What I learned from running 10 marathons in 10 days

Sorry I didn’t post last night; was completely exhausted both physically and emotionally but finished the 10 in 10!!  Honestly one of the hardest things I have ever done- I was just about prepared for it physically but really wasn’t ready for the mental challenge of getting to the startline every day for another marathon, keeping going when you’re too hot, everything hurts and you’re exhausted or (especially) the emotional overload every night after the race and occasionally during it.  But DONE 😀 probably not something I’ll ever attempt again but so glad I did it, really needed the challenge and good to have achieved at least one positive thing this summer.

The emotional side of the running was definitely the hardest bit.  Usually I run ultras where you have 24+ hours of just zoning out and running at your own pace which is totally different to running marathons.  Plus there are so many more PEOPLE which I know is good and motivating but sometimes I really just wanted to be on my own which was impossible on a lapped marathon.  The people were amazing though- everyone was so lovely and encouraging and without them, I probably wouldn’t have got past day two but it’s definitely a different type of running to what I’m used to.  There were a few days when I genuinely couldn’t stop crying and it’s hard when there are people all around you so spent a lot of time crying in bushes or anywhere people couldn’t see, and I hadn’t realised how emotional marathon running can be.  I think it’s because you’re having to push physically all the time to meet the cut off times and you can’t zone out in the same way as during ultras so you’ve got too much thinking time and my brain was going to some pretty horrible places without enough distraction.  Definitely not the kind of running I’d want to keep doing but definitely good for a challenge!

The other big challenge for me was being away for ten days on my own and managing the time in between marathons.  It was really, really hard and had some pretty massive mood crashes between the runs but I kept reminding myself that it was still better than how I’ve been feeling at home recently and it was a massive challenge.  I actually made some (for me) pretty sensible decisions- when I was having a really bad night and constant suicidal thoughts, I called a mental health helpline who contacted the psychiatrist I’m seeing at the moment so she called me, and I gave my medication to a running friend to look after so I couldn’t overdose on it which is definitely more sensible than I’d usually be.  But I really, really wanted to complete the 10 in 10 which would be pretty impossible if I did anything ridiculous or stupid and my whole focus last week was getting through the challenge.

The other unexpected challenge was the heat- it was bloody hot especially over the last few days!!  Running a dry, exposed course in 33 degree heat with no breeze is bloody tough and definitely made the challenge harder.  Even though I was dipping my cap in cold water every lap, drinking as much water and electrolytes as I could and wearing factor 50 kids suncream, I was massively overheated all the time which really wasn’t fun.  I’ve lost count of the amount of times I ran into the petrol station near the course to buy some diet Coke and even ate a ridiculous amount of ice poles and ice lollies which I’d never normally eat because of the sugar and additives but it was so, so needed and was desperate for any way to cool down.  Never want to see an ice lolly again EVER and feeling a bit shit about how many I’ve eaten over the last ten days but it did seem to help stop the path from spinning so much.

Anyway, back to reality today :/ still on a bit of a high and trying to make it last as long as possible before the inevitable mood crash that people keep warning me about.  So I’m trying to get as much washing, blog writing and productiveness done as a I can now!  Felt a bit weird this morning not going to the Cyclopark for another run but definitely nice not to have to force down porridge with cornflakes and cereal bars when I’m already feeling sick or cover myself in green gunky suncream (because I hate white things) and feel yucky and greasy all day.  But it is a bit lonely without the amazingness of awesome SVN people and how bloody incredible and supportive you all are- THANK YOU so so much!!

