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Blog | Edwina Sutton | Inspiring you to run stronger, faster and further than you ever believed possible | Page 5

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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.

The Power of Two

I haven’t blogged in a long time… I have written quite a few, but none I felt were publishable as they were so unbelievably dull or so unbelievably morose. People didn’t need to hear me moaning about my lack of sleep, crying children, lack of waist, fat ankles etc etc.

However life is beginning to slightly resemble normality again now..nearly 6 months after our second little boy was welcomed into the world. My labour was yet again a textbook example of how not to give birth. I read books, I went to classes, I met midwives, but still I had another disastrous time which left my body battered, scarred and both of us mentally traumatised. As I lay on the operating table loosing nearly all my blood, my beloved husband sitting beside me, holding my new baby who was just staring quietly at me with the biggest blue eyes. I stared right back, holding onto my life because nothing was going to stop me seeing this little man growing up.

So after a prolonged and rather painful stay in hospital I was eventually released by weeping at the nurses station whilst holding on to my husbands arm saying ‘I am not letting him go, till I can go too!’ The after care was really appalling and left me very tired and drained before I even got home.

Life with two under two has been hard hard work. Much harder than I had ever envisaged. Having an enormous baby who is off the scale in weight has been challenging to feed and into the mix the most active and high maintenance toddler in London has left me weeping some days as I try to do the best by both of them and fail miserably! However here we are, we have all survived, limbs intact (that’s always my main aim of the day), smiles/grimaces on our faces and I have just started weaning baby. Toddler is now talking and slightly less fearful of every old granny we meet so life is getting easier every day.

First ‘8 miler’ back-almost killed me!

My saving grace in all of this mayhem has been as ever my running. Split abdominals has meant hours of boring exercises and though my stomach still looks like my Granny’s  at least the muscles are now working again and my back is supported. This meant very little running till a few months ago. This did my head in and I felt physically and mentally depressed when I couldn’t get my exercise fix in everyday. I was aiming to do an ultra at the end of November, but am still feeding the baby round the clock, haven’t got enough long runs in and to be really truthful don’t feel able to commit to something which means leaving the baby for more than a couple of hours yet.



Someone else loves to run too

So I have slowly ramped up my mileage, man alive the first 4 weeks hurt. I couldn’t even run round a corner without pain and 3 miles seemed like a lifetime. But having small children has taught me patience (well as much as I will ever have) and I have taken it really easy both on my body and on my mind. Desperate to hammer out the miles and feeling guilty if I miss a run because husband is late home or a baby is clingy, I now feel much more relaxed about my training and try to look at the overall week rather than every day individually. I set myself a mileage target to do each week and if I meet it good on me, if not I just try again next week. The great thing about ultra training is that the slower I run the better so early morning or evening plods are all good parts of the jigsaw.

I have my first ‘race’ middle of January, hopefully by then baby will be on solids and I will have got in a couple of 30 milers really more for my confidence than anything else. Its amazing how having children and all their unpredictability can totally knock your own self esteem and belief in your self. This is what running and training is slowly giving back to me over the past few months. A belief that my body can do amazing things again, a feeling of freedom and power as I move silently through the early morning mist and most of all the spring in my step again as I turn the corner to home, my boys and my life as an ultra mum.

I’m desperate

I’m desperate

I’m desperate to see my feet again

To move without grunting

To wear clothes without elasticated waist bands apart from my cycling shorts

To not be ashamed when I look in the mirror

To feel the wind in my hair as I move faster than a shuffle

To have some time with just me, not carrying a baby either on the hip or in the belly

To feel the first painful shudders of contractions signally my baby is coming..

To feel that great sense of achievement after a day of hard training

To bring  a new baby safely into the world and into the womb of our family

To make my husband proud by labouring with courage and the most determination I can conjure

To start life as a family of four



It is always worth every second….!

To show my children what they can achieve in their life when they put their mind, body and soul into something

To enjoy every last second of being with my one baby who I love more and more everyday
To not complain, as I have friends who have lost babies, cant have babies ever or desperate for babies and I know how lucky we are to be such a happy and blessed family

Lunchtime madness

I have just spent half an hour clearing up lunch, no lunch was actually eaten (well not by toddler, I of course didnt miss a morsel!). He was in a mood from the moment we went from car to pram, from pram to shop, to shop to car and back home. Queues in the bank and then me dropping milk all over Waitrose floor (thank goodness it was Waitrose, the staff practically clean you up too) meant we were on time faults and so no play park or run around. I rarely take him anyway in the pram now as he loves walking so much, but it is such an effort and today I just didnt have the energy to go up every single step and shut every single gate. Lunch was therefore a screaming fest, everything rejected, everything thrown. I grit my teeth as I see my clothes, my floor, sofa get covered knowing that losing it will do nothing but increase the rage. Its so frustrating for him and me, words are coming, but they are his own little language at the moment and I cant work out what he wants. I try, I really do to be patient and understanding, but sometimes I just want to howl with frustration myself, this is my life, this endless coping with tantrums, screaming and mess. Sometimes I lie down on the floor myself and howl, other times I just let silent tears drip as I cant do anything right and am trying so hard. And then I get a smile, or a kiss given without asking,  a new word or delight in a new found game. And my world is sunshine again, life is good, I love being a Mum, oh and arent I the best Mum? Look how happy and wonderful my toddler is, struggling? Not me!

