Fear has always been a useful emotion for me.
Since I was a child I have always been a little turned on by fear.
I used to ride a bike when I was 10 and cycle until I got lost, I was climbing walls and on the beach, I always went out a little too deep into the sea .
It made me feel alive.
When I signed up for my first full marathon in 2011, it was fear that drove me to do it (the fear of never doing it), and the fear that made me see through (your first 26.2 miles is a little scary). Fear made me join a running club and fear made me work out week after week.
I'm afraid of deep waters and yet I've swam in lakes and seas around the world, in a canal in Paris with thousands of beefy men swimming above me, and in the London docks (where my grandfather delighted in telling me stories of corpses)
I'm afraid to ride fast on my bike in case I fall, and yet, on occasion, I've done it too… not fall, but go fast… often downhill. I am afraid of heights, and yet I have climbed mountains and made difficult mud.
Feel the fear and do it anyway, right?
I am always fascinated by how these challenges change my perception of myself. How many of these fears teach me about other areas of my life.
During Covid, I felt fear on a whole new level.
I was fine the first few weeks, and then BAM out of the blue I started having panic attacks in the supermarket, the ones that come out of nowhere and are in your body rather than in your head, so that's is difficult to talk to, or even spot them coming.
I was afraid to run. I was scared when we occasionally went out on our bikes.
I was also afraid of other things like my business going bankrupt, gaining weight, and losing my fitness and mobility. Exercise has always been how I have managed my weight and wellness, and in March I switched from Crossfit 2-3 times a week and London Marathon training to spending the entire day in my 2 bed apartment ... no food delivery charges available and a fear of the supermarket…. so you can bet your last dollar my food choices reflect that.
When my fear started to linger a bit, I started taking little trips to the post office, or to stores to pick up essentials and barely recognized my body. I couldn't make my life on Facebook by walking anymore, and my lower back was hurting… I even had trouble putting on my sandals (which to be fair had always been a bit tricky) because of my flexibility affected too.
I missed my sweat.
I missed the sport challenge.
I missed working with a trainer.
I failed to share my victories.
But most of all I missed having a body that did things that I was proud of.
I tried not to fight, we were in a global pandemic for goodness sake, and I was juggling school at home and running two businesses on my own ... weight gain and weight loss. fitness is not the worst thing that can happen to a person, no matter what the situation. what the TV commercials say.
But I knew I didn't want to sit down and just accept it.
So I bought a Peloton bike. I had tried one a few years ago and loved it and knew that whatever fitness approach I would take, I had to be made from home, and have some kind of competitive element or gamification… and I think I made the right choice.
I've had the bike for about 2 months now, and use it almost every day.
I went from not being able to do more than 20 minutes, to being able to do 60 minutes of intensive sessions without too many problems… and I'm still on the bike the next day.
I feel better about myself and I'm not that scared.
Last week I took a much needed break and went to visit a friend in Scotland with my daughter Rose. I hadn't given much thought to what we were going to do, but I packed my sneakers just in case.
We had a lovely break… exactly what the doctor ordered.
I didn't end up running, but we did walk a bit (with a lot of hills I'm not used to) and yesterday we went for a hike in The Law, a conical hill that overlooks the city of 'East Lothian in North Berwick, Scotland, and sits 613 feet above sea level.
You could see it from my friend's apartment and when she suggested it I was like yeah why not.
And then fear set in.
Would I be in good shape, would my 7 year old daughter play ball ... she hates walking at the best of times. Should I give up halfway? Would my lower back pain come back, would my knees give way, would my fear of heights set in?
We started off OK… on the flat… but literally the very first slight slope Rose started to moan. Our tactic was to ignore the calls to stop, hit her with positivity, and try to distract her with questions about the scenery.
There were kids younger than her jumping happily, so we knew it was a reasonable challenge for her… and at least we could give it a try, right?
My friend Mel does a lot of walking and had already climbed half the act a few weeks ago before having to turn around due to very strong winds, but couldn't wait to get to the top.
I also wanted to reach the top.
Rose wasn't that enthusiastic. She soon realized that although we took mini-breaks along the way, we were going to do it one way or another. And it was a beautiful day and the view was breathtaking.
I found some climbs difficult, my legs were burning, my heart was pounding… and dealing with Rose's victory took some of my energy and concentration.
We did, however.
We made it to the top ... the very windy top and we took a few shots before heading back down ... The inscription on the monument at the top said, "Live for the moment" is not that the truth.
Upstairs, Rose was scared enough. I think it was the wind more than anything so we didn't stay too long at the top. But on the way down, we had a wonderful conversation about fear, and she turned to me and said:
"Are you proud of me mom?"
And I was.
She's a typical city kid after all, and she was also locked up without doing PE in school, going to the gym, and doing the occasional parkrun with me.
On the way down she was chirped a lot more, though still worried about her foot, wanting to hold my hand on the delicate parts.
