Final Preparations for my First Track Adventure!

Tuesday was a very big day in the #OldDogNewTricks adventure house! With my first track races (400m and 800m) taking place in Nuneaton at the West Midlands Masters Track & Field Championships on Sunday 9 June, the nerves are starting to kick in.

Whenever I get anxious about anything, I find one of the best ways to feel more confident is to prepare as best I can.

I started training for these events on 1 January 2019. In the grand scheme of things, 5 months may not be very long to prepare for the demands of the 400m and 800m. However, it is long enough to have a good go at the distances! 5 months in and the training is beginning to pay off, and I’m realising that, given another 5 months, I’ll probably have a much better feel for my potential at these (and other) distances. In other words, I’m not going to stop training for the track once my track adventures are over 🙂 .

With less than two weeks until my first races, my current worries are around the starting blocks (setting them up and getting out of them) and running on a track in spikes.

With the aim of being as prepared as I can be, I went along to CrossFit Causeway at lunchtime on Tuesday of this week to get some experience with the blocks.

During a 45-minute intensive lunchtime session,  Richard Lappin (a member of my ‘adventure support crew‘) showed me how to adjust the blocks. He then put me through my ‘block paces’ by getting me to practise ‘falling’ out of the blocks. I had to learn how to get out of the blocks while resisting the urge to stand up (this is much tougher than it sounds). By the end of the session I was feeling a lot more confident about the blocks – and I still have a bit of time to fine-tune.

On Tuesday evening I headed over to Antrim to join Ballymena & Antrim Athletics Club for a training session on the track. This would be my chance to get some experience of running in spikes – and I have to say I was a little bit nervous about going along.

I needn’t have been nervous at all: I had a lovely warm welcome and learned a great deal from the session. I was very well looked after by the coach (Pauline) and athletes (thanks in particular to Emma, Katie, Sophie and Rhonda). It was my very first time running on a track and I completely loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I’m going to join the club. I’m pretty certain that my running will improve no end by training with other runners – and I’m pretty certain that I’m going to really enjoy getting to know the other athletes. I talk in full detail about my blocks and track experience in today’s video-blog (and I get a bit of a major insight too 🙂 ):

Right. I am just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT

Snatching a Moment of Confidence

Something unusual happened at the swimming pool this morning. It was something so unusual that it had a profound impact on me. I talk about the experience in today’s video-blog. (Samantha, whom I mention, is pictured below the video in full fighting flight: she’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt.)

‘I’m just gonna do it’
Samantha Russell- Morelli

I’ll keep you posted about tonight’s snatch session (video of what a snatch is below). In the meantime, I’m just going outside and may be some time 🙂 (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Getting Back on Track

With only two weeks to go before the West Midlands Masters Track and Field Championships in Nuneaton, I’m making my final preparations for my first athletics meet. This first meet will be all about me getting some racing experience, ready for the NI Masters championships at the end of June.

My racing spikes 🙂

Next Tuesday will be a big day on my adventure calendar. I’ll be learning how to set up the blocks for the 400m (and get out of them  😎) with my running coach, Richard Lappin. I’ll also be running in spikes for the very first time in my life 😱. The folks at Ballymena and Antrim Athletics Club have been brilliant. I asked if I could go along to the track in Antrim to give my spikes a try out, and they invited me along to a training session, run by one of their middle-distance coaches.

I’ll let you know how it all goes, of course. In the meantime, here’s a video-blog about my upcoming running adventures, which includes a trip down memory lane to the very first time I stood on an athletics track. (Correction: in the video I mention Marlon Devonish. He was a 100m and 200m runner, not a 200m and 400m runner!) Below the video, you’ll find  some 400m and 800m inspiration, along with a video about how to set up blocks 🙂 .

Here’s Michael Johnson winning  his fourth 400 metre world title with a new world record time of 43.18 seconds at the relatively late age of 31 years and 11 months. The record stood for nearly 17 years before being beaten at the 2016 Olympics by the South African Wayde van Niekerk.

