Harsh Lessons Learnt

I haven’t blogged for a while, not for any particular reason. I had planned on doing a post after Endure but I think I was so fired up after what an incredibly brilliant weekend it was that I just got carried away with the excitement of having run 10 miles over the course of the event and didn’t quite allow myself to believe that my injury was definitely behind me.

Albeit on a slightly smaller scale, this was a similar excitement that I felt after finishing my first marathon last year and I realised I was following a similar pattern that led to my recent injury in the first place.

Rewind 12 months almost to the date and this week was one I never want repeated when two very close members of my family suffered potentially life threatening health worries within the space of a fortnight. This sounds quite dramatic (and possibly overly so) but it is the perspective I had of it at the time and to say I didn’t deal with it very well was an understatement.

A month later my struggling marriage had broken down completely and the stress of it all was enough to find me in an incontrollable state in front of my doctor who gave me antidepressants without batting an eyelid (I was in that much of a state as opposed to the doctor being flippant with his prescription).

I was forced to stop work which in turn resulted in giving up the business I had worked for seven years to build. In all fairness I was looking to make changes to my work life to suit my lifestyle better but this came much quicker than I had anticipated and ended up letting many of my clients down. At the time I am sad to say I didn’t care, I had no energy to even think about what was best for me let alone other people’s needs (which was the nature of the business).

If you hadn’t already worked it out, I was now about seven weeks out from Bournemouth marathon with training about to reach its peak and my life as low as it had ever been. How I got through last summer is still a mystery to me let alone how I managed to run the race of my life but it was the events following this that showed just how much it had taken out of me.

And it was from these events that I learnt more about myself as a runner than any other time in the last 20-odd years.

I already had the Great South Run booked in three weeks after Bournemouth marathon and for some reason that, in hindsight, I can only put down to not wanting to face the enormity of what had happened during the summer, I entered Gosport half marathon three weeks after the GSR.

Needless to say these events were two of my least enjoyable ever…I didn’t enjoy the GSR I had done three years previously so this is definitely one I am not doing again. Gosport, however, was the real warning sign that I ignored.

I spent the day before Gosport completing a house move that I had begun the previous weekend…aside from the physical effects moving house has, it was clearly an emotional time given the reason I was moving in the first place.

Emotions that got the better of me three miles from the end of Gosport. I was running it with someone who was probably the best person I could have asked to be with me at that time. We had a great time splashing through the puddles, dancing to the band and being aeroplanes down the slopes on the seafront. Actions which in hindsight may have added to our waining energy levels towards the end of the race!

However, it happened and she was brilliant. We were running along and chatting periodically when I just stopped running. She turned to see I wasn’t with her, came back and asked what was wrong. I just burst into tears and said (although it’s fair to say it was more of a wail) I’m so tired! She hugged me and we walked for a bit and agreed to take it steady but run the rest of the race together. And we did. In silence.

This photo perfectly sums up that last three miles (and probably the previous six months too).


As we crossed the line I just broke down again, so much so that others from the club rushed over thinking something was really wrong, that I’d hurt myself. I hadn’t. The last few months had just caught up with me and I was quite simply over tired and emotional. My hip was also aching a bit but at this point I didn’t pay any attention to that.

What I should have then done was taken some time out to deal with how tired my body clearly was but I battled on regardless. I had a few niggles in my calves and achilles and my hip was still aching after long runs. I repeated my previous errors and entered Stubbington 10k in January in an attempt to rekindle what I thought was lost mojo but I can recognise now as sheer exhaustion.

It was around this time that I asked someone for some advice on how to prepare for the ultra marathon that I should have been doing on 18/19 July (next weekend). Advice that I was given and tried to implement but although it wasn’t bad advice in itself, I knew it wasn’t right for me. I knew this at the time but ignored my better judgement as I was so desperate to get my training back on track.

Over the years my friends, and more recently my training partners, have recognised how accurate my judgement is of decisions I make. It is this that has frustrated me more than being injured because I know I could have prevented it.

However, preventing it wouldn’t have taught me the lessons that have made me the athlete I am now.

I still make mistakes, of course I do, but one of the harshest lessons I have learnt of late is distinguishing between people who actually get me as an athlete. Not people that just compliment me on a good run or push me because they know I can do it. But people who I can trust to challenge me on my decisions, not because they don’t think I can do it but because they look beyond that one session and believe I can be better than I think I can be.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t still a bit upset that I should have been attempting the 60 mile challenge I had set myself for next weekend, but I am so much more excited about the plan I have for the next 12 months.

You’ll have to wait to find out what these plans include but I will just leave you with that old clich√© that you learn more from the tough times than you do when everything goes to plan but those times it goes to plan is all the sweeter because of the tough times.

1 thought on “Harsh Lessons Learnt”

  1. Thank you Em for your honesty and insight. You’re in my thoughts and prayers for a happier and less challenging year ahead! Love Lin xx

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