It has been great to have a year standing back from setting time goals and to just enjoy running for the sake of running again. I've managed to try several different things (though admittedly I've done some rather familiar events) and push myself to get right out of my comfort zone.
One of the things that I have really enjoyed is actually putting something back into running....and what I mean by that is putting something into running for other people.
|Tracy's first parkrun|
My friend Tracy Dean helped to encourage me to get off road and develop my self-confidence to "enjoy" running both the "Three Peaks" race in Yorkshire and the "Dragon's Back" race in Wales. In return, I've introduced her to "parkrun". She was looking for something to spice up her own running, and what better way than with a fun, free, sociable speed session. We have done a couple of these on catch-up weekends and now I believe she is a regular at her local event, and I'm sure will see the difference the short hard effort makes to her regular runs.
|Helen (at a parkrun with her brother and myself)|
Another good friend of mine, Helen Davies (who admittedly did think I was slightly mad when I went running in the snow one day when we shared a room on a skiing trip), thought that she couldn't run 5K without stopping for a few breaks. We took in a parkrun whenever I was down in London and she's now gone from "run-walk-run" (via "run-stop to tie shoelace-run") to running the whole thing and seems to record a new PB every time she now ventures out to attempt one! "Love" might be too strong a word for it, but it has been brilliant for me to watch her develop her "like" for running...and it has reminded me of how I felt when I was getting into it.
I've done a couple of runs myself over Christmas, and although I know that I have strength rather than speed (as I only start to overtake people near the end) so my times are nothing worth writing home about, others have recorded PBs by trying to avoid being "chicked" for as long as possible. In turn, knowing this was happening encouraged me to keep going.
|Aleks' sprint finish|
|Cecilia and I just ahead of Edith and her mum|
|Cecilia proudly presenting her own barcode!|
Today was the best day of all, as my nephew and niece completed their first junior parkrun. Aleks ran with his Dziadek (Polish for "grandfather"), while Cecilia and I did our best to keep "the boys" in sight. Aleks paced his run well and kept enough energy for a sprint finish, while Cecilia had a great to-and-fro battle all the way round with a girl (Edith) only 2 weeks her junior. It was wonderful to see so many families out there enjoying the fresh air, being led by the children, some of whom who were pushing themselves hard (just because they wanted to) whilst others laughed and chatted the whole way round (but seriously...at what age do girls start gossiping, as they seem pretty good at it in the JW10 age bracket?). I love watching children run, as they seem to just enjoy themselves and go whatever speed they feel like....and sometimes in whatever direction they feel like (I'm sure Aleks would record an even quicker time if he ran in more of a straight line!). I made sure that I was always alongside or slightly behind Cecilia so that she determined our effort and speed, though we did giggle when people cheered her on for "beating her mum" (my father had the best comment though, as he and Aleks had become slightly separated...."I'm not sure that you're quite in the right age bracket, but well done!")!!! Seeing how much they loved it made me more determined not to lose that element from my own running!
|The SisuGirls "knot"|
In a similar vein, I have recently become a community ambassador for SisuGirls. As a youngster, I was labelled as an "unsporty" child. My parents say that I was good at walking up hills, so I obviously had some of the strength and stubbornness that I show as an adult, but as I wasn't very good at the sports we did in school, so I was made to feel bad about my ability (or lack thereof), and even had marks taken off for "not trying". At school in America, I was actually "excused" PE for a term in order to learn how to type (I'm not sure that's done me much good as I'm now "queen of the two-fingered type"!!!). Having found a love for the outdoors and for physical activity as I got older, I am now keen to ensure that other children do not find themselves up against the same barriers that I faced. The only thing that limits them should be the extent of their dreams and ambitions.... I think that, even now, a lot of my "limits" come from within my head.....which is probably related to my childhood (I hasten to add that this is not due to my parents but more to the opportunities and facilities that were available at the time, eg I wasn't allowed to do a GCSE in motor vehicle engineering because "I was a girl" and so had to do music instead).
SisuGirls is a new charitable organisation whose mission is to show girls how determined, brave and resilient they are, through participative adventure-based projects with inspiring content. They use outdoor activities as learning opportunities to build character as well as community, with fun, inclusive, and powerful programmes. The aim is to break preconceived physical and mental boundaries to teach girls how to set and attain goals, confront challenges, and believe in themselves. Hopefully, I can help with this, especially in my local area, and in that way will be able to pass something on....and so "pay it forwards".....