Facing the future whilst grappling the past

Over the past 7.5 years my postings have all really focused on my running exploits, taking in races and experiences along the way.

It never used to be this way.

A brief history of mine

The ‘blog’ started life as an outlet for all the everythings that occurred following Mark’s death in 2012. The postings actually started just a week before he died although at the point I created it and first hit ‘publish’ I genuinely hadn’t known what was about to unfold.

For a couple of years I mused over all the stuff that follows a bereavement of one’s soul-mate and partner. Not in a ‘poor me’ attention-grabbing sort of way, because although the blog was public, there wasn’t really any reason for anyone to take notice of it. As a ‘lone agent’ in my little world, I just went about my life completely anonymously. Like most people.

Roll on 2015 and my fragile little world caved in completely. It’s true when I say that my only presence for about 7 months is the diary I recorded in my blog. Essentially for the period of my illness my memory is, at best, sketchy, but realistically non-existent.

That said, my musings were becoming more carefully curated at the time because I knew that family were now aware of it and this made it something of a double-edged sword; a place for me to sort out the noise in my head, yet providing an unwelcome opportunity for others to try to come in and ‘problem solve’ an issue they absolutely didn’t understand.

A (not so) new era

Of course, roll on a few months of psychologist meetings that led me to a place where I could move forward from and I genuinely started a new chapter in my life.

A world of working for myself plus a world where I properly got into my running. From being unfit to very fit and from being a lone agent to leading my own running club and joining an affiliated club myself. At the time of illness I didn’t know about the link between mental health and physical activity and it was something I discovered first hand. (A year or so later it was something that made it into the mainstream press.) But armed with the knowledge of how running had helped me, it was a word I wanted to spread.

Hence the rebrand of the blog to represent the new start. It was also a point where now actively being involved in the local running community, I suddenly found myself in a place where I had become accountable to others.

With the busyness of work, plus juggling all the other commitments in my life, my writing dropped off, covering barely any more than my race reviews. Whole years would pass without really writing anything to. Not because I wasn’t doing anything, rather I didn’t have the downtime to think about what to say about it.

Revisiting the past

When I was putting together the post about my recent trip to Scotland, I had to dig back into my 2015 musings in order to confirm a few details from my previous visit. You see, having deleted my strava profile back in 2022, I didn’t have the running information to hand, so had to rely on what I wrote about it at the time. Which wasn’t much, but it was enough.

Of course, when the posts relate to a significant time in my life, and especially one where I have zero active memory, I then disappeared down the rabbit hole of reading through my accounts of that time.

What was interesting was the fact that my physical fitness at the time wasn’t as good as I remember it being. I’d actually even mentioned VO2 max figures, something I hadn’t realised I’d done until I found them.

In 2015, despite being off the back of the 13 Challenge and my 2014 Chester Marathon, it appears my body was in a rough place. I remember red-lining every run I did (this is immediately before my life crashed out completely) yet by the time I was moving forward again, I was in the shape of my life. Albeit short-lived before my Haglunds-related bursitis ended that spell.

And this got me comparing to the place I’m in this year where, following whatever that happened in February, I’ve had to slowly build up from what feels like zero.

So I guess the question now is really why am I feeling so reflective of all of this?

WTF is this going *where, not what*

I think it comes down to life plans, or at least how they don’t always work out how you expect them. You see I’d had the idea that I’d be working for a few more years before being able to retire and do all the running dreams I had. Doing my own adventures and helping out with others’ adventures.

It’s something that I had to put into the future as my work-life has generally got in the way of getting involved in various friends’ rounds in the Lake District etc, something I’ve looked out on with envy. Just the impact of a 7-day business which is seasonal with a hectic schedule between March – November.

But unfortunately, that stuff doesn’t pay the bills. It was something I was looking forward to be able to do.

Yet 2023, just like 2015, has been a curve-ball of a year where I’ve had to accept that those dreams may well likely only ever be dreams. Managing my deformed feet is an ongoing project which limits the training I can do, which ultimately reduces my ability to get my fitness back up to a place which I recognise. Yes, I’ve recovered from it before, but this time around, things haven’t improved in the way they did in 2016. I’m not saying it won’t get there, but there’s a sizeable chance it won’t.

I hadn’t anticipated that running retirement would come before work retirement, but that’s a reality I may need to face.  I need to be able to run for my own mental and physical health, and if preserving that means I can’t go off and do all the stuff I dreamed about doing, I just need to accept it and move on.

It’s also why I got much more into leading and coaching. At least I feel I can offer something to make it worth me turning up, rather than lamenting that I  can’t do XYZ etc.

More opinions (from others…….)

Whilst being in a place where I’m struggling to support my own running, it’s disappointing, especially when I’ve been asked by other runners about why I don’t go off and support others’ efforts.

Apparently coaching and leading for three separate groups doesn’t count in this. Go figure.

But the reason it hurts so much is that it’s not that I don’t want to. Work is a short- to medium-term problem. Deformed feet are significantly more difficult to resolve. I need to look after them as much as I can. I’m fearful also that I don’t want others to be reliant on me being able to run; what if, cometh the day, I can’t?

That said, my feet have got me this far, and that’s something I’m grateful for. It seems churlish to be wingeing about what could have been. It’s all about perspective.

Refocus on what I can control

Yesterday I ran my first half-marathon distance since February. It was tough and I don’t remember 13.1 miles being such an effort as it was this time around. And I’ve raced that distance more than any other.

It was slow and definitely not pretty. And my feet hurt. But I managed it. So that is progress.

Admittedly I feel pretty wrung-out as a result. It’s something that hopefully will improve over time, assuming I can keep the feet from falling apart in the process. Again, a balancing act between what I want versus what my body is able to give me.

It also reminds me of the need to get back to the gym to try to strengthen the rest of me, at least the bits  I have control over.

Conclusions from a rambling man

In many ways this post has allowed me to revisit my roots and try to frame the world around me in a way I can manage it. It’s been an emotional journey working through a lot of the stuff above, trying to work out how to explain things in a clear way rather than getting wrapped up in the emotions of the moment.

As for the T-shirt mock-up at the top of the post, the slogan was bouncing around my head as I ran yesterday. If you want to share your runs to the world, that’s fine. I used to, but after the situation I linked to above I found myself feeling judged to the point that it was no longer comfortable. I’m happier now with my data being private.

As always, onwards and upwards!

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