These legs were made for running. Who knew?!

Monday, 26 September 2011

I found my thrill, on Heartbreak Hill...

What does Heartbreak Hill have to do with finding my thrill you may ask?

Well around mid this year I was starting to feel my running mojo slip a little.  I had completed a half-marathon and decided to sign up for another half-marathon in September whilst I debated whether I should eventually run a full marathon.  And as part of my interim training plan, I signed up for the August City 2 Surf, a 14K run from the Sydney CBD to Bondi.  In preparation for the the race, my training was pretty unfocussed.  After all, I reasoned, if I could run a half-marathon a 14K race would be a "no trainer".

But I was wrong.  The word that comes to mind when I think of my City 2 Surf experience is "up".  Up, up, up, up and more up (and at one point, I almost threw up).  Most of that race was a big hill and the biggest hill of all was named Heartbreak.  By the time I reached the top of it, I thought my heart would break.  And when I reached the 12K/13K mark, I was never so overjoyed to see the downhill leg of a course.

Actually maybe I should have called this blog "I found my thrill at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill" - but I digress.

Unfortunately, in short, that race kicked my butt!  But fortunately, I am often at my best when I am recovering from a nudge in my derriere.  So it was with renewed humbleness and determination that I tackled my half-marathon training program.

A final thought for the ladies (and for a few of my male friends - you know who you are!).  Who says you need a man to get your thrills.  Just go find an enormous ....... hill.  And after you run that hill, you can eat some Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey and maybe even a little whipped cream, guilt free.  Mwahhh!

Friday, 5 August 2011

"Superficial, my arse!" - Anonymous

A housewife should always strike a pose when emptying the dishwasher....

Not that I was ever the belle of the ball, but in my younger years I did occasionally turn a head or two.  But a funny thing happened to me in my late 40's (post 5 babies) - I suddenly realised that I was invisible.

Now I was 20+ kilos overweight with 5 gorgeous little ones pulling at my big beautiful woman's clothing, so I didn't kid myself that I was actually invisible. As a matter of a fact, I remember constantly bumping into people and inanimate objects with my voluptuous hips because I had a difficult time determining how much space I occupied in the universe. Sort of like learning to drive the Toyota Tarago mini van after driving smaller economy cars for many years.  It takes a while to figure out how small of a parking space will accommodate your larger...well "boot" as they call the back storage compartment of a car here in Australia.

But I started to notice as I walked down the street (when I wasn't bumping into people with my generous derriere that is), that men no longer stole an occasional surreptitious glance at me like they used to.  And I was more than a little reluctant to admit that this bothered me.  I was too old to giggle incessantly and meet boys at the Knott's Berry Farm dance nights, but I was too young to not still want to be acknowledged as a woman.  So there it was, I was faced with the dreaded mid-life crisis (and I swore in my younger years that this was just an excuse to buy a Porsche!)

What does this have to do with running and "superficial, my arse" you may ask?  Well running not only helped to trim down my "arse" a bit, but it also made me feel like I was really part of life again.  It is impossible to run and not feel alive and acutely in the moment.  And as you get stronger and more fit it is impossible to not feel younger, even if the wrinkles, the gravity-challenged-baby-bearing-bits and the scales on your previously smooth and youthful hands tell the real  story of your age.  And when you feel younger, you rediscover that subtle hip sway when you walk (although I did pull my hip muscle dancing recently, but I digress).  And when you feel younger and you sway your hips a little, you exude a bit more confidence and suddenly you're not quite as invisible. Although if you "obey your sway" and flick and switch your hips too much, you might find yourself bumping into people and objects again. Everything in moderation gals (and guys if you are into the hip swaying thing as well).

So I was talking to my long time friend about this whole invisibility dilemma and I suggested that my goal was to learn to find more fulfillment within.  After all, I suggested, it was a little superficial at my age to find such satisfaction in the fact that running had given me back my waistline. But my friend suggested that esteem was a balance between  our mind, soul, emotions and our physical self - that all were important and it was healthy to take pride  in them.  And I guess he really didn't agree with my superficial comment because his parting sentence was "superficial, my arse".  My friend and I have been known to quarrel on more than one occasion over the years, but we don't normally swear at each other.  So that got my attention.  And because he had my attention, I allowed myself to contemplate his words.  And I liked what I was contemplating.  I can strive to be brilliant, deep, in touch with my inner child and dammit, I can have a great "arse" too!  Kapow - bring on middle age!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Running saved my life...

A little bit loopy...
Now I know that "running saved my life" sounds a little dramatic, but it really is true.  I initially started running because my health was beginning to deteriorate, but I had no idea that it would also improve my mental health.  The topic today is anxiety and depression and it nearly killed me. 

My earliest memory of the black wave that used to wash over me, which I now know was the beginnings of anxiety and depression, was at 4 years old.  I suffered from this black wave for so much of my life, that I thought these feelings were normal.  And it certainly never occurred to me that there might be ways to successfully manage this disease.

In my late 20's I found alcohol which initially seemed to help me survive these feelings.  Unfortunately the "medication" was ultimately worse than the disease I was trying to treat.  Fortunately, I have not had a drink in almost 15 years and I now know that this was never a solution.  Unfortunately, the anxiety and depression continued to rule my days and nights until I reached a point where I contemplated taking my life daily and slept only a few hours every night.  Fortunately I did eventually get help for my anxiety and depression which gave me just enough will to start taking better care of myself.

