Bath Half Marathon debut: Returning to where I overcame abuse

This morning I am travelling up from London down to Bath for Vitality Bath Half Marathon 2017. For once the race on this 5am start is secondary to a bigger journey than the 13.2 miles two laps course around my hometown’s best sites.

Returning to Bath

The primary adventure is because I haven’t been to Bath since the summer of 2013. It is nearly 4 years since I got psyched up on a train from Canterbury to confront my abusive mother and knock her way out of my life.

I absolutely love Bath so this hiatus wasn’t planned nor was it intentional. Friends ended up at unis all over the country and most like myself now reside in London. As such I have had little reason to visit.

I was never one to really look back and my life has very much been in Canterbury and now London ever since.

That said, this seems like an ample opportunity to look back at the somewhat impulsive event that took place 4 years ago (which nevertheless took a bit of instinctive planning).

The low down

As I have alluded to previously, the relationship I had with my birth mother was somewhat challenging. Labels aren’t especially helpful, nor is listing examples of her appalling behaviour to those close to her- and there was no one in more immediate proximity to her true nature than myself and my sister. I am just so grateful that God intervened in my life and revealed himself as my protector, while Jesus was the lamp unto my path who made me see from an early age what she was and lite the way towards my escape.

The final straw wasn’t my mother taking pleasure in telling me that my childhood cat had died and she buried him in the garden of the house she was weeks away from moving out of, (completely disregarding my explicit wish to have him cremated which I would pay for), nor was it the fact she flippantly texted me to say that she saw her ex-bf still in Bath who she knew very well was violent towards me. Only she can know the intentions behind her behaviour.

While somewhat hurtful these incidents only mattered in my ‘homeworld’. Growing up I kept my life outside of the home entirely separate.

What triggered me was her breach of this when she contacted the university to report me as a missing person having not attempted to contact me in weeks. My own university asked me to get in touch with her like I had some sort of obligation to a poor doting parent.

She had dared to encroach into my own world.

I was absolutely livid. I called her and for the first time challenged her behaviour. Her explanations were pathetic. I saw her for the weak person she truly is.

Sensing blood I found myself declaring that I will be coming down to Bath to collect possessions before she moves out.

The journey

I knew this would be the end. My time to confront her had finally come and to begin to fully realise my own strength. I instinctively drew up a mental agenda of what I would say from her. I reflected on what I may need from her. I considered what I may regret not obtaining later down the line.

This was grouped somewhat into 1) Her ongoing treatment of my sister who has not been so fortunate as myself 2) Specifically her texts about Owen 3) who my father is

On the train down I ran through this in my head seveal times. I had to get it right and I knew I would. My time had come.

She was cautious when I entered the house. I think she probably knew her time was up. I gathered my possessions before sitting her down for the biggest conversation of my life up to this point.

I found myself starting with a power statement along the lines of : Do you feel no shame that you are completely ruining my sister’s life? I took it from there.

I’m not sure how long this conversation took but I was entirely satisfied that I had truly left her as broken and destroyed as a sociopath can be (no labels, right?). I gathered my possessions and got access to photos and legal letters concerning my father which I was able to follow up on.

Highlights which weren’t planned were asking her ‘So how long do you think I have dispised you?” (her answer was 2 years!) and declaring her ‘a cesspit of moral filth’ (a bit Jeremy Kyle, a bit Jeremy Paxman).

Great expectations

I left the house achieving more than I ever anticipated. I had a conversation with my sister for the first time since more or less starting secondary school (despite living under the same roof the whole time). I spoke to her through her bedroom door not expecting her to open up but she did. I am really proud that she saw me strong and my mother weak. I really hoped (and still do) that this will inspire her in her own struggle with this troubling individual.

It was this moment in my life that I became free yet I never allowed myself to really process it’s significance. It is only now that I acknowledge the fact I got her out of my life.

Swagger in check

I am returning to Bath this morning an even stronger person. I have my own name, my own life, my independence and my dreams. I will swagger my way around Bath like I own the joint.

The race is secondary. I am most looking forward to wondering around the city after the race and enjoying the cafes and sites I was never able to afford or took for granted as a local growing up.

I am returning an empowered individual facing my past rather than running away from it (literally in many case).

Laters, haters!

I have managed to write this in 55 minutes on the train. I look forward to sharing race pics and Bath sites later on.

Onwards and upwards!

Laters haters x

Consistency cultivates confidence!

What an ace few days! After successfully returning to work on Friday I completed back to back races over the weekend, recording not too shabby times following on from my ‘comeback‘ the prior weekend.

