My RED January

Cardio is hardio, right?! I’ve never been much of a runner. That’s not for lack of trying, but generally I get bored, and stray toward the weights, or LISS cardio options, where I can shut my mind off, and plug into a new series on Netflix, or just tune out to my favourite album. If we’re talking running events, yeah I’ve done a few off the cuff 5km group runs, fun runs, and mud runs, but beyond that, I can count on my 2 hands the number of times I pushed myself past that 10km mark. That’s not to say I don’t like running. I do. I really like running. Albeit, far more once I’ve finished the run, rather than while I’m actually doing the run, or psyching myself up for a run. But I actually don’t hate running. Just the thought of it. If we’re talking about running events, and fun runs, I’d even go as far to say that I love running. I don’t really train for these events, as I generally have had faith in my fitness and endurance carrying me through a 5km course.

After running a few events last year which included an inflatable obstacle colour run, and a mud run, I decided I wanted to push myself to try something a little more challenging.. So, I signed myself up to my first Tough Mudder.. as you do.. So 5x my usual running challenge with a shed load of gruelling obstacles chucked in. Yup. Threw myself in the deep end a bit there didn’t I?! But, despite it being my toughest challenge yet, I’m not feeling nervous, I’m excited. Any runner who participates in these kinds of events will know what I’m talking about, but that moment when you and your fellow runners cross that finish line, is a pretty magical one; the adrenaline coursing through your veins, sweat dripping from your brown, and cheers of support from onlookers, and total strangers. It’s awesome!!

So, anywho, back to RED January- it was that limbo bit between Christmas and New Year, when I was sat on the couch devouring a tub of roses and sipping on my third prosecco of the evening. Scrolling through Facebook, an advert popped up on my feed. RED January. After clicking the link, I quickly discovered that this stood for Run Every Day January. – a challenge put together by the Charity, Mind, in order to raise awareness of their work, but also help its participants focus their own minds, and combat the January blues, with a little daily exercise.

So, the idea of the challenge is pretty simple; all you have to do is run every day in January. Participants had the option of fundraising or simply running to give themselves a challenge, in order to combat the January blues. There are no rules. And no specific fundraising target. The goal being to get people active every day in January, and spreading awareness with opening up the conversation about mental health, to reduce the stigma.

So, there I was, feeling decidedly jolly, but also wondering how much longer it would be acceptable for me to use, ‘it’s christmas’, as my excuse for my lack of good nutrition, and physical activity. In my merry state, I thought to myself, oh yes, this is great, it’ll be a piece of cake. Let me fetch my bank card. So the following day, flittering through my inbox, I was greeted with a rather enthusiastic ‘thank you for signing up’ email, reminding me of my drunken bout of self belief, and it suddenly dawned on me; I had not ran since October, and in truth, I’d barely even exercised in a week. Not only that, but I’d probably never run for more than 3 consecutive days, let alone 31?! But reminding myself that this was ultimately for a great cause, I decided to bite the bullet, and stop flustering about it. January was 2 days away, and I was going to do this!

So I set up a JustGiving to take donations for Mind, sharing my target; to run every day in January, accumulating 70kms (which seemed a pretty huge personal target at the time.) The first run was a tricky one. I opted to run the 5km route that I had ran in the local annual 5km event, the previous year, but much to my horror, I added another 10 minutes on to my previous time. (I’ll blame the NYE champers & mince pies on that one.) The following day, my muscles ached. A LOT. When you train a body part after a long time of neglecting it, this is pretty normal, but my golly, after 3 consecutive days, my calves were in hell. The stairs were the devil, and I started my day, convinced that I’d never run again. *dramatic as ever* Thankfully, as the days went on, and I incorporated some stretching, yoga, and foam rolling into my training, my calves started to loosen, and the pain began to subside.

