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Pavement lessons

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

As my running app pinged signalling my final three minute interval for the day, I growled. I had nothing left in me - how would I do it? I pushed myself anyway and started running again. Step by painful step. Breath by exhausted breath. That’s it, I was going to give up, I decided. If I could just get to the next lamppost, that would be enough and I could try again in a couple of days. Or just give up entirely.

During week three, day one of my Couch to 5K, I’d run past a grey-haired couple wrapped in scarves and a blanket cuddling caringly next to the path, twice. And as I neared them on my last run they began to clap enthusiastically as I forced myself around the corner. The gentleman called “you can do it!” as I reached the lamppost of respite. And as I passed them, still running (how could I not?), they both lifted their fists in the air in triumph, as though I’d won something and they’d won vicariously through me too. Little did they know - that they’d helped me push myself to the end. I’ll never know what made that special couple cheer for me that morning (or on my next ten or so runs). I can only guess that it was because I was red faced and panting, wearing an expression of sheer agony - and they had experienced enough toughness in their lives to know how powerful their support would be and what it would mean to me during my moments of near-quitting. While I’m still a slow runner today, I’m so much more comfortable in it. Now, elderly couples no longer reach for extra energy within themselves on cold winter mornings to cheer me on. Other runners nod when they pass me, rather than the early days’ tap on the shoulder with a positive “you can do this!” “keep it up!” or “it’ll get easier!” Dog walkers don’t keep up with me while on their Sunday morning strolls. And I no longer find myself pouring my WHOLE being into placing one foot in front of the other on every run (though the last 5 minutes of some can still feel this way!) Its been quite a journey and continues to stretch and challenge me every time I lace up my trainers. I often watch lithe gazelle types swishing past me leisurely with a mystical grace while I plod from foot to foot. As they pass I study their raised legs and neat upright posture. While I’ll never place unrealistic expectations on myself in a sport that is not a natural fit for me, I continue to try harder, focus on my technique and try to improve within my own body’s ability. As we claw towards 2021, I’ve been thinking about how the things I’ve learnt from my many hours of pounding pavements, may come in handy...

  1. it’s not going to be a perfect year (I sense it’ll have a bumpy start) but I can continue to do my best within my own ability.

  2. it’s going to get hard at times and nothing matters more than keeping going - which will build strength and endurance. Just putting one foot in front of the other will be enough.

  3. I can set myself small milestones along the way and allow myself to feel an encouraging sense of achievement, no matter how small they may seem.

  4. if I see others struggling, I can cheer them on - it doesn’t take much but it might mean everything to them.

  5. there will be tough times but there will also be easier days, sometimes there will be no logical reasons behind these - I’m ready to just go with it.

As we see the end of 2020 and creep into the New Year, I wish you all strength and wisdom as we continue to get through times that will likely make us more resilient, more innovative and kinder.

(As always, I'd love to hear from you. Get in touch on: email, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.)

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