This morning I ran to and then did Mile End parkrun for the third week in a row. Habits don’t stick easily with me, but this is a good one and one I’m intending to keep up.

This is despite the fact that halfway around today’s second lap, I had a panic attack. Only a really little one – relatively short compared to most – but it happened all the same. I couldn’t mistake the building hyperventilation which rose in my chest, resulting in shallow, squeaky breath and tears forming in my eyes.

I’ve been asked in the past if I’m not just mistaking a panic attack for an asthma attack. Although the symptoms sound similar, they feel completely different. The best way I can describe it is that one is a result of the physical (usually cold, damp weather if I’m running) and one is absolutely the result of what’s going on in my mind.

I don’t know why today’s run would be worse than any other – I guess if I knew that it wouldn’t happen. Every so often, I just get all up in my head and the doubt swells and entirely consumes any other thoughts.

As soon as I was brought back out of the negativity and reminded why I was there, it was immediately okay.

You might think that if running makes me feel this way, maybe I shouldn’t do it. This has happened several times before. Times like the Great North Run training run along the canal in Nottingham which resulted in my then boyfriend having to come and collect me. Like the night run in Manchester last year with some of my favourite people. Like at kilometre eighteen of the Copenhagen half in 2013.

But for every run where this has happened, there are at least fifty others where I’ve enjoyed myself, run faster, run happy or – at the very least – not had a panic attack.

And really, it just makes me want to continue running even more. I know that I am stronger than an occasional overwhelming sense of panic. Just like building endurance, building knowledge or building confidence, building mental strength is just another part of the training process and another challenge to overcome. One run at a time.

In the style of my first post of this kind from my last cycle of marathon training, hello and welcome to the first of my Monday morning training updates – here to clog up your screens for the next three months as I hurtle towards the start line of THE BLOODY LONDON MARATHON.

I am now fully into bona fide training and I’ve run seven times and covered 43 miles in only thirteen days. After months of hating, dreading, worrying, procrastinating and just not doing anything, I’ve had two great weeks of running and I know I’ve made the right decision as to which marathon to run this spring.

Highlights of my running fortnight have been…

A quick solo run out along the river to Canary Wharf last Saturday morning. It was flippin’ windy so it was really slow, but it was the first time in ages I’d voluntarily got myself out of bed to go running because I actually wanted to.

Being reunited with my marathon training buddy, Leah, and meeting Cara for the first time as we took on a 10k race around Battersea Park (along with a sneaky few extra miles at the beginning). We chatted the whole way round, paced ourselves beautifully and earned a stonking little medal.

Going to Mile End parkrun for the first time with my housemate Sam (also his first ever parkrun, woop!) Just two miles along the canal got us to the park. Eight hills later I’d achieved my best parkrun time in ages and found my new home run.

Doing a route that I’ve been wanting to do for almost a year – running out east along the river to the Thames Barrier. I’ve never been further along than Greenwich before, but I navigated through puddles, mud and industrial areas (alright, it was 98% concrete, I’m trying to sound heroic) to make it there, take a few quick snaps… and then turn around and head straight back again. I’m always happy when I’m by the river.

In my last post I hinted at the small epiphany (yes, I’m being melodramatic, running does that to me) I’d had whilst out on my solo LSR last weekend. And now, I’ve sorted the logistics required to be able to say THIS YEAR I WILL BE RUNNING THE LONDON MARATHON.

This wasn’t this year’s race plan. 2015’s spring marathon was supposed to be Barcelona, but after my usual routine of writing out a training plan to the letter, ignoring it for a couple of months and then freaking out, I’ve decided that trying to run 26.2 in what is now nine week’s time is not for me. Yes, running a marathon is all in your head (more on that another time), but my head is not in the game for this one.

As soon as I thought of the idea of switching races around I knew it was the right thing to do. I signed up for Barcelona months ago and always said if I got into London I would defer it. But when I thought about the prospect of using my prized ballot place this year, I got so excited.

My two planned half marathons (Brighton and Berlin) fit in perfectly with training, I’m exactly where I need to be distance-wise to train for a marathon in almost four months and most of all it’s on flippin’ home turf. The route passes by the end of my road… TWICE.

I’m not sure if I mentioned, but I. Am. So. Excited.

This week has been the first ‘proper’ week of training for marathon number two. Or really, it’s been the first week of trying to get the love for running back.

I’ve really felt the pressure recently and have dreaded running. This is absolutely not the point.

Last marathon training cycle, I was running away from something. I was using the runs and the structure to cope with heartbreak. I really enjoyed the entire four month process, but I also needed it.

This time around, I am happy at the start of it all, rather than hoping to discover happiness along the way.

As an amazing friend keeps reminding me, we run because we love it, because we enjoy it. If it’s not bringing us joy, then something has to change.

I’ve been running a while now and I know what works and what doesn’t work for me.

I don’t like running before work, with a rucksack, or on trails, and I often struggle running with people much faster than I am.

I love running in the evenings, along the Thames, at the track and I know which of my running buddies suit my pace best.

I’m not going to put pressure on myself to train in a way I can’t achieve and I’m going to do lots of the other things I like that aren’t running.

I want to try for a half marathon PB at Brighton the month before the marathon, but other than that, I don’t have a time goal for the race itself. Running 26.2 is enough of an achievement.

If I get to 15th March having had a good time for the past four months, having not got too stressed out and having successfully run my second marathon, I will be proud with what I have accomplished.

IMG_0079.JPGThese feet have not run happy for some time.

These feet just want to hide themselves away and not face their fears.

These feet used to feel like running belonged to them. Now they feel like it is a complete unknown.

These feet feel pressurised by those around them. By those going faster, by those going longer.

These feet feel the weight of the achievements of others. Secret challenges and not so secret challenges, these feet feel like they aren’t doing enough.

These feet just keep on plodding. That’s all they’ve done for four years.

These feet had looked forward to marathon training all summer long, now they approach it with fear and trepidation.

These feet have had a tough few weeks. Unfinished parkruns, avoided outings. They’ve been too scared to run long, too nervous to join friends.

These feet need to remember what they are good at.

These feet need to know that what they can do is enough.

These feet want to learn to love running again.

These feet know that anything is possible.