I’m Running The Sheffield Half-Marathon Tomorrow!

Sixteen years ago I ran the Sheffield half-marathon. I was twenty-five years old, fairly new to running and still a bit of a boozer. I ran the race in two hours and twelve minutes, which I was pretty pleased with considering that only a year before I couldn’t even run a mile.

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Tomorrow, I am running the same race for a second time. I’m now forty-one years old but haven’t touched alcohol for six years and feel the fittest I’ve ever felt. Despite this, I was a bit worried that I might not stick at the training so I set up a Just Giving page to raise money for the Pink Ribbon Foundation, and I am so pleased that I did. Loads of people have sponsored me and their support has really pushed me when I’ve felt like giving up.

There are similarities in training for a race and quitting drinking, the most obvious to me is that by making yourself accountable you improve your chances massively at success. There’s also the fact that you’ve set yourself a challenge and, if you are anything like me, it’s way too disappointing to sack it off midway and just give up. Wasting all that effort, going through the initial pain for nothing, feeling such disappointment in yourself for not making it to the finishing line…all of those things act as motivating forces when times are tough and you’re tempted to throw the towel in.

Setting yourself a challenge like becoming alcohol-free or running a long way is also an effective means of proving to yourself that you can do whatever you put your mind to. Who says you’ll never manage to get sober? Who says you’re not fit enough to run thirteen miles? You can do whatever you want to if you put your mind to it, and achieving those goals is all the reinforcement of this message you’ll ever need.

Today I’m relaxing and eating lots of carbs, drinking loads of water, and getting myself ready for a pretty tough run tomorrow. In the morning, I’ll be thinking of all you amazing Soberistas who have supported me by donating money to the Pink Ribbon Foundation and using those happy thoughts to help power my legs up those Sheffield hills! Big thanks to all of you, Lucy xx

PS. A supporter of mine and of Soberistas has also been doing his bit for another charity by writing some brilliant books with his 9-year-old son – all proceeds of which go to the National Autistic Society. You can buy the books here.

Summer Running

I did not feel like running much earlier on today – 28 degree heat, a long day working and a desire to throw myself in front of the TV with a plate of biscuits were just some of the obstacles that stood between me and my fitness, but I forged on and did it anyway.

I remembered this quote from Muhammad Ali, “I hated every minute of training but I said ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now & live the rest of your life as a champion’” which is somewhat reassuring I find; if he hated training and yet achieved what he did, then there exists living proof that mind over matter works. I might not be aiming for world class athleticism but I am still striving to be the best me that I can be.

There is a big and gorgeous park at the bottom of the road on which I live and when the weather is good, hundreds of people decamp onto its vast expanse of grass, set up disposable barbecues, crack open a few beers and act as if they are on holiday. It has a nice vibe and the drinking never spills out of control – at least not whilst people are in the park, perhaps later on when they make their way into town somewhat the worse for wear (as I used to do, once upon a time).

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I was listening to a varied selection on my iPod from The Beatles, to MGMT, to Morrissey, to the Happy Mondays (as you can tell, my music tastes are bang up to date) and dragging the dog along beside me, her tongue scraping the floor as she desperately attempted to enjoy this run, something she’d been looking forward to all day but was now finding a little uncomfortable and way too hot.

I ran into the the park, just as ‘Kids’ by MGMT came on my iPod and the sun was burning down on all these people enjoying life and being with each other, and the dog was doing her very best to keep up with me as she panted away like a steam train, and my speed picked up and I was truly in the moment, arms working hard, total rhythm going on…and I filled up with tears that sprang out of nowhere. They stemmed from happiness, and from the amazing world that we live in, and from how grateful I am that I finally, somehow, worked it out that you don’t get this feeling, ever, when you drink alcohol.

It was joyous, and I felt totally alive.

Seeing is Believing

This morning I was on my way down to the park in the drizzly gloom, pram in front of me and dog at my side. I was dressed in a beige puffer jacket, jeans and Uggs (I know, Uggs and rain is not a good mix but they are so warm I can’t get them off my feet). The clothing is important – you’ll see why in a sec. I stopped at the zebra crossing – large, brightly painted white and black stripes complete with two flashing yellow lights, one at either side, and was about to step on to the road when a car zoomed past, completely ignoring the pedestrian-friendly crossing.

