Dear new runner…

Dear new runner,

So you have embarked on the mad but rewarding journey of running. Whether you are a shiny new runner, or someone who is rediscovering their passion for running, let me share a few words because it is only four years since I started running, so I remember all the emotions and motions as if it was yesterday.

First of all, a word of warning: You are at a serious risk of having your life hijacked by this sport. Actually, running is not just a sport, it is a lifestyle. I could warn you about all the expensive pairs of shoes you soon realise you “need”, and the ever-growing medal collection that will start taking over your living room to your family’s displeasure, but I willl not mention any of that. One thing I will mention is that running is NOT bad for your knees as you’ll hear over and over (and over) from non-runners.

Running is not just about the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other. It is a physical, mental and emotional challenge. One that will potentially transform yur life, your attitudes, your points of view and your perception of time and distance. Above all, running is a spiritual journey of a sort. It’s like a pilgrimage that carries on and on, never to be completed because there is no actual destination, and this time, however cliché that sounds, the journey is the destination.

Just like most of the time in life, you will have support and encouragement of others. Just this time, quite often the “others” will be strangers on the Internet and your running club members who will understand you and your struggles better than your own family will. That is okay. And quite often, despite all the support, you will be alone to search and find your own strength, battle through setbacks and experience feelings that only you as a runner understand.

So what I would like to say to you – believe in yourself and do not let anyone or anything discourage you. Running is an activity that is all about you and you can make it whatever you want it to be. You will and should do things your way. Because your way is the right way for you. (Unless you do all your runs at race pace and don’t foam roll, in which case your way is totally wrong 😉

And finally, you will be surprised how quickly all the things that now seem impossible will be within your reach. Then you’ll realise the real reason why we all do it – to achieve something we never thought we could. And this feeling, once tasted, is so addictive that it won’t ever let you go. So good luck and congratulations because you have just taken the first step on the journey to forever change your life.

Motivation to run: my three tips

I typically display (mildly annoying) enthusiasm for running. Motivation is my middle name. I am always excited to go for a run no matter the time of the day, the weather, the niggles… But believe it or not, recently, I’ve been struggling to motivate myself and far too many runs felt like a chore rather than a pleasure, which is scary for someone who takes pride in being a joy runner. Not sure if it’s the time of the year, the lack of sunshine, the fact that I have no immediate races to train for, the combination of all, or something entirely different, but every time I go for a run I genuinely struggle kicking my own butt outta door. Yesteday, I postponed my morning run to the afternoon, and am already dreading the upcoming club 5K time trial.

So, when all the “standard” motivational techniques fail, and/or you are the one who is normally the motivator, but now you are in a desperate need of some motivation, try my three “last resort” motivational steps:

  1. Force yourself

That’s right. Sod motivation. Just force yourself to do it. Say you “must” run because that’s what you do. It’s your duty. It’s your thing. Your life depends on it. If you stopped, you’d lose your identity, you’d lose yourself, you’d lose the confidence boost and the sense of achievement that you love so much. The fear of loss is a motivator strong enough to spring one into action.

  1. Bribe yourself

I’m a master of bribery. I found it’s an excellent way to make my 2 yr old coach comply. Just like I bribe my child, I bribe myself. Carrot is often more effective than a stick. I promised myself a hot bath with a glass of prosecco after my 10 mile run yesterday afternoon. So if running justifies afternoon lazing in bath and sipping bubbles, than running is what I want to do! Try whatever works for you. Pay yourself a pound for each mile ran – an excellent running shoes fund! Or promise yourself a slice of cake! Eating cake after a run is always better than eating dust and not running! Whatever works for you. Promise yourself the world as long as it gets you out of the door.

  1. Run because you can

What can be a better motivator to run than the fact you simply can. Every time I run, I think of all those who would love to run, but cannot, and of the time when I was and will not be able to run. I feel like I need to run because I owe it to them and most of all I owe it to my past and future self. Being able to run but not running, should be a criminal offence. If you were gifted with functioning legs, you need to use them for something better than getting from the sofa to the fridge (although that sometimes seems terribly far away). You ought to run, now, today, because you can, and because there is no guarantee that tomorrow you will be able to. But today, today, you’re fortunate enough you can, so get those running shoes on! Your future self will thank you.

Happy running 🏃‍♀️

So long, 2020

The next person who says they can’t wait for 2020 to be over will get slapped. (Worry not, I’ll sanitise my hands beforehand.) Now, in all seriousness, I am tired of hearing “I just wish this year was finished already”.

