Sunday, 30 August 2020

This feels different..

There have been many failed attempts to re-discover any kind of interest in, motivation for and will to exercise over recent years. I believe the main problem is that I associate a number of what I would call "negative" things with any kind of physical effort. Firstly, the pain that I've endured while running around the world so far is the most obvious one. Excruciating shin splints during the run from John O'Groats to Lands End. Badly blistered feet towards the end of the run across the USA as well as extreme constant fatigue throughout. That all seemed quite insignificant when you compare it against the run across Australia. The pain in my feet for over 80 days and the permanent damage caused should have been enough for me to give up running completely. Fortunately I didn't and the subsequent runs across Europe and then from Belgrade to Kiev saw a lot less pain and damage taken. 

The long straight never ending road across Australia

Stobbsy just about keeping my feet in a runnable state in Australia

Putting up with physical pain is one thing but the mental battles that I've faced around the world so far have been a far more difficult thing to endure in my opinion. Almost every stage so far has seen extreme anxiety and paranoia as I've neared the respective finish lines. The final week of the run across the USA is where I first experienced this. I really struggled to come to terms with the fact that the finish line at Coney Island, New York was so close in terms of time (7 days) but not in distance (300 miles). There was another factor which was also present in the subsequent 3 stages around the world. For some reason, towards the end of a long running campaign, the desire for it all to be over is overwhelming. It's like a very negative spin on waiting for Christmas Day as a child. I really need to analyse this more in future but I doubt things are ever likely to change. At least I'm fully aware that the closing days of a stage around the world are going to present a huge mental challenge. I think there is a lot more to be talked about on this subject but I'll leave it for another time.

Losing my mind in Europe

The other major mental challenge that I have faced more recently in Europe and to Kiev is homesickness. Being able to do things like watching the TV, cooking dinner and just normal family life is a huge miss when you're away from home for months at a time. Thoughts of such normality when I'm thousands of miles away from loved ones is a tough thing to try and deal with.

Thankfully, I've come to realise that my multi month running stages are very different from normal life. I feel like I'm trapped in my own bubble. Every small issue or challenge is magnified to the extent that it becomes a big problem. Imagine just how big a real problem then seems during these long campaigns. Fortunately, there haven't been too many of those to deal with.

As you can tell, maintaining a sense of perspective is very difficult when you're far from home, extremely tired and having to run 30 - 40 miles per day or even more. A few paragraphs in a blog really doesn't do the physical and mental battle justice. What I will say is that it's no wonder the last thing I have wanted to do in recent years or have done begrudgingly is exercise. You can put a fancy title on things like #runsub17 but carrying out the actions involved is what really matters.

I don't believe that I've had the real will and desire to do anything exercise wise since the run across Australia finished. That was almost 7 years ago!

I should point out that up to this point in my running and fundraising life, I wouldn't change a single thing. Huge life lessons have been learned. Friendships have been forged. So many kind people have been met. I've also been told on numerous occasions that I've inspired others to do good. Most importantly, almost 1/3 million pounds has been raised so far for local good causes. This, of course, includes St. Benedict's Hospice who I still continue to repay a debt of gratitude to, for the care they gave my Mam.

For every mental and physical battle endured, every sacrifice made, every unpaid month off work, every impact on family and friends, there are untold positive aspects to Run Geordie Run. It's 1 step back but 100 forward after each stage of the run around the world is finished and the charity cheque presented. The negatives are but a very small droplet of water in a huge ocean of positivity. Thankfully, I have a very good sense of perspective. It could be argued that Run Geordie Run helps keeps my head above water. It's the positive thing that I've developed following the loss of both of my parents. It has benefited me greatly in terms of being able to cope with grief. In 2020, Run Geordie Run has got me to a great place.

Arriving back in Newcastle after a tough but successful run across Australia

So that's where I was at in June this year and the problem remained about wanting to simply exercise again. Rewind, to days after the last big run in 2018 when I met with personal trainer (and my best man) David Fairlamb who knew all about my struggles finding the motivation to train. He said that I now needed to "reinvent myself". I've pondered over those words ever since and I'm only just beginning to understand what he meant. 

If I'm to find enjoyment in exercise again and a basic desire to actually want to do it, then I need to think and act very differently while retaining all of the core values that have worked so well for me in the past.

It's a difficult thing to explain currently but since July I have very much tried to set aside all that has gone before and get "back to basics". I've tried to bring to the foreground all of those enjoyable aspects of health and fitness (where, what, when and with who) over the last 2 months. For once, I don't have a grand plan. Given this years events, I certainly don't know when the next stage of the run around the world will be able to take place. All I can do right now is concentrate on enjoying my training again and finding the desire and consistency needed. 

Dave and me at Newcastle Airport

I'll talk more about specifics in the coming weeks. In the meantime, after many failed or half hearted attempts over recent years to exercise, this latest attempt feels different. Has the re-invention of Run Geordie Run begun? It's certainly too soon to tell. There are a lot of positive signs though. Watch this space.