Updated: Mar 20
This post doesn’t have much to do with crafting, but it does have a lot to do with strength, resilience and following your dreams.
You may not know this, but I am running the London Marathon on Sunday 2nd October. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine since I watched my dad run it when I was a youngster and I can vividly recall the atmosphere of it.
I enter the general ballot every year but I’ve never been lucky enough to win a place and I’m not fast enough to receive an automatic qualification so my only options have always been a charity place (always been a bit scared of the fundraising target) or securing my running club’s automatically allocated space. At the end of 2019 my dream came true when I won my club’s 2020 place and the excitement I felt at the opportunity to represent myself and my club was overwhelming! I was in a good place with my running at the time and my only concern was that it clashed with my dad’s 70th birthday, but I’d get around that somehow. Little did I know it would actually clash with a whole lot worse and as 2020 got underway, we all discovered what that would be!
Running became the one stable thing for me in a chaotic world during 2020 and I kept up a solid regime, despite not knowing if or when I would race again at all, let alone in London. Towards the end of the year, the VLM team announced that the 2020 race would be a virtual one and all places for the actual race would be deferred until the following year. So I ran my virtual London Marathon, along with many others, in my home town of Pershore on the 4th October 2020. I planned my own route, set up my own water stations and organised my support crew. The weather was atrocious… fierce wind and driving rain prevailed for most of it and without the atmosphere of London it was a really tough day. But despite all of this, I managed to secure my quickest ever marathon time, shaving a full 14 minutes off my previous personal best and finishing in 4 hours 14 minutes. I was delighted with this and went into 2021 in a good place with my fitness.
I had been a run leader for a few years and had previously organised a few Couch to 5K programmes, including a couple at my previous workplace, Worcester Bosch. They had always been really well received and extremely rewarding to do. I had therefore decided to upgrade my qualification to one of running coach and as part of this throughout lockdown I was writing training plans and issuing challenges to my club members to keep them motivated. In one particular challenge in March 2021, I didn’t listen to my own advice and on one of my runs tore a calf muscle pushing myself way too hard. This was a defining moment for me as it heralded the start of various injuries, many failed comeback attempts, the loss of my fitness, my confidence and a complete loss of believe in myself as a coach as I’d made the one mistake I was urging others not to make – overtraining and not listening to my body.
With the deferred London Marathon date booked for the autumn of 2021, this panicked me and I made a few pushes to get back into my running before I was physically ready for it which caused me setbacks. In the end I had to admit defeat and defer my place to April 2022, which if I’m totally honest, was the point when I completely gave up on the idea. Not only with my own running but that of supporting others too, I disengaged with it all and just ploughed all of my energies into Craft Happy and the growth of that. I didn’t run at all for several months.
At the start of 2022, The London Marathon organisers pushed back the April date to October 2022 but it didn’t really make a difference to me as I no longer believed in myself anyway and it just felt like another stay of execution. As the 16 week training deadline loomed every closer and my fitness levels plunged ever lower, I made the decision to withdraw from the event. In my head I decided that if I couldn’t run it the way that I wanted to run it and the way that I knew I was capable of running it from my 2020 result, then I wouldn’t run it at all.
This is the point that something truly amazing happened and the universe gave me a well-deserved and very timely kick up the backside! On the 11th June (2 days before my 16-week training plan was due to start) I bumped into a lady who I used to work with at Worcester Bosch. A lady who had participated in my first ever Couch to 5K course back in 2017 and the same lady who subsequently suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2021 and spent months in a coma. In the last few months she has regained consciousness and has had to learn everything again from the beginning, including how to walk and talk. She has shown levels of strength, resilience and determination that I can’t even begin to imagine and I have delighted in her progress shared by her husband online and so it was amazing to meet her again after such a long time and a long journey for her.
And here’s the thing… when I bent down to say hello to her, she looked me straight in the eyes and she said, “hello Helen, how’s your running?” completely flooring me in that single moment with her simple question. I can’t actually remember how I answered her but to be honest, any answer I was capable of giving would have been utterly shameful, whether I lied and said it was going well or whether I said it wasn’t so great because I could see in her eyes that despite her own situation, she genuinely wanted to hear from me that I was running well and I couldn’t tell her that. When I spoke to her husband a few hours later and told him how blown away I was by the meeting, he told me that she doesn’t remember much from before her illness and so he was pretty surprised to hear her question too as well as truly heartened to have a little piece of ‘the old Mel’ back again. He told me how inspired she was by me before she was ill and that’s probably why she remembered. As if the meeting itself wasn’t enough, this second piece of information was all I needed to get my sorry ass back on the road to London and it’s a road I’ve been travelling ever since.
I am now in my 6th week of the 16 week training program and do you know what? It’s going really well… I am still nowhere near where I was before and I still get aches and niggles quite regularly but I am now training with a renewed sense of purpose and every time I feel some doubt creeping in, I just think of Mel and what she’s doing and I get on with it. I feel ashamed to think that I ever gave up on my dream and of some of the negativity that I allowed myself to feel. All I feel now is gratitude for who I am and what I can do and I’m excited to be finally looking forward to my big day in the capital and I think the key thing to remember is however bad things feel for you, there is always someone who is inspired by what you do. What will you do today to make yourself, and others, feel proud?