Category Archives: The world

Why am I running a marathon?

Some of you will know I’ve spent the last little while training for a marathon and it’s coming up fast so I thought I’d share a few things I’ve been reflecting on! Firstly, why the heck am I doing it?!

Because I want to!

Group of mixed sex marathon running

Ever since I can remember being aware of what a marathon is, I have wanted to do one! I can’t quite put my finger on why, I just remember seeing it on television and I thought it was amazing to be able to run that far; it seemed as though finishing it led to a huge sense of achievement and so much positivity surrounded the whole event. Whether people run for charity, in fancy dress or for personal goals, everyone has one target, the finish line! While it’s a solitary pursuit, there’s a fantastic sense of comradery! Having done a couple of half marathons the buzz produced by the spectators is great, complete strangers come to cheer you on. Everyone wants everyone to achieve whatever goal they’ve set themselves! That goal may simply be to finish while others chase records.

It’s now or never!

Over the years my health has let me down. Chronic mental and physical illnesses have taken their toll on my body. After a failed operation on my ankle a couple of years ago, my surgeon has said the next option is to fuse my ankle joint. While it will be possible to run on a fused ankle, I know the rehab process will be long. To put off the operation as long as possible I’ve been fitted with an orthotic that keeps my ankle joint rigid; currently this keeps my pain to a minimum and allows me to run.

I have fibromyalgia, currently an incurable condition that tends to get worse rather than better. I also have degeneration and various arthritic changes in my cervical and thoracic spine, which, again, are getting worse, not better! I’m on a waiting list to have injections into my spine to help with the pain, I’m currently managing with multiple painkillers and frequent chiropractic sessions.

I’m using this window, before another ankle op is absolutely necessary, to achieve my dream. My body is crumbling (some people don’t believe me because I’m really good at covering up how much pain I’m in but it really is!), the longer I leave it, the less likelihood there is of me achieving this! If I tried waiting for optimal health, it’s never going to happen so it’s now or never!

Things I’ve learnt

  • Fuelling while I’m running – having run a couple of half marathons without eating, this came as a bit of a shock but it turns out the body can only store enough glycogen to keep you going for about 1.5 hours. I’m going to take a lot longer than that so it’s been an interesting part of training to work out what to eat, when and how! I well and truly hit the proverbial wall about 2.5 hours into my first long run… I don’t want to experience that again! (Good to experience it in training rather than the real thing though!). Fuelling correctly before running is to ensure the glycogen stores a jam-packed. I’ve been having fun cooking more varied meals!
  • It’s a good idea to smell soya milk before using it to make pre-run porridge – turns out, soya milk goes off. I had no idea and it tasted fine in my porridge… until mid 18-mile-training-run my tummy was very very unhappy, ‘nuff said… again, good job I experienced this mid-training run and not in the real thing!
  • My mind is incredibly strong – even when achy and exhausted, I’ve proved again and again, I can keep going. I may not be fast but I can keep going. That unforgettable 18 miles I mentioned above? I finished that run! Just shows what you can force your body to do when you want to/have to! I keep going when it’s tough using a few mantras in time with my footsteps: “you can do this” or “just keep go-ing” – the 4 syllables helps keep my rhythm going. My body may not be great, it’s going to hurt but it’s going to be the power of self belief that carries me over the line.
  • Rest is just as much a part of training as running is – I’m finding as I taper down my miles (a important part of any training schedule) when I do run I’m feeling stronger. In my younger years when I’ve not followed any training plan, I’ve pounded the streets day-after-day-after-day, not achieving anything but exhaustion. Unfortunately my sleep will never be the best quality (due to fibro) but resting for long enough is required for muscles to recover.
  • Podcasts are fantastic – lots of people like running to music but I find it difficult as I tend to run to the beat even if it too fast or slow for me. However, I’ve been entertained during the long hours on my own by some great podcasts. The subject matter of some of these may surprise you but I think I’ve learnt the atmosphere created by the banter matters more to me than the theme (in no particular order): You, me and the Big C: Putting the can in cancer – fantastically funny and serious but above all honest conversations around the subject of cancer, Wellfar – podcast tracking marathon training with Amy Hopkinson, Sh**ged Married Annoyed – Rosie and Chris Ramsey taking an honest look at their married and answer listen questions, Something Rhymes with Purple – a fun discussion about our bright and colourful English language with etymologist Susie Dent and Giles Brandreth, Scummy Mummies – an hilarious look at parenthood, Deliciously Ella – a down to earth conversation about mental and physical health, David Tenant Does a Podcast – revealing but relaxed conversations with the gorgeous David Tenant at the helm. One thing I would say is I’ve found running is compatible with neither laughing nor crying…!
  • There’s a lot to remember before setting out on a long run – while you’re remembering to put on suncream and sunglasses to position blister plasters, carry water and food, you’ve got to decide on a garment to carry everything, you’ve also got to do the right warm up, I have to remember to warm up my ankle before putting on my ankle brace as my ankle muscle still try to work (despite being braced) and they get tight. It took me a long time to decide on a comfortable hair-do for running – to low plait has it – not too tight but not too loose! Remembering to charge my headphones is essential too!
  • A new brace solves the blister issues – I was told each orthotic would last 9-12 months of normal use. But, I’m, erm… thwacking it through marathon training! My 6 month old brace was causing awful blisters, fortunately, my orthotist ordered a new one, no questions asked and my new one is doing a grand job!
  • It’s possible to stick to a plan and be flexible at the same time – I mapped out my training programme in front of a computer. I’m usually someone who sets a plan and sticks rigidly to it but that would have been a recipe for self destruction so as the weeks went by I found small adjustments and made it more suitable for my weekly commitments and how I felt my body was recovering from long runs etc.

