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