Yes, before you say it, we have been here before. I’ve started running again. And here’s hoping this time, it catches on.
About once every six months or so I decide I’m going to get into running. I sign up for a challenge, I go out a few times, write about it, Instagram it, get bored of it, shit myself when the event comes around, just about manage it, Instagram it again, tell myself that I’m going to keep it up and before I know it it’s four months later and I’ve spent the whole time sitting on my arse. I then think how nice it would be if I could start running again, sign up to some stupid challenge and watch the whole thing unfold again. I did a 10k last October, a half marathon in March and if I’m not mistaken, it’s about time for the bi-annual pattern to start again.
But this time, I really do want to do it properly. Which of course I’ve said every other time too…
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. And again. And again. And then one more time, just for good measure.
So on Monday I went for a run, the third one in as many weeks. Over the years I have devised some good routes around my house, there’s a three miler, a five miler and even a ten miler (which I only attempted once in a moment of absolute madness that broke me in ways I didn’t know I could be broken). Since I am totally incapable of falling into any kind of pattern or creating a ‘routine’ surrounding exercise (I will never be one of those people that just doesn’t feel like themselves until they’ve done their workout), I fair differently with each of them depending on the day. Or week, or month. Occasionally I make the five mile route look easy, some days I bash out three miles in half an hour, only stopping to pick up a Bua poo and then sometimes I can’t even make it to the end of the road. It has very little to do with my fitness and everything to do with what is going on in my head.
The infamous ten mile incident, written about in detail (because I literally live for content that great), happened the day after the London Marathon. Not 24 hours after friends and heroes of mine dragged themselves round the 26.2 mile course I went out for a run and talked myself into another mile at every turn, thinking to myself constantly: you can do this, you can do this. Not six days later I did my first half marathon, only three miles longer than the route I had already done once that week but found it nearly impossible simply because the thought: “you can’t do this” was playing loudly in my ears before I’d even set off.
When I set off thinking that I’m a bloody superhero, I act like one. The miles fly by, stitches are unwelcome and even Adele’s ‘Hello’ makes for a good running track. Using various methods of distraction: ‘what shall I wear on Friday night?’ ‘I wonder if I can do my three times table all the way to a thousand?’ (I can by the way) and other such thoughts are the ones that get me through. I remind myself of the same thing that I do every time I have something big to do: ‘whatever happens you’ll be in your own bed tonight’ and pinpoint a person who is nothing more than a spec and decide that I don’t want to let them see me walking so I can’t stop until I pass them. (As a Londoner this is foolproof as there is ALWAYS some spec in the distance). I don’t allow myself to look down at my Garmin (the device that tells me how far I have run and at what speed) until a particular song has ended and then, once I see I’m at some random distance, I set myself the target of not being allowed to stop until I’ve reached the next round number. So on and so forth, I do whatever it takes to get me round.
When I set off thinking that I’m a huge waste of space who shouldn’t even bother I tell myself just that. No song is good enough and I simply ‘must stop and change playlist right now’, the miles drag on forever and I resign myself to the fact that ‘today is just not my day’. The problem with running familiar streets is that you are well aware quite how far away everything is and that can get pretty overwhelming. ‘Who will even know if I just walk for a bit?!’ I think. ‘No one, that’s who.’ So I stop and sit down. Then I get guilty and start running again, then I start playing a vicious internal monologue of how shit I am in my mind and convince myself that I’ve ‘already failed today’ since I sat down on that bench for a minute and decide to walk home.
It’s a lottery as to which one of this eventualities is going to win out when I set off on my runs but there’s no point pretending that the odds are heavily leaning towards the ‘you are a piece of shit and you shouldn’t even bother running’ mindset. And this time, I need to change that. It’s clearly the reason that I keep failing and as I said earlier, I really want to give it my all this time. So here’s what I’m doing to do.
Remind myself that this is a process.
No one just starts out good at shit. And just because I’ve done a half marathon before does NOT mean that the six months since then, which have included no more than five runs, won’t count. You start slow and short and you work and you work until you get better and better. I will do my three mile run as many times as it takes and as slowly as I want with as many stops as I need until I stop needing the stops, then I will try and speed up and then, when it starts to feel like I’m not about to die, I will add another mile and start the whole process again. I need to remember to start at the beginning.
Stop being disheartened.
In the same way that some days I can apply my winged eyeliner with the grace and precision of a master and then some days I do it as badly as I would if I were doing it on a power plate without a mirror, I need to remember that I’m not going to be amazing every day. So what if today was a shit show, tomorrow will probably be better.
Set realistic targets.
If I can set myself the target of being able to run five miles without stopping by November 1st (a target I actually have btw) then I have got something realistic to work towards. I’m not falling into my normal trap of realising that I’ve only got 10 days to train for a half marathon, I’m taking baby steps. What is it they say about Rome? It wasn’t built in a day. Nor was my lung capacity and I need to remember that this will be achieved one step at a time, one mile stone at a time.
Learn to love doing it.
Yeh okay this might take a while but having a dog who loves to run with me helps, so does the fact that I know deep down that running is good for my head. Before I set off I need to remember the huge feeling of elation that I have when I get home afterwards and keep hold of that as I drag my sorry ass round London. Eventually I will fall into my stride and learn to love what I am doing, I just need to work towards that.
The carrot not the stick
Or rather the glass of wine not the spinach. Rather than beat myself up for failing (and by that I mean stopping) I need to remember this: AT LEAST I’M FUCKING DOING IT. ‘One mile is better than no miles, at least you tried, now go eat a pizza.’ – that sort of thing.
The hardest part is setting off.
This is something that I need to get tattooed on my damn face. Getting out of my front door is literally the hardest part of running and I deserve a virtual high five from myself after my first 30 seconds. I’VE DONE IT, I’VE LEFT THE HOUSE.
As I’m doing it, I need to smile. Smiling makes everything better and who knows, I might be so tired by this point that my mind might genuinely believe that I’m enjoying it.
I can do this.
I say this to myself all the time. I say it out loud, I repeat it, I shout it until it has gone in and never is it more important to do this than when I am running. Do it to the beat: “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.” I am always amazed at the great sense of power that I can take from those words: ‘YES I CAN’. ‘Yes I can yes I can yesicannnnn’. It becomes exciting, I realise I’m already doing it. I’m running, I can do this, I am running, I can do this. I am my own coach and I need to be my biggest cheerleader.
I. Can. Do. This.
Who knows, we might be back here in another six months with me asking where it all went wrong again, but this time, it feels different. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Never has that saying been more appropriate.
I don’t want to give up again, I’ve given up too many times before and every time I’m before disappointed in myself than I was before. I want to be good at running and I want to see if I can become one of those people that loves it. Who knows. maybe not. But I can’t make that decision based on speculation, I need to give it my everything for however long it takes before I can know that for sure.
This time guys, I’m not going to give up.