Having missed runs on Wednesday and Thursday I committed the cardinal sin of double 20Ks on Friday to compensate (usually my rest day before a weekend of races and the long run). This is no ideal way to prepare for an intensive weekend but then again in this post-truth world these are no ordinary times!

B-A-N-A-N-A-S (more on that story later)

Part of being on new medication is experiencing waking up really early (even for me). The downside of this is of course added tiredness and shorter recovery. The benefit is increased warm up time and the opportunity to have my first breakfast an hour or so earlier than usual, allowing it to digest and add to my depleted glycogen stores (or so my dubious grasp of science tells me).

Newly experienced limits to my energy levels have created a spectacular dichotomy between body and mind. I am not entirely sure which one is shattered and which is raring to go and take on the world, all I am sure of is that this conflict was playing out when I left the house at 8:15 on a Saturday morning. The 6.5K run to my local parkrun felt really sluggish and I was beginning to wonder whether I would heaven forbid not sub 20 minutes for the first time this week.

My playlist this week (TIDAL rulez)

I switched up my playlist a bit, took selfies and pondered starting further back in the second row or something to make way for the viable athletes. Usually I come flying out of the blocks during the first lap, often leading the pack before slipping back somewhat over the next two rounds of a bumpy course. My logic is that with each passing week I might be able to sustain it a little longer until eventually I win one of these but I’ve been thinking of trialing starting more temperately for a while before building up pace (this seems to be what the super speedies manage to do). With my newly found acknowledgement of my potential physical limitations I figured that better than a complete write-off this week I would actively experiment with my approach and see what happens.

I started in around fifth place by the first corner. By the first half a lap I had overtaken some of the runners who like my usual self, lose a bit of steam after a flying start. Could this work? My pace felt steady but unspectacular. By the end of the first round I had my usual contemplation that I was tired and might not even finish the race. By the end of lap two I had been overtaken a few times (including by an impressive individual with his dog). I finished in a lowly 8th place but suceeded in not embarrassing myself, coming in at 19:52 and still breaking the 20 minute mark!

Parkrun results

On Sunday I had my Goodgym monthly 10K time trial. This would be the first time in a few weeks that I had ran 3 consecutive days. In spite of another 4am wake up I got my kit on, ate well and made my way to Victoria Park near Mile End to meet the gang with one critical difference: this week I did not run to my race location. Usually I have the long game in mind. While additional miles impact my short term performance negatively, over the long run (pun) in the races that really matter to me more than they are fun I will reap the benefits. By the time I caught up with people I was rarely to go! 4 laps of Victoria Park, no problem!

I do not have a 10k playlist so added some new songs to my parkrun list to take my music time to around 42 minutes. The pressure was on!

I set off anticipating grogginess, but whether it was the pre-run social interactions, the banana, the introduction of a third breakfast, or divine intervention I realised I felt really spring in my step. I felt really quite good. I made my way around lap one quickly, glanced at my phone to check whether I really could only be on song 3 (around 10 minutes). This increased my confidence further for the next 3 rounds. The rest of the course stayed steadily pacy and I came in at 40:18. While I would have loved a sub-40 I am really happy with that time Not least because it is a whole 2 and a half minutes faster than my last time trial only a few weeks ago where I completed in 42:47.52 albeit at the very end of my first 100 mile week). Very pleasing! You can read the full Goodgym run report here.

It is really empowering to be able to run consistently while feeling under par. It really increases my confidence and trust in my body. Writing at 5am on a Monday after another early rise I will shortly be setting off again this morning for the 20k trek to work.

Consistency cultivates confidence!

Sunday evening recovery shakes and chill (avec dreads)

The comeback

This morning I completed my first run in nearly a week. Adjusting to new medication has taken it’s toll on my appetite and energy. It’s only been a week but that is a long time for a hooked runner.

I woke up this morning terrified that I had lost my fitness and am back to the drawing board. On reflection that is sort of ridiculous given that last week I ran to Oxford, the week prior ran my first marathon and week before that my first 100 mile week. The mind is sort of ridiculous but I really believe you are only as good as your last run so had much to prove to myself…

And what better platform for doing so than Parkrun?  My Saturday routine consists of running to my nearest race (Avery Hill Park, Greenwich), do the race then run back aiming to be home by 10am at the end of an 10.5 mile circuit.

Avery Hill Park

The 4 mile run to Avery Hill today felt the longest it has ever felt. I was thinking how on earth have I been doing this every week and barely feeling a thing? Am I still that person? All these doubts going on under the thumping Diplo and Skrillex beats blasting out of my wireless earphones I rediscovered yesterday when tidying my room.

