Sunday, 30 October 2011

Happy 30's Challenge

On Christmas day I will be thirty. I am not freaking out, in fact I’m actually quite excited. I could dwell on all of the things in life I haven’t quite achieved yet but I’m not going to do that. What a complete waste of energy!  Instead, I am going to run at my thirties and give them my all. I am going to set myself a challenge and to focus myself I have written a mission statement.
Happy 30’s Mission Statement
I want to live life to the full every day and appreciate everything and everyone around me. I am determined to have more fun and success in my thirties than I had in my teens and twenties combined and to do this I need to continually challenge myself, even though it may be uncomfortable at times. Whilst I will learn from the past I will not dwell on it and will concentrate on moving forward and listen to advice that others are kind enough to give me. Rather than focusing on what I haven’t achieved, I will acknowledge what I have and will be proud but not cocky. I will learn how to build on and improve my achievements so that I can be the very best I can possibly be while being supportive and encouraging to those around me. Helping my friends and family to be happy will make me happy too.
I have a tendency to set my goals high and I am ambitious often leading to taking on too much so I have tried to separate what I want to achieve into five main areas. These may be tweaked and tightened up as time goes on but here is the plan so far.
Goal 1- Shape Up
I am relatively happy with how I look but there is definitely room for improvement. I am a few pounds heavier than I probably should be but I hate to be a boring female that nags on about her weight and I have no desire to be a size zero. However, I do feel embarrassed and slightly ashamed when every now and then, I catch a glimpse of an unflattering photo of myself that highlights the tyre style flaws around my waist.  Ashamed is quite a strong word but ultimately, we are all responsible for our own bodies so if I’m not happy I need to change it.
What? I want to get thinner and more toned but I’m not going to focus on weight as a goal. It’s not about being a size zero but how I look and feel. I will aim to get my body in the best shape possible for me so that I can be proud. 
The challenge: I will follow a healthy eating regime and a more specific and focused exercise schedule that will take me out of my comfort zone. I will document my progress and will take regular photographs and body measurements so that I can see my body change even when the scales don’t.
Goal 2- Run faster
As you know, I ran my first half marathon in Paris in March and completed it in 2:11 which was one minute slower than I had planned. I then ran another in London on 25th September and came in at 2:20. Admittedly it was a tougher course than I anticipated and it was way hotter but I was disappointed and I know I am capable of doing better. Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased that I’ve managed to run two half marathons this year when I could barely run for five minutes last year but I want to be the best that I can be.
What? I want to challenge myself to run a half marathon in less than 2 hours. I believe I am capable of this time if I train hard enough in the right way.
The challenge- I have signed up to the Berlin half marathon on 1st April and I will follow a training schedule to ensure I exceed my time target. Up until now I’ve shied away from track and interval training but I need to do more than just churn out the miles and I am ready for the challenge.
Goal 3-Swim better and faster
I can swim but you’d never find me in the pool challenging somebody to a race because I swim like a granny. I did a post on my swimming style earlier in the year  if you’re interested.

What? I like cycling and I am proud to say that I can now run but my swimming lets me down and I want to do a triathlon. To take part in a triathlon I need to be able to swim properly so I have started researching the idea of swimming lessons and I am absolutely terrified.
The challenge: I will start my lessons in the new year and the ultimate goal will be to take part in a triathlon in summer 2012. I am researching the triathlons options available so watch this space!
Goal 4- Run longer
I have run two half marathons and by the time April comes I will hopefully have completed my third. Everybody  I know that has run a marathon highly recommends it and suggests it is something everybody should do at least once. I have volunteered at the London Marathon as a sports massage and seeing the runners glowing with pride is a humbling experience. I want to challenge myself and 2012 feels like the right time to do it.
What? 2012 is the year that I will run my first marathon.
The challenge: I would have loved a place in the London Marathon 2012 but unfortunately the ballot is now closed and the charity that I support ( Aplastic Anaemia Trust) only gets one place every five years that has already been taken. I have my eyes on the New York Marathon  and I will enter the ballot but I know there is only a 10% chance of a place. Wherever I choose to do it in the world, I will ensure that 2012 is the year I run a marathon so any other suggestions of great courses would be greatly appreciated.
Goal 5- Speak even more than I do already
Yes, though I’m sure many of you can’t believe that this is a challenge for me, the girl that definitely likes to chat. Through my teens, languages were always my thing. I dabbled with French, Spanish, Italian and German. My theory was that I love to talk and if I could go round the world and talk then even better. For one reason or another, my languages took a back seat and life got in the way. Every now and again after a couple of glasses of wine I can find the foreign language student inside me but I want to be confident to try and speak in another language without a bucket load of vino.
What? I want to put some effort into learning a foreign language. I studied German to A level and I’m sad that it’s gone to waste. My Nan is German and I love Germany so I am thrilled to be going to Berlin in April and it seems like a great opportunity to put my languages skills to the test.
The challenge: It is only right that I put some effort into refreshing my German so that I can say more than “Ich bin funfzehn jahre” when I head to Berlin in April. ( I know I’m not 15 but it’s stuck in my head from school). Some words of warning though Run Dem Crew friends, please don’t expect too much from my linguistic skills. I can promise I will try my absolute best but probably a good idea to bring your own phrase books too.
So, there you have it. My Happy 30’s mission and the five goals that I want to achieve in 2012. I will of course document my progress along the way and am happy to take any advice that people are willing to give. A number of kind people have already volunteered to help me achieve my goals and once I get started to you will hear more about these people and the advice they are giving me. Sunday nights always give me the fear but tonight I’m feeling positive and excited about what lies ahead.   

