Saturday, 22 October 2011

It's my birthday & I'll cry if I want to (well, tomorrow is...)

I got to thinking. I’ve been thinking a lot this week. And I don’t think I’m alone in some of the thoughts I tend to get around my birthday.

Wow, that sounds dramatic.

But, I always used to think, ‘how can anyone get miserable around their birthday?’ It’s a day that is yours, for you; a day of celebration where you get presents and get treats and it should be fun. Now, I think I’m getting to THAT age where everything just seems a bit gloomy and instead of seeing your birthday as something to celebrate, you kind of sort to view it as a benchmark for all your shortcomings and everything you haven’t achieved by that age.

So, as my birthday approaches (tomorrow) I have tried to see some of the positives, whilst looking out for other popular opinion that might compare with mine. I hit the nail on the head with one opinion I came across: it’s all about the expectations and what’s expected of you and what you expect of yourself. And now were all growing up, why can’t we just sit back and enjoy that? Why can’t I just let my hair down and party and enjoy the day?

It seems that over the past few years – probably much worse since having finished uni – that I have become rather emotional around birthday time. It doesn’t seem special anymore or happy or something to be celebrated. There’s no party and friends are scattered all over the place.

A good friend of mine told me that this birthday (he’s just turned 25 also) will be a contemplative one, a reflective one and that, quite frankly, it can be a bit dreadful if you really dwell on it all too much. So, I am going to try and not be so miserable… It doesn’t help that I used to be a drama student for many years and I would consider myself a bit of an extremist and someone who thinks far too much about literally everything. I was also born on the cusp (Oct. 23rd) between Libra – well balanced – and Scorpio – a sting in the tail!

I guess I have to see this milestone as a positive and use it to propel myself forward in some sort of career with a definite purpose. I know that’s what I am missing and lacking and that is why I’m probably so sad at this birthday, because I have achieved random things, but I haven’t achieved my independence or a stable direction or a good job.

Other silly things that shouldn’t bother you, but that serve to exasperate the feelings of sadness on your birthday:

1.) Its only Twitter & facebook, but if someone doesn’t make the effort to wish you happy birthday and you notice it, it can really piss you off

2.) You’re a bit of a perfectionist and you want the day to be memorable and amazing and then you come to the realisation that it’s not going to be.

3.) All your best friends live so far away and you’d give anything to have a good old fashioned party with them

4.) As you’ve gotten older, the family don’t really seem to care so much and make much less effort…you still want the celebrations and all-consuming importance that you had as a child.

5.) You dwell on all the things you haven’t done and look around at similar people your age and compare yourself to them and what they might have achieved that you want to achieve.

Reasons to man-up and stop crying

1.) It’s just a day. It is just one day out of the year – how can it make you feel that miserable. Smile, be happy and make the most of it.

2.) You have built yourself up for any disappointment and therefore should know what to expect, so hopefully it can’t be nearly as bad as you think it might be…?

3.) In the future, when you do have a good job and more independence and friends are more accessible, you can look back at this with your new-found 'wiseness' and laugh about how silly it all was to have felt so sad.

4.) It is mandatory to eat some sort of cake…lots of cake…so there :)

Wow. I really cannot believe it has been FOUR whole years since my Tim Burton themed birthday party, where I dressed up as the corpse bride and got ridiculously drunk and tripped over my wedding dress :) It is such a long time ago now.

Anyway, I intend to banish this sadness, use this blog entry as a therapeutic rambling and have a good day…hopefully :) I will raise a glass to tomorrow > still jealous of all my fellow runners out there doing all the cool marathons though ;-)

And to all you ‘older’ and wiser people out there reading this…Shhhh, I know, I know, you were all young once too :)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Alton Towers is the ultimate test of an OMM running jacket – never mind ultra’s…

After the big 100th my schedule has been rather empty on the marathon front, which is really unfortunate. That dilemma kind of boils down to me being a little bit penniless and my car being broken. Therefore, last weekend and this weekend (the birthday weekend too) I have zero marathon running fun to keep myself occupied. Ok, so this weekend, my dreaded birthday weekend was also disorganised from the start, but the lack of a good race does come from a lack of money and too-far away marathons. It is Beachy Head marathon on the day before my birthday; 22nd October, which would have been absolutely perfect. I entered it last year and everything, but in the end I was unable to make it = big waste of an incredibly popular marathon entry. It sells out so quickly that this year I was simply unable to afford to commit to entering it in advance = no birthday fun :( and serious withdrawal symptoms from running a decent marathon. Roll on next weekend and hopefully, the availability of a car of some kind, because I might just go insane. I have also been unable to get to my far-away gym, due to car issues; grrrrr.