I am pleased to report that I made it to the park in one piece. Usually I run races without music but today I wanted to block out everything so I spent 10 minutes warming up and developing a quick playlist on Tidal on my crappy temp phone (Perfect Illusion-Lady Gaga, Timebomb-Kylie, Bitch I’m Madonna-Madge, Express Yourself-Diplo, Work Bitch-Britney, Get Ur Freak On-Missy Elliot).

I found myself leading the first lap and began visioning myself completing the greatest comeback since Roger Federer a few weeks back (what a hero) but found myself comfortably overtaken soon enough by some of the super speedies. By lap two I fell back into a race for fifth place which was actually the first time in a parkrun where I’ve taken over someone who first overtook me (usually I sort of just give in politely). We had a sick slog until he found another gear and sped off leaving me to close out sixth place which I duly did.

The run home was the best I have ever felt on the Saturday routine, extra bounce in my step after doing myself proud after a satisfactory comeback (yes, I know it’s only been a week…).

I got home and checked the results and discovered I set a personal best (PB) which I’m super thrilled with at the end of the shittiest week ever (maybe not ever).

Parkrun results

It goes to show that the mind and the body can really view things differently but that no matter how you feel, carry on and just see what happens.  You never know, your PB may just be around the corner.

Post-run euphoria

The power of a name: why changing my name makes me the author of my own life story

While I have changed mine to feel empowered and take control of my life, people change their name for a whole multitude of under-explored reasons.

Without the obvious excuse of marriage such a choice is alien or surprising to some people. As such I am super happy to share my long and yet very abridged story of why I changed my name and what I hope it means for the next chapter in my life. Below are some of these reasons.

Say my name, say my name!(It’s Issac Oscar Moses Gideon Young)

A choice on fleek

The low-down

I was born David Patrick Lewis. Like most people I was named by my mother. Like some people I no longer have a relationship with my parents but nevertheless bear the legacy of those relationships.

My mother was a dark, damaging and yet pitiful individual. My life has been a hard-fought battle to free myself from abuse I directly and indirectly experienced everyday over the first 22 years of my life with her in it.

While I am thankfully free from her and that environment now, abusers don’t have to be there to have their influence felt. You internalise what they purposely and inadvertently teach you. While she is now for all intent and purposes gone, what remains of her is a difficult legacy.

The residential stamp that a formal estrangement doesn’t resolve is not merely psychological. I also have been carrying the name she gave me. My awareness of this fact has been growing and growing, and I have a real problem being called by a name given to me by a person like that.

It’s not that I had any problem with the name David at all, in fact, I think it is very me. Patrick is hideous (no offence) what is more is I share it with an absent father who my mother always maintained was hell bent on murdering me (charming…).

Lewis though is really daft (again no problem with it) because it’s not my family name. My mother grew up a MacDonald but decided to take the name of her father who she never met. I as such have never met another Lewis relative so I derive no identity or sense of history from it.

All in all not a proud name for a proud Prime Mover. This is the context. Below is the detail!

Reason number 1: I am the author of my own life story

As you can imagine from the above I have had to battle hard to take ownership over my own life story. In getting an education, going to university and now embarking on a professional career I am succeeding where so many others do not have the opportunity. Moreover, I am not too bitter about where the lottery of birth started me. It makes me unique in outlook and in strength.

I am so grateful to Jesus and all the people who have guided me along the way to this unlikely ‘normal’ life I am now able to live as fruit from this difficult journey.

With this in mind, what can be a more powerful symbolic statement of taking ownership over my life than naming myself?

I haven’t laid down and accepted my lot in life. I have proven myself to be a primary mover who lives by ideals, values, and aspirations vastly bigger than what I was born with and into.

I am the author of my own life story so why not also my own name?

This step feels so natural to me in this journey with the guidance of Jesus and what is in my own heart…

Famous name-changers (I’m mostly in good company)

Reason number 2: Isaac with a modern twist is special

I don’t fully understand the force which I feel guides me in life, but from about 16 onward I believed it was my destiny to have 4 boys and 1 girl (first aged 23 so I have missed that specific boat…) called Moses, Isaac, Oscar, Ruth and Jacob and that they would be blessed loved children with names naturally reflecting some of their characteristics.

While this hasn’t (yet) happened, I clearly have a special relationship with these particular names and feel they are supposed to be a big part of my life.

My affinity with the name comes from the biblical story of Isaac. Isaac was reared by Abraham and Sarah when they were in their hundreds which is a pretty unlikely starting point to a long and prosperous life. As such in Hebrew it means ‘He will laugh’.

