Thursday, 14 December 2017
The Fertile Void
Winter is a time for reflection, so I have been reflecting on everything I've achieved this year with my running. I started the year just about able to run six miles without stopping, and finished it comfortably running half marathons over hills, through muddy, rocky, rooty terrain. I wasn't especially fast (my road HM PB is 2:02, although that did include a few sharp hills), but I did get more technical, more competent and familiar with race strategy. I also made mistakes. I discovered what it felt like to experience a running-related injury; experienced the frustration of having to miss races, pull back on training, take more rest days. I experienced the support and encouragement of running friends who'd been through it all before and knew how I was feeling. I also experienced the opinions of people who told me I'd ruin my joints if I continued. Through that experience, I learnt to be aware of how my responses to people who were working to overcome obstacles or to take on challenges might make them feel, and to think about offering them support in place of judgement, because one's own experience is never going to be identical to someone else's.
I learnt how to focus on getting over the injury, which has been chronic all summer, by putting in the work I needed to sort out the imbalance and condition muscles that haven't been tested this way in forty years. I listened to the advice of friends and experts and tried to find my way somewhere through the middle. I'm not there yet, but this is a journey that doesn't reach its destination overnight and I have learnt to accept that. I have also learnt, through it being tested by having to deal with this injury, how strong my will to run is, because of the sheer amount of support work required in order for me to do it. This has tested my commitment and I find myself a more disciplined, determined and focused being as a result.
I learnt I could focus on a goal (first to run 3 miles, then 6, then 9, then 10, then 13), and, through hard work, commitment and determination achieve it. My experience has encouraged others to take up running and I am so proud of them and what they've achieved as a result- all through their own hard work. I made friends with strangers on races who helped me through difficult times when I was tired and flagging. I helped strangers when they were tired and flagging. Competing in races with my husband has added a new and unlooked-for dimension to our experience of life together as we're able to talk about a shared experience; the thrills, spills, exhilarations and disappointments of the races we've run in together. I have a better understanding of something he has done and loved for years and years as a result.
Running has taught me so much this year, about myself and what I am capable of. But most important of all: I have loved every second of it. Even when it wasn't going well, it has been valuable as it's taught me more about myself.
I have felt the need to pause and reflect as the season swings towards the shortest day. So I'm having a break, taking a few weeks off running at the end of a busy year to allow my body to rest; a little quiet time to experience the satisfaction of everything I've achieved. So far, I am enjoying it. I thought it would be hard- regular runners will know, we're like caged tigers or bears with sore heads if we have to miss any of our normal weekly runs. But once you make the decision to pause, and commit to it, it becomes easy. I am missing some races, and a few Christmas social runs which sound huge fun, but this is part of the discipline: not giving in to the temptation to break with what you've decided to do because a tempting offer arises. I'm thinking this might not be a bad pattern to follow every year.
In this fertile void is the satisfaction of knowing that something has been achieved through my own hard work, focus, determination and dedication. In it too, is the seed for next year's goal, which is my marathon. Something that, six months ago, I was still insisting I had no impulse to do. It is good that life is full of surprises. I like to embrace them.
I will try and post again before Christmas, but, as with everyone else, life is busy here so I may not. Similarly, I will try and get round and read all your lovely blogs.
Happy Christmas everyone, and thank you very much for reading Countryside Tales this year. It's been a pleasure and a joy to share this space with you.
Blessings on you all,