Running finds you out.

10 Mar

I was running with a client a few weeks ago.  This client is fairly new to running and certainly new to enjoying it.  She’s at the stage where every long run is further than she’s ever run before and, now that she’s getting more used to it, she’s loving how strong this new habit is making her feel.  I love running with people in this phase.  It makes me realise that while I often consider myself a rookie, I have been at this thing for nearly 12 years now and I’m at a different stage in my running development.

One things she said really stuck in my brain though.  About how running was helping her work so much through in her life and how it was, in so many ways, a metaphor for her life.  I have often thought this myself.  Doing something physically – pushing yourself further, harder, faster than you’ve done before, for example – can be a way of practising doing things mentally.  It seems trite, but it really works that way.  Finding the courage to try something you’ve never done before – run far, run a sub 7 minute mile interval – can help you find the courage to try something else – write, sing, go up to someone and talk to them – that you are lacking the courage for.

But a flipside to this, for me, is that running finds you out.  I can’t lie when I’m running.  Sometimes running shows me that I am afraid, that I am struggling.  Or that I’m not being honest with myself.  I wrote a month ago about how I was finding my mojo again, and how I had, indeed, found it again.  Well – it slipped away from me again.  I found myself putting off tempo runs, and putting myself through interval workouts (note how I phrased that) which felt like absolute torture.  I couldn’t hit the paces, I stopped in the middle of intervals, and when I finished them I felt broken.  One Saturday morning, nearly 3 weeks ago, I was out on what was meant to be an 18 mile run.  I was 8 miles into it and all was going fine.  No injury, no issues.  Except – I did not want to be there.  I felt it so strongly.  I had felt for weeks that I did not want to be training for the marathon but I had persisted.  After all, I had no other goals.  And I did not want to appear a quitter.  Plenty of other people desperately wanted a place in the marathon and didn’t get it.  Plus – my coach had put time and effort into coaching me for this race and believed I could do well.  But as I ran that day I realised I was running for all the wrong reasons.  I was running – mainly – out of guilt.  Towards other people (my coach, my friends who I’d told I would be running it).  Because I could, I felt I should.  And that’s just not a good reason to be out there.  I jogged back to my car, got in and went home and spent the weekend hanging out with my kids.  I wrote my coach an email, thanking him for his efforts and telling him my heart was not in it.

And for the past few weeks, I’ve been telling friends and clients.  And the most interesting thing about this is that almost everyone has said to me “I understand.  You have nothing to prove anymore”.  Which makes me wonder about my motivation for the past decade or so.  Did I ever have something to prove?  And I think I did.  My running life started in my 30s – I had spent my childhood, teens and early adult years doing everything except committing to sport.  And in the way that all of us have fears about ourselves which nag away at us and drive us, I have always been afraid of being a quitter.  And so – I haven’t quit.  I have run through my 30s.  I have run marathons, half marathons, done triathlons and even (had you forgotten?) an Ironman.  And no – I did not do all that to prove I was not a quitter.  I’ve loved all those races and all those events and training for them has brought me so much insight, pleasure and friendship.  Blogging about it has brought even more friends into my life, many of whom I now treasure dearly and feel very close to.  But as someone who was not athletic, I can’t deny that the medals proved something to me.  They proved I was not a quitter.  That I could achieve something worthwhile.  There was an element of proving something to myself in doing it all – and I did prove it.

But now I have proved it.  For the longest time, I was worried that without a goal, I’d stop running.  That without setting myself ever-increasing challenges, I would go back to being the person I was before I started running.  And, with letting go of my London marathon this year, I have come to realise that is not true.  What running has actually proved to me is that change is possible.  That I could set my mind to something new and do it, and do it well and in such a way that it became an enrichment to my life many times over.

For me, at least, training for the marathon this year was almost taking a step backwards.  It’s something I can do, it’s something I could possibly do well.  But this training season I was not opening myself up for change – I was actually doing the same thing again.  So instead I’m going to face the fear of who I will be without a marathon goal, or medal.  Instead, I will try to focus more on gaining strength from my own cues and approval, rather than external cues. What is I want to do?