Been a bit of an epic and exhausting week, and actually learned some stuff!  SO…

  1. The human body is AMAZING and is capable of incredible things.  Especially if you feed it.
  2. David Bowie is a lifesaver and playing Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide will make you feel alive even when you really don’t feel like it physically or mentally.
  3. Use the people around you- they are amazing.  I’ve met so many awesome and inspiring people this week and thank you all so much!
  4. Ice lollies are GOOD and can save your race.
  5. Just keep moving.  Even if you’re walking, you’re still getting closer to the finish line.
  6. It is possible to run, cry and breathe all at the same time and is actually kind of therapeutic.
  7. Sleep can completely reset your mind and is really, really important.  Even if you need Zopiclone to get it!
  8. You are capable of way, way more than you think you are and half the challenge is just starting it.
  9. Food is fuel and without it, you can’t even get past the first lap.
  10. I like icing even if I don’t like cake and it’s a bloody good energy boost!
  11. Whole albums are better than playlists because you actually feel like you’ve accomplished something when you run through a whole sequence of albums.
  12. Don’t listen to emotional audiobooks while running; you will cry uncontrollably.
  13. Listen to your body.  If you need to slow down, then slow down and enjoy the scenery.  Even the bloody rabbit bridge for the 160th time!!  Pushing through pain is never a good idea.
  14. Exhaustion is more mental than physical- your body can do pretty much anything, it’s your brain you need to convince.
  15. Mental and emotional exhaustion are two separate things.  You can push through mental exhaustion and feel accomplished by the end; never try to force through emotional exhaustion because you’ll spend the evening feeling rubbish, overwhelmed and not safe.
  16. A text message from a friend can literally save your day.
  17. Running is a bubble away from real life where you’re not really alive or dead and neither really matters.  It’s like being in an alternate universe where all that matters is that particular lap and that’s a pretty amazing escape.
  18. I am definitely more of an ultra person than a marathon runner!  But it is pretty cool to have ten rainbow coloured medals.
  19. Your worth isn’t defined by how many marathons you’ve run or how far you can push yourself.  Everyone has their own individual limits and that’s OK; it’s working within those limits and feeling OK about yourself that matters.
  20. People are amazing.  Even if you’re feeling shit and don’t really want to interact with anyone, they’re still there being encouraging and so lovely and it’s amazing watching people achieve incredible things.

Just want to say THANK YOU so so much to everyone for being so amazing and supportive this week, both in person and online and I really, really appreciate it.  Genuinely didn’t think I’d manage even one marathon and I probably wouldn’t have without the support.  Been a v v surreal and exhausting week physically, mentally and emotionally but also ironically one of the most ‘sane’ weeks I’ve had in months and really  want to channel that!

Day Six of the 10 in 10- definitely over half way!!

Six marathons down and definitely more than halfway through now!  These blog posts are probably going to get shorter and shorter, sorry, I’m absolutely exhausted.  Today was a tough one- didn’t sleep at all last night and was feeling over-emotional this morning which didn’t help and I was crying pretty much continuously from about 5am.  I was still a bit tearful at the startline and spent most of the first two laps crying while running which really wasn’t ideal!  I was listening to Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane albums though which really helped and by lap four, the crying seemed to be easing off.  Definitely good because it’s hard to breathe, cry and run all at the same time!

Weirdly I’d managed to make up enough time to be able to walk/run most of the second half which was a relief because I was knackered by then from the combination of lack of sleep, crying and running on tired legs.  I put on Bowie’s Reality Tour album which is a nice mix of live tracks and slowed down into the run.  Laps five and six were pretty much zombie running and by lap seven, I’d caught up with a woman I’ve run with a couple of times before so we chatted for the last couple of laps which was really nice and really helped to keep my mood a bit more stable.

At the end of lap seven, I had enough time to run into the garage and buy a diet Coke which was definitely needed and tasted amazing!  It was really, really hot again and there’s no real shade on the course so hard not to overheat :/ apparently it’s going to get even hotter by the weekend which I’m really not looking forward to.  But only four more marathons to go!!  REALLY hoping I can last that long…

10 in 10 Day Five- halfway through!!

Five marathons down and halfway through!!  Today was a bit of a weird one- after yesterday, I didn’t sleep brilliantly last night and wasn’t in a great mood when I woke up but I noticed on Facebook that it was a purple medal day and purple’s my favourite colour so made an effort to wear all purple (not too difficult given that 90% of my stuff is purple anyway plus I have purple hair and nails!) which definitely helped put me in a more positive frame of mind.  Wish everything was that simple!

I hadn’t had much to eat last night because of feeling rubbish and I was genuinely hungry this morning so I added cornflakes to my porridge (weird I know but it doesn’t seem as much as having extra porridge) and had some hot soya milk as well as coffee.  I actually felt reasonably with it at the start of the run which was nice considering how horrible the last two days have been and once the run started, I seemed to have a surprising amount of energy.

