A little bit of history.
2015 was hard. Very hard. I spent much of it with my ailing and beloved dog Soaky who was slowly deteriorating. For much of it I spent indoors keeping her company and looking after her.
Thats her, having a sleep on my chest. At this point I had to lift her onto the sofa. I’d been hand feeding her for a long time. I’m lucky enough to be in a job which gives me the school holidays off. So when it came to the summer holidays which started at the end of July I decided I needed to do something to get me outside again. I couldnt walk her anymore as her legs were going and I now I had the time off I could spend it with her and get outside too. So I figured that as I live in a beautiful part of South Wales right next to the heritage coast I would go walking.
After a few walks to the beach for some reason and to be honest i’m not sure why, I decided to have a little attempt at running back home. I’d toyed with the idea of running before and had tried a few short distances the year before along with a bit of cycling. I didn’t stick at it – see excuses above I guess.
So at the end of July I ran … I ran the length of one of the fields on the way home and was knackered. I was unfit, so so unfit. I had realised this earlier in June when playing cricket. I only ran a few lengths of the wicket while batting and I was breathless and felt terrible. This scared me i’ll admit.
Over the next few days and weeks I gradually increased the distance I was running back. I would run a field, walk a field and I set myself a goal that at the end of the summer I would be able to run back all the way from the beach, its only just over a mile and uphill but I felt that this was an achievable goal. I can remember thinking, how will I ever complete the bottom part which is the steepest and is a rocky track not fields or road.
I completed that run back 3 weeks later into the holiday. My goal was complete early and I was proud of something for once. A mile doesnt sound much but starting from nothing it felt good. I didnt stop there though and started logging my runs on runkeeper and tracking them with my phone which I would carry in my hand for music and now gps tracking.
I progressed to running to the beach (downhill!) and then running on the beach itself. I found I loved running on the rocks. Skipping from rock to rock was a challenge and my balance improved, I loved running on the sandy half mile stretch between the bays.
With scenery like this who could blame me? The first time I completed the run to the beach, the rocks and then this stretch all in one go (around 2 miles) I was elated. I was almost on my knees but elated. I can still remember passing two people walking as I ended the sand and thinking Christ I must look awful but couldnt stop then and managed to get there.
Through all of August I kept going out, I was running in some old Reebok trainers I’d had for some years, road running shoes i’d never really worn. I had some old tracksuit bottoms and cotton tshirts (which got sweaty and heavy)
The school holidays ended and I was back in work in September but I didnt stop running. Now it was becoming something I loved to do. As much as I did love it I didnt always feel that way before a run and would sometimes make excuses not to go. Once I was out doing it I was fine. I always need to give myself that push. Throughout September I would run after work, by now I could do 4 miles or so, a few breaks in between, especially because if the tide was in I would run along the cliffs and to get up there I would have to slog up one of the hills at either side of the Cwm (Welsh for small valley) – The first time I went up one of these I thought my lungs would explode and my legs were like jelly. Now it still hurts but it doesnt completely wreck me for the next 10 minutes!
At the start of October Soaky died, the brave little monster was 16 but it got too much in the end and I had to do the hardest thing I have ever and probably will ever do and took her to the vets. Afterwards I ran, I ran and ran and havent stopped running. Everytime I go to the beach where we used to walk (in 2005 we did 190 trips to the beach together – I counted) I think of her. Sometimes, out on the sand I shout “I love you Soaks” at the top of my lungs while running, I hope she can hear me, I think she can. Im welling up with tears just typing this, I miss her so much but she gave me so much and she is my inspiration to never give up. Every step I take out there, no matter how hard it gets, no matter the wind and rain and hills, every slog through the mud she is with me.
This is the sun setting on the beach the day she died
In October the weather was fine but the nights were drawing in making running after work harder and harder. I tried running before work but my body didn’t seem to accept it at all, it was painful and I was scared of picking up an injury which would stop me altogether. At that time the thought of not being able to run terrified me. I was in a bad place mentally when not running. The feeling of completion, of beating down something in myself when I finished a run was something Id come to relish. no matter how bad I felt inside at least I had that.
I got a little more serious. I bought proper trail running shoes (and road ones which I admit ive only used a few times because I dont particularly like road running – feels almost like cheating) I bought proper running kit to wick the sweat out of me and running jackets to keep the cold out. In october I ran 100 miles. I did less in November as the nights draw in and the rain was relentless. I dont mind punishing myself but inflicting pure misery is another thing!
I completed 50 miles in November and another 60 in December (thankyou xmas holidays) the day before yesterday I did 10.5 miles up and down hills and through mud along the cliffs as far as the deeps at Ogmore where I used to take Soaks to throw pebbles for her to fetch – one of her favourite games. When i got there I realised how tired I was and the 5 miles or so home was a real challenge but i made it. Ive done 11 miles before and thats my best – on the flat of the beach its not so bad and the rockhopping maybe isnt as bad as hills and mud. Whatever the terrain im always proud, today I did 4.5 through mud
And it hurt like hell, probably I hadnt recovered from the 10 miler but hey ho. As i’m typing this right now I feel good that I did it. I ran over 300 miles up to the end of this year. A goal I set which I thought I could never achieve. I did. A word keeps recurring here … Im proud, for once Im proud of something i’ve achieved and i’m not ashamed of that.
I’ve signed up for a trail half marathon in february which will be my first event, I hope to do many more in 2016 and ultimately a trail half marathon. We shall see. I have no idea how running with others in events pans out, whether i’ll enjoy it or not or whether i’ll prefer to run alone. Not that i’m ever alone – “I love you Soaks”