Tag Archives: hills

A little more self-belief, please

When it comes to both running and parenting, I’m pretty good at telling myself I’m not very good. It’s my industry standard: Claire Chamberlain – Could Do Better.

For running, this manifests itself in fairly obvious ways: I should be running further; why didn’t I get up earlier? I could have pushed harder.

It doesn’t seem to matter when logic pipes up in a small voice in the background, reminding me that, actually, I’m doing the best I can; that I don’t have a whole heap of free hours right now; that I’m sleep deprived due to a teething baby and a child who has suddenly and inexplicably decided that 3.30am is time for cornflakes. Nope. All those ‘shoulds’ keep muscling into my thoughts anyway, making me feel that I could do better.

It’s the same with parenting. All those arts & crafts sessions I do with them (despite the fact it takes a bloody age to get the glitter out of the carpet); all the colouring and playing and chasing and cuddling; all the meals I cook; all the tears I wipe and knees I kiss better; the fact I gently stroke their faces as they sleep and that I love them to their bones. All of that can get wiped out in an instant, simply when I serve up an ‘orange’ dinner (fish fingers and baked beans FYI), or when I end up shouting after asking him 17 times to get his shoes on; or when I sneak a peek at my phone because playing Toy Story again is just so freakin’ tedious (sorry Buzz et al, but sometimes often I really do just want to jet off to infinity and beyond… and stay there. To have a nap).

So you know what? It’s amazing when you have a moment that makes you realise you aren’t all that bad. You’re not bad at all, actually.

This weekend, I did the Shoreham Woods 10K Trail Run, a very beautiful race – but also one of the toughest (and hilliest) I’ve ever encountered.

My training hadn’t gone exactly to plan (I should have run further, got up earlier, pushed harder… you know the score). Plus, due to the sleep deprivation, my diet had roughly consisted of caffeine, chocolate digestives and cake for the past week.


Carb-loading at its most delicious

But in the end, none of that mattered. Because yes, I could have been fitter. But it turns out, I was fit enough.

I ran with a friend and we chatted our way around the stunning route – along woodland paths, across grassy fields, down narrow rutted tracks that seemed to disappear perilously over the edge of hilltops, and up some frankly ridiculous inclines. The uphill sections saw my pace slow to a walk and had my heart pounding, but every time we reached the summit, we somehow regained our momentum and kept going.

What’s more, I loved it. I loved every leg-aching, lung-busting, calf-burning second. I loved the freedom of jogging through the woods on a beautiful almost-autumn morning. I loved the presence I felt. It was almost transcendental. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

Shoreham Woods 10K

Kids. Medal. Cake. Happy

So yes, I could be fitter, obviously. But I’m perfectly fit enough, thank you very much (actually, it’s probably thanks to my two children, who have me lifting, playing, carrying, rescuing, chasing and fetching all day, every day. That’s my strength work and cross training, right there). From now on, I am determined to stop the negative self-talk: I AM fit and I CAN do these things.

And you know what? While I’m at it, I’m a decent mummy, too.

There. I’ve said it.

How liberating.

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The comeback 10K

Ask any runner about their race-morning preparation, and I can pretty much guarantee you will hear tales of well-timed nutrition, proper hydration, a pre-packed kit bag, race number to hand, and travel plans to the start line known off by heart.

Dear God, I was so underprepared for my first race back.

For a start, I didn’t even have a race number yet.

Second, I was so focused on making sure the little ones were properly fed and dressed appropriately for the cold September morning (ever tried to wrestle a two-year-old into a hoodie when he insists on wearing only a T-shirt? It’s quite hard), I forgot to drink any water until after we’d left the house.

Third, my husband asked me the postcode of where we were going, so we could program the Sat Nav, and I didn’t bloody know. Hell, I wasn’t even wearing a sports bra yet, on the off-chance the baby might need a feed before the starting gun went off.

But despite the chaos and complete lack of a pre-race plan, the Sunday morning traffic was kind to us and we arrived with half an hour to spare. And everything kind of fell into place – the event was organised by my workplace, so a couple of wonderful colleagues soon got me a race number, a bottle of water and a pre-run pep-talk. Plus, the baby was so interested in everything going on around her that she was not in the least bit interested in milk, giving me time for a speedy superhero-style costume change round the back of the baggage tent.

It was during this costume change that I looked up and really took in the course for the first time.

I am such an idiot. Because despite the fact I have lived in south London for a long time; despite the fact, even, that I used to live just a few miles up the road from the venue and that I did all my marathon training around the area, I had forgotten the lie of the land.

It just hadn’t occurred to me the route would be hilly.

It was. Now, I’m not talking super-steep ‘Snowdon’ hilly’; more long, slow, energy-zapping hilly. Two inclines per lap. Three laps.


I had a secret aim for this race – I would have loved a sub-60-minute finish. One lap down, however, and it became perfectly clear this was not going to happen, as with heavy heart I watched the 60-minute pacer pull further and further away from me.

And yet…

WR_Brock.PK_A_127low res

© Eddie Macdonald

I really could not have chosen a better, friendlier, more inclusive event to ease me back into the world of races. The south-London park setting made it feel wonderfully familiar, all the race marshals were so supportive and the atmosphere was great, as I chatted to other runners en route.

And those hills? Well, they didn’t stop me running. I ran all the way… all the way to the finish line and my little boy’s arms (he promptly stole my medal). And I actually felt pretty strong the whole way round, finishing in 1:03:27. In short? I loved it.

I’d be lying if I said those three minutes and 27 seconds aren’t bothering me. And I can’t blame the hills entirely. My strength work, which would have helped massively with endurance, has been pretty non-existent (unless you can count pushing a toddler in a buggy while simultaneously carrying a six-month-old in a sling as strength work).

I know my weaknesses. I am going to work on them. My next goal is a sub-60 10K.

Because that’s the nature of running: it’s addictive.

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