The first couple of laps went pretty quickly; I was listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Division Bell, and the extra food for breakfast really did seem to have helped.  By lap three, my mood had started to drop again and was having a lot of pretty unhelpful thoughts about eating extra and not needing it, not trying hard enough etc but I kept running and tried to build up enough time so that I could ease off in the second half.  I stuck to the cereal bar strategy again which *touch wood* seems to be working OK, and ran most of the race pretty much on autopilot.

The weirdest thing was that I didn’t really feel sore or overly exhausted which is strange considering it’s day five and days three and four were really tough.  Physically, I felt the best I have done all week although mentally my brain was all over the place and that was harder to manage.  By lap six, I’d switched to Harry Potter audiobooks which is my go-to brain numbing strategy and that really seemed to help.  I walked most of the last two laps but I’d got enough time to be able to, and I was surprised at how the run seemed relatively OK compared to the last couple of days.  Big relief and really hoping it lasts!!

It was really, really hot and I realised after the run how dehydrated I must have been- mega headache and felt so thirsty even though I’d been drinking squash all day so I walked to Morrisons and got some diet Irn Bru which was the most amazing thing ever!! Had a salad and cooked chicken for tea which didn’t seem like too much for once (I hate admitting it but I am actually starting to get hungry) and some melon which was equally amazing.  Am absolutely exhausted now though and a bit over-emotional so planning an early night and hopefully sleep…  Five down, five to go!

Day Three of the 10 in 10

Today was TOUGH.  Managed another marathon but I’m really not sure how many more I’m going to be able to do.  Weirdly it wasn’t the running itself that was the problem though- I woke up feeling rubbish and tired (no idea why; I’d slept OK) and found it really hard just to get my running stuff on, eat porridge and even get to the Cyclopark.  It was like I had no motivation at all and really couldn’t be bothered which was weird because it was sunny and everyone was being so lovely and supportive.

I can’t remember much of the start of the run but it must have gone OK, the sun was shining and there was a breeze so not too hot, and I was listening to a mix of Bowie live music.  On either the first or second lap (can’t remember!), I caught up with the guy I’ve run with on and off for the last few days and ran the next couple of laps with him which was really helpful motivation-wise and to keep pace up so that I didn’t have to stress for the last half of the marathon.  After lap four, I was really starting to struggle so he went ahead and I plugged back into Bowie in an attempt to keep moving.

The path kept spinning and I felt like I was literally forcing my body to move which wasn’t a lot of fun.  I was in a bit of a negative mindset- really not sure the runs are worth the extra stress of fuelling and trying to keep distracted from brain shit, but I kept reminding myself that it was definitely better than feeling rubbish at home which would be the alternative and at least while I was running, I was doing something relatively positive even if it didn’t feel like it.  I’m finding the food side of running really difficult though :/ a few people pointed out today that a few grapes each lap aren’t enough to fuel a marathon but I’d given up with the cereal bar strategy for today because I was feeling so shit about it, and it’s bloody hard having to actually eat real food every evening to fuel for the next day.  Feeling really rubbish about the whole thing atm and no idea how I’m going to manage another week of it.  Total mindfuck!

During lap seven, a lovely woman I’ve run with before caught up with me and it really helped chatting to her to distract from brain crap and just to catch up.  The end of the lap was a bit eventful- sudden rain and hailstorm out of nowhere and got absolutely soaked and bloody freezing!!  I was v v close to pulling out at the end of that lap because I was so cold but one of my awesome running friends who’d finished lent me his waterproof and went out again for the last lap- thanks to people who literally forced me back out!!  Thankfully the hail eased off and the sun came back out so had dried off a bit by the end of the run.

I’m still feeling a bit weird and rubbish about the whole thing :/ I know I should be happy to have run another marathon (and I’m sure on one level I am) and it’s so nice to people to keep being so encouraging but I’m also feeling really horrible and shit about everything at the same time which really isn’t helping.  I know I can’t not eat and expect to be able to run marathons every day but it’s so hard to know what’s the right amount and what foods to eat.  The woman I ran with today gave me some dextrose tablets to try tomorrow (only 12 calories each and they have electrolytes in them too) so will give that a go if I start to feel dizzy or spaced out, and keep going with porridge in the morning and something for tea.

