Like a wild flower she spent her days allowing herself to grow, not many knew of her struggle, but eventually all knew of her light – Nikki Rowe

January is a funny old month…the start of a New Year and so resolutions are made, new fitness and health goals set out and we look to try to live life better than last year. For some that will be because they saw last year as a bad year, maybe awful things happened that they want to forget, maybe some realise things in life could have been done differently and so they focus on that. I haven’t found many people who haven’t decided on a “something” for 2020.
For me last year went well…yes it had its highs and lows but that gave me things to learn from, enjoy, find liberation in, gain a reality check, find a hunger for and keep on pushing to pursue my purpose in life…please note I have no idea what that is, or if I ever will do.

The things I achieved last year made me aware of a few things though:
Finishing cancer treatment – that was a double edge sword…you get used to living life a certain way, then it’s all change but suddenly – for the first time in so so long…it’s a change for the better. For me I could start to slowly heal, recover and feel well again. But…that’s when mentally things started to get worse. I didn’t recognise myself, my feelings, my emotions, my thought patterns, my needs…nothing…I felt lost at a time when, because treatment had finished, I was at my most alone. I’m still at that place, getting to know ME a bit more but still honestly feeling utterly adrift, scared and anxious. Some days I just feel hollow…it’s odd but that’s the only way to describe it. This year I will continue my path of self discovery, hold my head high and feel it out…good days and bad.
Work – Going back to work felt so terrifying, it was technically a new job and I barely knew anyone. I went back too soon in some respects and if I ever have to do all this cancer shebang again, yes I’d take longer off to get a lot better. But, in other respects I went back at entirely the right time…the support, warmth and just plain old social interaction was much needed to aide my mental health. This year I will continue to learn, develop and progress…but…understand that I come first and work and life have to balance – stress is not a friend.
Running – It’s only when you stop and evaluate that you realise how much you’ve done. Yes some things I should have done differently…a half marathon two days after finishing radiotherapy was not a good idea. I also could have left it a year before doing my first 50K, even my first road marathon…but for both I was completely ready and I’m quite proud of that. I worked hard to build my muscles up, strengthen my aerobic endurance and get my fitness built back up. I know from both of those big runs what I need to do better, what worked and what I need to throw away this year. The biggest thing from both…well my 50K showed me that it wasn’t my limit and to go further would be a good challenge. My marathon taught me to never underestimate the word ‘undulating’, training specific is a huge help…and that recovery from a marathon feels a lot quicker than an Ultra!

I wanted to start the new year off well, help others and keep myself challenged and motivated. Therefore signing myself up to the Great Ormond Street Hospital – Running Off Christmas Challenge…31miles to be run in a month. Due to my training I knew that wasn’t as hard a challenge for me as it would be for others, and so I decided to set my target at 31miles in 10days. I aimed on raising £100 to mirror the fact I’ll be running my 100K for Great Ormond Street in September, and I feel very proud to have hit both of my targets. A huge, humble, thank you to all who supported me.

Mid month I did something which I advocate strongly and don’t see enough of in fellow runners…I had a proper break. Not one induced my illness or injury, a proper break to give myself time to heal, rest and let my body recover properly. With high training loads and lots of running, regardless of racing but more so if there has been a goodly race calendar…resting properly is essential.
The best and easiest way for me to do it without getting itchy feet was to have a holiday. I took my fiancé to Edinburgh for his birthday.

We walked every day, including going up Arthur’s seat and back, saw nigh on all the tourist sights there are and had a brilliant time.

I did have one struggle – my old poor eating gremlin was in my head, with so many thoughts of shouldn’t, mustn’t. As a runner I’ve grown so much and silenced that demon – but why can’t I do that as a whole person, it makes me really sad. Thankfully as the week went on I relaxed about it more, which was a huge help physically aswell as mentally. At the start of the week I had no energy, felt irritable and awkward and was constantly starving. By the end of the week I felt strong.
I did have difficulty sleeping all week and my hormones were raging…menopausal sweaty, insomnia is not fun – I think most was brought on by sleeping in a strange bed, and also not running. We got home at 3pm on the 18th, I went for a run at 5pm and slept straight through that night.

My first run after a week off didn’t feel odd, I had a bit of tightness here and there at different times, but on the whole it was 10K of bliss. I got back and my hamstrings tightened very quickly! I admit I hadn’t done my foam rolling or physio exercises much while away and it showed how important my routine is…another thing to take forwards into the new year.
On the morning of the 20th I started to work towards my next challenge…my ‘Mission To Manchester’ began at 5.45am as I did my first 6.5K of marathon training. A heart rate zone 2-3 run with good cadence felt brilliant and I was sad to finish it.

Regardless of my first marathon time, even though I want to improve on it, my training plan is exactly the same as I used for Loch Ness. I know compared to when I did my training for it I’m in a different position to others…I’m a healthier, stronger, fitter person than the person I was when I began my last marathon training plan…and I want to see what difference that makes before I would ever look at anything else. Plus, I have a plan that fits with life…non marathon runners please be aware this literally means eat, run, work, run, eat, run, sleep, run – no alcohol, junk food, late nights or socialising that can’t be done around a run…it’s a life I never thought I’d be able to “fit in”…oh how we laugh now! Although, I have started to draw up my training plan for my 100K and…well that looks quite scary. My marathon training incorporates the start of my 100K training…I need to be in the best shape possible for it, so early is better.
The last few weeks of January have been part of the base building phase of my marathon training. This phase is all about runs to be taken gently as the mileage starts to climb, with a lot of thought on recovery, not pushing myself too hard and noticing how everything feels. I have two heart rate zone 2-3 runs a week, a Monday and Thursday…the second aiding my aerobic development as part of that silent 100K training. I have a mid-week longer run, and alternate one week of hills with one week of speed work, and finally my weekend long run. On the spare three days I have two cross training days, which will have less weight training and more yoga the closer I get to marathon day. Then one day completely off…a no exercise day – an absolute must to aide recovery and generally this is a Sunday. As my mileage goes up, or I have life plans get in the way, I may look to split my long run over a weekend…it will help me get used to running on tired legs – but that is for the intermediate phase and we’re not quite there yet!
My proudest achievement of the month, I saved until the end in more ways than one – on the 29th I did my 8K speed work session and broke my 9min mile PB to run my fastest mile at 8.96!!! Pretty chuffed wasn’t the word and while it was hard work, I felt good throughout and afterwards. It goes to show that trusting in the science is a must. All my slower heart rate, aerobic endurance training is paying off…train slow to run fast.

Be happy, smile, be fearless but most importantly be you. You’re unique and special and no-one can replace you.

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