The first thing I did was run a race.  Not because it was fast, or flat, or part of training.  But because it was near a friend I wanted to see and catch up with, because it’s in a beautiful part of the country and because I could travel there and back with my husband and get to spend some time with him.


I loved it – can’t you tell?  It was hard and fun and cold and beautiful.  I even stopped at some point close to where this photo was taken to just take a minute to let the gorgeous view sink in.  Needless to say, I didn’t come close to a PB.  But that was absolutely fine.  That IS absolutely fine.  For now – this is how I want to run.  To experience what’s around me, to see what’s next.  Running has changed me and has saved me, over and over again.  I am open to whatever is next.

Runapy? Or what to do when your mojo is down the drain and all feels hopeless

28 Jan

That drew you in didn’t it?  Yah I know.  I’m probably not the only one out there who is looking at the 2015 racing season and thinking “hmmmmm”.  Or even “bleurrrgggh”.  Or just “I don’t want to do this.  Any of this.  I am so over this.  This is just dumb.  I am wasting my time.  Why did I even want to do this?  Whose fault is it that I am doing this?”.  Ok – maybe some of you are not as immature as I am and you might not be blaming others for the situation you find yourself in. Congratulations – you have evolved.  I, clearly, have not.

After a decent fortnight of running and training the blahs hit me.  A day or two of not feeling quite myself physically, some work that took up my time and energy, some late nights and mediocre nutrition – it all added up to some missed training.  And at the beginning of this week I was looking at a week with 2 longer runs (to make up what I’d missed at the weekend) and a tough tempo workout (I like to agonise over these the entire week before I do them) and just wondering why I was doing this.

Before you all jump down my throat and say I am being too down on myself – trust me, I am not being negative if I say that I will not get a sub 3:30 in London this spring.  I am simply not in that shape, and won’t be.  Training has been too patchy and I’m not focused.  The rest of my life is going great guns – work is great, I’ve just taken on another class for Sweaty Betty which has pushed me to do stuff I haven’t done before (and I LOVE it!) so it’s not like I’m down in the dumps generally.  It’s just that my focus is not on my running goal, it hasn’t been on my goal in the past few months despite some concerted efforts and well – without focus BHAGS just don’t happen.  My running goal of a few months ago has – let’s face it – been abandoned for now.

So out in the wind and rain this morning, running a very slow 13 miles, I was contemplating giving up.  Giving up running London this spring, giving up marathons altogether.  I felt like I did after running Kent Roadrunner back in 2013 – I could not motivate myself to want to run faster than I ran there.  And here I was, running along, thinking “I can’t really motivate myself.  I’m NOT going to break 3:30, or even 3:35.  Maybe not even 3:40.  What’s the point?”.  I was chugging along, mentally working through pulling out of London and wondering what else I could do.  I was hoping for an excuse – any excuse – to abandon the run.  Pain?  Nope.  Hunger?  No.  Terrible weather – yessish – but not until I was nearly home.  And so I resigned myself to running and listening to my podcast and hoping for some kind of sign telling me what I should do next.  I was listening to the brilliant MarathonTalk and catching up on some older episodes when I caught an interview with Like the Wind founder Simon Freeman.  He was talking about the famous “Duel in the sun” between Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar and suddenly I felt that twinge – that twinge of interest.  Boston! I thought.  Yes.  I loved, loved, loved running Boston last spring.  THAT was the marathon of my life.  Not my fastest – but the best one.  I ran well, pretty hard for me, stuck to my plan – rigidly – and LOVED every minute of it.  And – while I had a goal for that race – it was not my ultimate goal.  Completing Ironman later that summer was – Boston was just a step on the way.

I was thinking about that – about how to recapture that Boston feeling – and I started to think that the reason I was not enthused about my training was not that my training was going so badly – because, given life, it’s not actually going that badly – but more that my goal is wrong.  I need a new goal.  A different goal.  And I don’t think it should be London.  London should be a step on the way to a goal that really interests me. Right now running 3:30 doesn’t – ultimately – motivate me.  But running hard in London – running my hardest – on the way to something else?  I can do that.