But we did.
7 weeks ago I could barely walk to the post office without getting out of breath, and yesterday I climbed a big hill with a 7 year old in tow.
And for my next challenge ????
In 5 days, I'm cycling 100 miles to raise funds for pancreatic cancer in support of my dear friend Bryony Thomas who was diagnosed in December.
I signed up for this challenge about 3 weeks ago, and it really helped me improve my training. Could I do with a few more weeks to prepare myself… of course… but will I cover the 100 miles 100%
My intention is to cover it for a 24 hour period, but I give myself all weekend if I need to.
Am I scared ... absolutely
I rate between 8-10 hours ... and riding a bike during that time in her room is a bit of a tall order ... even for me.
If I have learned anything over the past 10 years ... and over the past 6 months in particular, it is that fear sometimes causes us to step back and retreat to where we feel safe and secure. comfortable, but it can also do the opposite, it can also help us grow and lead a bigger life, full of wonder, challenge and adventure.
How are you going to channel your fear this week?
PS. No small child was hurt while creating this blog, the fear lasted 3 or 4 seconds while I took the picture, and Rose was laughing and looking through her binoculars at the bass rock and asking for a snack a few more minutes late. A huge thank you to my friend Mel for helping me take massive steps forward on all kinds of levels these past few days… and for letting Rose take a ride in her little red convertible.
Most people think of running as a solo venture. And while runners appreciate ( read : need ) quality “me time, ” there’s something quite powerful about running in a pack.
“Most of the time people join groups for the social experience, but the cool thing about a course group is that you can be a part of it without saying a word, ” says Scott Miller, founder of the Boulder Trail Running Breakfast Club. “It’s a great opportunity to connect. ”
Here, Miller plus five other course club founders, share tips for building—and sustaining—your own running club.
Jessamy Little, who founded the Cass Runners Club, a 100-plus person course group in London comprised of her business school classmates, suggests asking potential members what days, times, and locations work best with their schedules. Some groups may favor an early morning sweat sesh, while others may prefer meeting after work. “A recommendation for a newer club is to have two set course days, ” Little says. “One during the week that is more focused on ‘getting it done’ and one on weekends that can have a more ‘fun and footloose’ vibe. ” For Little’s group, the weekend runs were geared toward exploring new areas of the city.
“Don’t get discouraged if not a lot of people show up at first, ” says Marnie Kunz, founder of Runstreet, an NYC-based company that leads art runs—urban runs that pass by street art in cities across the U. S. When Kunz held her first art run in 2015, just one person came : a man on a bike. Kunz was disappointed, embarrassed, and considered canceling the whole thing. But the next week a few more people showed up, and then a few more. Soon, word got out. Runstreet has since hosted more than 200 runs in cities around the country “Realizing that everyone starts from scratch really helps, ” Kunz says.
Kunz stresses the importance of having your own website that houses all information about your runs along with photos. “Social media platforms can change—and not everyone is on every platform—so it helps to have everything in one place. ” Keep your communication consistent across platforms to help create a streamlined brand.
Let people know what they are getting themselves into, Miller says. His Boulder, Colorado-based group of 100-plus members meets every Saturday for a long trail run ( anywhere between two to six hours ) followed by a group breakfast. Because the group’s runs cover a wide range of terrain, he wrote several articles explaining the general types of conditions runners can expect and the group’s approximate pace along with safety tips.
The articles are published on the group’s MeetUp page, and when a new person signs up, Miller sends them the reading material. “If your group is not a beginner group, you need to make that clear, ” Miller says. “You don’t want people to show up and have a bad time. I try to be really descriptive about the time, distance, and elevation of our runs so people know what they are in for. ”
Many members of Miller’s group take photos during the runs and post them to the group’s page. He says it helps draw new members. “When people are looking for a course group and they see pictures of runs in amazing areas, people smiling—both men and women—they see that it’s a mixed group that likes to be social and have fun. ”
Frankie Ruiz, cofounder of the Miami Marathon and founder of the Baptist Health South Florida Brickell Run Club, a free, once-a-week, Miami-based group of about 400 runners, can count on one hand the number of times he’s cancelled runs throughout the program’s nine-year tenure.
“Our main message is that we don’t cancel, ” he says. “If it’s really rough out, we’ll go to a parking garage or go indoors and do a core séance. ” He says this has helped build the club’s reputation as a consistent amenity offered by the city. “Even if a runner doesn’t show up, I think there’s a comfort knowing that there is something in your city that doesn’t stop. ”
“If you have new people coming in, you can’t assume that they know the rules and guidelines, ” Ruiz says. “Communication needs to be all the time. ” Even though the group’s “weather-proof policy” may be well understood among current members, every time the skies get gloomy, the club blasts their social channels with reminders that the runs are still on. It also helps to communicate the planned route, distance, and pace in advance so that new members can plan their fioul and attire accordingly.