Thus the commencement of walking and eating nutritious food which turned into running and eating nutritious food.  And after I had been running for a while, I noticed on the days that I ran I had fewer anxiety and depression breakthroughs and if I did have a breakthrough, I was somehow able to cope with it more proactively and put it into perspective (well most of the time - perfection has never been my strong suit).  And conversely I found that when I didn't run, I didn't cope as well.  And sometimes, the thoughts of ending my life would come creeping ever so quietly back into my head...

Now to some, this all may sound a bit morose and scary.  And maybe some of you are thinking TMI (too much information!) But I am undertaking this blog for me and acknowledging my battle with mental illness and having the courage to write it down feels pretty dang fantastic.  And if it resounds with someone else, well that is fantastic too. 

What can I say - I am a bit loopy by nature.  And this loopyness will always be sitting on my shoulder because it has nothing better to do.  And also because it has known me since I was a little girl and I guess it's kind of attached to me after all of these years.  But fortunately running a few loops around the neighbourhood helps.  And where there is help, there is hope.  And where there is hope there are endless possibilities....

Saturday, 23 July 2011


One step at a time...
On my run this morning, I was wondering what keeps me going back for more week after week.  For I do not have particularly healthy lungs (they have always been my weak spot) and as a result, sometimes my runs feel like very hard work.  I thought of so many things that are a source of inspiration that I ended up spending my entire run listing them in my head.  Here are just a few (in no particular order):

  • My five children.  I want to be vital and alive to celebrate and support them for many years to come.
  • The two elderly men who look like they are at least in their 80's.  I see them on my morning run most weeks.  They are so vital and fit for men their age and I want what they have.
  • The people that I see on my route day in and day out.  Although we don't know each other's name, we smile and wave and encourage each other along.
  • The elderly lady who can barely shuffle one block after her surgery.  But she's out there almost every day doing the best that she can.
  • The colleagues and the partner who I have started running and swimming with at lunch.  They kick my butt (in a kind way) and make me realise that there is always room to improve.
  • The fact that I have not had bronchitis since I started running (hope I am not tempting the Gods by writing this).
  • Rob, who regularly reminds me how far I have come when I get a bit discouraged.
  • The fact that I have legs and a waist again.  They may be far from perfect after having 5 kids, but I like them anyway.
  • My cousin Ann who has 2 children (and another on the way), yet still finds time for marathons.  And my long time friend Gretch who has been running half-marathons for a few years.
  • My friend Hils who has shared the entire journey with me.  We keep each other going emotionally and physically.
  • My friend Leo and his poem Sitting Under Three Oaks ) about an old dry oak leaf living out the last of his days "with the spirit of a child, innocent and rebellious".  There are benefits to going with the flow of life, but this poem reminds me that it's also okay to put up a fight and squeeze the most out of our lives.
  • The sun, the rain and the local birds who make my heart soar when I am running.
  • The contribution that running has made to managing my life long challenges with anxiety (that may be a topic for a separate post).
And the list goes on and on and on...

And then there was running...

Moments after finishing my first half-marathon

It started with only being able to walk for 15 minutes at a time.  I had been struggling with anxiety and depression, was overweight and beginning to have what felt like irregular heart beats.  I was grieving the end of my childbearing years and felt the best years of my life were over. A partner that I work with would discuss his approach to healthy eating and his running adventures with me periodically and it stuck. I thought walking might at least help me to lose a bit of weight so I slowly built up to an hour.

I decided one day to alternate between walking for 15 minutes and jogging for 1 minute.  Over time I realised that I was jogging more than I was walking.  I still remember the first day that I ran without stopping, including my killer local hill.  I jumped up and down and cheered like a little kid.  I entered a 5K Corporate Challenge race which I completed.  I planned on running a 10K race next, but a colleague and a friend both suggested I train for a half-marathon instead.  My cousin was running half-marathons and was training for a marathon which amazed me and the seed was planted.

I did not expect to finish the half-marathon but I trained anyway.  To my amazement I not only finished it but did so in a respectable 2 hours 3 minutes.  Then another colleague suggested that we sign up for a triathlon this November.  I hadn't planned on tackling this challenge until next year, if at all.  But here I am training for another half-marathon in September and swimming and biking to train for the triathlon in November.  And this has been the pattern.  Me constantly underestimating what I can accomplish, giving it a try anyway and surprising myself.

Some amazing things have happened along the way.  I started eating for nutrition instead of weight loss - I am Eating To Live (more on this in another post).  I have started to accept, like and maybe even love myself as I am, character defects and all.  The world doesn't feel so dangerous anymore.  I have a sense of my self worth and am becoming better at expressing myself.  I feel more fit and sexy than I did in my 20's and 30's.  I look at the possibilities instead of the obstacles.  And I have only begun....

Friday, 22 July 2011

Life, part II....

Me after my 5th child

Me now
At 47 (and after having my 5th child at 45) this historically slightly overweight and always non-athletic mum recently completed her first half-marathon.  I am now training for another half-marathon and an (almost) Olympic length triathlon towards the end of the year.  In the process I have discovered new personal dimensions and a determination that I didn't know I was capable of.  I am an athlete, I am a runner.  

This first post is not meant to be an exhaustive blow by blow of each kilo lost and each kilometre run.  As I write this I am laying in my king size bed in my pyjamas surrounded by 5 slowly waking children ranging from 2 to 11. So by necessity I must keep this brief.  There will be plenty of time to discuss how I got here, what has worked for me, what hasn't and how this journey has impacted and continues to impact my life.

For now I simply say, with a willingness to give it a go anything is possible!