take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Running out of steam? 

It was almost four years ago that it started.

I was walking home from a friend’s house late at night, after an evening of jollity. He only lived about a ten-minute walk away, but it was dark and I was scared. One of the reasons I kept my little car when I lived in Southampton (despite being within walking distance of work) was so that I could transport myself around without worrying. I was single at that time and fiercely independent, but ultimately a bit of a scaredy-cat when it came to walking around alone at night.

It had seemed silly to drive to this particular friend’s house, though, so I braved the walk home. About half way, I suddenly decided to start running. I don’t know how far I ran – maybe not even 100 yards – but I just wanted to get home sooner and it was an idea that came into my head.

During those moments, between gasping for breath and mopping my brow, a tiny seed was planted. Over the next couple of weeks, it began to germinate in my mind. One weekend in March, just like that, I stopped smoking. The following weekend, just like that, I started running.

I say running – to begin with, it was more of a stagger. One minute of oafish, purple-faced stumbling followed by one minute of walking, wondering what on earth I had let myself in for. Repeat to fade, or for a mile; whichever came first. It seemed that the minutes of running had been deliberately altered by an evil force so that they were considerably longer than a minute ever should be, whereas the minutes of walking went by in the blink of an eye.

Three times a week, I would set out after getting home from work, gradually increasing the time spent running in relation to the time spent walking. One day, several weeks later, to my astonishment, I ran one mile without stopping. Each time I went out, I would add an extra bit to my run until one day, I ran 3 miles. I had reached my goal: to run the Race for Life, which I duly did in 2003.

But I didn’t stop there.

Since then, I have continued to run at least once a week (except where illness has prevented me - but in any case, I have not gone for more than two weeks without a run). Some weeks, I have managed to cover over twenty miles, others only five. These days, six miles is my “standard” run, thirteen the maximum, three the absolute minimum. I have had highs and lows – some runs have made me cry while others have made me grin from start to finish. Sometimes you feel as light as a feather, while other times your body is like a lead weight. But I have persevered, rain or shine, despite feeling that I’m just not made for it, that I’m not really any good at it, that I’ll never really be fast enough or fit enough.

Just lately, though, I’ve been making excuses not to go out. Only managing a run once a week, and dreading each one, I feel like I'm stagnating. Struggling. Not managing to keep up with people I used to run with quite comfortably, with people I was coaching at the club last year. When, a couple of Sundays ago on a club run, I bailed out early (I never do that), I knew I had to take stock.

Am I losing my running "mojo"? Will there come a time when I just don't manage to drag myself out there for one week, two weeks, three weeks?

Even more reason to start swimming. And who knows, after years of pouring scorn on such places, I might even start going to the gym. By adding variety, I am hoping that this will increase my fitness, improve my running and give me other exercise options.

But I'm not going on the treadmill. Bagsy no returns.

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