I didn’t want to run on Sunday. It was cold, late and I’d had a long day. But, despite that, I pulled my trainers on and set off into the dark and wind. Because, there’s no point in undertaking a challenge if you give up the first time it feels hard.
It all began on 1st December, when I read a blog post by Professor Sophie Scott on Standard Issue (which I read daily, and you should too) about Advent Running, which is–as it sounds–a challenge to run for 30 minutes a day through the whole of Advent. As I’ve discovered since, there’s a website and social media channels for the whole thing; a whole plethora of ways to get involved. But at the start, I was just taken by the idea of simply running every day, until Christmas.
By sheer serendipity, I’d gone out for my first solo run in months on 1st December. So, I’d started Advent Running before I even realised I was about to join anything! The week before, persuaded by the lure of 40th birthday Iceland travel planning with a friend afterwards, I’d agreed to join a local beginner running group, Space2 Runners (managed by the wonderful Veggie Runners) and been so happy that my long-time-injured foot didn’t hurt, I grinned my way through the whole session. Apart from at the end of the hill drills when I was mostly concentrating on not being sick. And that was in rain so heavy that I was soaked to the skin, so I knew that I was ready to start running again.
So, on 1st December, off I went. Slowly, slowly… running a really short distance at a snail’s pace. The thing about recovering from a persistent injury is that you’re always waiting for it to come back. Anxious about trusting your body to do what it should. Anticipating the pain. But it didn’t hurt. Not all. Nearly in tears with relief, I came home, read the Standard Issue article and decided it was fate.
Since then I’ve done the same route every day. Still slowly. Still not wanting to push it in case I end up injured for months again. Still working out what feels ok–what’s just pain from being horribly unfit, rather than pain because I’ve damaged myself. I’ve had the odd little twinge from my foot but nothing serious. And it’s starting to work: a new habit is starting to form…
Just switching that mindset from ‘if‘ I’m going to exercise today to ‘when‘ I’m going to exercise has been massive. It’s meant that I’ve found the time. Every day. And, yes, I know it’s only been just over a week. But what it’s already shown me is that I can do it if I try. And the shortness of the route (which is barely enough reason to go out, according to my sofa-dwelling parents. I’ve offered to let them run with me to find out… ) is actually a great strength of this challenge. Because, no matter how busy I am, or think I am, there isn’t a single day in which I can’t find the 30 minutes or so to run. Not one excuse can be found. So, every day, on go the trainers…
And so I shall carry on. I’ll never be a long distance runner. Never be more than a Park Run candidate, really. And I know that I never want to run a marathon, despite it being something that I probably should have on a Bucket List somewhere. I’ve already made my peace with that. But running a little bit each day is already making me feel more better. It’ll help with my blood pressure, which is still high years after the pregnancies which raised it. It’ll help me to get fitter to walk long distances in Iceland next summer and give me cardio fitness for my new road bike (which is a story for another day, but EXCITED!) so I know it’s something that I want to do. And more than anything it makes me feel a tiny bit more like a badass. Like someone who can get back up after she’s fallen, dust herself off, and run. Someone who is a bit tougher, a bit more able to take care of herself. Someone who is worth it. If I close my eyes, and really concentrate, I can be my own role model.
So, fingers crossed my foot injury stays away because the bit of me that feels a tiny bit better after every run wants to keep this thing going. Although I will be adding in rest days after Advent. It is Christmas, after all. And I know that rest is important, longer term, with exercise. I don’t want my injury back. But today, I’m eyeing up new trainers and Colour Run dates, mountains to climb in Iceland and all kinds of stuff…
See? Confident. Excited. Optimistic.
Fist bumps all round.