My poor old blog. How I’ve neglected you this year. But what a year eh?
I feel like I’ve spent so much of the last nine months grieving. For the old way of things yes, but also for loved ones. I’ve lost two very important members of my family, one feline, and one human. 2020 has taken so much from me and I often wonder if I’ll ever be the person I was before this year.
I feel scarred.
And when I’m struggling with my mental health, I find myself wondering why it feels like everyone else is coping better, living better and yes – running better. I can fall into the comparison trap and the rabbit hole that is Strava, wondering why so many other people seem to be able to run further, faster, stronger while every time I manage to go out for a run I feel I have to warn whoever I’m running with that “I’m not really feeling it today” in an act of self preservation just in case I “under perform” (in a social run of all things). My mindset is in pieces.
I’ve been in the social media business long enough to know that deep down what we all share online isn’t necessarily the full story. One look at my Instagram and you’d never know that behind the scenes I have – at times – been overwhelmed by grief. And I also would be the first person to tell anyone else that comparison is the path to misery. But I’ve been unable to lift myself out of the my online self-flagellating behaviour.
But two things happened to me recently that have helped to lift my spirits and to help me realise that actually I am doing ok. The first was a book from a fellow Ely Runner, posted through my door on Christmas Eve, a day when I was really struggling. It was The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey, a beautifully illustrated tome of wisdom that I know I will keep dipping in and out of for the rest of my life. It’s full of the most poignant, beautiful statements, and this one in particular stood out:
Why do I think that I had to achieve great things in 2020? The fact that I’ve kept moving, gone for runs, walks and bike rides and done my online zoom classes, is more than enough. I’ve kept my body strong so that when my mind feels up to it again, I can push for those fast times again.
If that’s what I want.
The second thing that happened was a long Sunday morning run on the most glorious sunny winter’s day with my two Ely Runners besties, Pete and Justin. Every winter Ely Runners hosts a long Christmas run from Woodditton to Ely, followed by a fill-your-boots carvery Christmas lunch at a local pub. Obviously it couldn’t happen in its usual format this year, so Pete and I decided to do our own version, and invited Justin to join us. We had planned to do 10 miles, just 5 miles out along the river and back, but Justin – in his usual state of mountain-goat-on-muddy-terrain giddiness – convinced us to push on for a full half marathon, something Pete and I haven’t done for a considerable amount of time. Our pace was gentle and we stopped every 3 miles or so for a shot of customary rolo vodka (not quite as good as Claire’s legendary creation, but a decent replica). At least Pete and I did – Justin had Guinness in one half of his hydration vest. We chatted about nonsense, stopped for photos and laughed our heads off. We ran for the sheer joy of it and nothing else. It was exactly what I needed. Afterwards Justin sent me this photo of Pete and I distantly toasting each other. I immediately bemoaned what a godawful photo of me it was and Justin simply said, “Nope. It’s fab! A moment of happiness.” And it really is.
So what next? What should I look forward to in 2021? I want more runs like the one above (hopefully it won’t be too long before we can run with more than one other person again). I want to run because I want to run, not because I feel like I should or must. I want to not care about how fast I run (although that is still a work in progress). And I want to stop putting so much pressure on myself to achieve great things after what has arguably been the worst year of my life, even without the pandemic. Because sometimes, just getting up and carrying on is enough.
Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year. Now go and get yourself a shot of rolo vodka.