Grappling with Gremlins

It’s been three weeks since I admitted to the world that my running confidence was at an all time low and I am still overwhelmed at the lovely comments I received following this admission. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I have made it my mission to not let the nagging gremlin in my head get the better of me…

Having admitted the issue I was a bit stuck as to what to do for the best to try and move on. That weekend we had a visit to stay in a cabin in the woods to finish off birthday celebrations for O. I packed my kit. I knew a couple of the others at the cabin were also potentially interested in running but the anxiety of having to try and keep up with them was stressing me out before we had even arrived so I bit the bullet and explained that my run in the morning needed to be a solo mission. I had a vague plan in mind that would avoid me getting lost but also meant I could explore some new parts of the forest and the only other goal was to just enjoy being out. I walked stretches, I stopped to take pictures and I didn’t get lost – victory!


The next week I didn’t manage to do a lot of running (club session had been cancelled because of the icy weather) so I decided to brave going to Penrhyn Parkrun ¬†for the first time in 2019. The apprehension at the thought of going was palpable, especially because it had been over-analysing Parkrun stats which had set me on the downward spiral in the first place. I had to agree to pick Jayne up or I knew I would find an excuse and bail in the morning. We made a deal to stick together and off we went. As part of my gremlin busting mission I have made myself set mini goals each time I set out on a run; the goal is absolutely nothing to do with speed or timing and everything to do with enjoying myself. I have also been trying to stop looking at my watch during a run so I don’t start obsessing over numbers. The goal for today was to try and run the whole thing without a walking break and keep the watch hidden. Sticking with Jayne proved handy for this as there were a few moments where, had I been on my own, I would have given in to the gremlin but I wanted to save face so I kept going and to my utter disbelief bagged a Penrhyn PB – 33:09! This was a much needed boost and though it wasn’t a magic wand to the confidence crisis it certainly helped.



The last two weeks have seen me try to get back to some sort of running routine: Wednesday Rebel Runaways followed by hill reps and a weekend run. I have also been trying to keep the physio’s advice of building back up slowly in mind so haven’t gone too crazy on distance. 4.7 miles had been the longest since the big M so I was buzzing to manage 5.1 on Wednesday having done a rebels run with Claire and Jayne and then the hill reps session. I even added an extra 0.2 at the end of hills keeping Fiona company whilst she rounded her mileage up (I hadn’t set my watch for that so actually Wednesday’s total was 5.3! And it turns out lamppost 8 is way further away than we thought, who knew?!)! That night I actually felt strong, the hills were my friend and once again, my mini goals had been reached (get to lamppost one on the return from Menai, complete the full hill session – tick)!

This weekend Claire and I headed to Derby for a long overdue visit and catch up to see Han and Jack. Running kit was obviously going to be needed and the itinerary was sent to us in the week: Saturday – run to Parkrun, do Markeaton Parkrun, walk/jog home, have a walk and cake somewhere that afternoon; Sunday – go for a 4 mile run, have a nice breakfast out. Saturday was a roaring success! The run to Parkrun was mostly downhill (added bonus) and a nice way to explore the local area: 2 miles in the bag. We all agreed to run our own race at Parkrun and meet back at the finish line; I was delighted by this as I knew I could relax and enjoy the route and not feel any pressure about it. That said, when you’re in a pack of 657 (!) Parkrunners you can easily get a bit carried away. I set out to just keep running but made the mistake of glancing at my watch therefore realising that despite the fact I was going a smidge faster than usual I was actually feeling okay and that maybe it would be okay to keep pushing and see what happened. I crossed the line in 480th place with a time 32:48 – my fastest ever Parkrun time! Two Parkruns and two consecutive PBs! We decided that it was probably best to walk rather than run back to the house as I was already at the 5 mile point for the day. Sunday morning (today) was a slightly different story… A 4 mile loop was proposed with the promise of breakfast at the end. I knew this might be a tough one given how much slower I am compared with Han and Claire but I desperately wanted to give it a shot. Two mistakes made this morning… 1) I didn’t set myself a sensible goal; 2) I looked at my watch and clocked that the pace we were doing was too fast. I knew it was too fast, I could feel it in my legs but for some reason I didn’t mention it and I also didn’t do anything about it until Han asked if I was okay. Instead, I let the numbers get in my head and got myself worked up about how I couldn’t manage it and how the girls should go on without me. That is not how my friends roll. I was not going to be left to do a walk out and back whilst they carried on so we persevered with a walk/run arrangement and tweaked to do an out and back 3 miler. My first reaction was to be really disappointed, especially as I felt like I had let Han and Claire down and spoilt their morning but on our return to the car I did a little review of everything… I had managed to do 5 miles on two separate occasions this week; I had also added an extra 3 miles this morning – even if there was a lot of walking involved. My total running mileage for this week was the equivalent of a half marathon an 86% increase on the week before – oops – no wonder my poor legs were tired! Now being hard on myself is something I have done for years and is something I consider to be a real flaw in my personality. I know it drives people around me bonkers and I cannot help it (believe me, I would love to stop) but today I had a small victory… I was initially gutted but I took a step back, I re-evaluated and I realised that I didn’t need to write Sunday morning off as a failure and forget about all the positives that had occurred this week; just remind me in future to make sure I set a realistic target before I set off – take that, gremlin!