There wasn’t supposed to be a Marathon blog this weekend because I was supposed to be writing something for Mind Tank (I still am…). But it’s been a good week, and I’ve been especially fired up today by – GASP – talking to strangers unpaid. So here’s a thousand-word blog about Nice Things Happening…
Week 6 began with a whimper and then a bang: I came back from a so-so run saved by Bryan Adams’s infidelity (yes, it was THAT so-so…) to a rather lovely Facebook message from a primary school friend who’s now a firefighter and most recently, a dad. He sponsored me the other week, and he’d written to me to tell me he hadn’t run himself since June, and that reading my blog had inspired him to get out again. The message was accompanied by sun-dappled photos of his running route and of him in trainers. Yes, apparently a man who pulls people out of burning buildings for a living and has a newborn baby feels inspired by a woman who trips over her own feet and worries about flea-treating a cat… Who knew that a couple of your mates killing themselves could reconnect you with so many old ones in such a touching way?
I ended the week by going to the first Mental Health Mates, a London social organised by Daily Telegraph columnist and writer Bryony Gordon, for people interested in mental health to meet for a coffee and a jog in the park (because I’ve become a person who runs 8-10 miles on a windy, rainy Saturday and then gets up on Sunday to jog…). I wasn’t sure what to expect but was fairly sure it seemed a better way to spend February The Fucking 14th than I’ve ever had the option of before (Fun fact!! I was dumped just before Valentines Day in my Dissertation term, and ghosted in early Feb three years ago by my last boyfriend…).
I went in with the idea that I’d be content to manage an articulate sentence, and came away with the feeling I’d made one of my best decisions since taking up running. You know those days when everything just seems to work…? Despite not-enough-sleep I left on time, remembering pretty much everything I’d intended to bring apart from gloves. Google Maps got me to the right side of Hyde Park and back again, and London was particularly quaint (if you’ve ever been fortunate enough to see London when it’s virtually empty you’ll know how much more of it you notice). I’m reluctant to say too much else because Bryony rightly promised everyone that everything was off-record and not column material, and I still have more feelings than I can put into words, despite the thousands of them I’ve written on this subject. But, I had a fantastic time with a fantastic group of (mostly) women. Among them was a very talented writer who was arts editor of the student website at university in my first year and now writes great pieces for national papers on mental health and other subjects. Technically we knew each other but she was a much more prolific joiner-of-things than I was and other than the odd virtual nod we hadn’t spoken in twelve years. She ran the London Marathon for Mind a couple of years ago AND is a fan of Twitter and The Archers (which is basically me, with a husband and stable employment…). We started jogging together in the interests of not freezing to death in our very proper running gear designed for, well, that. We ended up jogging-whilst-chatting until I had no idea where I was going or where any of the others were (we found them…). It was the furthest she’d run in a year and the first time I’d ever run and attempted a conversation at the same time. We were very proud of ourselves, even managing a high-five (I haven’t high-fived anyone since the half Marathon. My usual feelings on the matter can be likened to a jellyfish trying to dance).
On a completely different but still me-being-gushy-and-reflective note: There’s been a bit of bother on the Mind Marathoners Facebook group recently. This week someone left the group, upset at being made to feel rubbish by the glut of more experienced runners posting triumphant selfies of their 15-milers or despondent whines about “only” running an 11-minute mile. I’ve felt twinges of this at times when skimming the posts there and have had to remind myself balls-to-all-that. The best thing about doing the London 10K and the Oxford half last year, despite the unimaginably bloody awful events that triggered it was how personal it felt and the utter lack of self-doubt I had around it. I did it entirely for myself and my two late friends, without giving a monkeys about anything or looking over my shoulder to see what anyone else was doing. As someone who spent my youth unhealthily obsessed with the notion that other women were more capable than me (FFS, I chose my university on the recommendation of a soap actress I interviewed for a piece when I was 18…) deciding to run was one of the most refreshing, liberating experiences of my life just for that. I still have the dregs of that unhealthy, misery-inducing competitiveness and envy. As an act of self-care I have to be aware of the sort of people or situations which exacerbate it and do my best to tape it. Like someone who knows their relationship with booze can be a bit on the problematic side, it’s about knowing when to – proverbially – put down that drink or not have any more; only, my equivalent of a double vodka is a woman who’s better-looking/richer/less awkward and clumsy than me and doesn’t realise that her existence is a reminder to me of Why I’m Rubbish, or that if she doesn’t come for coffee with me, my brain will tell me it’s Because I’m Awful….). ANYWAY. MY POINT IS: To anyone doing the Marathon for a mental health charity, know that I think you’re absolutely bloody wonderful whether you run it in two hours or ten. And to those who can’t – as in physically can’t – run, anything else you do in support of mental health is wonderful too.
I will now stop gushing and eat this, because, Happy Valentine’s Day to me from me.
[Insert usual friendly prod if you’d like to sponsor me].