On 9 August 2012 at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, David Rudisha led from start to finish to win gold in what has been called the greatest 800m race ever. In so doing, he became the first and, so far, only runner to break the 1:41 barrier for 800m.

And here’s how to set up those all-important blocks!

Right. I’m just going outside and I may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Stoned Enough to Dance Burlesque

As far adventuring goes, this past weekend has been a very good one! On Saturday morning I had the opportunity to have a go at some typical ‘strongman’ stuff at CrossFit Causeway.

First up was an extensive introduction to the Atlas Stones. We started light, learning how to get the stones off the floor, how to ‘hug them’ and then ‘encourage them’ up to our shoulders. (Just so you know, verbal encouragement does seem to work – as long as you have a good relationship with your stone , I reckon it’ll listen and ‘work with you’ 😎.) The heaviest I managed in practice was a 40kg stone. Here’s me in the WOD (Workout Of the Day) lifting a 35kg  stone (5 1/2 stone/ 77 lbs):

We also had a go at a Zercher carry. As you can see from the images (one of me and one of Gail, a fellow competitor in the upcoming powerlifting competition), the load is held in the crook of your elbows. The load is  largely in front of you and this increases the demands on the upper back, while also increasing core tension.

The session was all about strength and this wouldn’t normally appeal to me (I like a bit of the old conditioning too 😉 ). However, I really enjoyed it (I think it was because I’d never done anything like it before and I wasn’t even sure whether I could lift any of the stones) and my body obviously got a pretty tough workout because on Sunday morning my whole body felt like it was full of concrete!

I managed a sprint session on Sunday morning (without it I don’t think I would have been able to move very much at all) before heading to Belfast for the hotly anticipated Rock Goddess Burlesque workshop, led by the brilliant Soup du Jour (Laura Firby). I was sharing this adventure with a writer friend of mine, Belinda Bennetts. We’d both studied the joining instructions very carefully and were ready to throw ourselves headlong (or whichever body part might work best 😎) into the experience. We had our outfits. We had our attitudes. And we were up for it!

Obviously, we were a little shocked when the workshop started with everyone pretty much fully dressed 🤣🤣🤣.  During the first part of the workshop we learned how to ‘promenade’ and practised jiggling, hip-swivelling and shimmying (which is much harder than it looks). After a while, we were invited to put on our heels – and that made a real difference: I certainly felt like more of a performer with them on. Just before the tea-break we managed our first routine!

Belinda and I took an executive decision to go the whole hog and put on all our burlesque kit for the second part of the workshop. I was keen to have the full experience and see if dancing like this offered the opportunity to experience my ‘edges’ in new ways. Once it was obvious what Belinda and I were up to, another woman started to get changed. She was about the same age as me – also post-menopausal and also filling her life with new experiences.

I was rather taken with her leather bustier, but it was her homemade nipple tassels that impressed me the most! She’d already done a few classes with Soup du Jour and had obviously found her thing. I loved the joy and playfulness in her – and she had such a free energy in her when she was dancing.

In the second part of the workshop we learned how to take off gloves, take off clothes and do floor work (also much harder than it looks and requires LOTS of flexibility). By the end of the afternoon, we’d learned and performed a second routine. And I’m so glad I changed into my outfit during the tea break: it made such a difference. I felt much more in my body, much more powerful, much more willing to ‘let go’ and try on the full-on burlesque persona. Being in a dance studio, we all faced ourselves in the mirror. As I watched myself, I kept my eye out for things I’d never noticed about myself before.

I noticed how strong I looked and I could see how my adventures have changed my body. I noticed how ‘in my body’ I was, too: I wasn’t trapped in my head. As I watched my body move, I noticed that I was not self-conscious or embarrassed in any way at all – rather, I was thrilled that my body was moving and enjoying the movement. I had invited it to dance and it had accepted the invitation ‘with knobs on’. And when it got to the floor work (I’d say you’d call that the ‘rudest bit’ 🤣), I noticed how playful my body was.

