My life this year has been a real roller-coaster – from spectacular highs to plunging lows.
Throughout this particularly gut-wrenching 2017 ride, running has been the constant solid support, the firm track, beneath my often shaky, worn out shell, a means by which I’ve found a way to climb back from the depths.
It’s been there at every twist and turn, every head-spinning sensation, bringing me a sense of peace and calm, amid the chaotic turbulence, saving me when the whole switch-back packed experience nearly broke me.
It’s also brought its own challenges, nausea-inducing anxiety, physical and mental pain to overcome.
2017 is the year that started with me being heavily involved in organising the first Women Can Marathon, a tribute to the incredible Kathrine Switzer and her trail-blazing 1967 Boston Marathon run.
We reached giddy heights, gaining the support of Olympian Jo Pavey, attracting 400 entries, generating massive enthusiasm and support, and many moments of euphoria in planning this major community event.
Six weeks away from the race taking place, my lovely mum died suddenly and unexpectedly, in what were traumatic circumstances. It was a devastating descent to some of the most wretched rock-bottom moments I’ve ever felt.
With the marathon so well received, I was elevated again to a strange elation, gripped within an overwhelming terror and desperate wish for everything to level out. The relentless ride to stop. Allow me in my sadness to just be still.
But this stomach-churning course had more loops to spin me through – my husband John was diagnosed with early signs of dementia and my own mental state became so fragile I felt at times I wanted to bail out completely.
Running – the simple act of one foot in front of the other – in fresh air, glorious scenery, below blue skies, under clouds of grey, with friends, with my dog Freddie, on my own, running is what kept me going.
Here and now moments of serenity. Lacing up my trainers and getting out the door, remained the constant levelling factor, literally the terra firma beneath my crazy spinning world. It brought me back to myself.
Taking part in the City to Sea Marathon, from Exeter to Torquay on Sunday, re-affirmed just how much running has helped me. It’s a devil of a route, the last six miles being a geographic version of a roller-coaster, packing in 2,000 feet of ascents. This year it was on slippery, muddy terrain, in wet, windy conditions. I loved every minute.
Thanks to Mary Hart, Brian Tilley and Matthew Clarke for these photos – and for standing in the rain all day, along with the many wonderful marshals, a great event!
In continuing to find solace and purpose in pounding the miles I’ve set myself a fundraising challenge Any Mile is Better for dementia, involving 10 half-marathons in four weeks.
And, having seen a Facebook post in recent days that my heroine Kathrine Switzer is doing the double and taking on the New York Marathon, I thought what better way to ride out my own roller-coaster year. NYC here I come…!
You can’t replicate any of that at a man-made amusement park. Running is a natural high.