And what, you will ask, will that goal be?  Ah – I’m not there yet.  I think it will be an ultra.  Again – like the Ironman – something I have not done before.  Much like teaching my new class at Sweaty Betty – maybe I need to do stuff that scares me to stay interested.  I’m not sure which one I will race – I told my family I wouldn’t be racing over the summer after taking over the summer holidays last summer so I have to think about it. It may not be till 2016.  But trust me, I will find a race.  And that will be my new great big hairy assed goal. And in the meantime, I have some marathons to run as hard training runs…

Beginning to cheer up a bit!

Things started to look up once I got my mojo back!



A race, interrupted training and the new year.

11 Jan

So I ran the race.  And I loved it.  I never really understand that I don’t race much, have to be coaxed into racing and then when I do it I love it.  Why do I resist doing something I enjoy? Most times (London 2013 was an exception) I am beaming from ear to ear, just soaking it all up and enjoying the sensation of running with others and pushing myself.  The Bedford Half marathon was no exception. It was cold, windy and wet (some wet snow blew at us sideways as we were shivering at the start) but, of course, fine once we started running.  Given that my training had been sub-optimal, I ran without my Garmin and instead focused on just pushing myself.  It was weird – I haven’t raced without a watch since I’ve owned my Garmin which is going back some 7 or so years now I think – but it was good.  The course was hilly and I just kept on focusing on pushing – slightly. I ran a few miles with a runner who tried to talk me into doing the Marathon Des Sables one day (he planted a seed, it’s slowly fermenting at the back of my brain) but when I noticed I was talking too easily I picked up the pace and went off.  After that I just kept – slightly – pushing myself, mindful that I was not in amazing shape and hadn’t run the distance in a while either.  It was one of those days where the miles just ticked off and I was just out enjoying myself, so glad to be out there.  The final mile even brought me a duel with a much younger runner in shorts and club vest (snap judgment = keen and cocky) and I enjoyed beating him across the finish line by a few seconds.  Showers and a new fleecy hat (better than a medal?  Discuss) and Sal and I were on our way home.

A day later I was out with a client on an evening run when I misjudged the location of the pavement and twisted my ankle.  I was able to finish the run (and was amazed by that) but by the middle of the night the pain woke me up and was excruciating.  Amazingly, I was able to hobble around for the next few days (no running) and deal with an exceptionally busy week in my personal life which involved driving to London and back, spending a day driving around London in a rental van picking up and moving furniture around and a morning training at Sweaty Betty HQ to learn the moves on a new class I will be teaching late January / early February . Look ahead a few days, my ankle felt better and I demonstrate an exercise to clients with weights that were far too heavy to be appropriate (because I was too lazy to jog to my car to get the lighter weights.  Yes.  I am a personal trainer) and boom – I can barely walk for days because my back is so painful.  Off and on with these various self-inflicted shenanigans, it was not till after Christmas that I managed to get back into a schedule again.  It felt hard.  It was hard! Getting back to it seems to mean, inevitably, that you have to trudge for a while.  That it feels hard and does not look pretty.  But I know that.