Burlesque dancing was a brilliant way of finding out where I am in my post-menopausal journey. I am happy to confirm that I feel free, confident, playful and have no hang-ups to speak of about my aging body. I actually love what my body can do – and wants to do. I love that it remembers how to do things, even when my mind has forgotten. I love that it still learns quickly (much faster than my mind). I love that it gives things a go – and keeps giving things a go until it find its own way of ‘getting the hang’ of it.

Burlesque dancing is also a brilliant way of connecting with other women. It was interesting to me that most of the group were young women (in their 20s and 30s), but there were some women there in their 40s – and at least two of us in our 50s. I felt a much stronger sense of sisterhood with the older women, and I have the feeling that if there were a class just for more mature women, it might be pretty wild!

If you’re interested in having a go at burlesque dancing, and you’re based in Northern Ireland, I strongly recommend Laura’s classes. The class I did was a single workshop, but there are courses spread over weeks too. You can do the Rock Goddess Burlesque class at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on 2 June!

I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

A Mind Needs Books as a Sword Needs a Whetstone

These days I’m going to bed earlier and earlier. And as there’s nothing I like better than a good book, I’ve combined bed and books to create a ‘Horizontal Inspiration Zone’ (HIZ) 😉 . Between 9 and 10 most nights you’ll find me tucked up with a book that’s pertinent to my adventures, the kind of book that might help psychologically or practically with what lies ahead. (By the way, sometimes I don’t even realise the book is pertinent until I start reading 🙂 ).

Usually I read a lot of fiction, but at the moment I’m all over the non-fiction, creative non-fiction and memoirs. Here are a couple of stand-out books from recent visits to the HIZ:

Twelve Minutes of Love: a Tango Story This is a memoir written by a woman who discovered the ‘truth’ of herself through dance. You don’t have to be a tanguera (person who dances tango) or even have a remote interest in dance to enjoy this book. Whilst I learned a huge amount about tango ( its origins and history; the different styles; the music and songs associated with the dance; its spread across the world;  what milongas (a sort of ‘tango meet’)  are like; and the kind of people you might encounter on the dance floor), the memoir resonated with me deeply because of the parallels with my own life. This memoir, at its heart, is a quest for belonging written by an adventurous woman with itchy feet. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and it has made me very excited about my autumn tango adventure!

The Oxygen Advantage often gets mentioned in the same breath as What Doesn’t Kill Us (mentioned in a previous post). The book is an enthusiastic manifesto for the benefits of nose-breathing (as opposed to breathing through your mouth). Similar to the Wim Hof method, claims are made about improving V02 max through following the Oxygen Advantage Method.

I have actually tried the nasal breathing technique in some of my recent CrossFit classes – not with a view to increasing V02 max, but with a view to switching off the ‘fight-or-flight’ response – and have to say that I was amazed at how relaxed and unstressed I felt (and was able to load up my weighted plank with no bother!).

The one thing in this book that really piqued my interest was the protocol for simulating altitude training at sea level. This is something I will try after my sprinting adventure – along with some of the related exercises. The reason I’m not diving straight into the Oxygen Advantage Method is that it takes the body a while to adapt – and in the early stages, it’s common to see a dip in performance. With my sprinting adventures just weeks a way, I’m not that enthusiastic about a dip!

There was something about this book that niggled away at me – and made me not ‘trust’ the information completely. I’m not sure if it is because the guy who wrote it isn’t an athlete or because he had to protect the identities of his famous sporting clients. Either way, I’m still yet to be 100% convinced (but that won’t stop me having a go at the altitude training!) 🙂 . There was also a fair bit of wandering off into other territories (like meditation). I think I would have preferred him to stick to the point (but that’s probably just me – I was reading with a specific purpose in mind and deep peace wasn’t it 😉 ).