Never have the following sayings been more true:

If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right” and

If you want to you’ll find a way, if you don’t want to you’ll find an excuse”!

If you’re thinking you might want to run a marathon…keep both of these in mind!

Female running down a track between a line of trees

Training for a marathon is no small feat, it takes time and discipline. My husband has been a saint, giving me the time and space I need, he’s even been water-boy on occasion, tracking me around the beautiful Hampshire countryside providing water and sustenance. I’m being selfish, this dream is all about me, feeling good about myself and nothing else. I know there will be many people there raising money for charity or doing other honourable things but I spend the large majority of my life doing stuff for other people so this is just for me. It’s really hard to admit this because I don’t think I deserve it, but that’s exactly why I’m doing it, to prove to myself, I am worth it!

Image of my tattoo

What does my tattoo mean?

I’ve finally done it! It may surprise some people but I’ve finally been inked and I have some permanent body art I absolutely love! For me, it’s been a long time coming. I thought long and hard and whether I wanted one at all and I considered very carefully the content and placement of said tattoo.

The cat

My pencil sketch

I’ve had cats as pets all my life. I don’t just love cats, they’ve been an integral part of my mental health recovery. When in a dark place, a cat does not judge you or treat you differently, they do not worry about what to say or how to treat you; if they want food or fuss, they pester you, they lead a simple life but I love their individual characters. At times when getting on with humans has been too difficult, I’ve always found comfort in the companionship of a cat.

Milly has taught me to be more laid back. Rosa taught me to be content with the small things. Figgy teaches me everyday that being an idiot is ok!

The cat in my tattoo represents the comfort and relief I find when in the presence of a cat. But from my position of comfort I can reach for…

The butterfly

A symbol of freedom. As a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis and dries out its wings, it’s undergone and incredible transformation and now has the freedom to fly. Mental health recovery is a fragile entity, not to be taken for granted. As a butterfly has the freedom to fly, it’s also vulnerable to the slightest insult.

Butterfly is also a symbol of hope, bravery and commitment.

The semi colon

The body of the butterfly is a semi colon and represents the idea that my story is not over. It was coined by the semi colon project to be shared by people who’ve been touched by suicide. I have attempted to take my life on a number of occasions but I live and my story goes on.

I’ve joined a community of people who believe we have a collective responsibility to prevent suicide by sharing information and resources. If I can have just one more conversation about suicide prevention, it;’s worth it. Hopefully, it’ll start many conversations!

Designed by me

Lots of my sketches

After looking at numerous pages of Google images and trawling Pinterest, I knew what I wanted, I hadn’t found the exact image, the best way to explain it was to draw it myself so that’s what I did! It took a lot of drafting, I’m no artist! But I got there eventually. The final design s a combination of the cat drawn by me, refined by the tattoo artist and the butterfly designed and drawn by the artist.

I think there’s beauty in the simplicity of the lines. I didn’t want it to be any specific cat or species of butterfly – what they represent is more important.

Placed on my back

To represent my perseverance to put my mental illness behind me.

While I’m glad to have serious episodes of mental illness behind me, I can’t say that about physical illness. I continue to have serious neck and back pain caused by arthritis in my spine and fibromyalgia. I feel like, by putting something pretty on the area that’s causing me grief, I’m doing something to counteract my feelings of annoyance and frustration.

Hidden by my clothes

Because I know there are people out there who judge: People with tattoos, people with scars, people with mental illness.

I did wonder about having it visible and laughing the face of judgment but I’d rather people get to know me and then they find out I don’t fit the stereotypes they’d expect. They way I can challenge their judgments they hold. I do, also, need to consider my professional life. It’s a shame that people make judgments and assume stereotypes but in my professional life, I’m in a position of trust and I need to put my clients first and consider how they feel – I don’t want them to be distracted by my tattoos.

Visible on occasion

While my tattoo is for me, I didn’t get it for anyone else, I not averse to positive feedback! I’ve chosen a position that I can choose whether or not I have it on show. I think it’s quite pretty and while there are people who’re against tattoos in general, I think if people see mine, on the whole, people will not be offended by mine, so I going to enjoy choosing clothing based on how low the back is!

My tattoo

Represents how I live my life – in an incredibly careful and considered way! Maybe I overthink things sometimes but then I’m able to step outside the box into the unexpected too!

Girls with her hands to her head looking confused

Things I simply don’t understand

I’m afraid this might be a bit of a ranty blog but a few things have built up. I’m confused, I’m baffled, I’m discombobulated!

