All posts by Frances Coleman-Williams

Running through Bath tunnel

An introvert’s dream come true!

Being an extreme introvert, preferring long periods of time in my own company or with very few people, it can be difficult to conform to societal expectation to be sociable. Living with depression for a large portion of my life, I was often told that getting out and seeing people would be “best” for me…! When most ill and lacking energy, seeing people would sap more energy, I would put my mask on to “act normal” (without which, I wouldn’t be able to interact with anyone) but the resulting exhausted spiral would lead to me feeling even more of a failure.

Then I discovered running! It was something I could do that has a multitude of benefits!

Any form of exercise, if done regularly, can:

  • Improve mood
  • Improve bone density
  • Increase muscle strength
  • Increase energy levels
  • Reduce risk of chronic disease
  • Help with weight management
  • Improve skin health
  • Aid relaxation and sleep

I was “getting out” as I was told would benefit me, but I didn’t have the down sides of being exhausted by people!

But, even the most extreme introverts, require some contact with humans (occasionally)! This is where entering events comes in handy!

Over the years, I’ve done a few 5km, 10km and half marathons but for various reason I’ve not been able to put in the hours to train for the ultimate goal to run a marathon. But I was finally able to put in the hard work, see this blog, I wrote a few days before I was due to attempt my dream.

And that’s what I did, on Sunday 18th August 2019, in Bath, I actually did it, I ran 26.2 miles, all in one go, on the same day, without stopping, I ran a whole marathon!! I cannot tell you how overwhelmed I feel to say I finally achieved my dream! I did not set myself a time target, all I wanted to do as a) run the whole thing and b) enjoy it – I well and truly did both!

I’m still an extreme introvert but, funnily enough, I don’t think I could have achieved the enjoyment aspect without entering an event that involved other people. Lots of people enter with a running club, but I was not alone entering on my own; many individuals gather on the start line but we all set off together with a unified goal in mind – to finish!

Obviously you get the ones that race off, that’s fine, whatever works for them! But the rest of us settled into a steady rhythm with people shuffling up and down the pack gently. For a while I had the pleasure of settling in behind an incredibly tall girl who made each stride look so easy.

The Bath marathon is famous for its “Two Tunnels”, totalling 4kms of renovated railway tunnels, this made for a unique running environment, very cool but a little eerie. As we entered the first there was a little excitement from the runners, we called to each other, enjoying the echo!

As the race continued the runners became more strung out. I slotted in behind a couple of men, one of which was running in barefoot running sandals and having read Born To Run by Christopher McDougall, I couldn’t help but admire his beautifully elegant running style and appreciated the lack of stress he was putting through his body. Again, an absolutely pleasure to run with someone who made running look so natural and easy! The other man was running clutching a massive bag of nuts and raisins – at one point, they discussed their fuelling plans – the barefoot runner produced the tinniest energy bar from his rucksack and said he’d have it about half way around. I loved the simplicity of their plans.

So, here I was, an extreme introvert with multiple reasons why this marathon should not be possible, living out my dream! I was with people, gaining all the benefits of being “out and about” but I didn’t have to interact with any of them if I didn’t want to!

My experience is that at big events, the marshals are incredible, this event was no exception! Some of them had the starting list so they could look up your number as you ran towards them, they’d then cheer you on using your name – a massive motivator when things were feeling tough!

At mile 13 (half way) I was feeling strong, perhaps my concentration dipped a bit, I tripped down a slope, a couple of marshals jumped forward but I managed to catch myself before I hit the deck. It was quite shocking and I jarred my knee but it didn’t feel too serious.

The second half was tough, I knew I was slowing down but as the runners became more and more strung out it occurred to me that I was doing something not everyone can do! I’d trained hard for this and as mile 18 then 19 and 20 passed, I spent short periods of time running on my own; I was used to this in training but then I’d spot a fellow runner or a marshal up ahead and I’d feel spurred on again. I passed the odd person who’d resorted to walking – they were still going which I commend, but I was determined to run it all, it was just what I wanted to do!

Having loved running along the river, reentering the town signalled the end was near. Despite my legs feeling heavy, my hips and my back aching, my heart was singing, I knew I was going to finish!