If you have read something you think I might enjoy, do let me know 🙂 . I’m always on the lookout for a good read 🙂 .

Right then. I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT 🙂

Chatty Woman Goes to Cookstown

You’ve probably worked out by now that ‘organisation’ is my middle name! I don’t think I’d be able to adventure so, well … er, adventurously 😉  (and fulfil the rest of my daily commitments) without lots of up-front planning.

Getting in shape for my upcoming burlesque workshop! (I did weighted pull-ups last week 🙂 )

Next weekend (19 May) sees the arrival of my much anticipated burlesque adventure. I’ve spent the last week digging around in my ‘dressing up box’ to make sure I’m suitably equipped to get the most out of the experience. I’m going all out for this adventure, I reckon: the feather boa’s coming along (as are the all-the-way-up-the-arm gloves, the ridiculously high heels and other ‘unspeakable accessories’ 😉 ).

The burlesque outfit is very much in contrast to the powerlifting accoutrements I purchased in Cookstown yesterday. Even though the powerlifting competition isn’t until July, I need to get used to lifting in knee sleeves, wrist wraps and a belt – and I definitely need to break the belt in! (Scroll down for a wee ‘show and tell’ video blog 😉 )

Whilst I could have ordered the powerlifting kit online, I wasn’t sure about my size so I drove over to Performance Nutrition Plus in Cookstown who stock NIPF-approved gear.

Here’s Dana doing her thing!

I’m so glad I decided to get myself over to Cookstown. The folk at Performance Nutrition Plus are super friendly and totally in-the-know. I was looked after by Dana Suitor, who just happens to hold the current NI bench press record  (under-23; 72 kg class): an impressive 80kg! Dana is also representing Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in Canada this September. (Athletes don’t receive any financial support to attend the championships, by the way. If you’d like to support Dana, do visit her GoFundMe page here. #LetsGetDanaToCanada 🙂 )

You’ll know from previous posts that I’m quite the chatter. Dana is also a chatter! It was so inspiring to hear about her powerlifting journey and I loved the way she treated me as a fellow strength athlete (even though I’m only a rookie!). She asked about my own training and gave me lots of encouragement. Like a good tailor, she was able to estimate both my weight and kit-size by eye alone; and she spent lots of time showing me how to put the kit on and making sure the fit was spot on. I’d say Dana is a fabulous ambassador for the sport.

Dana is 30 years younger than me and it was brilliant having one of those across-the-generations moments with her. She’s got incredible focus, energy and something that I’ve noticed in other adventurers I’ve met along the way: a special kind of ‘denseness’or solidity.  Of course, Dana is physically dense and solid (she’s obviously very strong and muscular), but I’m not really talking about that kind of ‘denseness’ or solidity. I’m talking about the kind of denseness and solidity that comes with being totally present, totally in-the-game and all-in. I’m taking about the kind of denseness and solidity that comes with enthusiasm, passion and dedication. I’m talking about the kind of denseness and solidity that is present when who someone is (their identity) is in complete alignment with what they do.

In my experience, this kind of ‘denseness’ is quite rare, but I’ve found plenty of pockets of it since starting my #OldDogNewTricks project. I see it at the CrossFit box. I see it in the young people waiting for their music lessons (when I’m waiting for my lesson). I saw it at the 5K race I recently competed in.

When the ‘denseness’ isn’t there, I experience people like ghosts – only partially present and sometimes not present at all!

Anyway, on that philosophical note I’ll leave you to watch my video blog. And while you’re watching that, I’ll start wearing that belt in!

