Hello and thanks for reading what I hope will be the first of many blogs about running, disco, rogue chickens, romance, moonlight and my adventures in the hills.
After nearly three years, several hundred miles, a dozen halves, two wholes and one ultra marathon, I’m sad to announce that, as of next week, I’ll be stepping down as Online Editor at Women’s Running magazine. It’s been an amazing journey, I’ve made some great friends along the way and I’ll be very sad to leave. But due to a series of events that led me to one rather handsome ultra runner, I’ve decided to quit the rat race and emigrate to a little cottage in rural Scotland…
Like most good stories, this one begins with a girl and a boy and a bit of romance. But to set the scene, I probably need to go back a little further. Back to the days before running and carbo loading and compression gear consumed my life. Bear with me; this may take a while…
It all started long ago in a little city called London. I was living in a house with a boy. Not THE boy I might add, but another boy, who it turned out wasn’t destined to be the boy for me. But ever the optimist, at the time I thought maybe he was. I was slogging away for peanuts editing Penthouse Forum magazine at a grimy publishing house in East London, believing my destiny was spread-eagled (teehee) before me and all I had to do was hang on.
I spent my days penning articles on S&M, interviewing adult babies and reviewing saucy porn films, and my nights pretending to be happy with the wrong boy. Having been estranged from my Dad for nearly 20 years, I suspect I was lacking decent male role models. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that perhaps I deserved more than this boy was capable of giving.
Fortunately Lady Fate knew that my fortunes lay elsewhere. So she decided to step in and clear the decks for me in a very painful, dramatic but ultimately necessary fashion, so that I could start all over again (if only I’d seen it this way at the time).
As with all good life changing events, in a trilogy of drama I lost my boyfriend, my job and my house in the same week. They do say bad luck comes in threes. Homeless, jobless, dumped and utterly distraught, I relied on the kindness of friends while pondering the impossibility of my utterly fucked up life. But then, just when I needed it the most, a little thing called running came into my life…
At this point I should probably make a confession. Before the whole running epiphany started, I wasn’t remotely interested in fitness. I’d spent thirty years veering between chubby, skinny or depressed depending on the state of my love life. The only thing I hated more than running, was my fat arse (go figure). But then one day, a particularly awful day when I had no idea what the hell I was doing with my life or where my next meal was coming from, a friend told me about a job on a new running magazine, and that’s when everything changed.
To prepare for the job interview, two days before, I tentatively took up running. I say running, I hobbled round the block a few times, hated every second of it and showed up at the interview swearing blind that I was an avid runner with a bright future on the magazine. Against the odds I got the job, so I was forced to keep on pretending to be a runner.
At around this time I also lost an important uncle to cancer and a much-loved granny to old age. Struggling to comprehend the shitty cards I’d been dealt, I decided to focus all of my energies on pretending to be good at running. Right through the deepest darkest winter I plodded around the park, gradually building up strength, stamina, and mental determination. I ran through the stresses of house hunting, heartache, bereavement and injury. I would not advise the last one. I had a particularly nasty arm operation following a run in with my bicycle and a black cab, and tried to continue running with my arm in a sling. (Turns out you actually need all of your limbs to run. Who knew?)
It didn’t happen over night, but I gradually fought the sweat, the tears and some rather persistent shin splints to become a runner. Despite what I told my boss, I wasn’t immediately a die hard fan; running can be tough going for the best of us, and I found it particularly rough on my spindly knees (and don’t get me started on the dodgy shoulder) but I kept on going and every week I got a little bit faster and grew a little bit stronger. I ran through the rain, I ran in the dark, I ran weighed down by tears and bone heavy with sadness, regret and fear. But even during my darkest hour when I didn’t know what life was going to throw at me next, I kept on running.
I have a lot to thank the open road for. I shared my heart with the sky every night and whispered my problems to my pounding feet, until gradually, one step at a time, my fears began to dissipate. And to my surprise, when I’d told my story to the road a hundred times until even the trees were dog tired of hearing it, I was left with nothing but boundless energy and miles of unchartered territory ahead.
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that these profound running moments all occurred within the 5K circumference of Victoria Park. Running can be an amazing, life-changing, moving meditation, capable of healing all of life’s woes, but it’s still bloody hard. The big miles didn’t come until much later.
But what did happen quite quickly was the impact running had on every other aspect of my life. I discovered that if I was running well, everything else in my life seemed to fall into place. Before long I had a nice flat, a great group of friends and a job involving writing about my new favourite hobby all day long.
As is the case for most runners, my regular plod round the park soon got tedious, so the pursuit of running events took over and within a year I’d conquered my first marathon. Many people complain about the arduous side of marathon training, but I discovered that I respond really well to structure, plus I often need an excuse to hit the road, so I set about signing up to every race that came my way.
But running can be a solitary sport and as most of my friends were party kids, when my miles began to increase, I started to get lonely. But then one night I met Run Dem Crew, a collective of East London runners who take to the streets en masse every Tuesday night, and my fate was sealed. The first time I ran with the crew, I felt like I’d come home. Run Dem Crew really shaped my running, and my favourite hobby quickly blossomed into a love affair. It’s more of a family than a running club and I feel blessed to have met and ran with so many amazing and inspirational people.
After a summer of running fun, that September I was due to review The Great Scottish Run for Women’s Running magazine. It was an important weekend for more than one reason. I was also going to stay with my Dad, who lives in The Scottish Borders and was just out of hospital after having a heart bypass operation. We were in the very early stages of rebuilding our fragile relationship after twenty years apart, and I was nervous about seeing him.
And then when I least expected it, I met an interesting gentleman (let’s call him Ultraboy) and once again everything suddenly changed. It’s funny how when life finally feels complete, someone can suddenly appear and knock you off your feet. Ultraboy (an ultrarunner, funnily enough) also lives in The Borders, and kindly offered to pace me round the half marathon. At the time I didn’t realise that in run world ‘can I pace you?’ is the new ‘can I take you out?’
I boldly accepted, and so on a perfect summer’s day in early September, we went on our first date, a half marathon around the streets of Glasgow. I figured if he still fancied me after 13.1 miles of sweat, he had to be a keeper, and I was right.
After nearly a year of running up and down the country, we figured it was time to leap into the void, so I’ve decided to follow my heart, escape the rat race and take on The Borders! The only problem being, I’m a die-hard London girl with no clue about country life and our nearest neighbour is a chicken coop. So will this city chick survive in the wilderness? Watch this space…