New Year came a bit slowly to me – the logistics of planning and organising a fun party, the aftermath of having a fun party – it all meant I felt a little bit left behind by the good intentions on social media and in the newspapers – it wasn’t till about January 6th that I started to think about resolutions and the new year.  Thankfully – unlike Christmas – I never think of the new year as a being a one day thing.  I think you have all of January to wish someone a happy new year, and to think about the new year and what it’s going to be for you.  And given the overflow of diets / exercise plans / resolution systems that you can find in the papers and the internet made me think of the typical “get fit and lose weight” resolution that so many have.  And to reflect that I’ve done it.  11 1/2 years ago I made up my mind, for the umpteenth time, to lose weight and get fit.  And unlike the umpteen times that preceded that day in July 2003 – this time it worked.  In the course of 3/4 months I lost about 18 kgs of weight and started a running habit that was brand new to me and that has carried on to this day.  Out on a long slow run – where you have time to think about anything – I was wondering what the secret was – what it was that made my intentions stick that time.  And you know?  The only answer I can find to that is that I just refused to give up.  Every time I fell of the diet wagon I refused to do what I’d done before, which was give up.  Every time I made myself start again.  And every time I didn’t run for a day, I refused to think that that was the end of me running.  I made myself go out again the next day.  And ultimately that – that is what changes a habit I think.  The getting back at it.  The getting back on the wagon.  The refusal to let self-defeating thoughts (“see?  I’m not the kind of person who’s meant to lose weight”, “see?  I’m not a runner”) stop me from getting back out there.  Eventually it sticks.  I don’t believe there is one diet, one way of eating, one way of exercising.  But when you find a way of eating more healthily that works for you, that you can keep coming back to even when you slip up, a form of exercise that you can get back into even when you stop doing it for a while – then you are on the way.  Not necessarily to a slimmer, faster you.  That might not be what you’re looking for.  But you’re on the way to living a part of your life in a way you want to live it.  A hugely powerful and self-defining feeling, that.

And it never ends, this getting back into the saddle thing.  I feel that, despite all good intentions, I have not been focused on my marathon goal.  Various issues beyond my control (ankle / back) have meant that I’ve missed training sessions and my attention has been on many things other than training for London.  At this point, I think that achieving a sub 3:30 in less than 4 months is looking quite unlikely.  Not impossible – sometimes stars align! – but unlikely.  And I am absolutely okay with that.  I need that goal to set a direction.  Now I am yanking my head and body back from the distractions, down the road to marathon training again.  The goal remains in place and will continue to help me focus on my training.  And will pull me back on the path when I drift off in a different direction…

So 2015 is a year I’m looking forward to.  I’m loving my work and the people I’m meeting through it.  I’m back at my training and I have 2 marathons to look forward to this spring.  I’m still looking for and brewing up suggestions for another BHAG for this year or next year.  For the first time since July, I’ve thought about doing another IM in a few years.  Who knows?  There are so many exciting challenges out there – I can’t wait to get started.  Happy new year!

Some windy running on a grey day

Some windy running on a grey day


On running a crappy race and why you should do it.

5 Dec

This Sunday I will be running my first half marathon in a very long time.  I had to google to find out when I ran my last half marathon- it was in May 2011 (and it was a slow one..).  I know some of you race a lot, and I can see why you would do that from a training point of view.  It keeps you sharp, it keeps you focused, it’s social – what’s not to like, really?  Except that I quite like running on my own, in my own time, on my own watch.  I consider myself very lucky in that I am capable of doing hard workouts on my own, just me and my Garmin.  I don’t need a crowd or competitors to kick me into working hard.

But my coach wants a benchmark which means I have actually entered 2 (TWO!) half marathons so there will be something to compare next Sunday’s performance with.  And for this reason, and because I need to be sharp, focused and social – I will go out there this Sunday and run.

So far, my marathon training has been, well, sub optimal.  I’ve had some tiring weeks, done far more driving than I should have, have had some bad nights’ sleep and have not always managed my client load very well.  I’ve had bits of winter flu and well yadda, yadda, yadda. Excuses. Basically, I have NOT got all my training sessions in, I’ve found my long runs very hard and slow-going and I’ve generally not felt full of vim and vigour.  All that jazzy talk in my last post about a sub 3:30 goal?  All good and well and we all need a target but dammit Janet – I am FAR away from that and not even worried about it right now.  I’m not thinking about my marathon goal time – it was useful for getting me going and getting me focused, but now I’m training all I’m thinking about is working hard.  London may well be the race for a PB, I may have to work for longer to get to where I ultimately want to get to. That’s fine with me.  I need something to do for the next year or so.