All my years in sport and coping with racing and training high and lows are nothing compared to a day with a toddler. The only comparison I can make is to riding up hills on my bike. A friend once said to me, just remember no hill can go on forever….so I used to repeat that as I grinded up some particular favourites and I remember that again now….none of this will  last forever and what seems like uphill, soon turns to downhill, free wheeling, with the wind in your face, feeling refreshed, revived, you forget about the pain, you are ready to face another hill, another grind….it wont last forever and you’ll almost miss it when its done.

Keeping it real

I hate New Year, I love Christmas. I get ridiculously over excited, spend weeks planning, buying gifts, wanting to get everything right till hubby eventually sends me out of the house to calm down! Christmas comes and goes and by 27th I feel myself sinking into post party blues. New Year does nothing for me, especially 5 months pregnant, I can hardly fit in some of my maternity clothes let alone a party dress!

I tried a little run again as my legs were itching and desperate for some action. It felt OK, but its so slow and I cover such a paltry distance I am not sure I can be bothered again. This is the first Christmas for 15 years I haven’t been training for something. I feel beyond frustrated and grumpy that I have nothing to focus upon apart from getting fatter, more tired and more cranky! I want to be out with my friends, on my bike, in my trainers, getting my heart beating hard and feeling that gorgeous post exercise smug glow of satisfaction.

But then I take stock of what I have. Woman man up. You have a wonderful family, a gorgeous little boy who is the light and life of my life, another one on the way and the most amazing husband anyone could ask for. In this world we live in we are always wanting everything and we want it now. We live on credit, material gains, how we look is how we are judged to be good people, happy people. So what if I cant be doing exactly what I want to do for the next few months? I have years ahead of me to do my hobbies (and that is all they are at the end of the day). You are only pregnant with that child for such a short period, sit back and enjoy. Let the pressure of trying to look right, do the right thing, be the right person go by. Enjoy this quiet period, this enforced slow time, lets others pick up the pace. Ill be back out there, just because I’m in my stretchy pants right now doesn’t mean this mama hasn’t still got some athletic fires burning!

Happy New Year to all, make it your year, with your goals, no one elses, enjoy every moment -be it slow or fast and most of all live your dreams life is too short for what ifs.

Not running anywhere with my baby!

20 weeks pregnant and time to call a halt on running. Its been pretty sporadic ‘running’ the last few months anyway with morning sickness not allowing for anything speedier than a dash to the loo. Once I started feeling better I was determined to try and keep in shape, but it has been much harder. Running has seemed unnatural and painful and rather than enjoying it,  I have spent most of the time convincing myself that its not sore and I am fine. But on Sunday, it really did feel bad. I felt like I needed to hold my stomach as I ran and the next day was so sore I couldn’t even walk a mile without twinges. So that’s it, I just have to face the facts that this time round I may be getting a few pounds heavier and wont be in as good as shape coming out of pregnancy as last time, but really in the whole scheme of things whats a few months of lard carrying between friends?! Pregnancy books and midwives tell you to walk as one of the best forms of exercise and I do walk miles everyday with the pram, but its just not the same as the high I get from a run however slow or short.

I have packed up my training kit, ready for May next year, when I will squeeze myself back into it again and set out on another long road to fitnessville. I miss wearing my sports kit, I miss hanging out with my buddies post training rides and runs, stuffing ourselves with lattes and muffins and the endless bragging of who got dropped when. But I have it all to look forward to again (though there might be less time for latte sipping)  I feel much more confident in the ability of my body to bounce back, about nursing my baby while exercising and my husbands ability to hold the fort while I have some Mum time!

So for the next few months, it will be power walking with my baby. He can pretty much power walk next to me now, though his ability to stay in the same direction or follow the path can lead to some rather frustrating circular routes! He loves to walk, to run, to pick up and throw anything he can get his hands on. He is completely fearless and would happily stay outside 24/7 if he had the chance. I seem to be the mum who is always at the bottom of the slide come rain or shine watching another skill be mastered-completely ignored until needed for a helping hand or to be shown a particularly large stick! I wouldn’t have it any other way, I hope he has inherited my love for the outside and activity and if I have to slow down for the next few months it will just give me more time to watch  the little strong boy I am so proud of getting stronger and stronger everyday.

