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Sometimes it takes more than one journey to reach your goal

My blog has been neglected somewhat of late. I have written a number of posts, but never published them as on re- reading they sounded so depressing and boring I couldnt inflict that on my huge readership! In short they went……I am tired, will this baby ever sleep, I am running a long way this weekend, will this baby every stop feeding, I am tired and basically repeat. However I feel I have something slightly more interesting to write about and as baby no2’s first birthday is approaching I finally feel I am ready to open up my laptop and reembrace life.

We have had a busy year both running and life wise, moving house, out of London to a village chosen randomly on a map becuase it had a nice cafe and walkable station in. Seemed a crazy idea, however it has proven to be a real success.I am so happy to be in our home, with a garden and surrounded by incredible coutrnyside. There is  fabulous running club in the village which I have been welcomed into and now have a ready made bunch of running buddies, plus races every week on my doorstep and lots of local knowledge of good routes and ultra runs.

I had initally entered a couple of 50 milers and 100 mile runs this year, but I had underestimated how much energy I would need to look after two children under two, with one waking sometimes up to five times a night wanting feeding. I wont lie it very nearly broke my spirit a number of times, endless, just as your head hits the pillow wake ups, baby only settling with mum plus trying to be lively and entertaining to the toddler and run 60+miles a week.

I withdrew from the 100 mile races as I just couldnt see how I would manage to fit in anymore training  in and whether I would ever manage a night away from the baby. So, perhaps foolishly in some cases I have trawled around the south racing a number of ultras, marathons and 10kms.

I completed the country to capital 45 mile just ‘jogging’ as a test run to see how I went and perhaps this was a little false knowledge as three weeks later I attempted to race the Thames trot 50 and blew up spectacularly at 35 miles (it was diverted to roads and three weeks between these two ultras was too close for my post natal, weak, flabby body…we live and learn and I just like to make my mistakes after 5 hrs of running). Not to be deterred a few weeks later I had a lovely long 33 mile run around Leatherhead with some members of the LDWA (Long Distance Walkers Association) who gave me lots of tips and encouragement and I felt slightly more convinced that I had a future in ultra running. Next up in March was the Steyning Stinger marathon which is up and over the South Downs four times….hard work, blew up on the last hill, but pleased with 1st place and a 3.35 considering I walked a lot in the last 5 miles. Another LDWA event at the end of March the ‘Sevenoaks Circular’ which was 33 miles in the freezing cold, knee deep mud and bitter wind, but the checkpoints stuffed with cakes and flapjacks kept me going and I was pleased to come in 1st especially having followed a route description all the way. A little trail 10km for my club in April blew out a few cobwebs and I finished 2nd lady in just over 38mins which wasnt too shabby considering I do very little speed work.

But the elusive 50 miles that I really wanted to do was still haunting me….when I got a last minute entry to the South Down Way 50. I convinced husband this was a good idea, he could drop me off, I could even get the train home, no one would notice I was gone for the day….at the start James of the amazing Centurion Running warned the weather was closing in, it will be fine I thought I can take a bit or rain! 25 miles in I was a shivering, cold, wet rag of a woman. The rain and wind were so strong I couldn t even see my hand in front of my face.  I had got cold and instead of getting my coat on and prepping food etc before the weather came in I carried on, so by the time it started raining everything was so wet and I was so cold I couldnt even do my coat up. I lost mental focus completely, stopped eating properly and allowed the monkey to take a good hold of chain and rattle and rattle it till I was convinced I couldnt finish. Having dropped off the downs at mile 33, well in the lead and still running ok I called Bryn and wept down the phone; I was hating this, why was I doing this, I was tired really more mentally than physically, I was scared of hurting myself and getting hyperthermic on the downs with noone to help with the kids. A wonderful marshall chatted to me and found husband. He gave me a bit of advice I will never forget…I got in the car huddled under towels and sulked for 24hrs In someways this was the best crashing mistake I could have made. Husband and I chatted through what I had being trying to do, too much, with too little rest, not enough preparation both physcially, but more importantly mentally. He banned me from doing anymore ultras till 1) the baby was sleeping 2) we focused on just one or two races with someone to look after the kids 3) I got some proper rest and training in.

It has been  a huge shock to me how much I have changed mentally as an athlete since having kids. Most of my athletic talent has always been the ability to hurt myself for prolonged periods…medical tents were there to be used in my opinion, now finish lines are not for lying down, but where the kids are reunited with their mum, they want attention, they want to tell me about the massive poo in the bush they have just done and can we go to the swings noooooow! However I still have this burning desire to use this athletic ability, I want to win races, break records and be the best I can be. Its part of who I am and what I want my kids to believe in as they grow up.

I had entered the Three Forts Challenge last weekend a few months ago, I was nervous to mention it to husband due to my recent escapades, but with no other race entries till October I was keen to have another crack over those South Downs and bury a few demons…it was only 27miles, just a short run really! He agreed to let me do it on the understanding I ‘enjoyed’ it and didnt run myself into the ground (ha ha there was 3450ft of climbing!).

 The day was hot, over much of the SDW 50 a few weeks before and I ran because I love to run.  I ran because its what I do, its what I am good at. Its where there is no one but me to answer to, no where to hide , no whinging kids, no meals to cook, no tears, but mine to wipe. Up in the hills is when I feel like the old me; the athlete, the competitor. My body moving like it used to move and my breathing strong, but controlled. It was a great course and I was pleased to run much of it just behind my new ultra buddy Luke Ashton who I seem to bump into at every race! I concentrated on better feeding, running strong down the hills and staying mentally positive throughout. I ran strong, but didnt push myself over the edge, this wasnt the time or place. I was rewarded with two very large blisters, a first place and course record.

You can just see my eldest running up the South Downs to cheer Mum on!

Its taken me almost a year to finally feel a peace with the athlete I am now and what I can do in the future. I have survived having two children, I have survived sleep deprivation, I have fed them both till I have nothing left to give, I have watched as my husband and I have learnt how to be parents and how our lives must now mould to fit our children. I finally feel I can use this to draw on and let them be my future, I dont need to just be their mother, I can be someone they can be proud of and aspire to be like. I have some exciting ideas for one more big race this year and then a proper crack at a couple of ultras next year. I am proud of what I have achieved so far this year, both the races I have won, but also the ones I have struggled in. No one, as much as I hate to admit to myself, is perfect and learning to cope with these imperfections is how we become stronger. My family have taught me that they love me whatever and I couldnt be prouder of the boys my babies are growing into or the job my husband does as a father. Now to make them proud of me..both up in the hills and down at home as mum.

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