So this Sunday is going to be crappy. At least, in terms of a race time.  I will have run far faster halves. But it’s one of those occasions where I think I need to show up with what I have in the box right now, however short that is of where I want it to be.  Racing is honest – there’s no futzing the result.  And getting an honest result for running 13.1 miles will give me an honest picture of where I’m starting my 2015 marathon campaign.  Straight up.  I will head into 2015 with my eyes wide open.

Onwards racers!  I will report back on the flipside…



A tough training run in London (but a beautiful day)!

Addendum:  since posting this on my blog I’ve already had a few emails / texts / comments telling me not to be so hard on myself and that no race is crappy.  And I realise I did not make my point very coherently.  I don’t think I’m crappy, and I don’t think running a race – ever – is a crappy thing.  I guess what I meant was that my time – compared to times I have run, and times I hope to run – will not be a fast one.  But the real point I want to make is that sometimes in life you should run the races that are not going to be your fastest races.   Because they remind you to be honest, because they remind you where you are.  And regardless of the pace – when you’re racing, you’re pushing yourself.  And I am looking forward to Sunday.  Trust me – I will push myself.  And I will smile when I’m done.  Promise!

I’ve got a new plan, Stan!

10 Nov

Yes finally.  After months of nothing much to report, I’m back in the game.  Back at it.  Back on a schedule.

I am really interested in the topic of personal change and personal development. Some of this relates to training, but much of relates to life in general.  I find that, in most cases, any personal change I’ve managed to effect has been slow.  Insights come to me after a long time, often while out on a run or when I’m journaling.  I often think about change, and want change, long before it happens.  I wanted to lose weight for years before I actually managed to do it.  I wanted to run for a long time before I went out and took the first step.  Self-help books and articles in magazines and newspapers are full of “10 easy steps to a) start exercising b) lose weight c) cut out sugar d) go paleo” – whatever it is that you’re looking to change, but in my case change is often like turning a supertanker around.  It happens sloooooowly.  Which perversely is not really how I like things in life. I like boom, bang, new!  On the plus side, and continuing with the supertanker analogy, I sometimes only realise after a while that change is actually happening – here I am beating myself up for not getting anywhere and actually, I’m nearly halfway through the turn..

All of this is a long-winded and somewhat obtuse way of explaining that while I feel that the past 3 months – August, September and October – have been a bit of washout, training-wise, it was all part of a necessary process – for me – to get me back in it.  I needed to have some relief from training, first, some time to recover.  Then I needed some time to tend to the rest of my life which I had abandoned a bit in the last hard training weeks.  I then went through an annoying phase where I was feeling physically ready to start training but I didn’t know what for, and why, and with whom.  I was all over the place – I researched ultraraces all over the world, contacted a few coaches, communicated with a few of you about races you were running.  I ran, and I didn’t.  I stopped and started. I knew that at some point it would all click into place and dammit, I wanted that to happen and dammit again, I knew it wouldn’t happen until it did. Control freak, me?

Anyway a few weeks ago my wonderful osteopath / super speedy runner / consultant on all things running texted me and suggested I try for London. I was in, it was local, I had unfinished business.  And he suggested a goal.  I’m kind of dying writing it down which tells you I have not yet committed to it – but here it is. 3:30.  I asked him if he thought I could do (can you tell I really like other people’s approval / permission / insights?) and he said “it’s possible.  With hard work”.  I chewed the idea around for a while.  When I started Ironman training in August 2013, I knew full-well that I had no interest in improving on my 3:37 marathon PB.  Could I find that interest now?  And yes.  I can.  It interests me because, like the IM goal, it scares me.  8 minute miles for 26.2 miles?  It’s going to be tough.  I’ve never run that fast before, for that long.  I am having a stab at it for London.  Have entered the Kent Roadrunner marathon in June to have another go, if London fails me.  It’s scary putting it out there.  But it’s fun pushing myself.

