This time last year I was composing a similar post – reminiscing about adventures past. With 2017 almost drawing to a close it is a great time to sit and reflect on yet another year of throwing myself at any challenge possible.
Where 2016 saw me complete numerous challenges as a team, 2017 has been one that has seen me cross the finish line on my own over and over again. In previous years, the thought of going to a race alone would fill me with dread. 2017 saw me embracing the training, the racing and everything in between by myself.
And there has been a great number of challenges to keep me occupied.
The London Winter Run – This event put me on good a good path at the beginning of 2017. The second year running this event, I was not looking for a time. I was looking to feel better about running. The same race in 2016 saw me struggle with running (little did I know it was due to the fact that I was developing a bout of Pneumonia) and as such my main goal was to shake the fear from the previous year and to simply, not stop. I achieved this. It was probably one of the first races that saw me keep going, some times faster than others, but I did not stop all the same. And that felt pretty amazing.
Next came the Hampton Court Half Marathon, new in my racing diary for 2017. By this point my training had reached a new level. I felt strong, I felt capable and determined. With its flat terrain and picturesque route along the river – it was thoroughly enjoyable. And yet again, other that a brief pause to undo an energy gel, I did not stop. Therefore making this half marathon one of my best yet. Plus, it came with a pretty heavy piece of bling and opportunities to have pictures with Henry VIII. Would I run this one again? Quite possibly, once I have ticked all the others off my list.
Another half marathon followed with the North London Half Marathon. This is one race I hated from the get go. Starting on an incline from Wembley Stadium, it was one of the most undulating races I have faced to date. The hills kept coming as we ran our way through North London, to the Saracens stadium (or Copthall to those who grew up in the area), back in a loop and finishing on the pitch back at Wembley. Yes the finishing in the stadium was fantastic, but the journey to get there for me was not. Therefore, although I encourage others to experience it for themselves – it is not one that will be featuring in my race calendar any time soon.
THE LONDON MARATHON! The one that causes my heart to skip a beat when I think back at that day, so many months ago. Even now, I don’t understand how I possibly got through the months upon months of training and across the finish line itself. It was by far, the biggest challenge to date and one of the proudest moments of my life. Having friends chase me throughout the day, to have numerous supporters in the UK, USA and Canada all watching my progress and my Niece, Nephew, family and friends at the final 500 metres – the feeling is indescribable. I never felt so much love until that day – responding to the messages took hours, there were that many people showing their love. It was one of the most amazing moments – crossing that finish line, not knowing how I managed to get through and at the same time raising an amazing amount of money for the Willow Foundation too.
It may not have been the time I wanted (there was no way I was not going to stop for those who had waited hours to see me), but I completed. And I will have the memories and the medal with me forever.
Less than two weeks later, and probably a rather stupid move too, I took part in Rat Race Dirty Weekend. Thirteen miles of obstacles. On a normal day, I would have relished in the dirty fun. But so soon after the London Marathon my running was not on form, my limbs were still feeling a little tender and I was down right tired – unsurprisingly after the months of Marathon training. That said – I still had a blast (despite having a few moans too). This weekend has to be one of the best OCR races I have participated in. There were so many obstacles I was starting to feel sick at the sight of them. It was a great, action packed weekend with a fantastic after party too.
After a long over due holiday I returned to running at the end of May in preparation for Great Newham London Run. A race that I had missed in previous years, I was extremely excited about this one. On a warm, sunny morning in July I took to the streets around Stratford – running the 10K course. The route was not easy, especially on such a hot day. But it was so worth it, to finish in yet another iconic London stadium at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. To run along the track to the finish line where the likes of Usain Bolt and Mo Farah picked up the gold at London 2012. It was an amazing feeling – even if it was a short race. One that I definitely have pencilled in for 2018.
Just a few weeks later I was back again pounding the streets of our Capital, running the Virgin Sport – British 10k Having run the route in 2016, when the event was run by Vitality, I returned for a second year determined to beat the previous years time. Sadly, I was over zealous. By this point in the year my love for running was wavering slightly. I was tired and was bored of running!! So, I did not perform well. This day, in fact, I achieved my worst time on record for a 10k! I kept stopping, I felt sick and I kept making excuses. I had simply lost my running mojo. It happens. Was I bothered about it? No! I had run the Marathon a few months earlier so it did not faze me in the slightest. I just got up and tried to keep going. And it is one that will still feature in my diary for years to come.
The summer then took a rather bad turn for me. Not only did I get made redundant at the end of June – which impacted my mental well being but I also lost my Uncle to suicide. Trying to pick myself back up to do anything after such a tragic loss was a challenge in itself. With the grief I found it a struggle to breathe whilst running – so it simply became less frequent. I also developed plantar issues, despite the lack of running. Therefore several planned races did not happen; Bedford Half Marathon, Greenwich 10k and Herts Half were all races I was unprepared for and made the decision to drop out. Something I rarely do.
Just days before my Uncles funeral I had Nuclear Blast scheduled in. I was feeling incredibly low and I was determined I was not going to take part. Like most races for 2017, I was running alone – so I thought if I did drop out, it would only be me who lost out. But then the day before I decided to go ahead anyway. I needed to get out. I needed to carry on and I needed to continue living. And thats what I did. I completed Nuclear Blast on my own, at my own pace and I literally had a “Blast.” Getting out, not thinking about my sorrow – for just a few hours – was the best therapy I could have asked for at that moment in time. And what did I do when I completed? I signed up for the 2018 event, Nuclear Rush – solo, to have some more fun running the course by myself.
The final event I completed in 2017 was the Shoreditch 10k, organised by Adidas City Run. This was the first event run by these guys – a flat course around the quiet streets of East London. A superb event, offering the opportunity for PB’s. For me it was not about a PB. For me it was about getting back to basics. To getting that feeling I had at the beginning of the year when completing London Winter Run – when crossed the finish line without stopping. It was about showing myself that I still have the ability – it had not gone away, it was still there to take on the challenge when I was ready to do so. And I was ready. It was by no means fast, but it was steady and consistent. And most importantly enjoyable.
So, my racing for 2017 came to an end. It is safe to say that my year has been one that has been filled with physical and emotional challenges.
Trying to remember the elation from everything I accomplished at the beginning of the year, was incredibly hard when the latter part had been filled with such heartache.
I have learnt a great deal about myself, about the power of my mind and the capabilities of my body in 2017.
But the biggest lesson of all; is learning to have the strength to carry on, to keep fighting and living when others find they cannot.