Running to a Happier Place

I woke up at 4am this morning, mostly because the dog was whining (vet life). But also because I start my week of nightshifts again on Wednesday. I tend not to talk much about my life as a vet, maybe because people often assume I must always love it, and so it feels like it isn’t ok to say that sometimes I find it really hard. Maybe it’s wrong not to be open about the challenges we face.

Anyway. I work in solely out-of-hours emergency care, with a slightly unusual pattern of 7 night-shifts in a row followed by a stretch of time off. Obviously the time off is amazing and I’m super lucky for that, but the nights are intense and the shifts are long, so it can be very stressful. I generally find that on the Monday before my first shift rolls my brain starts slipping into work-anxiety mode after being quiet for a bit.

By 5am I realised I definitely wasn’t going to fall back to sleep, so I decided to put a podcast on instead. I have recently started using podcasts and audiobooks to help me shut up my inner anxiety voice and focus on listening to something more productive instead! It works pretty well.

A few weeks ago I was honoured to be interviewed by the lovely Caroline McKay for the next series of the Of Mountains and Minds podcast. There is a wonderful description of the series on the website, so I will simply pop it here rather than do a less good job!

“The podcast interviews those who have been through a life-changing endurance event, transition or challenge in life, with incredible experiences to share. It shines a light on parts of their story that might inspire or help others planning a change or just dealing with the highs and lows of being human. In our British culture, sometimes we struggle to talk openly about the things that matter and connect us to others.”

The list of the amazing endurance athletes who have been interviewed so far is incredible (I have literally no idea how I got to be there!). This morning I was scrolling through the list of previous podcasts and spotted the name of an amazing runner I follow on Twitter, Jen Scotney. Jen is an ultra-runner and human rights lawyer amongst other pretty epic qualities and recently finished the Spine Challenger race (just a casual 108 miles!)

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It was such an inspiring interview, talking about everything from insane ultra-races to the challenges of balancing training alongside also being a human rights lawyer. The podcast is so special because the interviews don’t shy away from the hard stuff that we don’t always talk about, like suffering losses. I won’t go into it too much as you should definitely go and listen to it.

Needless to say by the end of it I was feeling all inspired and decided rather than waste the day feeling anxious about starting work again that I would take myself off to the Peak District for some headspace (and hill training!) on the fells. I posted on Twitter about my run, and how it had been inspired by Jen’s interview.

And because the running community on Twitter is the kindest there is, next thing I knew I had an invite to tea in the garden with Jen after my run! There is a lot of negativity about social media, and it isn’t always a good thing. But since starting this blog and sharing my running adventures on social media I have had the opportunity to connect with so many incredible people I would never have otherwise had the chance to meet – either online or in person.

So I dusted off my hydration pack for the first time since the marathon, and set off up the motorway to the Peak District. I decided to revisit the route I ran on my first ever visit nearly exactly a year ago, as it was quite easy to navigate and the views were spectacular.

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Enjoying the view after scrambling up a giant pile of rocks!

The route is borrowed from the writer of the brilliant Mud Chalk and Gears blog, using an app called ViewRanger. Basically you drive to Upper Burbage carpark in Hathersage, press start on the route and follow the arrow on the screen across trails, through bogs, and up heaps of rocks to loads of pretty places and end up back at your car! I wrote all about it on my blog last year which you can read here for a better description, but it is really very lovely.

I always underestimate just how hard running on this kind of terrain is. I usually have a panic-attack if I see a pace of more than 11 min/mile on my Garmin. Today I looked down and it said 29min/mile. As always I couldn’t help but stop and take photos every 5 seconds because everywhere is so beautiful. This is also a great excuse to catch my breath as I am not good at hills!

Meeting this cutie was a particular highlight:

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After my last marathon, in Yorkshire,  I didn’t take into account how fatigued my body would be, and I didn’t give it a chance to rest before I started piling on the pressure to get my speed back. This time round I’ve really prioritised rest and have been doing lots of yoga to help strength and restore my body (I wrote about how great this has been here). After Yorkshire it took me months to really get my love for running back, but I’m already really enjoying running simply for the love of it again and relishing not needing to train for anything. So I think my strategy has worked.

If you do hit a bit of a low after a marathon, I’d definitely recommend stripping away all the pressures of time or distance and just driving yourself somewhere beautiful and setting off on your own. I don’t think you could come home after a run like this not feeling amazing!

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After 54 minutes of ‘moving’ time, and ‘quite a lot longer’ of actual time, I flew down the final descent back to my car. And I went for tea in the garden with Jen and Marcus, which was fascinating and lovely in equal measures.

When I sit and try to really pin down the true effect running has had on my life, it’s days like this I think about. I could have lay awake from 4am feeling anxious, and wasted the day doing nothing and getting myself worked up. Instead I listened to something that made me think, travelled somewhere beautiful and had an adventure all on my own, did something positive for my mind and my body, and I met a really amazing person I would never have otherwise had the chance to meet.

I know I’ll get into bed tonight with my head full of happy thoughts and lovely memories of a day well spent. That’s the gift running gives me.

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