So yes, I’m back at it and back on a schedule. So far, I have yet to execute a flawless week of training.  I keep missing a workout.  I got flu.  I got busy.  I got tired.  But I know my direction is changing and I’m beginning to set my sights on April of 2015.  On working hard in the next few months.  On having a better time than I did in London 2013 – the race I wanted to finish as soon as the gun went off.  On once again, abandoning my self-doubts in favour of believing in a goal.

All of this works.  Trust me, it does.  It doesn’t “work” in the sense that I know I will get to 3:30.  I believe I can get to 3:30, but I know I may not.  But the act of belief, and the temporary suspension of self-doubt, is where you set yourself up for change to happen.  Something will happen in the course of this training cycle and in the London marathon.  By the end of this training cycle I will not be who I am today.  I will have learned something about myself and my body and my mind.  That’s why I keep doing this.  Because training my body to do something it has never done before , in whatever imperfect way, always drags my mind and soul along.  If life is a journey, I don’t want to be stuck at a station.  So move along, because I’m on my way, once again.

Feels good to be out there running long again!

Feels good to be out there running long again!



27 Sep

10 miles on the trails recently on a morning where I really wasn’t feeling it. By the time I took this selfie, life had improved enormously.

It has been 2 months since my Ironman – almost to the day.  That race was the culmination of nearly a year’s training.  All the while, when other stuff was going on, I was thinking “Ironman”.  Every time someone invited me somewhere or I planned a trip, I thought about my training.  When people mentioned the summer, I thought about my race.  I organised the family holiday around it.  It’s fair to say that it dominated late 2013 and half of 2014 for me.

So when it was done, it was always going to feel a bit weird.  Weird good, in some ways.  I devoted most of August to my family.  I spent time with them, I let them set the agenda of where we were going and what we were doing.  I didn’t have to get up early, or go to bed early, so I could get my training in.  I had a beer or wine pretty much every night.  Given how everyone in my family had supported my training and the race itself, it felt like the least I could do to let them fill in the rest of the summer holidays.

It has also, though, been a more weird in a difficult way for me.  The Ironman was a clearly defined goal and I got lots of kudos, support and approval for pursuing it.  Not having a big goal anymore has made me sit down and assess my life – work, living, future – and, if I’m honest, that’s been quite hard.  I’ve had a rough couple of weeks where I’ve really struggled with finding the courage to do what I want to do with my life.  I’ve come to realise that I rely heavily on permission and approval in my life.  And the path I’m proposing to take right now does not necessarily give me that – and I find that much scarier than I realised I would.  Those closest to me are enormously supportive and that helps.  And I’m learning, slowly, that I really need to have some faith in myself and trust that following my own path will prove the right thing to do and the only way ahead for me that will not result in enormous regret.  But, in all honesty, the past few weeks have seen me occasionally in the grip of crippling anxiety.

And, as always, running has helped.  No, it hasn’t solved anything in itself.  It doesn’t.  And I’m quite sluggish and slow at the moment so it’s not like my inner turmoil is set off by some physical success. But getting out there anyway, getting the job done, however messily, gives me so much.  I feel a sense of accomplishment. And, of course, once I’m outside, things never look quite so bad as they do at 3am.  I tend to want to hammer my feelings of worry so hard till I find a solution.  Doesn’t work.  What does work is going out for a run and not thinking about things for a while.  It’s only when I run that I allow myself to switch off like that.  And when I switch off, I somehow seem to process stuff deep inside me, in a much more constructive way.  Often, when I come back, I will suddenly feel that I have solved a small part of the bigger problem, without having thought about it specifically.

