The Diary of a Running Mum
Juggling four kids and a workaholic husband, Tanya Taylor, 43, also decided to take on the challenge of running every day of 2016. Here’s the first of her despatches about life on the run…
I’ve just completed my 156th run in 156 days. Sometimes they are long and ploddingly slow and other times they are fast and challenging, leaving me bright red and dripping with sweat. I’ve run in the sun, rain, wind and even in snow when forecasters were warning people not to go outdoors. From New York to Paris, Berlin to London and all over East Sussex, my feet have taken me a long way this year. And I have got another 210 days to go in my bid to run every day of 2016.
Runnual, is part of the Fitbitch challenge community, a list of challenges throughout the year which anyone can follow to help you have goals and keep you motivated. Some are easy, a park run, others are about adventure, such as a the 24 hour Endure Relay Race and then there are those about consistency, such as swimming every day in July. But other than the Fitbitch founder, Rachael, I am the only one who committed to RUNNUAL, running every day throughout 2016.
So, why am I doing it, everyone asks? I liked the idea of having a focus and commitment to my training that was simple to follow. Not that I didn’t have my doubts about doing it; what if I got injured, could I fit it in every day? But most of all, I was worried about failing. What if I started and couldn’t actually do it?
I knew the only way I was going to be able to commit and make this work was to make some rules.
Tanya’s Five Run Commandments
- No matter what the weather, I have to run outside. I wanted to get the benefit of fresh air and observe the changing seasons not a gym changing room.
- I have to wear proper running kit and trainers. No dash to the car with my handbag allowed to be classed as a run.
- I have to be kind to myself. If I had a crappy run, I was determined not to beat myself up about it but to just let it go.
- I had to run at least one mile, no less, for it count.
- I had to record it on Strava. For me, this was a way to keep track of my runs like a virtual diary.
Run number 1 of 366 on New Year’s Day didn’t feel so unusual. For the last 4 years I have run on New Years with my friend E. We run along Brighton & Hove seafront, past the all-night revellers, and discuss our hopes for the forthcoming year. There is something cleansing and empowering about our ritual and it’s always one of my favourite runs of the year.
Fast forward to now and I’m almost six months through my runnual year. It has been both amazing and at times very hard. There have been runs where I’ve seen the sun rise above the sea or set over the Sussex hills. Some have been in pouring rain, into 70mph winds or under baking hot sun. I’ve enjoyed runs where I’ve laughed listening to stories from some of my fellow runners, and others where I have run alone, tears pouring down my face as I’ve worked things through in my head. Running is cathartic, eventually everything comes to the surface as surely as putting one foot in front of the other.
But have there been times when I’ve felt like giving up? Yes, on those runs were my legs felt like lead and my mind is telling me I’m useless. But just as frequently, I’ve been rewarded with runs where I have felt invincible.
Stand out runs have to be running at sunrise alone through Paris, or in Central Park, New York in a -22 degree windchill, clapping my hands above my head in an attempt to keep warm, then returning to the hotel with cheers (and relief that I survived, I suspect) from the hotel doormen. I have run on the track in Berlin’s Olympic stadium having a panic attack following a particularly gruelling 15 mile race, and had my lovely running buddy J grab my hand and tell me I was going to be okay.
Recent runs have included running at night in the woods with some of the Fitbitch running club, with just head torches and giggling for guidance through the dark while training for a 24 hour team endurance race. But the best run of the year (and maybe my life so far) was the London Marathon in April 2016. It was my first marathon and I’d trained hard, but had spent months feeling anxious, self doubt gnawing away at me. But it was amazing, a total high from beginning to end; the crowds, the atmosphere, the views, it was brilliant. I made new friends en-route (shout out to N and L from Sheffield) who I chatted to for almost 20 miles. Both my mind and body felt strong that day, and I managed to keep a consistent pace throughout. At mile 21, there was a moment when a young woman locked eyes with me and shouted in a thick East End cockney accent; “Go on Tanya, you’ve got this, you’ve got this girl”, and that was when I knew, I had.
If you had told me eight months ago that I’d run every day, I would have said no way. I would have said, ‘I don’t have the time, I’m not fit or strong enough.’ It’s not like running comes naturally to me; my body is not a classic ‘runners body’…I’m more Fatima Whitbread than Paula Radcliffe. But if there is one thing this challenge has taught me, it is that you an achieve anything with the right focus.
Tanya’s top tips on how to incorporate regular running into you life
- Use your run as part of your social life. It is more fun to run with company, and you can always have a cup of tea at the end.
- Fit it into your daily tasks/routine: I run from the supermarket carpark after I’ve done my shopping or I leave half an hour earlier to pick the kids up from their friends house/clubs and do a quick run before they finish.
- Utilise your local running group. At Fitbitch, we have a community run on Tuesday’s, a pace session on a weekday evening and usually a long run on a Sunday. That means I only have 4 runs left to plan myself.
- Think outside of the box. I recently had a boxing lesson, then washed in the sea, applied my moisturiser and make-up on the beach and headed straight to Charleston literary festival (You can roll your eyes here…) When the talk had finished, I changed in the carpark (there was a boob flash, but hey!) and did a quick run through the countryside stumbling across an amazing teahouse in the middle of the country as I did.
- Download the free App Strava onto your phone. It’s ridiculously addictive. Strava allows you to monitor your speed and distance, and keeps you posted on any improvements. You can also follow your friends’ training and allow them to follow yours. I recently got approached by a (friendly) guy in a carpark who follows me on Strava and congratulated me on my achievements to date. I’d never met him before.
- S-T-R-E-T-C-H and have massages. It may seem indulgent, but it literally is the oil to your wheels.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. There is nothing worse than someone having a meltdown because they’ve missed getting a PB at a local Parkrun when there are people fighting much bigger personal battles.
- If I’m having a bad run, I shift my focus. I think about my form, keeping my torso upright, my feet light, making sure my arms are not crossing in front of my body…and if things are really bad, I imagine I’m Rocky running through Philadelphia.
With any luck, I hope this post and my monthly updates will encourage a few of you to try running regularly. The beauty of running everyday is that it removes the pressure about running to mileage and shorter, consistent runs have been as equally beneficial to my fitness levels and endurance. But the main thing I’ve learnt is no matter how tired/ill/sad I feel, I always feel better after running. Always.
I look forward to keeping you posted over the year with my progress, and will also introduce music for your running playlist, let you know of any new kit I’ve sampled and new races I’ve loved. In the meantime, happy running!Tweet