The Diary of a Running Mum: Get Your Brave On

If you struggle with the fear of taking on fitness challenges or gambles in life in general, our running mum diarist, Tanya Taylor, 43, has some words of advice..

IMG_8928

Eighteen years ago, back when I was a carefree 25 year old, living in a cool rented flat in the centre of town, with a handsome boyfriend and a part time job, my sister died. She died quite suddenly, and in tragic circumstances, leaving behind two young children. My sister, Sacha, had only just turned 30, and her death changed me as a person overnight.

Shortly after she died, I can remember looking in the bathroom mirror and not recognising the face that looked back at me. The weeks of crying and not eating had obviously affected my physical features, but it was more than that, I was different, something deep within me had altered.

The year that followed was full of change. I somehow managed to finish my degree, we moved to a flat by the sea, I married my handsome boyfriend (he proof-reads these…) and we had a baby. I no longer wanted to put things off, I was so deeply affected by the sense that life was so fleeting.

Our wedding had been planned and executed in 5 weeks – me in a £60 sundress and my husband in the first suit he had ever had to buy. I cried on the morning and evening of our wedding, my sister, Sacha’s absence was so overwhelming. Our baby was born several months later at home, the rain heavy outside -“You’re so brave to have a home birth with a first baby”, the midwife had exclaimed- but I knew, nothing would hurt or be as terrifying as losing a sister.

IMG_8927

Many years have passed, but that sense of mortality is still very much part of me. I believe in saying ‘Yes’, more than saying ‘No’ – I want to live a full life, to have adventures and experiences that my sister was  robbed of at such a young age. I owe it to her.

So it comes as no surprise, that when there are races or trips planned, I am usually one of the first to put my name down. Am I brave? No, I am naturally cautious and quite fearful, so it takes a lot for me to ‘get my brave on’, and so I still have to use little techniques to help me get my brave on.

My tips to help you feel more warrior than wimp

  1. Get a squad. At Fitbitch, we are so lucky to have so many inspiring women in our running community. Every woman empowers the next. Having someone to enter a race with or try a new running distance or route alongside can really makes a difference to your bravery levels. I wouldn’t have entered or completed Coast to Coast (106 miles across Scotland by MTB, Kayak and foot) if my race buddy J hadn’t been by my side the whole way.IMG_8923
  2. Create your own Talismans. I started using jewellery as a Talisman when I ran my first half marathon, like having a lucky charm. I use a handmade gold bracelet that was given to me on my 40th Birthday by a close group of friends, a gold necklace and my wedding ring. I also carry things my children have made me when I travel. It sounds corny, but it really helps to make me feel protected and strong.
  3. Train. It sounds obvious, but with a big race, if you are physically prepared, you feel more confident. Use a running club so you can train for races together or use a training plan downloaded from the many on offer on the Internet. (Fitbitch running courses start this week and our London club launches at the end of September. Join our London Facebook page for more details).
  4. Positive affirmations. Nike and Lululemon have positive mantras hidden into the seams of some of their sports items. I also love this banner by Secret Holiday – http://shop.secretholidayco.com/product/be-brave-affirmation-banner – which will definitely keep you feeling inspired. When I ran London Marathon this year, I copied out a text message from my friend J and had it in my back pocket the whole way. Her text told me I was strong, I was ready and to believe in myself. Just knowing those words were with me helped me so much mentally.
  5. Don’t overthink. Whenever I feel hesitant, whether it’s holding the cursor over a race entry confirmation or hovering at the top of a steep single track path on my mountain bike, I just take a deep breath and say to myself ‘Just fu*king do it’. It is amazing how effective this is – try it!
  6. Look for positives. Two years ago, I took on the challenge of swimming from Brighton Marina to Brighton Pier. I got separated from my group quite early, swimming out much deeper than the others. The currents were not in our favour that day, and the swim took twice as long as we had anticipated. My legs were cramping, and I was starting to imagine there were sharks swimming underneath (I know!!!!). I then looked up, and saw the sun setting just behind the Pier, it was shining right at me. I saw this as a sign that I was going to be okay, and not be eaten by a Great White off Brighton Beach.
  7. Cherish the Challenge. Some of the best experiences are when you are pushed outside your comfort zone. Swimming into a mountain lake with ice around the edges, is still one of the biggest natural highs I have ever experienced. I only thought about the possibilities of hyperthermia afterwards
  8. Less is more, sometimes. I try not to read too many details about the more challenging races I take on before the event. If I had known the last 14 miles of the Coast to Coast race involved running up and down two midge infested mountains (YES ,TWO MIDGE INFESTED MOUNTAINS,) there is a good chance I would have talked myself out of entering. Without wanting to appear sexist, a lot of the amateur race reviews (and worse still, the Go-Pro YouTube videos) are put on the Internet by men. They are pumped up with over-zealous, macho hype and I’m sure that helps a certain type of person (those that wear Ironman Finisher T’s to run local 5k races maybe?) but the reality is, with the correct training, most things are possible. Trust me, when you’re in the race and you’re in the zone, what might have looked terrifying and impossible online, is totally achievable.IMG_8921-2
  9. Products sometimes help. I use Aromatherapy Associates Miniature Bath & Shower oils (available from Liberty’s ) to rub on my pulses. The blends have names like ‘inner strength’ and ‘support breath’, and are completely addictive. They are tiny bottles and great for travel. I also have 5 Elements Acupuncture before any big races where I am treated for my anxiety levels.
  10. Fake it. If you are still feeling very nervous, fake it. Add a bit of swagger to your walk, smile at your fellow competitors and give them a friendly wink. Focus on calming breaths and your posture – shoulders back, stand tall. I can guarantee, there will be someone else there feeling more scared than you who won’t have read my blog!

I know if my brilliant sister was still here, she’d be the one screaming my name as I run over the finish lines. Her courage in her final weeks was mammoth compared to any courage I’ve ever had to muster up, and I will always be very proud of her, and so thankful to have had her in my life.

Tanya is one of our amazing Running Angel ambassadors who help to keep you company and motivated on our weekly Tuesday members runs. Membership costs just £25 including a race vest Tues evening runs except school holidays. Plus 10% off our season passes.

Year to Date Running Stats

Miles – 933

Elevation Gain 50,581 ft

Tanya’s Top Tracks for getting your brave on

‘Stronger’ – Kanye West

‘Tusk’ – Fleetwood Mac

‘Shake it Off’ – Taylor Swift

‘Fire’ – Kasabian

‘Born to Run’ – Bruce Springsteen