Right! So! 2017 then. What are we up for?
In the spirit of mandatory end of year review, the closing weeks of 2016 were somewhat of a damp squib for me, running wise. This is partly due to having three pretty rotten viruses back to back through December, but really it was about my mindset. After a 2015 dogged by injury, I was delighted to be back running again last Spring – but whilst my knee felt stronger, my mojo was flat. I had kind of lost my nerve.
Looking back on 2016, although I ran regularly, I didn’t run with a great deal of joy. Every good run seemed to suspend over my head the Damocles sword of it being my last. Every time I pushed the distance or the speed, there was an internal voice whispering (through shrewish, pursed lips) that I’d regret this later.
The setbacks I’d experienced with my knees over 2014/5 hovered around like Marley’s ghost, or Jiminy Cricket, perpetually heralding future doom if I wasn’t super extra specially careful all the time. It got a bit old.
On Boxing Day I went for a glorious run. I knew my options over the holiday week were limited – I’d had a nice run on Christmas Eve, been a relaxed wife and mum on Christmas Day, and we had a big family do all day on the 27th, so when Boxing Day dawned crisp, clear and beautiful, I was going to relish it.
I made a good pace and went for 4.5 miles – for me that’s a decent length, little bit further than my standard 3, but nothing too crazy. It’s my habit always to sprint the last few hundred yards, and the ground was dry and firm, so I bulleted down my street (did the mandatory loop to get myself to an even mile / half mile point for completeness, natch) and then shot up the path to my front door. Tapping my watch to pause the GPS, I mistepped, and slammed both legs into the front door step. Skinned the full the length of my left shin, and bashed up my precious right knee till it swelled to tropical fruit proportions.
I crumpled inside, had a proper can’t-help-it cry (from the shock of it, as much as the pain!), and laid on the sofa in rapidly cooling sweaty clothes for about half an hour with a cup of tea, ibuprofen, and a lot of ice on my legs.
I didn’t dare run again for three days. My knee was tender, and both legs were super sore with alarming grazes (of which I was obviously quite proud). But – this complete head over heels, ridiculously foolish fall – well, it sort of broke the spell.
Last autumn, a good running friend joined me to a closed FB running streak group. Everyone else on there was running more frequently than me; some of them were in the closing stages of an entire year of unbroken daily running. A long term solo runner, I began to enjoy the encouragement, and gradually allowed the subtle vibe of keen, committed, non-showy but enthusiastic runners soak into my high-vis.
By the time we hit late December, I was so impressed by the stamina and steadfastness of my friend (like me, she has four kids, a full on job, loads in her life to manage – but she gets up, gets out, and runs every single day) that I started to think about what it might take for me to run more frequently than the three times I’d been getting out each week. Did I dare…?
Then my friend added me to the Runuary 2017 FB group. I went out for my first post-hilarious-fall run on Friday 30th December, and by the time I got back I was sure. I was going to do a January daily running streak, and secretly, I hoped I might just keep going.
I honestly could hardly sleep that night; I was so excited by the idea of running every day. Oh, the places we’ll go! I have feet in my shoes, I can steer myself in any direction I choose! (Mostly around my local park – but lots of times!!)
I ran again the next day, and that New Year’s Eve was super thrilling – I kept hugging this thought over and over… Running every day! Every day!!
It was like a Christmas and birthday present wrapped into one – the freedom and possibility, the sheer liberty of shrugging off that cloak of caution which had hung, damp and heavy on my shoulders all last year.
I tried to be temperate, and curb my enthusiasm. I didn’t articulate the Whole Year Streak thing too forcibly when I shared my thoughts with my husband; left myself the option to gently withdraw if need be. I’m not crazy – I know there’s a chance I may not manage every day of 2017.
Yet, every day so far, I’ve felt stronger. Yes, just like every other run for years, there are occasional knee twinges. I’m doing my strength training each week, and I’m not going for hell for leather on the pace more than once or twice weekly, maximum.
I’m running every day. And I’m absolutely loving it.