I’m just going outside and may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

 

The Icewoman Cometh

In my last blog post I mentioned the book What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney. Today I’m posting a video blog about my own experiences of the Wim Hof Method. I’m doing the breathing exercises 5-6 days a week, and I’m managing to do the cold showers 6 days a week (sometimes multiple times a day, depending on my training schedule). Below the video blog you’ll find links to Scott’s book, to the free Wim Hof Method 3-part video series and I’ve also posted a video about Wim Hof. There’s a whole heap of stuff about Wim Hof (and others using his method) on YouTube. It’s worth doing your own research, having a go and making your own mind up about the whole process 🙂 .

Here’s one of the many interesting YouTube videos about Wim Hof:

Click on the cover image to find the book on Amazon.
Go here to access Wim Hof’s free 3-part video series.

I am off for another cold shower, and then I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 .  (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Changing my Mind About a Few Things

With my first track events happening on 9 June, things feel like they’ve just upped a level. Entries are now open for the West Midlands Masters Championships in England, and this week I submitted my entries for both the 400m and 800m.

Got my spikes!

The race entry form asked for previous race times. Of course, I didn’t have any and felt a bit worried that they might reject my entry! In fact, I was so worried that I wrote to the race director to explain that these races would be my very first at this distance.

I needn’t have worried because I got a very friendly reply – and I’m definitely ‘in’. However, it seems to me that there’s a part of me that thinks I may be some kind of imposter…

Not sure about my racing pants, though 😉

I’ve been training diligently for the track events – physically, that is. Given my fears around actually being eligible to race, the dial for psychological preparations has just been turned up a notch or two!

I’ve been watching films and reading books and soaking up as much inspiration as I can. The following recent watches and reads have been both helpful and inspiring:

Eddie the Eagle (film) is the true story of Great Britain’s most famous ski jumper. In spite of the odds, he made it to the Olympics and set British records for both the 70m and 90m jumps. Although he came last, this didn’t matter. It was a huge achievement and he realised his dream. At first no one believed in Eddie except for Eddie, but he kept going in spite of the taunts of others ,the doors that slammed in his face and the lack of support from the British Olympic Committee. This film is a heart-warming lesson about the power of resilience, determination and self-belief. I’m definitely going to be more Eddie from now on!

Free Solo (film) is a documentary about Alex Honnold‘s free solo climb of El Capitan. It’s breath-taking, horrifying and awe-inspiring – and it offers fascinating insights  into the working of this extreme sportsman’s mind. People genuinely thought he was going to die climbing El Cap in this way. He believed he wouldn’t. His psychological preparations were thorough. He’s still alive – and he did it! (My takeaway? Preparation. Preparation. Preparation.)

 

Roger Bannister – Everest on the Track  is a BBC documentary (available to watch until 16 May) about how Bannister achieved the first sub-4-minute mile. Again, he believed it was possible when others didn’t – and planning was everything! As a result of his achievement, the Bannister Effect became a recognised phenomenon: that is, once the psychological barrier is broken (people see something is actually possible), many more people go on to achieve what was hitherto deemed to be impossible.

I think a Bannister Effect of sorts has had a part to play in my recent sporting adventures.  Not only did I surprise myself in the local 5k race, but I also achieved a personal record for the deadlift (part of my powerlifting adventure) last Friday. These achievements seemed to have opened up all sorts of possibilities for me and lifted psychological barriers that I probably had little conscious awareness of. My self-talk has definitely changed – and that’s helped to achieve another 3 personal records this week: one for the back squat, one for the bench press and one for the military press! The automatic voice in my head said ‘Come on! You can do this!’ (which actually took me by surprise the first time I heard it – and it made me smile 🙂 ).

Yesterday’s training included snatches and overhead squats. In the past, I’d be afraid of the bar, but yesterday I actually found myself talking to the bar as if it were my training partner. The voice in my head said ‘Come on! We can do this!’ (and we did 😉 ).

