Me? Running? Surely that must be a joke…
but it’s gone midday and there’s a serious message behind this…
So, inspiration and material for blog posts about tandeming has been hard to come by these past few months, but I have to confess to having something else on my mind too: Running.
Now, to say I have not been a natural runner would be an understatement as despite what I achieve on the bicycle or foot I still do not consider myself “sporty” or “athletic”. I was a typical “last to get picked” at school for sports and various people (including myself) have labelled me “two left footed”, “clumsy”, “not built for running” and “likely to injure myself” if I run. These statements have been proven to be true a number of times, with the notable exception of as an 11 year old I beat an 18 year old lad to a tub of ice cream… but I think that says more about my love of ice cream…
The seeds of starting to reassess these preconceptions I had about myself came about after a knee injury and subsequent surgery where I met a particularly good, if slightly bonkers, physio. He took one look at the “funny walk” I had had since fracturing my leg as a child and declared he would not only fix my immediate recovery issues but rebuild me: he was good to his word!
A few years later, not only my fitness but also my posture and balance had improved no end and I had gone from clinging to a cross-trainer for dear life to being able to knit and cross-train at the same time (possibly the highest risk sporting activity I have undertaken). My confidence grew with my cycling and when I completed my first 100 mile sportif in just over 6 hours, for the first time in my life I felt like I could achieve something sporty.
I was soon hooked on the longer distances in cycling and am still fascinated and enthralled by how far I can go (hopefully around the World…), but running was still completely off the cards. And then something changed…
I can’t quite clearly remember what the catalyst was; it may have been as simple as money off trainers through my job and keeping up winter training when the roads were too icy to cycle or maybe it was that I was now hooked on the sensation of doing things no one expected of me; especially myself.
So on with the new trainers and off I went.
Apart from it wasn’t that simple. I had never really run anywhere (apart from for that tub of ice cream, away from a charging bull and for a bus) so trying to figure out my cadence, foot placement and just how to move my body felt alien and wrong. I tried to build up slowly , from 1 miles to 2 miles but was soon injured and put off. Or so I thought… a few months later I was jogging again, but in typical “never do anything by halves” style I decided to try and run after a long ride and this time ended up in a splint for 2 weeks with an ankle the size of a melon.
Surely this was indication enough I am not built for running, and the injury was scarily close to one of my biggest rides ever and resulted in another visit to ever so slightly mad physio who had me wobbling about on one leg on a balance board. But somehow the idea had now stuck and disregarding his advice, and that of many other people, a few months later I went out to run again and this time I started to go far! Sod the 10% rule!!
And maybe this was the key for me: LSD, Long Steady Distance. I have never been built for speed, but once I started going long I settled into my pace and my endurance for cycling served me well in terms of getting comfortable for the long run. I felt rather privileged, if out of my depth, to be invited on a Birthday run with @fellrunlikeagirl on what turned out to be a brutally stormy February day- high winds, bruising hail and getting blown into heather bushes on Derwent Moor for 10miles and I was hooked! Why run on roads when there’s trails, mud and grass?! So into the hills I headed, or rather the South Derbyshire lanes. Lockdown hit and combined with upheavals at works getting out for a run was the breathe of fresh air I needed in the little free time I had and then became a challenge to see how far I could go. That winter I ran my first marathon distance and was overcome with emotion- this was something I literally and honestly never believed I would be able to do! I could not believe what my little legs were capable of!!
Too many adventure and endurance podcasts and too many inspiring figures: Sabrina Vergee, Jasmin Paris, Nikki Spinks, Anna McNuff, Mimi Anderson to name but a few, planted seeds that I could go further… I am not yet at my limit.
Having generally strengthened and conditioned my body through a newfound love of yoga too means injuries are much less frequent and I am so much more balanced and sure of my footing- I wish someone had told me years ago this was something I could fix, not just live with.
And that brings us to where I was at the start of the year: With an amazing tandem cycling ambition in the distance future, but a dearth of rides sooner, a restriction on the distance I can travel locally and an ambiguity about restrictions lifting. Everything fell into place for my particularly crazy idea to for the first time in my life follow an actual training plan (albeit of my own design) and focus on one specific event: A running holiday, from Coast to Coast.
Now, Coast to Coast is an iconic route, famously detailed by Wainright, from St Bees on the West coast to Robin Hood’s Bay on the East coast. Stevie has walked it twice and it sounds like a tremendous adventure I look forward to completing in hiking boots… but just imagine if I could run from one side of the country to the other, that would be something else entirely. Initially, I had plans to aim for around the 20mile distance a day, but it was pointed out to me that I may as well be walking it at that pace per day… so I settled for ~30miles. This would take me 6 days. To run 182 miles.