The finishing straight was surrounded by people, spectators and fellow runners, all there for the purpose of celebrating everyone achievements, the atmosphere was a buzz of positivity.

Even as an extreme introvert, I do see the benefits of spending time with people, the community spirit of running events is fantastic. Looking around at the end, I could tell, people were hurting a lot but it didn’t matter, individually and collectively we’d all achieved something great that day!

12 things to know about the Isle of Mull

The Isle of Mull is one of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. We went on holiday for 2 weeks at the end of August and beginning of September. We stayed in Shieling at Treshnish, it was a really lovely place to stay for my husband and I, we enjoyed a mixture of relaxing in the cottage and going out and about.

  1. White tailed sea eagleAs soon as you disembark the ferry, look out for wildlife – we saw a sea eagle within minutes, a breathtaking sight! We also went on a boat trip to “whale watch”, no whales this time but the crew were fantastically helpful at pointing out all sorts of sea birds and we did see harbor porpoises, basking shark and a rare sunfish! There are multiple tour operators offering all sorts of trips, all seem to have good reviews so just pick what you like the look of but remember you can’t book wildlife!
  2. While driving keep a look out for passing places – 90% of the roads are single track, the only way to pass vehicles is using bulges in the road called passing places, some are well marked with black and white posts are signs, others are more “informal”. Also, you know you’re being followed by a local if they want to drive a lot faster than you! Pull into a passing place, let them overtake and everyone’s happy! Everyone is really polite, just be nice and all’s good!
  3. Journeys may take longer than you think – single track windy roads are just slower, enjoy taking your time! (Google Maps does estimate times fairly accurately.)
  4. East Mull, The Sound of Mull, Tobermory, Salem and Craignure is where the action happens. Tobermory is the capital, you’ll find plenty of lovely gift shops and the distillery. The lady in Tobermory Information Centre, situated in the main car park, is really helpful, she gave us lots of information and helpful tips.
  5. Iona AbbeyWest Mull, Calgary, Ulva and Iona are remote but beautiful and definitely worth the journey. We highly recommend Iona, although it feels like it’s at the back of beyond, once you’re there, there’s a lovely community feel with numerous boutique-style shops, a few places to eat and, of course, The Abbey. At Calgary there’s a lovely beach and Art in Nature sculpture trail.
  6. Everywhere accepts card, but just like small places on the mainland, some asked for the bill to be over £5 or £10. If you’re given Scottish bank notes as change, these are legal tender in England (don’t let any shop assistant etc tell you otherwise!).
  7. Scenery is breathtaking – if you’re an award winning photographer, maybe you would be able to capture the beauty on film but otherwise photographs just don’t do it justice! Around every corner, there’s a fantastic panorama of lush purples and mossy greens – even in the bad weather we had it was stunning!
  8. Do not count on the weather – it’s Scotland!
  9. What 3 Words logoIf you need medical assistance, they have NHS24 (111) – they can give you advice about where to go for appropriate help. If it’s an emergency, it’s 999. While we were there our landlord was involved transporting a lady with a badly broken leg in his pickup because a lot of Mull is inaccessible to normal vehicles! She then needed airlifting because Mull only has a “Community Casualty”. This was where I was sent when I had a mishap with a drone (i.e. my husband flew it into my face!). They were absolutely wonderful and perfectly professional but obviously resources are very limited! For example, x-ray was Wednesday and Friday only! Islanders are familiar with What 3 Words so make sure you have the app downloaded just in case you need rescuing!
  10. If you’re self catering your choice is Spar, or, um, Spar! There was a Co-op in Tobermory but my point is, there’s no big supermarket so unless you’ve taken food from the mainland don’t expect to be cooking anything exotic. There are plenty of places to buy local produce, cheeses, meats, eggs etc so expect to be eating simple food but really good quality.
  11. Mobile phone signal is patchy, to say the least – some cafes etc and most accommodations (but not all) have WiFi. If you’re like us, you’ll enjoy the time to be a bit less connected, sit back and relax without being at the beck and call of your phone!
  12. Pronunciation of towns/villages may not be quite as you’re expecting – our closest grocers was in Dervaig, pronounced Devig. It’s helpful to be aware if you’re being given directions, perhaps have a map handy to be clear which places they’re describing!
Glengorm coffee shop