Soooo, Alton Towers was an attempt to fill the void. Alton Towers proved a very successful attempt to fill the empty void that has been left from the absence of absolutely nothing exciting happening in my life. It has been one of those weeks (and a bit). Much to my joy, I discovered that from 15th October – 30th is Scarefest at Alton Towers…which means that it is open until an amazing 9pm at night, woooooo! I love Halloween and I am quite sure that I would feel so at home in America on a pumpkin farm with all the hyped up celebrations that they have over there; quite at home indeed. This is exactly what it was like when we visited the towers on Tuesday – fully decked out with pumpkins and everything creepy and scary and ghoulish. I absolutely loved it. What’s more, there were no queues for literally anything. We went on Thirteen so many times I lost count, subjected ourselves to the crazy speed of Rita over and over, log-flumed it, fired water at people in Mutiny Bay and went on silly ride after silly ride. We also got absolutely soaked in Mutiny Bay, but it was worth it to fire water at unsuspecting children. I came to the conclusion that even when you’re not running an ultra or off-road marathon, an OMM running jacket is the perfect essential in the war against getting soaked at theme parks…I was so right; at least my top half stayed dry :) The only major downside of the day was simply how freezing the weather was. I definitely should have taken more layers with me. It was bitterly cold and after a while, I started to get a headache. Its excellent having so long in a theme park, but after a while it does begin to take its toll on your head and a bit of achiness does set in.

I also absolutely loved the Terror of the Towers tour, which was a kind of scare-maze inside the scary old buildings, featuring live-action-actors whom basically tried to scare us as much as possible. You went in the haunted house-type set-up in groups of 8 or so and it really was such a scream and a giggle. The same can be said for the zombie maze; a brilliant idea. It did make me think, however; I would make a really good zombie and it would be so much fun to get paid to scare people all day – yep, the drama student in me still exists and I always did like playing the weirdo characters the best.

There we go then – Alton Towers has been my excitement this week and I think it’s fair to say that we did quite a bit of exercise walking around the theme park for eleven hours or so. I still need a good marathon though. I have my list and with my birthday approaching, hopefully I will have a bit of money to put this list into action and get some good events booked to finish the year on a high. There are some good marathons to look forward to and a few cheeky ultras. Standing around in the freezing cold on Tuesday at Alton Towers, I had a thought to myself about ultras: sometimes I really must be mental. In the winter and bad weather I will willingly spend 10+ hours in the freezing cold and often the rain to complete an ultra and will do so again in November with Likey’s Brecon Ultra – which was my first ultra back in 2009 and my third year in a row. It is hilly, rocky, often foggy, rainy, freezing and 45 miles long and I will be back :)…and possibly back in the Brecon Beacons again in early December to do an ultra that I couldn’t do last year due to the unrelenting snow. So, lots to look forward to – I just need to put my patient head on, ignore all the running shenanigans I’m missing out on this weekend and just look onwards towards events that I will be doing :)

Patience. Which reminds me, we went to see Damien Dempsey at the Liverpool O2 Arena on Sat 15th October as part of the Irish Music Festival. This was another great thing that I have done to fill my temporary running void and how can I forget the lyrics (although I’m not religious),

‘Patience, give me some of that sweet patience, Lord, I
will keep my eye on my goal…'

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Run towards your dreams. You'll never achieve them standing in place while you're thinking about them.

"I'm working on a dream/ Though it feels so far away/ I'm working on a dream/ I know it will be mine someday" Bruce Springsteen

I have focused upon and thought about this day for a very long time (well, since 2009 when I entered the world of marathon running & met all these wonderfully insane people). I have gotten so used to waking up at 3am, 4am, sometimes a little later at around 5am on a Saturday and again on the Sunday in order to get my stuff together, get breakfast, drink coffee, wake myself up and get out of the house to drive down the country or up the motorway in my little red Corsa. After driving for hours and sometimes hundreds of miles, I have gotten used to running a marathon or an ultra and then driving back down or up the country afterwards. It isn’t easy. In fact, one of the hardest things about this dream has been the endless driving and the early mornings. The travelling is one of the biggest hurdles. So many times I have wanted to crawl back underneath my covers and go to sleep, but I have been spurred on by the prospect of running 100 marathons, by the stories I have heard along the way and the inspiring people I have met on this journey.