First of all, why would anyone wish away the time that was given to them? To me that is an insult to those who do not have such gift. Time of being alive is the most precious thing given to every single one of us over and over again, yet we all take it for granted and only when we are at the end of the road, we realise that there wasn’t enough of it to do all we wanted. We have to stop wishing time away and start appreciating every second of it, whether it is a second of joy or sadness or pain, because quite often, pain is better than no feelings and no sensations whatsoever.

This September I did a 10K race at Dorney Lake. Initially, I was really excited about it, because it was my first race since lockdown and also my first 10K race this year. It didn’t go well. (I was on a second course of antibiotics and only just getting to back normal after a minor running injury.) The race was extremely painful and felt incredibly difficult, and the result was so disappointing I cried at the finish line. Still, it was a positive experience of a sort, because as I was running (and suffering), I thought of all the people who couldn’t run; all the people who consider conquering 10K a lifetime achievement, no matter the pace; all the people who would love to experience my pain because it is nothing compared to the pain they are feeling… So if this race was 2020, I can put my hand on my heart and say that, although it was crappy, I gave it my all, achieved the best I could given the circumstances, and grew a little stronger and wiser.

I appreciate that everyone’s 2020 represented different challenges and pitfalls. I have to admit that introverts like myself found social distancing and restrictions much more manageable than extraverts. (No social functions to attend, yay!) Although I cope quite well with not seeing my friends and family, I am still heartbroken after leaving a job and company I loved. So yes, everyone had different challenges to overcome, but the bottom line is, sitting around and dying for 2020 to end is no productive use of one’s life.

Also, why do people think that 2021 will be any better than 2020? We have absolutely no guarantee of that. It can be just as, or even more horrendous than 2020. (And there is a pretty good chance that it will.) But what if 2021 is our opportunity to stop waiting for good things to happen and for the world to return to its old self. We cannot just sit around and wait for outside conditions to be favourable in order to start living.

Frodo (sitting in a dark cold tunnel of Moria, probably hungry, with no spare clothest and all sorts of nasty creatures trying to track him down to kill him) said: “I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf’s reply was: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

So while we might not have the power to change the current circumstances, what we have is the ability (a gift and an obligation) to decide how we spend our time.

Let’s stop wishing the world was different. Instead, let’s search for that silver lining and make the crapmost of the current circumstances regardless of what they are. Use that time. Achieve something. Make yourself proud. Inspire others. Be thankful no matter what. And by doing all that, you will play your own little (but important) part in changing this world and making 2021 better for yourself, for those close to you, for everyone.

So long 2020 and happy 2021!

Welcome to Lockdown 2.0

It’s fair to point out that this lockdown is little less lockdowny that the previous lockdown. Apart from toilet rolls availability (yay!), the main difference is that schools are staying open so the joy of getting stuck in school run traffic is here to remain. Also this time, we know what to expect which isn’t necessarily a good thing. The financial impact aside, just like last time, the more extraverted you are, the more you are likely to suffer in the next four weeks. Socialising in pubs and cafes with friends? Forget it. Going out for a meal? Dream on! (Ahhh, remember the good times of Eat Out to Help Out scheme?) Non-essential shopping therapy? Not a chance.

For me as a busy parent and an introvert, very little has changed, but I know many people who struggle greatly with the idea of being limited by the lockdown rules for another four weeks (minimum).

Given the change of season and cold weather, it is going be so easy to give in to self-pity, TV, booze and take-outs. Besides, we have cleaned, reorganised and decorated every inch of the house during the previous lockdown, so what’s left to do other than binge watch Netflix and try to survive until the pubs open again, right?

But how about living, rather than surviving? I mean, you have nearly a month of “solitude” so why not emerge on the other end as your better self, rather than someone who earned a million Pizza Hut loyalty points and is a Tiger King expert (is that show still a thing?). This is your chance to surprise the world and exit the lockdown smarter/faster/stronger/leaner/healthier…

Let’s be realistic – it would be extremely difficult to get a six pack in four weeks, but you can start creating positive habits that will continue when lockdown is over. Go for a walk or a run (and bring a friend along because Boris allowed you to), do that online course, start cooking healthy (no, no more banana loaf!), meditate, embark on a push-up challenge…do whatever it is you always wanted to do. Because just surviving is not good enough. So many people would love to have more time in the world and they don’t. You do. So don’t you dare insulting them with this “just surviving” nonsense. Time is precious. So whatever it is you always wanted to do – start now! As in N-O-W. Chop chop!

