given me focus and shown me that I am capable of so much more that I would ever have dreamed possible. If you'd told me two years ago that I would be running a half marathon tomorrow I think I would have told you to f**k off! But I am.  It's funny how life changes. It's a good thing.

I am nervous. My legs feel like jelly after some mid-week squats and my belly is doing flips. My last long run went so well that I am worried I peaked too early and will lose it tomorrow. I keep repeating my race mantra to keep myself on track and remember my purpose for the next 24 hours, it brings me calm.

Between bouts of apprehension I am more excited than words. I can't wait to hit those streets. I can see myself bobbing from foot to foot at the start line. I can see myself beaming to the crowds. I can feel the medal around my neck, and that rising feeling of vomit as I cross the finish line knowing I've given everything I can. I can feel the rush. I can feel those long training miles, steep hill sessions and hard work paying off. Yes there will be pain, but I will cope and my preparation will take over. I will do it.

It is all these emotions, good and bad, that are what draw me to running. I love to prove myself. To take on a new challenge and see how far I can push myself. For years I was ok with coasting along, with being mediocre and ok. It never ceases to amaze me how much I am capable of and the feeling that gives me is addictive. I look at the woman I am today and am slightly in awe of what I have become - it feels like a strange fantasy, and I never want it to end. Tomorrow I will show myself once again that I am capable of more than I ever dreamed possible, and it will feel amazing.

(if you are after some Sunday morning viewing, The Great Birmingham Run will be on channel 5 from 10am. I will be the one in the pink t-shirt)

side note: I shared my inspiration and motivation with Elle this week - read my thoughts here.