For a while, not having an athletic goal felt like the right thing to do.  But I think now that it would help me.  So I’m actively on the lookout for something that sounds exciting and worth training for. Right now, I don’t think it will be another Ironman.  I absolutely loved the one I did.  It went perfectly in almost every way and I look back on it with enormous pleasure and happiness.  Even now, I can lie in bed and take myself back to parts of the swim, parts of the bike course, parts of the run course because I experienced them so intensely.  I told myself all along to soak this experience up, to really relish all of it, the pain and discomfort as well as the cheers and the joy.  But I cannot find, anywhere in me, the desire to do it again.  I don’t know why that is – but I know it is true.  It’s just done – for me, for now.  Another marathon?  There’s a bit of a mental spark when I think of that.  I have just found out that my accidental BQ at Boston this April was not quite fast enough to be able to run Boston in 2015.  I was 33 seconds ahead – I needed to be 62 seconds ahead.  I’m okay with that – I ran the race of my life in Boston this spring, off the back of slow runs and lots of bikerides, and I never intended to requalify in that race.  I have a place in the London marathon (this year’s deferred good for age entry) but I’m unlikely to take it up. Nothing about the thought of running London inspires me – I think I’m done with this race. Again, at least for now.

As before, I want to try my hand at something new.  At the very least, at a new marathon.  Given how disappointed I was at missing out on Boston, I am considering trying to BQ again and trying to break 3:35 next year.  I’m coach-less at the moment but open to suggestions on how to progress with this.  I don’t want to do it at a big city marathon – I am considering entering the Lochaber marathon, flat, quiet and remote, in Scotland in early April.  That way, if I have a bad day, I can try again a month or two later.  I would love to run a trail race in the US, somewhere in the next 2 years.  Jill and I have been talking about this for years.  But next summer will not, I think, be the time.  We may be doing a big family trip that summer and I don’t want my training schedule, and super long training runs, hanging over this trip.

So maybe this next year will be about a BQ, and about getting other priorities in place.  Work – which has always taken second place to my running.  Home – wherever it is.  Finding the courage of my own convictions, hopefully.  Onwards!

I am an Ironman – part 3 (and this is it!)

12 Aug

Yes, enough already.  I know that.  This is IT.  After this post, I am an Ironman so relax and know there are no more cliffhangers.  Although – Jeanne McCann – that might be slightly overstating it?

In the past few months, my running has been great.  The workouts that I found really hard were my swims and my bikes (as you well know). Seeing a run in my schedule was always a relief – I might not always hit the required paces, but I always knew I could complete the workout.  On top of that, I had quite a few long runs which were just wonderful.  No other way of putting it.  Slow – much slower than I’ve run for years.  But for the first time in years I was able to run and think I could just run on and on.  Nothing hurt, nothing felt hard.

So finally racking my bike and running into the changing tent in Zurich I felt close to euphoric.  I had succeeded in beating the cutoff (I could hear them announcing that the bike course was closed as I changed out of my cycle shorts) and now I was going to do this thing I enjoyed.  And I had 6 hours and 20 minutes to do it.  For the first time in almost 10 hours, the pressure was off me.  I jogged slowly out of transition and made my way out onto the run course, noting that my legs were stiff and crampy but feeling unconcerned about it.  I knew that this run would be slow and that my legs would hurt, but I just didn’t doubt I would get round it.  The experience was completely different from the bike course.  The bike course had been largely empty, with very few spectators. The marshals looked to be Swiss soldiers, young men doing their compulsory military service, and most of them were clearly supremely bored by their assignment for the day and barely noticed you as you cycled past.  In contrast, the run course, a 10km looping course which had large bits of out and back on it, was lined with spectators cheering you on.

My happiness to have made it to the run coupled with the incredibly supportive people lining the route made the run just wonderful.  I smiled at everyone, thanked them for supporting and, also for the first time in the race, got to interact with other runners.  Every time we passed a place in a small park along the route you were given a coloured sweatband to indicate which of the 4 laps you were on.  So I could see who was ahead of me (most everyone) and who was behind me.  And I cheered everyone on, telling them they were nearly there or had made a good start.  It’s very possible that those who were in a bad place and were walking wanted to murder my beaming little face every time I came past, but I felt completely undeterred.  I made myself walk every aid station and eat and drink (and there was an aid station every 2.5 km) and I just looked forward to seeing my support crew at some point in the race.  And finally – about 8 km into my first loop, right at the turnaround back to the race village, there they were.


How amazing is it to see everyone cheering you on? I LOVED IT!