I thought I’d draw a bunch of these things together – they may be a bit of a random hodgepodge but maybe you’ll be able to relate to one or two? Who knows? Maybe I’m the only one who’s bothered by this stuff!

  1. Cars giving way when it’s not their right – this one actually makes me angry…for example – I’m turning out of a side road, someone is turning into the side road, what makes you think you can decide it’s safe for me to exit in front of you, just because you think you’re “being nice”, you can’t see what I can see, you don’t know how fast my car can accelerate, it’s not up to you to make decisions for me. And it’s even worse when you get cross when I don’t do what you want. Just follow the rules of the road, they’re there for a reason, they work.
  2. Spelling my name wrong – this one is just rude. A mistake if you don’t know me, totally fine but if you’re in the acquaintance bracket or call yourself a colleague or a friend, absolutely no excuse. I especially don’t understand it when replying on Facebook or to an email – my name is right there staring you in the face. I am not male, my name is not Francis – this one deserves a separate blog – watch this space!
  3. Man gripping steering wheel and gritting his teeth as trees outside whoosh pastSpeeding – someone with knowledge of the road and the surrounding environment has decided upon a speed limit – what makes some people think they know better? It’s just arrogant. I do think it’s mildly amusing when someone (usually a BMW or Audi driver) thinks they can make me break the speed limit by driving so close to my bumper they’re almost climbing into my boot. I know we all accidentally creep over the speed limit occasionally, I’m not talking about that, it’s the deliberate “I know better” that’s just wrong.
  4. Answering an email without answering all the questions – I write an email with 3 questions in it, the reply comes back with on 1 of the questions answered, why would you only answer 1 of them and ignore the other 2?? If you don’t know the answers, say so, and either offer to find out or tell them how they can find out – surely this is just common decency?! When my questions are ignored I’m stumped, did they not read my email? Did they not understand the questions? Are they hiding something? I’m left wondering if I should ask the questions again or whether that would be futile? My bafflement could be easily avoided!
  5. People trying to persuade me un-ironed clothes look ok – I choose to iron my clothes because I think they look better. I do not judge anyone for not ironing clothes, but please do not tell me “if you hang them up dry, the creases fall out and you can’t tell” – I’m sorry, I can tell. If you’re happy not ironing your clothes, that’s your choice, please don’t try to justify your decisions by trying to persuade me your clothes look ironed!
  6. Car parked forwards across the neighbouring spaceParking forwards – cars are designed to reverse park and it’s dangerous to reverse out of parking spaces! It’s even scarier when people reverse out onto main roads…! So many accidents would be avoided if people used the car as it was designed!
  7. Putting other people down to make yourself feel better – I understand the psychology of this one but it’s still not nice, some people seem to do it habitually and they don’t even notice, it’s so sad.
  8. A sign shows a list of fruit with apostrophes before the ‘s’ and a person is curled up in front enragedWayward apostrophes – I understand there are some ambiguous situations, for example, the day we celebrate Mothers, is it a day for all Mothers or just our own? But there are some simple rules, if your pluralising something, just bung an ‘s’ on the end, why complicate it with an apostrophe?! If in doubt, that’s what Google is for!
  9. Leaving the printer jammed – what is this?! You try to print something, the printer gets jammed, you walk away?! Really?! What do you think happens? The printer fairy comes along and un-jams it? Oh no, that would be me, for the 17th time today! People say they don’t know what to do but that’s just lazy, I don’t do anything special, I just follow the instructions on the screen – it’s not complicate!
  10. Getting drunk – I’ve never done it, maybe I would understand if I did it but I’ve never heard someone say “I got so pissed last night, I’m going to repeat it again tonight”. But if I had a pound for every time I’ve heard “I’m never doing that again”, I’d be incredibly rich. Call me odd but the idea of being over emotional, unable to stand and feeling sick then unable to remember what happened the following day just doesn’t appeal… (small amount of alcohol gives me a migraine but that’s beside the point!). What shocks me is I thought it was something people did at uni and grew out of it – apparently not…
  11. Signs saying “Hill blocks view”, “not an exit”, “Do not breathe under the water”, “Library closed until opening time”Signs pointing out the obvious – during a recent stay in Butlins Minehead, I was delighted to learn that radiators get hot, hot water comes from hot taps and a heated towel rail “may” also get hot. Unfortunately, due to the rise in litigation cases everyone feels the need to cover themselves against what I like to call “people being idiots”. If you burn yourself because you touch a radiator that’s on, I’m sorry, but that’s your fault, it is not the fault of the manufacturer or the installer or the person the radiator belongs to, you touched it with your hand, take some responsibility people!!
  12. Leaving work to the last minute – never have I heard anyone say “I love chilling out and then rushing to get all my work done at the last minute”. I’ve only ever heard people say they stress out about not doing their work, don’t do their work, then cram in just before the deadline date. I understand there are psychological reasons for this but please don’t try to persuade me you want to leave your work to the last minute, it’s what you always do and you’re happy with the status quo – it doesn’t feel good, try something different!

Phew – I feel better now!

I hope I don’t come across as intolerant or judgmental, if I do, please educate me…I’d love to know the thought behind these things!

Please do also add your “I just don’t understand…” to the comments section!