Plans, Friends, Perseverance and the First 50 Miles

This blog post was first published on Geoff Brierley’s site, http://focusedperformance.co.uk/plans-friends-perseverance-50-miles.  

You may not know me by name, but perhaps you’ve heard of me.  I’m the lady you often see running the roads with a double-buggy or through the mountain trails with my dog Floss or my chatty runner friends.  When you see me, you probably look at the person you are with and make some kind of a remark. ‘How does she do it?’ ‘Why does she do that to herself?’ ‘God bless her, where does she find the energy (or time)?’ ‘She must be crazy!’

My name is Alicia.  I am the proud mother of 3 gorgeous little rascals, ages 9, 2 and 1.  I am a runner.  And I will be running my first 50 miler in a few weeks.

I have signed up.  I have said it out loud.  It is really happening.  Fifty miles.  Fif-ty miles!

Sometimes the sound of that is so invigorating and a little overwhelming that I need to say it more than once.  Fifty miles, fifty miles, fifty miles aaaaahhhhhhhhh!  

At this time last year, I was giving birth to our 3rd child and now I’m within weeks of running The Wicklow Way 50 Miler (http://www.rawultra.com/wicklow-way-50-mile).  My story isn’t an astonishing ‘couch to 50 miles in one year.’  Instead, it is a story of understanding yourself: your motivations and your goals.  It’s a story of finding ways to equally manage everyday life AND personal pleasures.
post-double-buggy-run

Running became a part of my daily life about 9 years ago.  The rush I felt after completing my first marathon in 2009 inspired me to set my sights on running an ultra.  But as life often does, it carried me in a different direction. Actually, many different directions.

As a ‘working mom’ (I was a professional dancer and choreographer for more than 15 years), 5k and 10k races were all I could manage.  After our second child was born in 2014, maternity leave gave me the opportunity to run more often and it reignited my desire to complete an ultra.  With our third child on the way, I continued running. Pushing number 2 in the buggy as my belly continued to grow with number 3 certainly caught the attention of others.  To an outsider, my hobby looked to be more trouble than it was worth.  But to me, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Although this past year has been somewhat of a blur: nappies, school runs, birthday parties, training runs, gaelic football matches, soccer training, two marathons, homework, playgroups, an ultra, music classes, an anniversary, baptisms, communions, etc; it has also been extremely clarifying and fulfilling.

In many ways, throughout most of my life, I have been the embodiment of Langston Hughes’ revelation; ‘I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.’ We all meet challenges on our journeys and try to hide behind excuses.  Ultimately, it’s navigating these obstacles and finding our own way that makes the finish so sweet.  While my way of getting there may not be your way of getting there, my information and perspective just might influence your journey.

Identifying Goals

The strong-willed and goal oriented aspects of my personality thrive from the process of working towards a desired achievement.  A sense of order and a certain calmness come over me when I have a plan that will lead me to reaching my aspirations.  To some people, adding more challenges to an already hectic life sounds more like punishment than peace, but my flexibility and realistic outlook make the impossible, possible.  Don’t get me wrong, there are moments when I think, ‘Why the bleep have I taken this on?’  Those moments are few and they pass when I get running.

 

During my past two races, the Achill Island Marathon in August (County Mayo) and a 39 mile trail ultra in September (Irish Mountain Running’s Glen of Aherlow Ultra in County Tipperary), my goals were fairly simple: to complete the races (uninjured) and to enjoy myself during them.  In Achill I surely did enjoy the race.  The training was all worth it because my husband and I got a weekend in spectacular County Mayo, away from the kiddos for the first time in 3 years.  

When I finished second for the women in the Glen of Aherlow Ultra, I could have focused on the fact that there were only two women in that race; however, I chose to focus on the fact that I accomplished both of my goals.

Training Plan

I apply the same flexibility and realistic outlook to my training plan that I use when making goals.  I often use training schedules from recommended books or recommended blogs as my schedule outline (I’m currently following the 50 mile plan from Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell) and I make adjustments as necessary.

A couple of weeks ago, I had no choice but to do 3 runs (41k total) with the double-buggy.  It was definitely tough and not the most ideal scenario for training for the trails in the WW50, but the weather was nice and the kids enjoyed it.  That’s how it needed to be done.  So that’s how I did it.

Running Friends

The connections I’ve been fortunate enough to make with other runners have enhanced my experiences tenfold. When running with others, the miles seem to fly by much faster. Adult conversation is a welcome change to repeatedly singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider for the duration of a run!

The people I run with inspire me, build my confidence, and act as confidantes.  We come from different backgrounds and maybe wouldn’t have fallen into friendship if it hadn’t been for running.  After all, there is only so much “running talk” that my non-runner friends and family members can handle.  I’m appreciative that my running friends patiently listen to me talk, between huffs and puffs, about which races I hope to do next year, my new trail runners, or any other topic (running related or not), and then fill me with constant encouragement.  

Perseverance / Visualisation

If we want to run long distances, we have to persevere.  As tempting as the ditch may look, down isn’t going to get us to the finish, forward is the only way home. Start. Run. Finish.

 

Sometimes we all get so caught up in the difficulty of a run that we don’t see what we’re looking at.  Taking the time to notice the sky and the way the sun is lighting the leaves on the trees instantly makes the run easier.  

 

We all have images from our lives that make us instantly feel at ease.  Find your’s and store it in your mind’s pocket to be pulled out when the going gets tough.  For me, picturing myself on my couch, fluffy socks, pjs, legs up, does the trick.

 

Like many of us, I’m a mover.  I enjoying feeling my body work and feeling it grow stronger and stronger. Movement sets my mind at ease and trails call to me more than roads.  If you happen to see me out on a run or at a race, say hi, run with me, share your story with me.

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