Total mileage this week comes to 29.8miles (48km) and I've not pestered you for sponsorship since before payday...so...please do take a peep at my lovely JustGiving page and pop a few pennies into the pot if you can. The sacrifices have started...I'm already thinking about the massive roast dinner I'm going to dive into when I get back from Berlin. There's also some toenail shit happening again already...I'd suggest you sponsor me if you do not wish to hear the gory specifics...
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Recently I've been thinking a lot about prioritising this year's goals. I've got heaps going on, so I think my confused little brain is craving a bit of order and structure to things. I'm making a lot of lists.
With this in mind, I thought I'd write about my lists of motivations for doing the things I'm doing. What should our priorities be based upon..? Should we feel guilty about doing something that isn't a priority, or should we prioritise things that make us happy and scrap the guilt?
A lot of people are surprised by those of us who enjoy running. I think it's an enjoyment that differs from person to person, but I believe that at the heart of it is a sentiment that is universally satisfying: smugness.
It's difficult to describe the type of enjoyment I get from running. But trying to explain the prioritisation behind why I run has thrown up some amusing self-analysis...
Before heading out for a long run, or any run for that matter, my long-suffering flatmate Tom will tell you that after uttering the words "I'm going out for a run" I faff around for at least half an hour. I mean I engage in some serious faffery. Chattering like a wind up toy about things that are drab and unimportant, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the fish, browsing the bookcases, all while dressed in head-to-toe running gear and the occasional flash of hi-vis. I look desperately out of place huffing and plodding about in the living room while Tom's trying to enjoy a G&T, watching Jamie's 30 second meals, or however fast he's cooking these days. But I like to stare out of the window for a while and pass comment on the weather conditions.
Though Tom is not obliged to enter into a conversation about the weather, he almost always just says "I think you should go"...
That's a direct quote.
But by the time I reach the end of my street, I'm brand new. I look silly when I run - that's just fact. I'm not lean or athletic in build, but I have an ever growing selection of marathon t-shirts that might as well say "When was the last time you ran 26 miles, you fat-head?" to anyone who looks at me and thinks something negative about my appearance. Part one of why I enjoy running long distances - because it surprises people who have pre-conceived notions about what "a runner" or a healthy person should look like. The irony of this is that I find it hard not to look at myself without the same judgement and negativity, especially when some idiot beeps their horn at me. Urgh, I could just cry. I'm not alone in this, I know, but that's another battle that I'm coming on to...
Part two: the endorphins. They say some people take as little as 10 minutes to experience an endorphin release - I think it takes me about 10 seconds. And once I'm settled into a run I'm smacked off my tits on the stuff. I smile at dog walkers.
Part three, and this is the most significant one: the sense of achievement and satisfaction. It doesn't matter what you set out to do, whether it's exercise or reading a book or building a model ship, it's the enjoyment of reaching the point of completion that matters. I love being able to embrace the achievement and we all need to do more of that, no matter what our goals look like. I'm not sharing a goal with anyone else, it's just mine, all for me. I don't want the same goals as Paula Radcliffe because I'd just feel pants when I'm not setting new World Records within a fortnight. It's about perspective, realism and respecting the long game.
Having said all of this, I too fight with a huge lack of perspective regarding other goals of mine. I can't remember a time in the past 16 years when I haven't wanted to lose weight. And I've lost some, sure, but it never seemed to be enough...until recently when things have started to rearrange themselves a bit.
This week I ran almost 10miles before going to work on Monday morning and I felt great.
On Tuesday I got a gold star from my GP for having textbook perfect blood pressure of 120/80 and told that I just need to just keep doing whatever it is I'm doing, and I felt great.
I had a busy week at work and turned around an application for funding that I was proud of, and I felt great.
I resisted Tom's offer of steak, wine and goose-fat roasted potatoes on Wednesday, instead opting for a 5mile run and some turkey with salad, and I felt great.
And then at the end of the week I stepped on a set of scales, saw I'd gained half a pound, and I felt crap.
Why? Why, when things are laid out plainly like that, does the last element have the overwhelming power to make all the other things feel completely void of value? Why am I prioritising a few pounds over everything else in my life?! I'm not the only person who has felt this way, I'm sure. I've spoken with two friends today who have what I refer to as the "Food Guilt", because they enjoyed a day of indulging in less healthy foods and having some drinks and laughter with close friends. Now they feel bad and one of them literally want to exercise until they pass out in order to make up for it (I love you, you hilarious person).
Well I've decided that the Food Guilt is absolute rubbish, and we all need to take some chill and get some perspective. Give that little shit-spouting demon on our shoulder what-for, and humiliate him by boasting about all the very amazing things we have all been achieving. I follow a movement (makes it sound weird but bear with me) on social media called "Healthy is the New Skinny" - it was set up by an amazing lady called Katie Willcox and she, aside from being desperately beautiful, has inspired me to change the way I prioritise my goals.
My advice to anyone feeling swamped by images of unrealistic so-called "beauty" needs to delete half of their Instagram follows and start building up some #healthyisthenewskinny content. A daily Insta-feed of real, beautiful, confident women of all different shapes, sizes, colours and nationalities will work wonders - it's refreshing, encouraging and most of all it gives us all a bit of much-needed realistic perspective. At least it's certainly helped me to stop fixating on an irrelevant number on "the sad step" as my friend calls it.
I've decided I'm not going to let weight be an overarching priority any more. Life is too short for feeling guilty all the time. So mix the good with the gluttonous, go forth, have wine, and play Cards Against Humanity with your close friends. It sets the mind up just perfectly for a nice long run the next day. :)
My priority is everything else I'm looking to achieve this year, including reaching a £1,000 fundraising target for Alzheimer's Society, details of which are all on my JustGiving page.