As for books, What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney has been a bit of a game-changer. Scott’s an investigative journalist with a scientific bent, who set out to debunk Wim Hof’s ‘Inner Fire’ method. Instead of discovering that the method was  flimflam, Scott experiences incredible change in his own physiology and goes on to achieve incredible things. The method is based on the three pillars of breathing, exposure to cold and mind-set (which is all about commitment) – and, of course, I’ve been giving it a go myself (it’s Day 10 here in the Big Wim Hof House 😉 )! If you want to have a go yourself, you can sign up to a free mini-course here.  I’ll write more about the Wim Hof method in the next blog post, but for now I’ll just say that taking cold showers has all sorts of unexpected positive side effects!

Having just finished Run Less, Run Faster I’m feeling more confident about my 3-runs-a-week plus-CrossFit-and-swimming regime. As a marathoner/ultra-runner, I was used to 6 days of running a week, so switching to 3 took a while to get my head around. (It’s worth noting, by the way, that the Run Less, Run Faster approach also requires additional days of cross-training – and it’s predicated on intensity, so if intensity is not your thing, look away now!) Now that I can see the approach is working, I’m looking forward to seeing where else this style of training can take me. I’m thinking about trying the 5K programme to see what happens when I actually train for the distance. Who knows, I might even run a cross-country winter season (which would be a whole new adventure) 😉 .

Right, then. I’ve just trained, so I’m off for a cold shower. After that, I’m going outside and I may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 😉

A Wee Purple Patch!

This is what 100kg looks like

It’s just been one of those weeks, the kind where the stars are all in the right place 🙂 .

Last night I went to CrossFit in a buoyant mood, the buzz of the recent 5K race still in my body. I was looking forward to the session because it included deadlifts.  This lift is one of the three that’ll be included in my powerlifting adventure in July and my training schedule has just upped a notch. (To be honest, when I looked at the new schedule I was nearly sick! Fortunately, the algorithm on the training spreadsheet hadn’t been tweaked to my personal settings. Once I had tweaked it, I didn’t feel soooooo sick, but the numbers still looked challenging!)

During last night’s session I had to lift 100kg (15 3/4 stone) – that’s just shy of twice my own body weight! I’ve never lifted 100kg before, but last night I did it and established a new 1RM (one rep max). Unfortunately, I don’t have a video or picture of me doing it, but I can tell you that as soon as that rep was done I was shouting ‘one hundred!’ and leaping around (and ringing the bell, which is what happens when you establish a new personal record).

If you don’t know what a deadlift is, here’s how it’s done:

This morning I was back in ‘the box’ practising split jerks. The focus was on working out which our lead leg was by experimenting with both legs (mine turned out to be my left). We also worked on dropping lower below the bar and on speed. You can see from the video below that I could probably drop a bit lower! Videoing practice sessions can help see where tweaks can be made:

Right, I think I’ve earned a wee rest. I am just going outside and may be some time. ( (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Back in the (Human) Race

At the Purple Ladies 5K on 24 April 2019

I’m about 6 weeks away from my first track meet (for my 400m/800m sprinting adventures) and training is going well: I’m injury-free and still enjoying it – and I’ve no problems motivating myself to get out of the door and onto the road.

To spice up my training, I decided to enter a local 5K race. I’ve never raced at this distance before (the shortest I’ve raced is 10K – and the last time I raced at that distance was 1995 in Coventry). One of my current weekly runs is a speed-endurance session and I thought I’d hop along to this local 5K event and run a pacey 2K and jog the rest (which is all I needed to do to keep on track with my schedule).

Just before starting the Mourne Way Ultra in 2010

The last time I raced was in 2010: the Mourne Way Ultra in County Down, Northern Ireland. After that I went rogue and did all of my running on my own (or, when I was working towards a very tight writing deadline, not at all!). Turning up at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney to pick up my race number for the Purple Ladies 5K  this Wednesday evening was a bit of a shock to the system after such a long time ‘off the circuit’.

The registration hall was a sea of club colours and I felt a bit intimidated and out of place. My nerves were calmed by the brilliant organisation of the host running club (Springwell). All competitors were given a very warm welcome and a lovely pep talk at the start line.

