Losing control

There are lots of things I know about myself. I am a control freak. I am a planner. I like making decisions and I am not afraid to do so. Once I’ve made my mind up about something, there’s very little going back on it. I’m stubborn like that.

So when something happens outside of my control and threatens to upset the carefully thought through apple cart that is my life, I do not cope well. That is what is happening right now.

I am used to change in a work environment. I work in a very fast paced industry, things change everyday, decisions need to be made and made again. I am good at that. But the one constant is that I am doing the same job everyday. I might be managing and reacting to things out of my control, but my remit and the type of things within that remit remain the same.

But now, even that might be changing. And it’s not on my terms or within my timeline. Gosh, I hate that.

Just over a year ago, I posted this photo on Instagram. Time to remember all the clichés all over again – roll with the punches, ride the wave, everything will work itself out in the end.

Oh, and write lists. Everything is better, clearer and more attainable with lists.

A running debate: City vs Country

It only dawned on me as the train pulled into Dorking for the start of the Bacchus half marathon last September what I had signed up for. “Oh my god, we are actually in the countryside”, I said. “Yes, it’s in Surrey… on a vineyard… 48 minutes out of London, what did you expect?” was the response. Oh.

As much as I loved running it with so many friends, in fancy dress, in the summer, with loads of amazing food and wine, it still wasn’t my favourite race. I just can’t seem to fall in love with running through woods.

I love walking in the countryside – when there’s stunning views and the feeling of clean, fresh air filling your lungs it is fantastic. But running? Urgh. You don’t have time to appreciate the views because you’re too busy looking at the floor trying not to trip over tree roots. It’s really bloody hilly in the countryside (unless I’m running in my native Norfolk in which case it is just too damn flat). There’s no interesting buildings, no tourists to dodge, no street signs to help you navigate.

Despite the fact that I had come to the conclusion that country running is not for me, I asked two lovers of hitting the trails to try and convince me otherwise. Admittedly their photos are speaking just as loudly as their words…

Justin says…

I was once like you, eschewing dirt for Tarmac, worrying about even the dust of the Tamsin Trail in Richmond Park ruining my sparkling white trainers. But after training for my first marathon I wanted a break from the roads and tried a trail half marathon.

As it was actually longer than a half marathon, and I wasn’t quite recovered from the marathon, I took it easy and stopped regularly to take photos. It helped that it was a beautiful day in Devon but even so, you might be able to see the appeal.

Justin’s photo

Since then, I’ve sought trails as much as possible. Not only are they easy on the eye but they’re also good for your running. Invariably there are hills which provide a great workout and the uneven surfaces force you to use muscles that normally wouldn’t get used. My weak ankles are now a thing of the past.

Justin’s photo

I can’t recommend it highly enough. And depending on where you are, you might even see a bear.

Justin’s photo (…an actual bear!)

You can follow Justin on Twitter @JustinBateman and visit his website justinbatemanrunning.com

Rebecca says…

If you told me I had to choose between city road running or not running again for the rest of my life, it would be a relatively easy decision to hang up my beloved-but-muddy trainers and find another sport. Now maybe that means I just don’t love running enough, but a huge part of the joy of it for me is that it takes me out into the countryside and green spaces. It helps that I live on the edge of Winchester, with access to some amazing trails and forests.

Rebecca’s photo

I didn’t start running that regularly until I was in my early thirties and had had a baby – I tended to favour trails just to minimise the impact on my knees and hips, but found as I got stronger that I just prefer to run in the green. The benefits of being in the countryside are well documented and in Japan, they even have a word for a therapeutic visit to a forest – Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing). As well as enjoying the beautiful views, I find that running on trails and tracks means I’m thinking about where my feet are going which distracts me from concentrating on pain or tiredness.

Rebecca’s photo

The peace and solitude is pretty special too (and especially important to me as a busy working mum), some days I might only have the birds or an occasional dog walker for company and on one memorable run, a family of deer ran alongside my husband and I. As ultrarunner Jenn Shelton said “That’s what I love, just being a barbarian, running through the woods.”

Rebecca’s photo

Don’t get me wrong, I love the buzz of a big city race, but since the majority of my running time isn’t spent racing, I’d rather be training on a beautiful forest trail, next to a river on a springy path made of pine needles, rather than slogging it out on tarmac next to duel carriageway being splashed by inconsiderate drivers!

You call follow Rebecca on Twitter @rebeccajohns

So, join in and tell us – what do you prefer, dodging bollards or dodging branches?

Sharing my marathon journey with #extramile

The likelihood is if you follow my ramblings here, you may have also seen my posts over on Twitter or Instagram, where I’m also madly documenting my current infatuation with marathon training.

And from last week, I’ve also started using the official Virgin Money London Marathon hashtag for sharing your marathon journey – #extramile

This is not just a hashtag though – oh no – it’s also a really cool way of pulling everyone’s training content together in one place. The website also gives you the ability to create your own virtual time capsule of your marathon training journey, along with adding in your fundraising link so everyone can donate their dosh once they’ve caught up with all your efforts.

Here’s a snapshot of mine from this weekend…

There’s also weekly competitions, playlists and interviews – for a social media junkie like me, it’s a great way of fuelling my obsession as the excitement for race day builds over the next three months!

You can find follow my #extramile marathon journey by clicking here or on the image above.

I was very lucky to nab my marathon spot through the ballot, but I’ve also been asked to be part of the #extramile media team and am excited to keep on sharing my journey through to race day on 26th April.

London marathon training update: 12 weeks to go

Two weeks closer to race day.

Two Tuesdays with my crew.

Two Mile End parkruns.

Two 10k races.

Two 20 mile weeks.

Still really, really excited.


When the panic rises

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.