In the Summer of 2014 I stopped running all together.
I was three months of pregnancy with my first child. I was 41 years old. I was told by the experts that I could run, but I was so full of fear that something would go wrong I decided against it. And once we passed 3 months, with the consultant’s permission and blessing, I put my trainers back on and took to the trails close to home. If the mother is happy, then the baby will be too he told me.
For the first time in years, I took my GPS watch off and went out running.
Back when I started running in the mid 1980’s, GPS watches weren’t around. My running equipment was a yellow walkman and these ridiculously videos and flimsy headphone that would keep slipping off my head while I played the latest Top 40 recorded off the Radio. During secondary school, we ran distance runs for time rather than distance and the effort was supposed to be easy. After most of our runs we ran strides.
We relied on our internal data to tell us what an easy run should feel like.
There were no pace calculators. There were no GPS watches. Only when we ran workouts in the running club did we care about our specific pace per mile. The team got on the track and ran intervals at varying paces – and it’s here that I learned what different paces felt like.
Please don’t get me wrong, but I love my GPS watch. it’s a brilliant training aid and I wear it everyday and rely on it during my training runs and races.
But this time, I was running for a different reason. Everyone runs for different reasons. For some, it’s weight loss; for others, it’s competition. On some level, I think I run to get away from the man-made world. It’s why, given the choice, I’ll always run on trails rather than road. But there’s something undeniably liberating about running without one – forcing me to fully engage with your environment. Instead of fretfully glancing down at your wrist every couple of minutes, you can just tune into your body or – better still – immerse yourself fully in your surroundings.
So slowly but surely I would go out for my daily 5 mile slow paced runs, armed only with my phone in my pocket, as I was just so happy to be back on the trails enjoying the feeling and freedom that running gives me.
In March 2015, Gwilym was born and the experts were amazed that I was still running 35 miles a week.
I loved running when I was pregnant.I enjoyed being pregnant. I had the usual tiredness and nausea but I enjoyed listening to my body more carefully. I had listened to my body carefully on the trails but this was different.
I ran a little shower than normal, progressing to a lot slower as the months wore on. I ran for shorter distances, kept to the park next to our house and took breaks. I loved “running for two.” It made me feel strong. It kept my weight in check. Kept my energy levels up. Just generally made me feel good and that is how I continued until week 39.
With Gwilym only 2 weeks old, I was again given permission to start running again. I felt ready. I was enjoying motherhood and had a strong family support system in place.
I was shocked when I first stepped out. I knew I’d be slow and it would be hard but fitness and endurance wise, I was back to square one. My expectations were too high I suspect and wen I didn’t meet those goal (of completing 2 miles without stopping), my heart sank. I was so disappointed as I felt that I’d prepared myself well for these testing days back on the trails.
I was a fearful. How was I going to get back to where I used to be? Would I be able to get back to where I was physically? Would the motivation and drive not be as strong?
But one thing I had to remind myself that I had over the years come to have an acceptance of fear. It’s a normal thing to experience it, and it’s important to not run away from it! By persevering and getting through to the other end, you’ll always feel better from confronting whatever you’re afraid of.
Dealing with fear doesn’t mean taking the leap and hoping for the best. In ultra running the key is preparation – which comes from being practical, methodical, and carefully planning your journey to taking starting that race knowing exactly where all your systems are.
The more knowledge, training and planning you’ve done, the better the race, and this is something that can be related to the world we live in. The better prepared you are, the less nervous you’ll feel when it comes to the moment.
In business, you need to take risks – but these are calculated risks. It’s the exact same principles with adventure racing. We don’t just go into races, everything is calculated, prepared, trained for, so that we can do the best that we can. If you prepare well, no matter what the outcome is, whether you succeed or not, you can always walk away knowing that you gave it your best shot.
I searched for inspiration and remembered back to how I was after shattering my knee, ligaments and cartilage. I struggled to run a mile then but I had still fought hard to complete a 350 mile race. I reminded myself that with all the lessons I’d learnt through my past experiences over the years that I’d get back to where I was before.
Only if I had patience. I knew it would take a lot of hard work, frustration, dedication and sacrifice – there’d be tears of sadness and joy but I just knew I could do it. O could get out there again and complete the same as I had done in the past. The drive to get back out there racing and pushing boundaries was an emotion too strong to ignore.