It’s just 40 days to go until the London Marathon, and 70 days until Edinburgh. This week and the next are going to be difficult. Long runs and speed work stack up day after day, rest days and cross-training days are over far too quickly. Trying to fit enough running around work, family, friends and sleep doesn’t always go well, but it’s important to balance sticking to the plan and getting the miles in with listening to your body.
Most people who run – most people who exercise, probably – will tell you about the positive effect it has on their mental health. There’s something about those endorphins, or the sense of achievement from pushing further and faster than last time, that can often help with clarity, challenge negative thoughts, & just generally make you feel good. Or at least feel a bit better. Whenever things aren’t going that well for me, getting out for a run is usually the thing to do. Running in a club or with a group can make it even better, especially with JogScotland groups that have Jog Leaders.
JogScotland and SAMH work together to promote the mental health benefits of jogging, and the beginning of this year saw the launch of I’m here – a campaign to promote open and honest conversations about mental health. Participating Jog Leaders undertake specific mental health awareness training to increase their confidence to start and participate in conversations about mental health, and know where to signpost people for more support.
I haven’t done this training yet, but it’s on my list of things to complete in 2019. I have had some great chats with people when running, and I am so very grateful to my running pals who are honest and open about their struggles, both in real life and online. Short runs and long runs are equally good for motivational chat, whether it’s getting through that last sprint finish of a 5km, or a half way through a marathon training run when you feel like your entire body is disintegrating and your mind will follow. Company and motivation is so necessary in the difficult moments or when self-doubt sets in.
Real talk: I don’t have an entirely positive relationship with running & it doesn’t always keep me mentally or emotionally healthy. I compare myself to other people too much, and get frustrated with my limitations. I don’t take criticism well most of the time, & I can be extremely moody if something’s not gone quite right for me (This includes at work or in other professional situations where that kind of behaviour isn’t appropriate, & it’s been noted on several occasions by colleagues.)
A bit of introspection leads me to believe that this is very misguided perfectionism – I don’t want people to think I don’t care or am not taking their criticism seriously, but this manifests as being at best, withdrawn & at worst, rude. It happens with running if I’ve not had a good run, and sometimes I can get through it quite quickly but an other occasions the darkness takes over and it takes time to get back to me. I’m always willing to be honest about these feelings when speaking to other runners, particularly new runners or those who are struggling – it’s OK to be frustrated, even at something which seems fleeting or trivial. The I’m here campaign builds on the ethos of how jog leading and coaching is all about learning from each other and providing the right support at the right time.
Instagram’s great, truly. Three of my most inspiring follows are Jordan, Bethan and Penny. They’re all much faster runners than me but their drive, discipline and skill is extremely motivating & I enjoy their insta posts & blogs. But in the past couple of weeks, they’ve all posted about self-doubt, bad days and the effect this has on their confidence and motivation. I am glad when people are willing to share their low points as well as their successes. It can be difficult in an environment where everyone’s insta is full of motivational slogans, and everything must be about beating a challenge & training every day for hours and giving 110%. Life’s not always like that, and it’s easy to get caught up in other people’s projections of what they want their lives to be like. I panic about the mileage that other people are logging, or the weights they’re lifting, or the achievements of someone ten years younger than me, and I feel distinctly average. Knowing that everyone has a low point or several is a good reminder that we’re all human. Marathon training is tough stuff, and it’s fine to sometimes struggle with it. I listened to this episode of Jogging Shorts for part of the weekend’s horrible wet training run and it was a good reminder about listening to what you need.
Whatever happens in the next 40-70 days, I am going to try my best, enjoy every km & be happy for the opportunities I’ve been given. If I manage a pb, even better. If it sparks a desire to become a six star finisher I’ll need to get richer as well as faster, but we’ll see. I’m nearly old enough to move from ‘senior’ to ‘veteran’ category (this in itself is not great for mental health…) – & I’m glad to be getting a couple more marathons in before this move. But mostly, I need to remember that I’m good enough.