You Win Some You Lose Some!

This week has probably been the toughest yet in my new career as a Mum. Baby has been sick, really sick for the last 6 days and nothing I could do or say would help. I have new found respect for families who have really ill children all the time, how exhausting and how dedicated the parents must be. After just 6 days I feel completely battle weary, I cannot stand to hear another whine, change another set of clothes, be hit, clean up snot covered mess or cook anymore tempting meals to have them thrown onto the floor in disgust.

My biggest mistake to make, as always, and one I constantly do, is to put adult human emotions onto my little baby. He has never coughed before, had a chest so full of gunk he cant breathe or a headache and achingly dry lips. Even though all of this is new to him, I get frustrated that he wont do what is best for him. Why does he not just sit quietly with me and read a book, why does he need to pull everything out of the cupboard and then slam the door on his hand? Why does he need to throw his head back in rage against the wall until finally he gives it such a crack he ends up howling. These are his ways of expressing his dismay in feeling so terrible, but to me they seem an addition to an already highly demanding and stressful situation, of the all consuming sick toddler.

Being a stay at home mum means I have had no respite all week, not wanting to lurgy any of my friends and not up to play dates we have spent hours inside, him slowly getting better, while I got iller with said cold and more exhausted from night screaming (him not me!). I have found the constant demands  physically hard, but hey I’m a strong cookie, its the unexpected mental drain of not being able to do anything right, in fact doing everything wrong and no reward for a long day apart from a still fractious and ill baby.

In my previous life I have always been able to control situations, work wise I liked nothing better than chairing a meeting and making decisions (ask my department!) and in training thrived on a dedicated and demanding schedule. But here I am now, melted down to the bare bones of me, nothing to show for my week, but a son who has now turned a corner and is happily out shopping with Dad and me a frazzled, worn out and cranky mummy!
That’s the hardest thing, I think I have probably worked harder this week than in any of my working weeks or training units and I have nothing to show. I feel a sense of guilt that I haven’t really achieved anything this week or been a particularly good wife and lets not lie, we all like praise and recognitions, but none will be coming my way. The only person to say thank you for that, you did an OK job (debatable!) is me.  And so, I will.

Gone are the days when I had trophies and targets to show my talents but I have a family, a medal so special, yet so demanding that only those lucky enough to also have this gift in life will understand. I’m beginning to understand  you don’t need the thanks, you don’t need to prove you are a worthwhile being by being a high achiever, you just need to know in your heart, when the going got tough you did the best you did and it all worked out in the end.

All quiet on the running front….

So radio silence needs to be broken.

This is the first time I have sat down at my laptop properly for 3 months. I just havent been able to face it. Just been too sick, too tired and too depressed. So unlike my normal self and so draining when accompanied by a cheery 14 month old companion. Reason being….I am expecting another baby! ‘Hurrah’ I hear you shout…..’Crikey  those two will be close!’ Gulp, yes they will, but hey so many positives can be drawn from having a close sibling, I am testamant to that. Who needs sleep and rest when you can just be surrounded by babies 24/7!

I have been hit with mindblowing morning sickness (a term clearly defined by a man as I have been sick all hours of the day), it really has been truely the worse few months of my life, the delight of being pregnant again has only just eclipsed the terrible all encompassing sickness which has left me weeping, weak and wobbly everyday for weeks on end. However the cloud seems to have passed and though I still feel the occasional clutch of nausea I have suddenly come back into the real world and am able to begin living again rather than just surviving.

So running has taken a miserable back seat…..funnily enough the last time I ran properly was my 100mile week in Scotland when I didnt know I was pregnant and since then have only managed a handful of 5kms, not just because I was so sick, but for the first time in my life running actually made me feel worse. So unlike the me of old I listened to my body and have just ‘let it go’ allowing my body to channel all its energy into creating a new little being and allowing my hormones free rein to run wild!

I am now itching to get back moving again which I think is always the sign to get going again. Running comes easy to me and even after a 10 week break I managed an easy 5 miles and then 7 miles at the weekend. I keep my heart rate below 150 which means running painfully slowly, biting back my competitive instinct and the temptation to power up hills and take on that random male runner who always has a point to prove. But as with last pregnancy I have lost the will to push myself to the limit..’doing’ exercise is enough, bit of fresh air, bit of a sweat on and that will do.

And now second time around….there is no time off, no sneaky lunchtime swims, no nanny naps (well a few!). I am exhausted running around after baby who is in the prime of life as a toddler – the no fear, maximum danger phase. But it is also a super fun phase, he is interacting, popping out the odd word – ‘Burleeeeeease’ when he wants some of my snacks and ‘ball’ which of course had both Dad and I glowing with pride!

