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  • Writer's pictureLou

On New Year’s Day, I fell in love.

Updated: Dec 24, 2019

I was such a sporty kid. When we we’re very little mum used to take us dancing. For me this evolved into gymnastics. I loved it. I used to dream of being the bestest gymnast ever in the whole world. I only ever ended up being mediocre, but you know you have to dream big :)

When I went to secondary school, one of the first classes we did was PE. They had us all run around the field three times. I liked running and I was good enough at it for the teachers to notice. Although I had been in the catchment for Cornelius, I insisted on Furtherwick Park because my auntie Lucy (who is only a year older than me) was at Furtherwick. She was also on the cross country team so when they asked me to join the team I said yes before they finished asking me.

By the time I left school I had been involved in basically every sport going except for Netball. I have nothing against Netball, it’s just that I learnt how to play Basketball first and so when I did learn to play Netball I just couldn’t get over the notion of not being allowed to run with the ball.

A couple of years after leaving school I got a job at PGL Adventures and moved from Essex to Shropshire. My love of activities was quenched by the abseiling, kayaking and to some extent Orienteering. I don’t know how much this has changed since, but when I was at PGL 2002 to 2004 you worked 6 days a week, and although you had time off in the day you started at 7:30am and didn’t finish until 9pm. You lived on site too. It was brilliant, but it’s a bubble and eventually all of us out grow it/burn out. I left because of both really, I felt like it was time I moved on at got a ‘proper’ job and live in a house where I don’t share the bathroom with 7 other people. I seems that when I left, I left my sport self behind.

For the next 7 years I barely did any kind of sport. I did more walking when I got Flash. But otherwise I just gradually got lazier and bigger.

In 2011 my sister got in touch and asked me if I wanted to do the Brighton Marathon with her. I said yes, largely because I didn’t actually expect her to follow it through (sorry Jenna, but I didn’t). So when she got back in touch with me a few months later to say we needed to register, my bottom fell off.

It was kind of a strange situation. I was still living in Shropshire so my training was done on my own and in the countryside, and Jenna was living in Brighton so her training was done on her own and in Brighton. The first time we ran together was race day.

The achievement of race day had ignited my old flame for running. We signed up for 2013 and we began training together. I ran it on my own as Jenna had some health issues and was strongly advised by her Doc not to run.

In 2012 we crossed the line 6 hours and 32 minutes. A year later I crossed it in 5 hours and 6 minutes. I was psyched, and immediately signed up for 2014. My third in a row…..wasn’t meant to be. In November 2013 I got pneumonia.

When I decided to start respecting myself, to run my third marathon and to go on the sugar detox – it gave me the strength to be kind to .......myself.

Normally I’d have gone full steam ahead, not taking into consideration anything other than I really wanted to go for a run. Then I would have pushed myself too hard, then been angry with myself for not being good enough. I would have then turned the entire thing into a massive hate campaign against myself for not being as good as I think I should be. Then I would have given up, and numbed the feeling of failure with wine.

Instead, I gave myself time to acclimatise to the detox. To allow the withdrawals some space to be really annoying but so I could get used to it and therefore run.

I went for my first run on day 4. New Year’s Day, which in itself was entertaining because the streets we’re littered with party poppers, beer cans and random pint glasses everywhere as well.

I ran 2.41 miles.

I decided that running around The Level was a safe bet, because the terrain is easy…the clue is in the name. What I hadn’t thought about, was to get to the level I had to tackle a hill. The other thing I hadn’t thought about was my trainers.

My trainers had seen me through 2 marathons, training for both plus sporadic activity in the years since. They we’re just about managing to cope with being footwear as it was. They felt flat and hurt my feet and started sparking up an old knee injury as well.

The other thing I hadn’t thought through was my attire. I had lots of sporty and specifically running clothing, but they fit my size 14 self, not my size 20 self. Attempting to stuff myself into my running leggings reminded me strongly of my PGL days and stuffing sleeping bags into the bag they came in. Or a sausage. My sports bra was also struggling under the heavy load of bosom. Not comfy, but no choice (well at least for now).

Off I shuffled and it was horrible.

I was out of the habit of running, so I felt more like an octopus on skates swatting a fly. I was already out of shape so I knew this would be tough, but running on no refined carbs and sugar was exhausting. I had no spring in my step, I had more of a wobble in my shuffle. But I got round, 60/40 walk to run ratio, but I did it. My pace wasn’t fab, it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t fab. 12’03” and a total of 29’43”.

I felt horrendous when I got home, everything hurt, my lungs we’re screaming at me and my leggings we’re threatening to ping off me like a defective rubber band, but in all of that, I also I noticed the return of the spark. A bit like return of the Mack but less cheesy.

My spark was back and with it came a flood of wonderful memories. Competing for the school, getting extremely cold and muddy running around a random field in the middle of South Essex and hoping that I got round it quicker than anyone else, and secretly hoping that I’d get extra points for being extra muddy. Getting sand in my never regions every summer long jumping, getting battered and bruised playing hockey. Abseiling at PGL in France, raft building in Shropshire.

It took every ounce of my will power not to run again the following day. I had to rest. But my excitement was back and I quite honestly couldn’t remember the last time I had been this excited. I was more excited about this, than I was about Marmite popcorn and I had to be spatulared off the ceiling when I found out that existed.

I ran the same route 4 more times over the next couple of weeks, each time the walk/run ratio began flipping from 60/40 to 50/50 to 40/60 and so my pace began getting better as well. I then introduced interval training.

By the end of January, and therefore the end of my original detox challenge, I had got used to running without a spring in my step (in other words not on refined carbs/sugars).

My love for running grew exponentially because prior to the detox I had been trying to manage my running alongside wine drinking. So my progression was slow, always slow and in the end, wine always won.

Running without booze in my diet was a revelation, my progression was addictive.

I didn’t want that to stop, and I had already decided not to drink for 90 days at least.

I still wasn’t ready to tell people the real reason for doing this, so I decided to stay on the detox to keep my cover going. Complete a 90 day detox as appose to 30. I told everyone it was because I didn’t feel like my habits had changed enough, that I was already daydreaming about all the things I will eat when I’m off of it which wasn’t the point of it.

This was true, but the main thing was staying off booze.

And that is when the sandwich daydreams started.

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