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.

Nakedness has been a topic of discussion between myself and several friends over the past few weeks. It turns out I have quite different views to (what seems like) most people. So I thought I’d open it up to be a bit of a debate. Me vs Steph. Let us know who’s corner of the changing room you’re in…

Lissy says…

I have a question. It’s been bugging me for a while. And then I started cycling to work and using the changing and showering facilities almost everyday in the basement of my building and now I really just don’t get it.

Why is being naked so awful?

Our changing room, like many others, is full of grown women of all shapes, sizes and ages, dashing from cubicle to cubicle, doing the ‘trying to put underwear on without dropping the towel’ dance and just generally avoiding eye contact like their life depended on it.

We have three showers that are in self-contained cubicles and four showers that are open plan. Every morning, there is a queue for the three closed off showers, whilst the four others stay unused. The same thing happened recently on my first visit to Cyclebeat. Eight showers – six open, two cubicles. And a queue which I was able to breeze straight past as long as I didn’t mind a couple of people seeing me shampooing. Fine by me.

I’m not suggesting we all need to wander round flaunting it in each other’s faces, but it makes me sad that we’re regressing to feeling like we are 14 again and changing after a PE lesson. Especially as these are all people who have just run or cycled into the office, or have just finished a workout in the gym or studio next door.

I asked my male colleagues what happens on their side of the wall. The shower set up is the same, and all of them get used. Apparently everyone is a lot more ‘matter of fact’ about it and they just get on with what they need to do. Need to put their towel down to get dressed? Done. Need to be at their desk in 20 minutes so don’t have time to faff around trying to cover up? So don’t bother.

For now, and until I have an answer, I’m just going to carry on being the only weird one that walks past the queue and uses the shower without a door.

Steph says…

I’d just completed a tough 45 minute work out, I was sweaty, tired and hungry and ready for a lovely shower. I walked into the ladies room, put my bag on a hook and looked around for the changing/ showering cubicles.

Then I heard the showers and realised that the other ladies by the six hooks were already stripping. Heat rose in me, bile started in the back of my throat and my head filled with stressful thoughts.

My dreams of a lovely shower were replaced by flashbacks of school, knowledge I would have to rush my shower and realisation that the complimentary towels barely covered by foof and boobs at once filled me with fear.

Don’t get me wrong I’m okay with getting changed in front of my friends, I’m not a complete prude. I just like my privacy, especially with strangers/acquaintances. A shrink would take me back to school where I had enough ammunition for the bullies that the possibility of my body looking different (it wasn’t) was enough to put me off PE and communal changing for life.

So far this has all been about me, but if there had only been me in the room I would have coped with open showers. Having to squeeze past others to get into/out of the showers, having to look at the floor whilst getting ready and having to put my contact lenses in/makeup on next to the lady that dries her hair naked in public made the whole the thing much worse.

I’ve never used the showers at a gym either, I always go home/to work and use a private shower. An added bonus is that I don’t have to lug all my stuff around.

Trying to rush, get my undies on under the towel and finding anywhere to put my things amongst the naked bodies in the under provisioned changing rooms resulted in me heading to work as a stressed, sweaty mess with wonky hair and clothes. I might as well have not showered at all.

Maybe it’s just me and my issues but when I am paying £16+ for a class I don’t want to have to go through a stressful experience every time. Places like Boomcycle have it right where there are beautiful big towels individual cubicles where you shower and get ready before facing the world. Because of these facilities I can enjoy my class and the rest of my day with no stress, well except for when I forget my bra, but that’s another story.

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.

Balance never lasts long, it seems.

Things I’ve done lots of over the past couple of weeks:

  • Work
  • Think about work
  • Be at work some more
  • Eat a lot of biscuits

Things I haven’t done so much of over the past couple of weeks:

  • Blog
  • Life admin
  • Cycle anywhere
  • Fix the puncture on the yellow beauty
  • Run
  • Hit the gym
  • Prepare good food and eat well
  • Get anywhere near 8 hours sleep a night

It’s now less than two weeks until training for Barcelona marathon begins. And by then I will make sure balance is restored…

This weekend I’ve been at my parents’ place in North Norfolk.

In the week, I emailed my mum and suggested that I’d quite like to go to a parkrun on Saturday morning. Their location lends itself to three different parkrun options – Norwich, King’s Lynn or Sheringham – none of which I have previously visited.

I have to say, I am very happy with my mum’s suggestion of Sheringham, it was probably my favourite parkrun to date.

Sheringham Park is about a 20-25 minute drive away from where my parents live, so at around 08:20 on Saturday morning, me and my Dad along with greyhound Freddie and whippet cross Honey jumped in the car and headed on over. We timed it perfectly, arriving to news of free parking for parkrunners (woohoo!) and just in time for the 08:50 briefing.

It was the second anniversary of Sheringham parkrun this weekend, so the briefing included a lot of thanks and praise for all the run directors, volunteers and regular runners. It kicked off the celebratory atmosphere nicely.

Being the 1st November, there was also a lot of impressive Halloween fancy dress on show, and I did feel a little bit bad for not making more of an effort – or at least donning some devil horns.

The route itself could not have been more different from the parkrun I went to the week before at Burgess. On the website it is described as “undulating… with a sting in it’s tail” and I would definitely have to agree with that. It was (what I would call) hilly, and also trailly… possibly a bit too much for my liking, but nice for a change. The one thing I loved though was that it was ONE LAP! From what I can tell, one lap parkruns (particularly in my part of London) are pretty rare, so having just one lap to do of a completely unknown course was an absolute joy.

Whilst I ran, my dad and the dogs went for an explore of the park and at the end, we headed to the café for a coffee and cheese scone, and stayed around for the trophy presentations (top 3 males, top 3 females, top junior and top volunteer of the previous year) and to enjoy some of the Halloween treats provided by some of the runners.

We experienced a really lovely, friendly, inclusive family atmosphere – exactly what parkrun is all about. I’m really hoping that this introduction to parkrun might see my dad return in the future to tackle the course himself.