Last week I was fortunate enough to hear an after-dinner speech by the amazing Dame Kelly Holmes, at a work event no less. I have never heard anyone so inspiring, particularly with her ability to make herself seem normal and make everyone feel they have something to achieve. And, of course, I was a little bit excited to hear someone other than me talk about parkrun to some of my colleagues.
I headed back to my hotel feeling completely motivated. This was it. This time I am going to put the work in and finally beat my long standing parkrun PB (the saga of my long standing PB is a whole post in itself). My head was buzzing, and I found myself making notes of training ideas and blog posts to write. At midnight. This is not normal behaviour for someone who prizes sleep so much.
And then, as it does, reality hit. Two full-on days, on the back of a particularly busy few months, left me exhausted. And I don’t mean slightly tired. I mean having to stop at services to nap on the drive home. I mean stopping work in the middle of the next day to have another nap. I mean keeping fingers crossed the whole of the day after that the toddler will want plenty of calm activities (he didn’t, he’s a toddler after all).
But still, the positive light of Saturday morning was beckoning. Following a week volunteering we’d missed 2 parkrundays in a row, so we gave ourselves a couple of options. Plan A was for us to visit Torbay Velodrome parkrun, which would have been a new event to us. Plan B was for us to all head to somewhere local-ish like Killerton or Yeovil Montacute for me to do a repeat and get my p-index to 3 (again, a whole other blog post in that story), given Ben was thick with cold.
I woke up at 7:30 on Saturday. It was 7:45 before our little one got loud enough for me to realise what day it was. Ben was still sound asleep, and I hadn’t heard any noise from our daughter yet. So Plan C was formed. If I could get myself and our son ready in 15 minutes, I could get to Minehead and run it with the buggy (which was an extra option for increasing my p-index). Clearly, I was still a bit tired to think this was possible, as it took me approximately 10 minutes to persuade our son to leave his dummy in the cot. By which time our daughter was awake too.
So I resigned myself to Plan D – have a restful morning at home. I relayed this information to Ben at about 8:10 (he was still in bed, but it’s really hard to stay asleep once both kids are up). And about 10 minutes later he appeared downstairs and told me to get dressed and go to Longrun Meadow.
Plan E, it turned out, was exactly what I needed. Just running. Yes, touring would have been nice. But familiar faces, being able to focus on running without working out where to go, and the amazing puddles of home allowed me to run. I was never going to get an outstanding time, but actually it beat my expectations of where I would be. And I got to wear my shiny new 100 top for the first time (probably another post there too, actually). And did I mention there were puddles?!?
So this was a step in the right direction. My first run that wasn’t a tourism parkrun or junior parkrun since the end of September. Now I just needed to get a run that wasn’t at parkrun at all. Of course, Sunday was a slump day. Everyone tired. Feeling a bit meh. It’s hard to start a new routine in those conditions.
And then onto today. Wow. I had an hour slot in the afternoon where I was actually free, and so I was determined to use it for an exercise DVD or something. My day fell apart with some very sad news, but I became more determined that I would get my time. Then I discovered I needed to head into town during that hour.
This is where running wins.
This is where running was a very practical option to get into town and back in the required time, while still getting my exercise in. Extending the 3/4 trip each way to 2 miles in, 1.1 back (I do love 5k at the moment).
But as soon as I set off, I knew I was running for so much more than that. I wasn’t running to help my body, I was running to help my head. The cruelest thing about feeling tired and down is that the thing that can help most is the hardest to do. What I needed was space and time to process my thoughts. I needed the consistent sound of my feet hitting the pavement. I needed the freedom.
Somewhere amongst goals, comparisons and training targets, I’d forgotten the real reason I run. Yes, some of those goals will always be a driver to improve (until I hit them of course), but the important thing is to get out there and enjoy the run. Because as tired as running can make me, life without running is way more tiring.