My life journey up to now has been so unexpected and unlikely, difficult to make sense of from any sort of disciplinary perspective that really you have to laugh. It makes me unique in my outlook and behaviour which I know causes people to laugh at me (albeit from an increasingly endearingly place) so it really feels appropriate.

A modern twist to an old classic enjoyed by the likes of Isaac Newton

Oscar is just a really good name and primarily homage to Oscar Wilde. I think it has cheeky and playful connotations and a firm nod to the dandy eccentric side of my personality which is all that really connects me to a witty playwright and wordsmith-extraordinaire (except of course exquisite style and a subversive desire to shock people).

Moses is one of my favourite biblical characters. A difficult start to life fills him with shame and guilt which made him quiet at times. He had a speech impediment and did not identify himself as a natural leader. Indeed he at times relied on his trusted friend Aaron to speak for him and yet God entrusted him to lead the Israelite’s out of Egypt and deliver the Ten Commandments.

He had humility and patience among other characteristics. He took on the corrupt Pharaoh in complete faithfulness to God’s instruction without relenting or assuming force.

Through God anything is possible and Moses is a really powerful example of this. I likewise exhibit really limiting behaviours and characteristics but believe that nevertheless God has entrusted me to achieve big things and make a positive contribution to the world. I am really proud to have been blessed with the fact that this is embodied in my name.

A spelling aside…

Perhaps I am misguided in appropriating these names for myself (like hamsters eating their own children or something…) but while I have felt like an Isaac for a long time. I have been trialing it with new people the last month or so and it’s definitely right. The slight nag I have had is that it just didn’t seem right written down.

On my original form I actually misspelled it Issac and panicked so quickly changed  it but then I realised it looked right to me avec typo so filed for my misspelling to be made official! I think aesthetically it looks softer and prettier! It also makes it even more unique, like a modern twist on a classic, init.

My official deed poll. Notice the slight amendments to the above

Reason number 3 There is power in a name

Having a double barrel surname feels a tad pretentious – especially as neither of which is of family origin. Gideon I considered perhaps as another middle name but I think it adds something nice to the surname Young so took off the hyphen to give me that flexibility and resolve the uncomfortable pretentiousness issue (my surname is nevertheless Gideon Young).

A surname was actually much harder to meditate on in abstract. In absence of taking after a human family name and having brought myself up largely independent of people but instead by divine revelation I wanted to take something either biblical, abstract or morally aspirational to reflect this.

I explored the 7 virtues or my favourite bible books but regrettably they all sounded like porn stars in name form (think Eli Temperance, Oscar Diligence, or Isaac Revelation…)  so nothing really worked…

Young was initially a joke because I want to be forever young, youthful and with boundless energy to thrive, achieve and be the best I can possibly be.

As jokes often do, this one turned real as I realised it subtly yet perfectly reinforces the fact that I am a child in Christ and young in my faith. As a relatively new creation enjoying a relatively new start as a relatively free person I thought ‘why not?’ (contrary to perceptions this has nothing to do with Toby Young or Ashley Young or someone like that).

To compliment Young, Gideon is an amazing name after an amazing warrior/judge/prophet who led the Israelite’s to victory in the face of every disadvantage. It’s a powerful and faithful name and when I look at my mine I want to remind myself of who I am/want to be/ need to be at all times in order to fulfil my potential and realise my mission in life.

Reason number 4: my name is a mission statement for my best possible self

To get this far and to take the next steps in my journey I have had to be daring and fearless, driven and resolute. To have gotten this far I have steely strength in ways that most people will not know I have. This said I also have vulnerabilities which hold me back and I spend far too much time dwelling on which I fully intend to make all-important USPs in my mission towards excellence.

I believe the new name I have been blessed with has that harmony between strength and vulnerability, a testament to my past struggle and future challenges. It carries the serious values I hold dear and the more playful side to personality simultaneously. I believe it is practically perfect for me (and  yet balanced against the logistical impracticality of sorting out new IDs. bank accounts and work email addresses etc etc).

Laters, haters!

So that’s the story! A name is the means by which one identifies, introduces themself as and the title to which special letters, messages and documents are addressed to. I am really happy with it and hope others like it too (and fuck you if you don’t….😛).

On my initial posting I said that I don’t feel particularly precious about it as it is personal. That has proven to be untrue! With that in mind I trust those who matter will address me appropriately.

I call myself Issac but will leave it up to other people to decide (and forever judge your choices like I used to when people dared to call me Dave).

Laters haters and Happy Valentine’s Day to myself x