It was a fairly arbitrary decision at first but the more I considered and looked into it, the more it made sense. I would just need a little bit of support along the way and this is where Stevie comes in! He will be driving our campervan along the way whilst I run in between with him meeting me en route with provisions and likely walking/running to meet me towards the end of each day.
So training officially began in January, luckily coinciding with a new job so they accepted me running to work was just part of the mad things I do until I had built up enough miles and confidence to come clean I had a specific goal in mind. My training plan was based on a podcast I listened to by RedZone running, but seems to be working so far! HIIT sessions are excruciating and I hate them, but its all par for the course.
It all sounds good on paper, but I am under no impression this is going to be easy, or even doable. Ste and I have talked endlessly about when I call it quits, when enough will be enough and is this how I really want to spend my holiday… But, it now feels like something I have to do, I have to try and prove, to myself if nobody else. And so it’s taken me quite a while to confess to anyone else about my “holiday” plans. Part of me was quite happy to keep this to myself until I
a. reach the end and bathe in the glory and ice cream as I upload it to Strava or
b. pretend it never happened hobbling home with my tail between my legs. (And eat more ice cream)
But then in March I heard something that shocked me : 5 Vets and 1 Veterinary Techinician (Nurse) had lost their lives to mental health problems in one week. An awful tragedy.
Now a lot of people would be undertaking this challenge to raise money and support for a charity but in my case (and possibly selfishly) I had felt I did not have enough time with all the Round the World promo going off and also am aware it becomes tedious is the same people keep shaking their tin for every event they sign up for. But I felt I should do something, after all there could be a modicum of interest from people other than close friends and family to see how I fair on such a grueling route.
So I would like to raise awareness of the epidemic that is mental health problems in the Veterinary profession. I will not have a fund-raising page, but donation directly to Vetlife will be extremely gratefully received. Vetlife are one of the charities we are supporting Around the World, but after such a horrendous start to the year and the pressures we have all endured through lockdown I would just like to raise a bit of awareness of the problems the Veterinary profession faces. As a profession we are 3-4 times more likely to commit suicide that the general population and mental health problems are rife. There is a saying in our profession that “Everybody knows somebody” and after than horrendous week earlier in the year membership to the “Not One More Vet” Facebook group skyrocketed. I do not intend to delve into or discuss the reasons or causes of the statistics, but strongly feel that whatever the reasons are, for your profession to put you at this high a risk of harm is completely unacceptable. I certainly know far too many who have been damaged.
There are now some fantastic support networks out there and funding goes a long way to support these, but I would just like to raise bit of awareness of the issues we face. I completely understand how much of an emotional and stressful experience a trip to the Vets can be, especially if coupled with an unexpected bill but would just urge pet owners to consider that Vets and support staff are now usually the bottom rung of the chain, and decisions about treatment plans, pricing or protocols may not be down to them (many Vets are run by big corporations, I am very lucky to work for a small independent practice) and that pet healthcare is essentially private healthcare so cost for state of the art treatments are high. I cannot ever remember meeting a Vet (or Vet Nurse or Receptionist) that is in it for the money and personal financial pressures are certainly one of many contributing factors to the disturbing statistics.
So I hope to encourage kindness towards a profession that works tirelessly from it’s heart and if we cannot get if 100% right all the time it is because we are human, not because we don’t care and try. If just one person reads this and reframes any preconceptions they have before behaving aggressively at a Vets, lodging a malicious formal complaint which could cost us our career or thinks twice before posting a negative review, it could literally be life saving. Please be kind. Please.
There are so many parallels between endurance challenges and working in Veterinary medicine: time management, endurance, self awareness, planning, team working, breaking thing down into manageable chunks, dealing with emergencies and trying to believe, when you are a rock bottom that a brighter day will come and everything is temporary. I am sure my experiences in both will be critical to my success, or failure, of the next epic challenge.
One thing is for sure, I have decided to take you all along for the run, if you will join me:
I hope to post regular updates and videos alone the way on my Facebook event and Instagram, and if you are amused/entertained/horrified/fascinated/inspired/amazed/abhorred by what I am attempting, please spread a bit of awareness and help make “Not One More Vet” (or Vet Support Staff) come true.
N.b. We will still be abiding by Covid restrictions on this trip by using self contained accommodation and following social distancing principles, I am just extremely grateful we are at a point that is challenge is possible.
We are also very much on track with our main goal: to break the World Tandem Riding Record, and after this trip running will be curtailed to reduce any risk of injury before our big trip! Back to the bikes soon…
If you are part of the Veterinary profession and affected by the issues mentioned in this article please consider chatting to Vetlife : https://www.vetlife.org.uk/ . You can call or email confidentially. If you are not a Veterinary professional but affected by mental health issues other avenues are support are available through Mind and the Samaritans or your local GP.