And barely 2 kms later I was greeted by my parents who could not have cheered louder or been more enthusiastic.

The whole marathon felt like a dream.  There was so much to distract me from any pain I might feel, so many people to see and interact with (on the 2nd lap Ian filmed me running and the kids ran alongside me for a while which was just an amazing experience).

Photo taken by Ian as he was running alongside me.

Photo taken by Ian as he was running alongside me.

Ian told me that he was posting photos to Facebook and that people were cheering me on remotely, which I was incredibly moved by.  I was so conscious that I was at the end of this massive goal I had been working towards for a whole year, I felt very close to people near and far who wished me well and I could not have felt happier.  On my final lap it was dark and I really, really savoured this lap.  I knew this was it, I was so nearly there and I tried to remember every bit of this lap.  I said goodbye and thank you to the volunteers who had high-fived me 3 times before, I thanked the spectators for staying out there for the stragglers, and I cheered and thanked my parents for the last time before running down the finisher’s chute.  Along the way I high fived Adam and Sophia who were wedged into the spectator area.  I turned to high five the commentator (and yes, I did do a lot of high-fiving that day – it was that kind of day).   And finally I heard those words “Petra Duguid!  You are an Ironman!”.  It was amazing.  It felt wonderful.  I cried with pure happiness as I crossed the line and finally, finally, finally – after 14 hours and 18 minutes and change – stopped moving.

Ugly crying face but WHAT A FEELING!

Ugly crying face but WHAT A FEELING!

It was amazing.  It felt amazing.  I felt amazing.

Posing for a finisher's picture straight after the race. I felt fantastic!

Posing for a finisher’s picture straight after the race. I felt fantastic!

I quickly sought out and found Adam and Sophia and my parents – Ian and Jay and their kids had flown back to London and Felix was in bed – and, in a daze, went to retrieve my bike and gear bags. Suddenly, the whole thing felt unreal.  14 hours, 18 minutes had flown by.  And it was over.  And I had done it.

Image 5

This felt entirely surreal. Collecting the bags full of wet and sweaty kit and the bike I had been on for 7 hours and 40 minutes. That’s when it struck me how LONG the day had been.

And then home.  Where I found myself, finally, tired.  Unable to drink the beer I had saved for myself.  I went to bed and slept fitfully.  Woke up to a Facebook page full of love and support and encouragement.  Incredible amounts of it.  I feel very undeserving of the admiration expressed.  I totally think that anyone can do this if they commit to the training.  More than any other event I have ever done, the hard work was doing the training.  The race was the reward, in so many ways.

And then there’s the support I got in person from so many people. Alex at La Bicicleta who sold me my first tri bike, and then my second tri bike – without which I very much doubt I would have made the cutoff.  And who gave me more great advice and freebies than I ever deserved.  My clients whose belief in my abilities often exceeded my own but who proved to be right.  My friends who emailed, wrote, phoned and in some cases, flew to Zurich to cheer me on.  I love you Blanford family! My parents, who drove to Zurich and spent 14 hours on the course, cheering me on, taking countless photos (most of the photos in the blog are by my dad) and who made me feel so special.  My lovely children, Sophia and Felix who gracefully endured my absences for training rides and runs all year, who were happy about making this holiday “all about me” and whose support means the world to me. And of course my amazing and wonderful Adam, who despite the fact that he would never do this kind of crazy stuff himself, nonetheless encourages me, supports me and believes in me.

More than 2 weeks on from the race and I have done nothing in that time.  My race was the final coaching effort of my wonderful coach – someone whom I have loved having in my life this past 2.5 years and without whom I would not have achieved a fraction of what I have done.  So I am coach-less, schedule-less and goal-less.  And that is good.  I love this phase where I just rest and think and talk to people about what I might do.  I am waiting for that race, for that experience, that will tweak at my mind in a way that makes me think “yes”.  I haven’t found it yet – but send in your suggestions..


life. as i see it. ©2012-2015 all rights reserved.

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