The man with the starter gun encouraged those aiming for a 20-minute finish time to move to the front. I thought I’d shadow the front runners as best I could for the first 2K and then ease off the pedal. I didn’t think I had a hope in hell of keeping up, but I knew that even if I could only see those front runners as specks on the horizon, just having them in my sights would keep me pushing on.

I don’t run with a wrist watch (I’m allergic to most straps and buckles), so I usually carry a stopwatch. Unfortunately, I’d left my stopwatch in the car, so I’d just have to rely on the faster runners to keep me going at a demanding pace for 2K and not worry too much about the time.

I stood back and let a layer of runners move up to the start line. The gun went and we were off! I’d warmed up really well and couldn’t believe how much I was enjoying the pace. During the first kilometre I was actually worried that something was terribly wrong. I kept asking myself ‘Why aren’t they running faster?’ and ‘Why isn’t anyone overtaking me?’ and ‘Was there actually a false start?’

After the first kilometre I thought I’d try having a wee chat with the runners next to me. (Having BIG chats is the norm in marathons and ultras, by the way.) The chatting didn’t work (as in, no one seemed that keen to chat back) so, in the end, I settled into (relatively) quiet running. (Okay. Okay. I did randomly chat every now and again. I’m a chatter, okay ? 😉 It’s what I do: chat.)

Shelagh (in the top picture) and I ran together for about the first 3K. In the absence of chatting, I focused on the rhythm of my own breathing – and I realised that Shelagh and I were breathing synchronously. In the moment of recognising how our breathing was harmonised, I felt a lovely connection with my fellow runner. The synchronous breathing was the equivalent of chatting. We were telling each other how hard we were working, how we were doing, that we were ‘fully in the game’, that we were in this together. And in that moment I suddenly felt ‘back in the race’.

I’d say I’ve been ‘out of the race’ for the last couple of years. The human race, that is. As a writer, it’s easy to feel ‘cut off’. It’s easy to move into a different world and stay there until the job is done. It’s easy to get so used to being by yourself, that being with others feels odd. Running this 5K race, alongside Shelagh, I suddenly felt part of things again. Part of something bigger. Part of something more joyful. Part of something wildly alive.

Unfortunately, Shelagh dropped behind a little. I decided to push on and get the job done (with a sprinkling of light chat 😉 ). I missed the 2K sign and just kept at a comfortable pace, crossing the finish line without knowing how long the 5K had taken. Shelagh came in just behind me and reckoned we’d done it in 22-something, which I was quite pleased with.

While there was very little in the way of in-race chatting, there was plenty of post-race chatting. It was lovely to talk to other runners and share congratulations. It was lovely to clap other runners across the line. I was really enjoying the whole experience! (I now realise the absence of chatting was due to the hard work being done!)

I decided to stay for the refreshments (the spread was AMAZING) and prize giving (something I’d usually avoid in my running past). I was enjoying the feeling of connection and of community – and I really wanted to stay and clap the prize winners too.

You can imagine my surprise when my name was called out as the second lady finisher in the 50+ category! I’d actually managed to clock a time of 22:26 – I was delighted 🙂 . And I’d managed to finish 17th in a field of 258 runners 🙂 .

I’ll tell you something for free: that old dog was wagging her tail rightly 😉 😉 😉 .

I’m sure something changed for me as I crossed that finish line on Wednesday. I’m not exactly sure what it is yet. I feel more open to connecting with other people, that’s for sure. I feel there is less of a gap between me and the outside world. I feel closer to the surface of myself, while still being deeply rooted somewhere inside. And there’s something else … an urge to reach out, I think (I even thought about joining the local running club … and I haven’t been a club runner for about 15 years!). Something big is on the move, anyway. I’ll let you know what it is when it shows itself 🙂 .

In the meantime, I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