I ran 11 miles today so if you excuse me, I shall put my feet up and enjoy my well-deserved Friday feeling. Looking forward to hearing all about your lockdown activities and if you need a kick in the bumbum, I’m here to help (=annoy you) as always! 😀 😎

The return of the segment ninja :)

It’s a common knowledge that I used to hate running (and sports in general). I was a nerdy kid. I wore old-fashioned clothes and read Harry Potter while J. K. Rowling still lived in a cardboard box and The Witcher before it was translated to English. Perhaps it was all the books, or perhaps something else, but I always felt very much limited by the streets of my home town. I felt I didn’t belong there because the town just didn’t get me. I was freaked out by the possibility that I would lead a little life locked in the cage of “normality”. So when the first opportunity presented itself, I ran (not literally because at that time I still hated running).

That was over 17 years ago. Since then I have been all around the world and have done and experienced more than some (most?) will do in their entire lifetime. Whenever I have (briefly) returned to my home town, I felt proud because each time I came back crowned by another little success (whether it was a uni degree, a new job, or a different country I have visited/lived in). Today I have returned once again, for a brief time as usual because I am afraid that if I stay too long the town will cage me and lock me up. Today, when I returned it was different than any other time in the past.

First of all, I started the day with an epic segment session when I smoothly took all the Strava segments in the neighbourhood. Given the fact that I was nothing but a nerdy unfit kid when I left, being able to comfortably outrun any female Strava users in the area is just something that blows my mind. And that’s not all. It’s not just the running side of it. This time I arrived back to my home town with a full house….wait….a royal flipping flush in my hand. For the first time in my life I feel like I have it all. Did I mention I run fast? Yeah, that. Plus I feel healthy and great and fit. I have an awesome kid (=an annoying little bugger). I work for the most British airline (for now….loving the furlough life). I live at a place that feels like real home. I have friends I can count on and belong to a supportive community of like-minded nutters (runners). I feel content and at peace. And I have finally met the man of my dreams, although I had very little dreams left in that department and was certainly not looking for any man at all.

So this geeky kid that took a risk 17 years ago, came back to her home town knowing it was all worth it (yes, it was bloody hard work) and that she finally has it all.

“Feeling lucky” does not even come close to describing how fortunate and grateful I consider myself. So maybe, just maybe, this all means that if you keep the faith through the tough times and take some risks instead of following the easy path, you’ll be rewarded for it in a much better way than you can ever imagine 🙂

My running milestone

I just ran 1000 miles!

Obviously not in one go. I ran 1000 miles since the start of 2020. Just to put it into perspective, the previous year I ran 392 miles in total, so I am very proud of myself right now.

Just like going from no running to some running 3 years ago has changed my life, the big mileage increase has changed my life yet again. 2020 is considered to be a horrendous year with a huge amount challenges that affected pretty much everyone, including myself. I used running as an excellent way to put my life problems into perspective…or to avoid them completely (whichever way you want to look at it). In the process I found friendship and love, peace of mind, some confidence, massive gratitude and joy, and most importantly an ability to share it with others.

However cliché it sounds, every single one of those miles helped me become a better person, not just physically but also on so many different levels. I feel really fond of all my miles because they are full of memories – memories of joy, of greeting strangers with a smile, getting thumbs up from passersby as well as being frowned upon, feeling free as well as struggling, loving life as well as wanting to give up, being soaked, lost, sweaty, euphoric, exhausted, determined… It definitely was more than mere exercise. For me, it was (and is) a means of soul searching and finding myself…and I sure do like the person I have found in me.

Let me leave you with my variation on famous Proclaimers’ lyrics:

I just ran a thousand miles, and I will run a thousand more.

Here is to running! Whatever your motive is – just keep going!

#13x13challenge with buggy: Day 10

Date: 10 June 2020

Miles today: 13.25

Total miles: 132.7 and counting

Highlight of the run: Apart from running with my lovely fellow Dasher Louise, the other highlight was exploring Harmondsworth Moor which is quite literally next to my work but I never got the opportunity to discover all of it. Gorgeous spot!

Miss you British Airways 😘

Doing my little #13x13challenge I am lucky to get loads of praise that includes me being called amazing, inspirational and even a “remarkable athlete” (which is my favourite one as I hardly think of myself as an athlete, never mind a remarkable one). While snooping through Strava today, I came across this mad woman who does ridiculous mileage, and a half marathon is just her every day warm up. What I am trying to say – if you are trying your best, don’t let anyone make you feel like that’s not enough. The only person you should compare yourself to is your past self. And make sure you are better than that person! Whether it means running your first mile, getting your 5K under 25 mins, or aiming for your first ultra – it is always an amazing achievement as long as you give it your all.