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Facing up to life with a little help from my trainers and even more help from my friends.

The last couple of months have been a bit of a rollercoaster, with far more downwards sloping stretches of track than up. Many tears have been shed but I’m feeling more positive than ever right now even though the situations around me haven’t really changed. The only thing that has changed is the way I am dealing with problems that I now realise are completely out of my control. Life throws many challenges your way and sometimes you have to decide which problems are yours to fix. I have a tendency to try and carry the world on my shoulders but sometimes you have to realise you can’t fix everything.
You may have read about my first big running challenge when I ran the Paris half marathon back in March with Team Bangs on the Run. When I returned, I basked in the excitement for a little too long and before it even dawned on me I was taking an extended unplanned break from my running. The longer I left it, the harder it got to throw the trainers back on and life just managed to get in the way. It felt a little bit like when you lose weight and get excited. You start with a little bit of chocolate and then a bit more and the weight creeps back on so you’re as fat as you were to start with and you just give up altogether. I was still thinking about running but the problem was I just wasn’t actually doing much of it. Work got busier and I ended up staying in the office longer leaving little time for running.  As the exercise diminished, I got more sluggish and lethargic so I signed up to the Run To The Beat half marathon to set my sights on a new challenge. 
Look at these babies for motivation. Designed by me and won at Run Dem Crew courtesy of Nike ID

I had good intentions but it seemed that every time I cried, a little more of my running mojo was being lost leaving me empty. I tried so hard but I just couldn’t enjoy it. Running can be a solitary business and I usually thrive on the alone time. I like my own company and sometimes it’s refreshing to just say nothing which is quite a change for me. However, while I was feeling down I just wasn’t really enjoying the ‘me’ time and couldn’t motivate myself.
I had considered joining Run Dem Crew for a while but I live in Barnes and they run in Shoreditch. Fairly far in distance terms but even further apart in culture. I’m not cool enough to hang with the handlebar moustached, vintage-wearing cool kids in Shoreditch but I knew that running on my own wasn’t working. I headed over to RDC with a couple of my other running buddies a couple of months back and I haven’t looked back. It is seriously one of the best things I have done this year and I’m pleased to say there have been no handlebar tashes in sight. Just a group of amazingly positive people that make you feel welcome every week and encourage you to push yourself a little bit more. And yes, Barnes and Shoreditch are a fair distance apart but it's worth the journey!
 I ran Run To The Beat and against all the odds I actually finished on a course that was way more hilly and far hotter than I had ever anticipated.  It is traditional for Rum Dem Crew founder Charlie Dark to award members of the RDC with their race medals at the session following the run. Tuesday 27th September was a special night and it was on that night that I realised just how special RDC is to me. As Charlie told inspirational stories about himself and shared anecdotes about the achievements of other RDC members whilst presenting them with their medals, a tear rolled down my cheek. It was a different type of tear. Not sadness but happiness, positivity and a whole lot of proud all rolled in to one. It was at that moment I realised that in the time since I had joined RDC the sad tears I had been crying had stopped.
I look way happier than I actually am here.

It wasn’t that the sad things had gone away but I’d been distracted and focused in a positive way. The inspirational stories and positive vibes are infectious and you can’t help but leave RDC with a beaming smile. The combination of a sense of achievement, the rush of endorphins and the opportunity to hang out with some seriously inspiring people forces you to crack more than a smile and it makes you re-evaluate things. I look forward to Tuesdays and I know that each week I will get the chance to meet with friends and meet new friends. Not only that but I am loving my running again too. The running keeps me sane at a time where things around me are slightly crazy. I know it can be hard to actually put the trainers on and get out the door but nothing beats the sense of freedom or the feeling of achievement when you’re done. Before a lot of runs I do have that niggle of ‘shall I just go home and throw myself on the sofa?’ but I ignore it because I know how amazing I will feel after the run.  The more I run, the more energy I have and the happier I am so I’m just going to keep running.
Running is a metaphor for life. It is important to set yourself goals in life and when you really put your mind to it you can achieve whatever you want. If you don’t set challenges then you’ll just drift along with no sense of purpose. There are some things in life that you have no control over but you do have the power to change your behaviour. I realise now that it’s a waste of time and energy stressing over things that you can’t change. Instead put that energy to good use and use any reserve you do have left to support those around you that may need it.  Life will be much happier. I’m still there for those around me as much as I can be but by focusing on my running goals I’m much happier and I’m pretty sure I’m more fun to be around. Thank you Run Dem Crew for helping me find my running mojo. The next challenge on the agenda  is Mo Running in Greenwich Park on 12th November and I will be seriously disappointed if I fail to see a handlebar moustache that day.