Another year has passed and I can safely say, it has been quite an eventful year for me!
After getting a new pair of running trainers for Christmas, I decided that it was time for me to pick up my old hobby again and start running. It has been years of a strained relationship, but finally I felt like I had mended that enough to enjoy running again. Very slowly I started to go out and get fit again, only to be stopped by work.
Tough Times at Work
I was in the last year of my PhD, the final stretch, and it showed. Swamped with experiments as I was, some of them really complex, I ended up spending about 17 hours a day in the lab for 2 months. I am not exaggerating here, I started work at 7am and left at about midnight. I brought my pyjamas to work, and James came to the lab for date nights. It was truly depressing.
This may sound really awful, and god it was, but yet something good came from it: We got pets. A very cute pair of fancy rats joined us in our house. Whisky and Scrumpy are the sweetest, most affectionate animals that have ever lived.
Unfortunately, these long hours meant that I was forced to stop running again after having hardly started. I knew it was only a temporary break, but it felt like my PhD was preventing me from doing what I really wanted to do.
Looking Up Again
Eventually, the toughest of times passed and I was free to have some personal time again in April. Enthusiastically, I went out running more than before and signed up for a race. And not just any race, I signed up for a 50k ultra marathon in the peak district (click here to read all about that). It was just about 3 months to go, and so far I had hardly made it through 10k alive.
I have never done things by halves though, and this was just another example. Rather than going for an easy park run, I decided to go for an ultra marathon. Training wasn’t always easy, and I had to do quite a few alternative sessions because of my knees. Who would have thought, but knees actually have issues with suddenly being forced to run lots.
In May, I had time for a short holiday with James, and we went to Scotland to climb Ben Nevis. I even sneaked in a cheeky marathon on the West Highland Way in pouring rain (click here to read more about that). Things were going so much better again, and I was grateful for it.
Running an Ultra
Before I knew it, it was July and time to head up to lovely Bakewell for the Peak District Challenge. Arriving there, I have to admit that I felt like a massive imposter. I mean, how could I not when everyone around me was wearing finisher t-shirts from other trail events. Saturday came, and I was so nervous, but I made it through the whole event, I absolutely loved it and to top it all of, I came with the second fastest time of all women! What a debut, I was well chuffed with that (click here to read a more detailed review)!
After the Ultra is Before the Marathon
After coming back from the Peak District, there was hardly any time to breathe. I had already signed up for the New Forest Marathon, the very last bit of PhD work was waiting and a brief camping trip to Dartmoor National Park was on the horizon.
I made it through my last experiments without major issues, and training was going well. To mix things up a bit, I took running trips to New Forest, South Downs Way and the Isle of Wight. Camping with friends in Dartmoor gave me a unique opportunity for some trail adventuring, and training went awesome.
With good preparation, and the additional mental boost of being all done with my PhD experiments, I felt great on race day for the New Forest Marathon. It was a clear, crisp morning. I lined up in the second starting group, trying to not overestimate my abilities. James wanted to take some photos of me at the finish line, after my family had complained after the ultra marathon. So I told him, there was no way whatsoever I’d be faster than 4:15 hours.
Unfortunately, the race went better than I had ever dreamed of. I started conservatively, trying to not overpace, and it paid off. After the halfway point, I was constantly overtaking other runners. However, that meant that James only caught a glimpse of my t-shirt from afar as I was finishing in 3:53 hours. I am very proud of that achievement.
After the marathon, I went to Germany to spend some time with my family and start writing my final PhD thesis. The temptation to enjoy some runs on my old childhood trails was too big, and I ignored the huge blister on my right foot that had formed after the marathon.
Well, I shouldn’t have. It got severely inflamed as I kept running on it. In the end, I had to see a GP in Germany and he took off the nail on my big toe on the day of my flight back to the UK. You can imagine how that went down, limping across airports in a slipper, because my foot wouldn’t fit in a shoe.
I had to cancel the ultra marathon on the Jurassic Coast I had signed up for, and also all planned training. For two weeks, all I could do was rest the foot in an elevated position. I was basically housebound.
In addition to that, writing my thesis went slowly and searching for a job was an absolute nightmare. And I couldn’t even go for a nice run to take my mind off it.
Making it Through Tough Times (Again)
Some of those days were probably my darkest yet. Without diving in too deep, let’s just say I made it through. Eventually, I found a job as postdoctoral researcher in St. Andrews and handed in my thesis. I ticked off one thing after the other, and finally Christmas was there. After a rather unpleasant Christmas day thanks to a nasty stomach bug, I left the South (finally).
It was a long drive up to the North, but we made it to beautiful Boarhills, where I now live in a lonely farm cottage. The village, which only counts about 80 inhabitants anyway, is a mile down the farm track. A lonely North Sea Beach is a mile into the opposite direction. I have already explored the local trails, and I can’t wait to share some pictures and stories about them!
Happy New Year
So without further ado: Here’s to a happy new year and decade. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, so I have none. But I do know that everything is changing, and it’s going great at the moment! (And hopefully I’ll update this blog regularly again.)