This summer I’ve been running for 15 years. I can’t remember the exact date that I put on an old sports bra, some nasty shorts and a pair of running shoes that turned out to be two different sizes, but it was pretty much around now. I had a 6 month old and a 3 year old, and was living in rural England. I was lonely, had given up my career, was unhappy with the weight gain resulting from expense account eating and two kids in 3 years, and, at the time, running felt like a last ditch resort. It’s interesting how something that seems impossible, entirely outside of your skillset and deeply daunting can sometimes only be taken on when you’ve hit rock bottom. Although I absolutely did not consider myself athletic, and so had sabotaged all attempts at fitness for years, I had finally reached the point where I felt I had nothing to lose. I might as well run. And I did. Every morning, before my husband went to work, I ran and walked a 1 mile loop on our farm. I still remember the day I looked up at our house and realised I had covered a mile without stopping. This blog has documented the road running has taken me since (though to my great regret I deleted an earlier blog that covered my training, almost from the beginning, to my first marathon).
Over the past 4 years, since my Ironman, running has transformed from being a goal-driven activity to a process-driven past time. Not by design – but by time passing. After my Ironman, and the marathon PB I had set the year before, I ran out of achievement goals that lit my fire. Training by heart rate brought me out of a 2 year slump, and since then I have run 3 marathons. And by now, training is the point. The races, each of the last 3, are a celebration and a challenge that I hugely enjoy. But I am totally okay with the outcome, whatever it may be. (Listen more to my perspective on that in an interview with me on Another Mother Runner, I come in at 38:20). I love racing – for someone who trains on her own and on known routes 90% of the time, a change of scene and lots of people is fantastic. And the running community continues to be a group of people I love being around who enrich my life in so many ways. My last marathon, in Ogden, was pure joy – from exploring Moab with a new friend in the days leading up the retreat, to making lots of friends at the retreat, to cracking up in the freezing starting corral at the beginning of the race, to running the first 7 miles with Coach Amanda (who now works with Another Mother Runner but was my coach WAY back in 2011), to loving the sunshine and the downhills of the second half of the race (I kept wondering whether that amount of downhill was even legal, but the mountain running girls told me that it was NOTHING!), to realising in the last 40 minutes that if I kept my eyes on the prize I could not only meet my A goal (sub 4) but even BQ! The last few miles were the predictable pain train, but I was so overjoyed at how much stronger I was running than I had dared hope for that I sped down the final mile and squeaked in my Boston qualifier (3:54:13). No, not fast enough to get me in for 2019, but a victory to be celebrated nonetheless!
Back home, what I’m grappling with is this. In the course of my running career my life has changed completely. When I started, I had tiny children, had moved to the country, had given up my career and was struggling to find a way to express myself in meaningful way, away from my old friends and career. Running has given me all that. The physical changes are the least of it, really – what I value the most are the friendships, the travel, the experiences and the personal growth that has been guided by my running. Now, 15 years later, I am the parents of teenagers who are fast becoming independent and I’m looking for a new challenge. And I think I need to figure out a way to harness the strength and confidence that running has given me to help me figure out a new meaningful career for myself. I have a good 20 years of working life ahead of me, if not more, and I want to do something with it. What I’ve achieved through running is making me hungry for the rest of my life.
It’s not easy. When you’re 46 and haven’t been in a professional environment for a decade it’s very easy to feel invisible and past it. The world is not interested in middle aged women. But running has taught me I can do things I didn’t think I could and that I am much stronger than I think I am. So I’m putting myself out there and opening myself up to different opportunities. I would love to carry on my training / coaching interest – teaching, guiding, workshopping beyond just running. I’m also open to retraining and upskilling – I’m currently looking into UX design so if you have any experience or insights into that, reach out and let me know. It’s time for running to go from being the thing I go to to help me process life to becoming the thing that supports me as I go for the next phase in my life. And if you have any bright ideas, suggestions or insights – please feel free to share them with me. I’m out there, and I would love to know what you think. In the meantime, I’ve hired a new coach and I’m doing my usual 80% job of sticking to the plan – I’m counting on running to keep me going while I tackle the next phase.