I gesticulated, as you do, although mildly as I had the baby with me and I don’t want to influence her gentle manner with my intolerance of bad driving, and then continued on my way across the road and on to the park. As I walked, I became aware of the sound of a car’s engine to my left and looking across I saw the angry red face of the man who had just almost run me over. Winding down his window, he began to shout at me for not wearing brighter clothes (should I be equipped with a high-viz jacket in order to safely negotiate a zebra crossing?). I was rather restrained in my response, although I did tell him off for being so aggressive.

He drove off and I embarked on an internal muttering for the duration of the fifteen minute walk to my destination. Should I be wearing bright clothes? Should I have smiled at him as he almost took me, my baby and the dog out in one foul swoop, hurtling along in his clapped-out Golf at 45 miles per hour in a built up area? Should I have given him more of a ticking off when he drew up alongside me and berated me for my beige clobber?

Half an hour later and I was just leaving the park when I looked up and saw two gentlemen in their 70’s jogging along the pavement close to the park’s entrance. ‘How lovely,’ thought I, ‘that two men in their twilight years go jogging together. Not often you see that.’  And then, as they neared me and I caught a closer look, I saw that one of the men had no vision whatsoever and his friend was linking his arm through his blind companion’s and steering him along a safe route. This was a kind and wonderful thing for the friend to do, but I couldn’t get over the massive amount of determination and fearlessness in the face of adversity demonstrated by the blind man. I was so impressed. If they had both had their sight I would have been impressed; given that one of them was putting all his trust and faith in his friend, and that they were both tackling disability and their mature years with such optimistic gusto, and doing it in the cold and the driving rain, I was nothing less than blown away.

I didn’t give another thought to the arse with the bright red face, and was filled with a sense of all humanity being utterly fantastic all the way home.

How to do a 10k race (and how not to)

Today I ran my first 10K race in ten years. The race, known as the Percy Pud, takes place in the Loxley Valley, Sheffield, bypassing the beautiful Damflask reservoir. One thousand runners enter, with many turning up in Christmas themed outfits, and each runner receives a Christmas pudding upon completion.

I last ran the Percy Pud when I was twenty seven years old, or thereabouts. I was in the throes of divorcing my eldest daughter’s Dad, caught in the turbulent winds of an incredibly acrimonious split. My alcohol consumption had begun to creep up around that time, and I was regularly drinking enough to feel tipsy most nights, enough to get completely out of it two or three nights a week.

Somehow (maybe because I had youth on my side) I managed to turn up on time to run the Percy Pud and actually achieved a new personal best. The night before, I had drunk four pints of Guinness and went to bed about 2 am. I ran the race in 48 minutes, fighting the desire to throw up all the way around.

To celebrate, a few of us went to a pub and got drunk.

Today was a different affair. Last night I put thought into what I ate (carbs – macaroni cheese), drank loads of water and got an early night. I did a little run yesterday, just to work my muscles gently, but otherwise I rested (as much as you can with a seven month old and a teenager who requires an on tap taxi service) in an effort to conserve my energy.

Me in the white top, at the halfway point in the Percy Pud this morning

Me in the white top, at the halfway point in the Percy Pud this morning

I ran the Percy Pud today in 55 minutes, a time which I am pretty pleased with. I didn’t run for several months whilst pregnant and then subsequently recovering from the caesarean, and began to jog regularly about four months ago. I’m justifying my race time to you here, because a tiny bit of me really wanted to prove that by living a much healthier lifestyle, I would be able to easily smash my PB.

But, the important thing is this – all the way round the race today, I was soaking up the beautiful scenery, enjoying the camaraderie of all the other runners, focussing my mind on breathing, my technique, running through the pain barrier. I ran it and I was there, in the moment – I lived that race. The last time I ran it, I was trying not to be sick and pushing myself to get to the finishing line so that I could get my Christmas pudding and get the hell out of there and off to the pub.

Thus, I am proud of what I did today, and have decided to buy a training book to help me improve my time and technique in 10K’s. There’s another race at the end of February 2013, and I’m aiming to get my PB down to less than 45 minutes for that one.

Tonight I feel physically tired, the kind of tired you get when you have really pushed yourself, conquering the inner you that wants to slow down and instead forcing your legs to keep moving, as fast as you can make them go. The calmness and ability to relax that physical exertion brings, is noticed and appreciated far more when sober. I am, once again, extremely happy that I no longer drink alcohol.