22 October 2018

I Did the Great South Run.... And Survived!

Yesterday I completed the Great South Run. Which is a sentence I didn't ever think I would say. When I saw my family after my Dad said "There's no way you would have been able to do that year ago", to which I replied "There's not way I would have been able to do that 6 months ago". And that couldn't be more true. Thousands of people do the run every year, but for me - completing this, and being able to do it just means more to me than I can ever really explain. But I'm going to try anyway...

This year has been one of the hardest, if not the hardest, years of my life. A lot has happened - especially at the beginning of the year - that has tested me emotionally and mentally. The biggest of which was being diagnosed with PCOS in February. Although I was diagnosed then, I don't think I really started to properly sort my health and fitness out until a couple of months later when we spoke to a specialist and they were able to give me more information and more direction. And the biggest takeaway from it was that I needed to sort out my lifestyle. I'll be the first to hold up my hands and say I've led a pretty unhealthy lifestyle the past few years - Dominoes became a weekly meal and a whole bag of chocolate would be gone in 20 minutes. I knew I wasn't happy with my size and weight - but I didn't really have enough drive to do anything about it. Until this. I felt like I got a big kick up the backside with my PCOS, but I still felt like I needed something extra to really push me to sort myself out and give me something to aim for - other than a number of a set of scales. So, when I was in Cork with my husband and in-laws, after a few too many gins I decided I wanted to do the Great South Run. I got a bit of a laugh on that one. Then when I came home I said about it to my family, and they really encouraged me to do it. I was still a bit wary as I've had issues with my knees before, so Adam and I started going to the gym together and running on the treadmill to see how it felt and whether or not my knees could take it. Turns out, they were fine - so the next thing you know, I've signed up.
I felt pretty positive in the beginning. I signed up in June so thought that's almost 4 months of training - no problem, I'll add on 2 and a half miles every month and voila! Easy. Oh Lisa, Lisa, Lisa. I was able to do about 3 miles by mid-August I think on a treadmill, and then I joined a Park Run and discovered running outside was significantly different to running on a treadmill. In hindsight, my Park Run course is very up and down, with terrain and twist and turny, so actually doing that successfully each week has probably really helped my fitness much more than I realised because it is a hard track. As the run got closer and closer I got more and more nervous. The most I have been able to run outside was the 5k of my park run (3.1 miles), and the most I'd been able to do on a treadmill was about 4.2 miles. So I was a little bit worried... But I'm also bloody stubborn.
On the day I went up with my husband, and I generally felt okay. Until I went into the assembly area. Adam stayed on the other side of the barrier next to me and I think even he could see how nervous I was getting. I was clinking my headphones together, I couldn't stand still and to be honest it didn't matter how much encouragement Adam was giving me I was really starting to feel like it was a huge mistake, that I wouldn't be able to finish and that I'd let everyone down. I was on the verge of tears - it felt very weird and surreal. When I had to go around to the start and he had to go off to meet the rest of my family I honestly thought I was going to start crying, it felt like I was doomed. But - the atmosphere of everyone else there, all together doing the same thing, really does help. And as soon as I got my music on and I started I felt a lot better - a lot more positive and just wanted to keep going without stopping to a walk for as far as I could.
The run itself... It was like nothing I've ever experienced before in a few ways. Firstly - the support. The amount of people that came out, lined the track and cheered you all on was incredible. I had strangers cheering me on when I stopped to a walk and felt like my legs couldn't take anymore, I had little kids giving me high fives and even other runners urging me on and giving me encouragement. After feeling so low at the start, it helped me to feel a lot less lonely and a lot more like I could really do it. Secondly - the amount my body can actually handle. I felt like I'd be able to get to 4 miles no problem, but by the time I got to the first water stand at 3.5 miles I was struggling - it was so hot, and although my legs felt okay at that point and my body generally felt okay, it was just too hot to keep going the way I was. There was also very little shade on the track, so you just had to power through - not going to lie, at each water station I ended up with more water over my head than in my mouth. I was also quite surprised at how much I still had left in me at the end. When I saw the 8 mile market I just wanted to go for it - I was definitely doing interval running/walking by that point but when I saw that I just wanted to run. Especially when I go to 9 miles - there was no way I wasn't going to push myself to run that last mile. Thirdly - the actual mental strength. The hardest section for me was miles 4-6 for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I didn't see the 5 mile marker so in my head it felt like the longest mile in the world - turns out it was 2 miles. Secondly, I started to really struggle in that section, and because I hadn't seen the 5 mile marker in my head I started to feel quite negative thinking I wouldn't be able to do it as I wasn't even half way yet and I was hurting. It was here I really started to look for my family at the side because I really needed some support to help push me through. That section was a real barrier for me so I just had to keep pushing myself through thinking I'd see them soon, and I don't want them to see me walking so just keep running, keep going and you'll see them soon. When I finally saw them (think it was over 6 miles) it was amazing. They were cheering me on, Adam gave me some isotonic gel, and it really really helped to push past that barrier and keep on going for them. I also know my Dad chose that spot specifically because my older brother had done the run before and had said it was around this area he really struggled, so I will forever be grateful for that. It helped so much more than I can even say. I also saw them again around the 8 mile mark, and again - it helped push me even further to get to that finish line and gave me that last bit of strength.
Crossing that finish line... I don't know if I'll ever be able to describe how it felt to me. After everything that had happened in the last year, every emotion, every struggle and every tear it just made me feel like anything was possible. That I could do anything. Not going to lie - I shed a few tears as I was picking up my water bottle and finishers pack. Thankfully - they'd dried up before the family met me. But it was just such an incredible feeling. Knowing that I did it, that I could do it, meant so much to me. And while my body is hating me today for it, I feel the most positive I've felt in a long time today. I'm happy, I weirdly have energy and I feel ready for anything. Being able to do it just means so much to me, it's just helped my own belief in myself, and makes me feel like everything was work it. It's so hard to explain - but it's one of the best feelings I've ever had. Yes, it was also one of the hardest things I've ever done physically - but it was also one of the best.  
And I just want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who came down, who sent me messages of support or donated to my JustGiving page. It all really helped me to keep going when I didn't think I could anymore. And if any of you want a challenge - and are physically able to - definitely give it a go next year. It's worth the pain I promise...
Much love, Lisa May xx

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