So I will do my best knowing that coming out of this pregnancy it might take a bit longer to get fit again. To keep me dreaming I have set some big goals for 2013 including a gold medal which still eludes me and on my slow plods I imagine now not one mini cheer leader, but two, shouting their Mum on and longing to get away so they can go and play football!

Letting Go…

I am happy, really happy. I feel I have finally reached a place where my heart doesn’t ache with the decisions I have made. I am still missing my sport and my job, but loving my changed life as a Mummy and a better wife.

Baby is now almost a year, some people say that it takes 9 months to grow a baby and 9 months to get over having the baby. Well physically I recovered really quickly and though I breastfed for 6 months, I quickly felt my body bounce back and my legs and lungs regain their strength. However mentally I did not realise how much it would take getting used to having this little being in our lives. Not only the demands he has placed on us, but also the indescribable love I feel for him. He has totally encompassed and enchanted us and turned both my life and my heart upside down.

I have adapted my training so I can now still fit in a good enough leg smashing that I feel I am improving my fitness, but still have the energy to cope with a very active 11 month old. I have come to terms with the fact that I cant compete at the level I would like to and no longer feel a twisting of my stomach when I see riders go by, rather I am enjoying coaching others to fulfil their dreams and enjoying a while new set of dreams  myself. I miss my work and my work friends, but other opportunities are beckoning and I am so glad that I stuck to my guns in not returning especially when I get to witness every major milestone that are coming thick and fast.
 I understand that these are personal choices and everyone has a different idea of how they want to bring up their children, though it still irks me when friends who have gone back to work comment…oh I wish I could sit around drinking coffee all day. I wish! The choices I have made make my life hard work. Limited funds means a  limited material budget, but for everything we are lacking in monetary value we make up for in finding the joy in living a simpler and quieter lifestyle.

We recently spent a blissful week in Scotland, introducing baby to the highlands and our favourite pastimes of epic adventures combined with epic pie eating! I managed to squeeze in just under 100 miles running which plus with walking left me feeling suitably back to my original ‘bouncing’ self. I haven’t been running over these familiar trails and hills properly since pre baby and it was so exhilarating to be back where I really feel I belong with the added bonus of sharing the magic of some of the hills to our son.
And it was up there, in the pouring rain with both my boys by my side that I realised I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else or doing anything else in the world. Life was pretty much perfect. I have no medals or trophies to show for my past years work, no  money in my bank account, but  I have the most important thing in the world, a wonderfully happy and contented family.

Baby Steps

Momentous times in our household this week……baby not only now standing on his own, but walking! He has been getting braver and braver by the day, till yesterday, hands went off the cupboard and he walked his first four steps into my arms. What did I do? Burst into tears of course! Which Mummy doesn’t on seeing their first baby take his first steps into a whole new world. We spent the rest of the evening taking little steps, even surprising Dad when he arrived home early from work. Of course today he has totally refused to even stand up, but spent most of it sitting in a corner sucking his thumb…I wonder if this is a by product of his sudden found independence or his legs are feeling the fatigue from last night and he is just resting up ready for our next training session tonight?!
 On my run last night after watching baby walk for the first time it got me thinking of this sudden grasp of independence. Time has just flown by…..in 5 weeks time baby will be a year old.  I’m not ready to have a toddler yet, I want my little baby who I can still dress in cute sleep suits (fat chance of getting those poppers up now!), cuddle with and carry around. In honesty I love the fact that he relies on me for everything, that the bond we share is so strong I can tell what he needs almost before he does. But I guess from the moment the umbilical cord is cut, that thick, strong lifeline has to be slowly shredded in order for your children to grow into strong, confident people. Watching him walk really was the highlight of my mothering career so far, his legs lifting, bending and muscles flexing for the first time. And the look of pure delight and astonishment on his face (and mine I am sure!).

Every day I see him becoming more and more independent. From stuffing food in his mouth to knowing exactly what toy he wants and when! Being at home every day, day in day out, is wonderful and I wouldn’t change it for the world though there are times when I want to stick forks in my eye!  Now I see him becoming a little man every single 4am wake up, meal thrown on the floor, wash hung out, is worth it. By giving up some of my independence I feel he is gaining his in return.

And so while running last night I let my mind wander to where those very strong legs of his might end up walking him to. Mine have been such an asset to me-not my most attractive feature, but strong, tireless and healthy they have carried me to all sorts of adventures and I have and will continue to work at making them the best mummy running legs they can be.
So little baby….take your time with your next steps. Mama is in no rush to see you off into the sunset, but know this, wherever those legs take you, I’ll never forget those first steps,  I’ll always be there for you and I’ll always be proud.