Funny old time isn’t it, New Year?
You’re supposed to reflect on what’s happened in your life since we all did the exact same things on 31st December 12 months ago – hopefully fondly, possibly not – and then make a big long list of everything you feel you’d have been scored ‘must try harder’ on by your primary school teacher.
Usually I don’t bother with proper resolutions anymore, and just try to end each year happier than I started it. I wasn’t sure I’d managed that this year.
The first half of the year had some truly amazing highs. It got off to a cracking start with a big PB at the Serpies New Year’s Day 10k, followed by completing my first ever marathon training plan with relatively small amounts of scathage (one small peroneal brevia strain does not a crisis make). In April, I actually went and did it and ran the Rome marathon in a sub 5 hour time, and virtually in secret! It was just such an amazing experience and I was on top of the world – I even had the opportunity to follow it up with the New York City Marathon later in the year, having quite amazingly got a ballot place at the first time of asking, when the race was scheduled to be on my 35th birthday! I mean what are the chances?
Then the wheels started to come a bit loose. Training for New York over the summer I couldn’t keep up with my training plan properly. I had low energy, breathing issues, and a lower leg injury which – after ignoring it long enough to run two fast half marathons on it – progressed to the point that I could barely walk by the start of my taper in October. Even more annoyingly, this happened to be while we were on holiday in California and led to me missing a Wine Country half marathon I’d been really excited about. Worse, much much worse, Mr. Duff developed his own leg problem, which turned out to be DVT (which he is still being treated for).
Two and a half months out of running for me, a lot of readjustment for Mr. Duff, and no New York Marathon for either of us; by the time we made it to Christmas we’d both just about had enough of 2016, and that doesn’t even factor in the pre-dystopian nightmare scenarios that were Brexit and Trump.
We cheered ourselves up a bit with a double parkrun weekend up in Aberdeen, which was lovely. Check out that sunrise.
On New Year’s Eve I really was feeling quite despondent. The result of my few months out of proper, or really any, training has been a significant loss of condition and the addition of an impressive quantity of seasonal ‘upholstery’. I was facing the Serpies 10k again, having run no further than 5 miles since the start of October. I was also facing starting my plan for the London Marathon with nowhere near last year’s fitness levels and a distinctly ‘I can’t be arsed with this’ attitude.
In case you were wondering, that’s the exact opposite of the attitude you need for completing a marathon training plan.
Parkrun helped. Parkrun always helps, because it’s just brilliant. I was volunteering, and by the time I’d handed just over 300 finish tokens out to all manner of folks having a lovely time – young, old, fast, slow, old hands or first timers (lots of first timers actually, getting a head start on their own resolutions!) – I felt so much better.
The race today helped even more. The Serpies New Year’s Day 10k is a lovely race. It starts at 11am, late for a race normally but handy for those who arrive a tad the worse for wear. The course is pretty, the marshals are superb, and it’s genuinely the best start to a new year I can imagine. Comparing it to the memory of New Year’s Days past waking up with a stinking whisky and white wine hangover and not even gracing the sofa til after noon, I know which one wins for me!
Last year I got a fantastic 4 minute PB and was feeling in great shape, but I got stuck in pace no man’s land and ran it alone. This year I ran it with a friend, the lovely Catherine, who is also starting her training for London tomorrow. We’ve both had a crap few months running wise, so it was planned as a slow and steady jaunt. Having the company made it so much more enjoyable that last year, and we kept each other nicely on pace. We finished it 6 and a half minutes slower than last year’s time but we did finish it, we did run the whole thing, and we ran marvellously even splits. As the finish line hove into view I suddenly remembered there were MEDALS over there, and even managed a slight sprint!
I finished the race a bit achy but happy with what I’d done and very pleased with my medal and new goody bag buff, and feeling so much more positive.
Because on the face of it, a lot of the things I would like to change in the new year are the old favourites – lose some weight, get my fitness back, eat more healthily, complete a marathon. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’ve got an advantage – I guess we all do, don’t we, after a certain age? We know how to do this. We know what we have to do to get healthier or lose a bit of early middle aged spread. We eat better and we move about more. I know what to eat, I know what exercise to do. So I know I can do it. I’ve done it before and I’m sure there’ll be many times when I need to do it again. It’s not that complicated.
So I’m not going to punish myself for letting things go a bit astray. I’m taking the opposite approach – I’m going to do it by doing myself small kindnesses which over time, when put together, will help me get back on track.
Like doing my physio and remembering to ice. Like realising 35 is too old to still be eating a bag of crisps every day like it’s a lunch box treat, but I can probably still have a bag of popcorn once a week (maybe even a big bag!). Like making sure I don’t get to the end of the day only to realise I haven’t actually drunk any water that didn’t have coffee or tea in it. Like admitting that I will need to take the pace down to achieve the distance I need to reach for London.
Slow and steady won the day for me today. Slow and steady can win the year. So here we go again!
Happy New Year, everyone.