Well it gives me the greatest pleasure to announce our very first Overseas Solemother of the month. Helen is allllll the way down under and what a Sheila she is!!! With no chance of hooking up with any of the UK Solemothers anytime soon Helen is a fantastic contributor to our awesome community. Helen’s story covers many miles and years but one thing is clear… whether you are like Helen and actually know what you are doing or still sat on the couch thinking about taking your first steps ‘Just keep going’.
When I first found out that Grace had sent me a Facebook message, I must admit, I did go into a bit of a panic. What had I done?! Breached some of the page rules? Not taken enough selfies?! Been posting too much?!
Imagine my delight, shock and amazement when she told me I’d been nominated for the most recent SM of the month! So firstly, I’d like to thank the lovely SMs for nominating me and also for welcoming me wholeheartedly onto your page. The messages of support you all have for me and each other really is wonderful to see and experience.
I was introduced to the SM Hood by the one and only Sarah B. We met in antenatal classes, probably around a decade ago. We clicked immediately and became good mates once our new babes had been born. Running couldn’t have been further from our minds at that point, although there was a lot of walking done back then!
Grace has asked me to write a blog, but I think these are more like musings and observations from over the years that I’ll share with you, if that’s OK.
My running story began way back in 1997, yes that’s right, 21 years ago! My mum was actually the one struggling with her weight and decided that I needed dragging out too. (She is a no- nonsense Northern lass, which is probably why I get on with you lot so well!). Happy to oblige, we set out one dark, cold evening and after a lot of huffing, puffing and stitch we ran two miles together. I actually don’t remember any great euphoric feeling or that famous runner’s buzz you hear about, but I felt happily tired and I liked it enough to keep going.
I joined the local running club, along with my parents, and dutifully attended speed sessions, social runs and local races. Back in the 90s, running clubs largely consisted of mainly middle-aged men. There were very few female runners my age that ever attended. This is one of the most startling things that I notice now. The amount of ladies that now hit the pavements on a regular basis. I enjoyed running club and the company of my middle-aged pacers(!), but soon it was time to head off to university.
Throughout uni, the exams, the essays and socialising, I kept up running. It kept me trim and just focussed me so much better. Three years of deadlines, lectures and boyfriends coming and going soon came to an end, but the running did not.
In 2001, I left the UK for a year’s travelling. Again, although the scenery changed wherever I went, the running remained the same. Most backpackers wouldn’t dream of breaking into a run, but I loved exploring new areas and routes wherever I went.
The year soon finished and I started the scary and adult World of Work. I relocated from my hometown in the Midlands and ended up in the leafy county of Surrey. It was a totally different area to the one I’d grown up in and never really completely took to it. However, the one thing that did keep me sane was….yup, you guessed it…..running!!
I met my partner in Surrey, married him, changed jobs, had my kids there and moved house countless times over that period of a decade in the Home Counties. No matter what, I just kept plugging away with running. No matter what life threw at me, it was always something that I could just come back to and it would always be reassuringly similar.
Back in 2012, life threw my husband and I a bit of an opportunity for him to work in Dubai. Always up for a challenge, we decided to go for it and packed up all our worldly possessions to have a go at life in the Middle East.
We lived there for 4 years in all and the first two years were particularly trying. The kids were tiny (a baby and a toddler) and my husband was working all hours possible to get us a head start. We didn’t have a car for the first few months and the kids and I were unable to get resident visas for nearly a year. It’s really hard to get all the correct documentation without a resident visa and it made life really tricky. I wondered what on earth we had done sometimes and if it was ever going to be worth it. Often my hubbie would come home home around 9pm, exhausted beyond words. I’d leave him to have his dinner and he’d see my lacing up my trainers. I’d be out that front door into the brutally warm Arabian air to pound out my frustration on the pavement. Of course, life in Dubai did settle down but it was running that kept me fit, active and clear-headed. We had 4 years there and I’ve raced all over the city in various events. No matter where you are in the world, the queues for the loos are always miles long and the car park always smells of Tiger Balm! The camaraderie is the same too. Even if you don’t speak to many of the competitors, you’re bound by the fact that we’re….well, basically all bonkers! Come rain, hail or shine you can always count on a runner to never, ever miss out on a race because we’ve already paid for it and we want our medal!
As if my little family hadn’t had enough adventures, we decided to go to Australia on holiday, back in 2016. My hubster had been pursuing a job opportunity in Melbourne, but nothing had come of it.
It wasn’t until we had landed, however, that he was actually offered an interview in Melbourne itself. It was the most surreal 48 hours of our lives as a family of 4. He was offered the job and he naturally took it. It gradually dawned on us that we actually didn’t need to go back to Dubai at all.
House-hunting, looking at schools and filling in paperwork soon became normal things to do while on our family holiday. We were finally settled in after a couple of months of living in Air Bnbs. I did get back to running after those two months of nuttiness, but had found my fitness had taken a huge and inexplicable slide. Totally bemused and frustrated, I reignited my dalliance with running again.
I’ve been in Melbourne for two years now and finally feel as though my fitness is getting back to what it was in Dubai. While I was in the UK and UAE, I felt as though I was always looking for the next best time, the next event, the flattest route where I could shave some time off. I became fixated on bettering my time every single time I ran.
After twenty or so years of running, countless 10Ks, 5ks and even a few half marathons, I’ve actually realised that its OK to enjoy running for what it is. It’s truly liberating to have that freedom of movement and to not have to worry about the next PB. I still have that slightly nutty, competitive edge but I no longer fixate on past performances or times I wasn’t happy with. As you can probably tell from my posts on the SM page, I’ve really been enjoying my running for the sheer pleasure of it. I live in a picturesque part of Melbourne and after the desert in Dubai, it’s a very welcome change!
Even though I have been a student, an employee, a wife, a mum or an expatriate, I have always have been and always will be a (slightly nutty and competitive!) runner first. Life will always throw more challenges at all of us, but I know what I’ll be doing to help me when that happens.
As my dad says before I head off for another race, “whatever you do, don’t stop!”
You know what? I don’t think I will. Are you coming too?