Never Give Up
On April 12th, 2012, my sister and I ran our first ever marathon. It was also our first time in running together.
You see she already lived in Brighton, and I at the time lived in Shropshire. She had called me about 8 months earlier so ask if I wanted to run it with her. I used to be on the Cross-Country team at school but had over the years got out of running and in to drinking and so the weight had piled on.
My sister was quite good at not following things through, so I kind of said yes assuming this would be the same deal and didn’t actually think she would go ahead with it. When I told my then fiancé, about it he made a joke about how I could never run one, and neither could she (needless to say this is one of the reasons I say ‘then’ fiancé).
A month or so later she phoned me again to say that the entry was open for 2012. I nearly dropped the phone. She was serious and she was doing it. I had agreed to, so fuck I was doing it. I had to ask my ex-fiancé’s permission to spend my own money on my entry and then running shoes and clothes because I didn’t have any of that stuff. And yes, I did say ask his permission. And again…. EX fiancé.
If I had just decided to do this off my own back, he’d had said no to it. But because my sister was involved, he couldn’t not let me, because otherwise it would be obvious, he was controlling me. That said, I did get given a ‘budget’ on my clothing and my shoes. Well I say budget, anything I chose was too expensive. When I started running, I didn’t know anything about apps that I could have used and so just sort of went out blind and went on time I was gone. No matter how long I was gone for, it wasn’t long enough according to my ex. But I knew running, I had been part of the teams as school for 7 years, I did it at GCSE and A level.
His snipping didn’t stick and when he realised this, he gave up trying or maybe he didn’t, and I just stopped listening all together.
My longest run was 16 miles. I ran as much as I could, but I hadn’t changed my diet much and I was still drinking a lot. I lost some weight and although it was never about weight loss, the heavier I was the harder it was on my joints and easier therefore to run.
My ex and I drove down, and we were staying at my sisters. My other sister came down, and my mum and brother and her then husband was there with us. My ex stayed in the van that night, as my sisters flat was tiny. She and I shared her double bed and everyone else was on the floor in the living room.
We were nervous, of course but this was nostalgic to me. The morning of a cross country meets at school, right before my track events for the school or the district. The only time in my life I had felt free and felt myself.
The race was tough, of course it was it was a marathon after all. I had begun to get blisters (cue disgruntled glare in the direction of my ex for manipulating me into getting the cheapest pair of running shoes). Both my big toes had a blister the size of a big toe, my mile 16 my feet were on fire, and I had to walk from there. My sister slowed down her running but at mile 18 had to start walking because of a pre-existing hip issue. We walk ran from then on until the last 200 meters and when began running. The crowd screamed us on at this point and when we crossed over the line we burst into tears. We had our mum, sister, brother and my fiancé with us. We went back to my sisters flat and had a takeaway and I felt lonely. My fiancé spent much of the time talking about the Iron Man he was going to do (side note, to my knowledge he has never done an iron man). They were super excited and proud of us, well except my fiancé who spent all his time talking about Iron Man.
I was surrounded by people and yet felt so lonely. It didn’t matter that my ex wouldn’t shut up about what things he was going to achieve or my mum’s ex-husbands stupid comments that was excellent at conjuring up tumbleweeds.
Within a few months of this race my ex and I split up.
Flash and I then made the journey to our new life in Brighton. My sister had lived in Brighton for a few years, and we had visited her several times. I had loved it and even suggested my fiancé and I consider moving there and every time before I even finished asking the question it was a flat no, and he had moved on to another line of conversation that he wanted to talk about. So naturally when that ended my first thought was Brighton.
It naturally took me a while to settle in, but I immediately got to work on doing all the things I had been talked out of doing when with my ex. I did an NVQ in hairdressing, I started taking Flash out more to get him used to being around people and other animals, actually going out and socialising.
I lost my way with running because I got pneumonia and nearly lost my life, and in my recovery I kind of just got out of the habit.
And in the absence of running, my drinking got heavier.
I didn’t reignite my love on running until December 2018 and it wasn’t because I was suddenly super pumped to run again but because I had decided I needed to stop drinking. I wasn’t ready to tell anyone I was stopping drinking until I knew how bad it had got.