So give it your all! 🙂

#13x13challenge with buggy: Day 7

Date: 07 June 2020

Miles today: 13.1

Total miles: 93.3! I am now finally the boss of our club’s weekly leaderboard (for the first and most likely also the last time ever). Over the moon!

Hanging in there 🙂

Highlight of the run: Discovering there is a double espresso caffeine gel (thanks Steve!). Can I just have that each morning instead of my coffee?

Another run with a fellow Datchet Dasher today, yay! And because we are sad sad people, we wore our club vests while talking about Strava segments and VO2 max. I felt it was appropriate to “dress up” (yeah, in lockdown times, wearing club kit is considered dressing up). After all, it is Sunday and on Sunday you should wear your best outfit when going to the church. Running and going to a church are activities that suprisingly have more in common than you’d think. You know the feeling when you step into a cathedral and just go “wow”. It’s the combination of high ceilings and gold plated ornaments and statues and paintings and the smell, that leave you in awe and feeling humble and small. Isn’t it just the same when running outside in nature? It’s just “wow”. The sun and sky and fresh air and water surfaces and greenery… I always feel humble surrounded by all the beauty, but I don’t feel small. I feel powerful, strong, on the top of the world, and most importantly eternally grateful for everything I can experience ❤

And what are you grateful for? 🙂

#13x13challenge with buggy: Day 5

Date: 05 June 2020

Miles: aesthetically pleasing 13.13

Total miles: 67.1

Cappuccino time!

Highlight of the run: Finding a good spot for a mid-run wee wee. Always a great success 😄

I have to admit – I was struggling yesterday afternoon/evening. My knees were hurting and I was generally drained (no matter how much carrot cake I ate). I was not up for running another bloody half marathon. This morning, when I eventually got out of the house and started jogging, I was not feeling it at all. But then I thought of my favourite quote by Emil Zátopek.

You know who he is, right? An incredibly inspiring Czech runner whom you can thank for (your favourite) interval training :). Oh, he also ran 5K under 14 minutes. And was the first one to break the 29-min “barrier” in 10K. But arguably, the coolest thing about him is how he totally randomly won a gold medal for running a marathon in 1952 Olympics. That year he already got gold in the 5K and 10K events, and then he made a last minute decision to give his first marathon a go… and won the bloody thing! To this day he remains the only one to have achieved all three in the same Olympics. What a hero!

Anyway, back to his quote. He said “Když nemůžeš, tak přidej” which is boringly translated as “Are you out of breath? Go faster!”. I prefer to translate it in a more poetic way: When you’re struggling, kick it up a notch.

At the begining of today’s run I was struggling. So I kicked it up a notch and ended up running my fastest buggy half while getting a crown on three Strava segments along the way. Something silly compared to Zátopek and his medals; for me an achievement nonetheless 😉

So next time you are struggling (in running or anything else for that matter), kick it up a notch and watch yourself succeed! Happy Friday folks!✌

#13x13challenge with buggy: Day 4

Date: 04 June 2020

Miles today: 13.5

Total miles: 54

Highlight of the run: Wearing my superhero undies to give me superpowers!

Windsor Great Park traditional lollipop. (For non-locals: this is a route starting on the Long Walk, followed by a loop around the Copper Horse statue. Windsor Great Park is generally excellent for buggy running – wide concrete roads, with barely any traffic. Come and visit us!)

As I mentioned on Strava, I am only just starting to realise that this challenge might be hard. (Haha, silly of me right?) I have done some crazy stuff in my life (like moving to a different country four times, running a marathon with no marathon training, or singlehandedly raising a child). Looking back, they sound incredibly scary but at the beginning of each life “challenge” I was totally oblivious to the effort it’d require and pain it’d bring me. And that is probably why I tend to do silly (or perhaps admirable) things and quite often succeed in doing them – because at the beginning all I have is a vision, and only start worrying about the details when it’s too late. They say that luck favours the prepared, right? Well, where do you draw a line between getting ready and simply procrastinating (as a subconscious way of postponing what one was meaning to do, because one doesn’t feel prepared). Newsflash – you never will feel fully prepared. The right time is now. Do that thing you have always been meaning to do, because tomorrow it might just be too late…

Tofu and avocado salad ❤