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing to live on soup (for example, when your jaw is swollen from having had a drone flown into it!) I’d highly recommend Glengorm Castle coffee shop – they had four, yes FOUR soups to choose from, I was so excited after having had tomato soup for lunch and dinner for too many days in a row!! My husband also thorough enjoyed a decadent pork and black pudding burger, if that’s your thing! Everything was from their estate and very reasonable priced, just lovely!

If you’re wanting to be out and about exploring the island daily, we’d recommend staying somewhere central. We do not have children so we’re not aware of any family friendly attractions. The island is perfect for walkers, nature lovers and anyone wanting to escape!

I’ll be happy when…

  • I’d be happy if I found a new job…
  • I’ll be happy when I get a promotion…
  • I’d be happy if we had a bigger house…
  • I’ll be happy when I retire…
  • I’d be happy if I could get pregnant…
  • I’ll be happy when my family’s complete…
  • I’ll be happy when my children leave home…
  • I’d be happy if I could lose weight…
  • I’d be happy if I found a partner…
  • I’d be happy if I wasn’t chronically ill…

So many of us spend our lives chasing happiness around as though the next big thing will be the answer. Unfortunately, we often find that when we arrive at what we think will produce these magical feelings, we don’t feel happy and we need to set the next goal.

Ambition is good, aiming to achieve the next goal and believing it’s possible is how we better ourselves. However, pinning our hopes of happiness on achieving this next goal doesn’t work!

It’s as though happiness is always over-there-somewhere, this intangible thing. The reason we never quite achieve happiness is because we think happiness comes from something outside ourselves. But happiness must come from within.

Person standing on a very tall ladder reaching into the sky

I spent my teenage years and young adult life thinking I would be happy when I achieved the next stage of becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, each stage was never quite as I imagined and always brought a lot more stress. On top of my faulty belief, I was also depressed. Mental illness requires support and/or treatment from a trained professionals. If you think you, or someone you know is mentally ill, there’s no quick fix, I urge you to seek appropriate help. However, anyone can re-frame the beliefs we have around happiness (thinking it’ll come when some goal is attained) and we can, almost overnight, feel happier.

What if your current situation was ok? What if being: in education, in your current job, single, childless, your current weight, in your current state of health, wasn’t fraught with judgement? It’s what you think about your current situation that’s getting in the way. What if you could find contentment which, in turn, could mean happiness?

People who are unhappy with their weight are generally judging themselves as greedy or lacking in self control. People who are unhappy at work might be judging themselves as underachieving, perhaps comparing themselves to peers. People unhappy with their relationship status judge themselves as unattractive, undesirable, failing in some way. Someone who’s childless may think they’ve failed in some way.

What you’re doing right now, your current situation, is part of your journey, it is shaping you, developing you, strengthening you. Judging ourselves is cruel, unhelpful, unnecessary and only leads to unhappiness!

Person lying on the ground smiling broadly with a dog by their side

Maybe you’re not precisely where you want to be but that’s ok.

Being content is not an excuse for apathy. If changes need to be made or you desperately want something, you can still strive, but if you stop judging your current situation it’s amazing how much more energy you have to fight for what you want!

Most of us have a friend who was single, very “keen” for a relationship… wasn’t it when they stopped behaving so “keenly” that they found love?! And, how many people have got pregnant the moment they stop trying?!

Once we’re ok with being who we are and where we are, we become happier and funnily enough, change becomes more possible!

Some people become stuck in mental illness, often using maladaptive coping strategies over and over. Often they’ll feel angry with themselves for “doing it wrong”. Thoughts such as “if only I could sort myself out” or “if only I was a better person” or “if I had better support” are very common vicious cycles. But what if these could be re-framed as “I’m doing my best” and “I have some support I could use”, the picture looks different. Of course, I know it’s not as simple as that but being ok with who we are and what we’ve got can free us up to see where and how small gradual changes can be made.