By the time I was into week 2 of the challenge, I was finding that I could run a comfortable distance at a reasonable pace, without feeling the effects to a crippling degree the following morning. As my confidence increased, so did my pace and the distances I’d run. In the first week I didn’t venture much beyond 5kms, more often going for a gentle 2.5km route. But by the second week I was feeling confident enough in my fitness, to run a little further, and a little faster, pushing myself just beyond 8kms. I’d probably say that by the end of week 2, I was at my highest level of motivated. My Nike+ Run Club app was notifying me almost daily, or new personal running records I’d achieved, and this spurred me on. By the end of week 3, I had pushed myself to complete up to 9kms in a run, which in turn had pushed my overall total up to 93kms! I’d smashed my original target and was only a run or two, away from exceeding the 100km milestone.

However, from week 4 onwards, things started to go a little down hill. I’m sure any professional runner would probably tell you, running every single day is not necessarily good for you. Your joints take a real hammering, and my gosh was I feeling it?! My hamstring would periodically tighten up, and cause me a fair bit of discomfort, but I found that if I stuck at a reasonable pace, it was bearable, and I could still run. Then I went through about 3 days, where I had some sort of groin strain, and in truth I just had to run through the pain. If it weren’t for the fact I was raising money for this, I wouldn’t have put my body through the stress, and would have taken a day or two off. Once my groin was no longer giving me jip, the knee pain started. After having a knee op in my later teens, due to a reoccurring dislocating potella, I am always pretty careful with any knee complaints, fearful that I’ll reverse the hard work put into mending my dodgy knee. So, when I started running, and I could feel my knee jarring, and feeling generally pretty unstable, it did freak me a little. However, after warming up with a steady pace walk, I found that my knee complained a lot less if I kept the pace a little slower when I broke into a run. My hip also started complaining, mostly after the run, as apposed to during, but as ever, I was determined not to fail. As I said before, had this not been a fundraising challenge, I would have given in and allowed my body recovery.

As fate would have it, or maybe just karma for ignoring all my aches and pains, with 4 days left of RED January to go, I woke up on Sunday, unable to breath out of my nose, my ears throbbing, my lips split, and my throat red raw.. Running is hard enough with full use of your respiratory system, so with all the above coming into play, along with regular violent attacks of the sneezes, running a few kilometres suddenly felt like running an actual marathon. (haha, as if I’d actually know?!) As a result, the remainder of my runs were completed in the comfort of the gym. They weren’t particularly impressive, but I was running none the less. I got in from work, and wanted nothing more than to climb into my pyjamas and kick back with a book and a mug of lemon cold & flu relief, but I had committed to this, so I wasn’t gonna quit at the last hurdle. Plus, I’d had a few very lovely donations made to my JustGiving page, and I wasn’t about to let the people supporting me, down! Yesterday, on a January 31st, at 7pm, I took myself to the gym, and climbed onto the treadmill. I was 2.3kms away from 125kms in total, so that was what I would run- the bare minimum, and then I would be done. So I started the run, and built my pace. As I creeped up to the 2km mark, something inside me said, give it MORE. 25 minutes after starting up the treadmill, I pressed stop. 5.4kms in the bag, bringing my overall total to a tiny bit over 128kms. I had done it. Despite the obstacles I’d faced in the final 20 days, I kept at it, and stayed committed to the cause.

The RED community of Facebook, and support of people following my RED January journey, kept me going strong. I smashed my original target, and proved to myself that I was capable of more. Your mind gives out before your body, and RED January has taught me that my mind is stronger than that, and with enough determination, anything is possible.

Last night we celebrated my completion with an Indian feast in front of The Hobbit, And here I am today, on February 1st, and I’m relieved to say, that I am having a day off!! I’ve missed not training weights so regularly, but for today, I need to rest. I am full of cold, so I’m going to listen to my body and give it the rest that it’s been screaming at me for, for the last 2 weeks.

To all my fellow REDders, WELL DONE!! And to everyone who has donated to my JustGiving page, THANK YOU!! ❤️ My fundraising page is still live if you’d like to make a contribution. Your money is going to a great cause. If you are interested in fundraising for Mind or just learning a little more, please visit their website, for ideas, events, and stories of how they have helped many suffering with mental health.

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for reading!

Lots of love

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