When Sunday rolled around, the time had come – Chester marathon, 09/10/11 = my 100th marathon. There was something really nice about this one being so close to home. It was lovely to see so many lovely runners that I know throughout the day and I got to wear a pretty cool t-shirt which a friend had designed for me (see piccies)! It seems like I have been waiting for this day for so long because in reality, I had originally thought I would complete my 100th much earlier. However, sometimes little things in life conspire against you. In January I got flu and missed a fair few marathons and along the way, I missed the odd couple that I had planned to do. All of a sudden, things just seem to have fallen into place…so Chester it was!

The weather has been quite blustery and rainy around these parts over the last week or so and even though it remained really quite windy on Sunday, the rain stayed at bay.

It was so lovely to see so many runners; more often than not, I am alone or in the wilderness & don't get to see a lot of it was a novelty :) The support was also great, as we had our names printed on our race numbers & at one drinks station, marshalls were dressed in grass skirts whilst Hawaiian music played at a beach-bar themed drinks-stop - a really nice and cheery idea. Before I go off on a ramble, I should mention the route slightly - it took in some lovely parts of Chester. We ran underneath the famous clock, visited the Roman walls & meandered out into some lovely Welsh villages & back to the racecourse.

I had no specific time that I was aiming for, keeping in mind that I started running marathons in May 2009 & my race tally includes: 38 trail marathons, 23 road marathons (inclusive of Chester on Sunday) and 39 ultra’s which are made up of: 30-35ish milers, 45milers, 40milers, 50-55ish milers & an 85miler. I used to be a fairly fast(ish) runner & regularly got around the 4-hour mark without major struggle; but ultra’s & just lots of stuff in the last couple of years have really taken their toll a bit. I don’t really train as such anymore…and I really ought to and will again! So I was really pleased to set out at and maintain quite a steady pace on Sunday for the majority of the first half of the marathon. I did feel a bit disorientated by the wind & a little sickly at around the 15 mile mark and slowed. My inner left foot also rubbed pretty badly against the inside of my battered trainers. I knew I should have replaced them a while back, but lack of money certainly plays an issue when you’re running this amount of events. And so, my feet did start to pay the price a little, in the latter stages of the event (and on Monday, when I limped about in work, because of the nasty blister that had formed). However, I got around in just over 5hours, so I was pretty happy with that overall.

Approaching the finishing line was an amazing feeling. It was a lovely end to such a well organised event. We sloped downhill and ran past the river Dee and embarked upon the race course to a magnificent finish. Along the way I saw a man being attended to by race officials - he was lying flat on the floor with less than a mile to go and all I could think to myself was, ‘You can’t quit now’. I hope he made it and that someone literally dragged him to the finish.

Towards the end all the emotions welled up and I felt sad and happy. I feel a little sad that one epic goal/ journey has come to an end. And yet, I feel happy that I have achieved what I had set out to. I said I would do this and I have. I’m so happy about that. My whole mindset has changed along this journey. If you really stick with something, it can be done. It doesn’t matter if no-one else sees your vision at first. They soon will once you start to believe in it yourself. I think so many people were sceptical about this at the beginning/ couldn’t contemplate it. But goals like this don’t need contemplation or proper understanding. It’s just something that you have to do.

“Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it.”

I’m a very indecisive person and I can change my mind from one thing to the next, but over everything, what I do know is that I don’t want to live an ordinary or dull existence. It’s not that I seek fame or attention, but I want to experience fun and interesting things. I want to achieve things that money cannot buy. The thing with running is that anyone could buy an entry to a race, but the success is only derived upon completion and on-one can do that without effort and hard-work & I love that. Sometimes it can feel like you’ll never reach the finish line, but you do :)

I’m certain I can make some more sense of all this at a later date, but here’s just some contemplative ponderings I had about Chester marathon in the meantime…