I hatched a plan, I had always wanted to do another marathon, so I decided that would be the goal and in order to do that I would need to get back into shape, so I went on the sugar detox. I chose the sugar detox specifically because you couldn’t drink on it.
I know I know. Convoluted and arguably my effort than just telling people, but I wasn’t ready to.
My first run was horrible.
I had gotten bigger than the last time I wore my running gear and so before leaving the flat I had felt like I had worked out just squeezing into old lycra. I did 2.43 miles and walked most of it. It took me almost a week to recover this and five days later I was back out with the only goal of walking less than I had last time.
It took me 2 months to get to a point where I could run the entire route and then I started increasing my distance.
I told everyone, for accountability that I was going to run in the Brighton Marathon 2020, and I was aiming for a sub-4. The sugar detox was sorting out my weight, the no drinking was sorting out my mental health and the running was not only becoming easier but enjoyable.
I started to join all these Facebook groups and reading up on shoes and hydration and all sorts of things. I volunteered at the Brighton Marathon 2019 to get back into that spirit and hoping it would inspire me and it did.
I went into training, in the run up and then the world changed when my best friend in the whole world was diagnosed with terminal cancer. For the first time in 12 years I had to start properly accepting that Flash’s days were numbered. 1 week later we went into the first Covid lockdown and the race got postponed.
Suddenly running wasn’t just my fitness thing, or because I was in training for my goal, but it became a lifeline. At a time where I all I needed for a literal shoulder to cry on to help me process this devastation we weren’t allowed out.
I struggled but running got me through. The Brighton Marathon had been postponed from April to September, but as September approached it was clear that this wasn’t going to happen, so they postponed it again but instead of going for April 2021, they put it to September 2021.
Flash lost his battle with Cancer at the start of September, and I coped with the loss initially by going for a run. At one point I was running through the park bawling my eyes out when a very concerned lady stopped me and said, ‘you don’t have to run, if it upsets you this much.’ And she meant it, it made me smile as I explained why I was actually crying she nearly cried herself.
Running saved me again.
As I embarked on the foundation year at university and got into the new working and study patterns the one constant was of course running.
12 weeks out and I started a training plan, having never gone for a time in a marathon before I thought it made sense to train differently and I enjoyed the process. Though at times I felt like it was impossible, and I struggled but this was largely because at the same time I started a new part time job. In a running shop. I was literally going to get paid to talk about running all day and I had no idea how much joy I would get out of helping people pick the right running shoes.
I got to the start with my plan in mind and followed said plan until about mile 10. It was hot hot hot and I had always done my runs super early in the morning when it was much cooler, I hadn’t done many runs in the heat and when I had, I struggled. I quickly realised my plan was ambitious, and suddenly I was struggling. It was a tough race and at the 3 hours mark I realised that if I didn’t start running instead of jeffing I wouldn’t be it over the line in sub-4. Just as I was about to suck it up feeling honestly, horrific an ambulance sped past, and I noticed a few fit looking runners on the floor being tended to. It stopped me in my tracks, and I thought, it’s not worth it. I would rather finish without hitting my goal than not finish at all. I continued jeffing until the final mile and ran that one. When I saw the finish line, my emotions got the better of me and hot tears rolled down my face.
I crossed the line, got my medal, had a photo taken and stuffed my face with a banana that I nearly puked right back up. Two St Johns ladies asked me if I was ok. It took me three attempts to say I was ok, because each time it came out backwards.
Unfortunately my mum wasn’t able to get the time off and I did have any other family or friends there to see me at the finish. I hadn’t really asked anyone if they would be there. I was alone walking through the village clutching my medal and my water, and yet I didn’t feel lonely.
This is when it hit me. When I had decided it was time to change it was because I didn’t want to reach my 40thbirthday sitting alone in my living because I couldn’t think of anything worse, and here I was alone, surrounded by families congratulating their finishers, I was alone, but I wasn’t lonely.
I hadn’t achieved my original goal, I came in at 4:29:03, but it didn’t matter. It was my first go at getting a time, it was still a PB and more importantly it gave me a chance to truly realise I had achieved the one thing I was aiming for.
I fought loneliness and I won.