Today I bought a salad from Morrisons for tea and added cooked chicken to it for protein which I think is OK, but the really horrible thing about eating more regularly is that you start to get hungry and I’m already finding it hard not to eat all my cereal bars in one go!  Feeling really greedy and yucky about it (don’t usually get hungry and it’s a headfuck feeling) but I know that marathons need fuel and protein helps to repair muscles.  Just wish it didn’t also feel like I’m going to have put on about ten stone by next week!  So bloody confusing but determined to keep trying with it…

10 in 10 Day Two!

Marathon number two complete!!  Honestly didn’t think I was going to manage even one so I still can’t quite believe I’ve run two so far, and even if I don’t manage another full one all week I’m mega happy with two!  Today was SO MUCH better than yesterday 🙂 I’d slept properly last night which really made a difference (ear plugs were definitely a good idea) and had porridge before the run, and I think the combination really, really helped both with how I was feeling in general and with the running itself.

I was a bit nervous about running again so I decided to wear my Hope24 T-shirt for good luck and to try to channel positive Hope vibes (Hope24 is my favourite ever race and have written blog posts about it before- Hope24: a 24 hour run in Newnham Park, Devon and Hope24 2017).  It kind of worked and was feeling a lot more positive than I have done recently which must have showed because several people commented that I seemed better than yesterday.  I’m focusing on one day at a time so just wanted to get through today, and I was really nervous about not making the cut off time for a marathon but once you’re at the start line and people are so lovely, it definitely helps you to feel less nervous.  I’m really lucky to know so many awesome running friends who are amazingly encouraging and supportive which really, really helped- you know who you are and THANK YOU!!

The first lap felt OK; I wasn’t running particularly fast but I was running which was a definite improvement on yesterday, and my body didn’t feel as much like lead as it had done.  It started off warm and sunny which was nice, not as oppressively hot as yesterday and there was a bit of a breeze then it started to cloud over.  I caught up with the friend who’d forced me to run a bit faster yesterday and he was amazing at motivating me and getting me to actually stick with the running which was definitely needed.  Anyone who knows Nick will know that he’s a pretty good person to run with when you’re really not feeling it- he doesn’t hold back and is v direct when you’re not trying hard enough or getting too distracted, and he’s definitely experienced enough at marathons to know what he’s talking about (he’s the current world record holder for most amount of marathons in a year and runs them pretty much every day; often more than one in a day- check out his Facebook page Chasing World Records) and he basically dragged me round the first four laps which meant I had enough time left to “fuck around” (Nick’s words) for the last few laps which was a relief because I was completely exhausted by that point.  But thanks to him, I stuck to the path instead of veering off to the sides, didn’t get *too* distracted by a cat wandering across the path and actually made up some time so thanks Nick!

Laps three and four weren’t a lot of fun :/ the clouds turned to rain and got absolutely soaked.  I’d left my waterproof in the car which wasn’t brilliantly organised of me and had to keep running just to stay warm.  The not-helpful part of my brain kept reminding me that you burn more calories when you’re trying to stay warm so it wasn’t a bad thing; Nick also reminded me that if you’re burning more calories then you need to consume more to finish the race and my brain went into a bit of a tailspin at that point!  But he was right- you can’t run ten marathons in ten days while not eating enough even if you’re not exercising, and I stuck to the same ‘cereal bar every two laps’ strategy that I’d used yesterday.  At the time, it was easier because I was flagging energy-wise and I knew I needed some fuel but finding it harder to justify now especially thinking of all the extra calories I’m going to have eaten by the time I finish the runs.  Found it hard to eat tea tonight- most places are closed on Sundays so I went to Subway and got a chicken salad but it was MASSIVE and felt a bit nauseous eating it.  I didn’t manage the porridge last night but I’ve got some soya milk which I’m going to try to drink before going to bed so I’ve got a bit more fuel for tomorrow.  Marathons are so much harder to fuel than ultras!

The rain eased off during lap five which was a relief and it was nice to start to dry off a bit.  I’d had some caffeine (via paracetamol) after lap four which really helped too and I slowed down a bit, and started to relax into the run a bit more.  I was listening to David Bowie’s Lazarus album which I love (the cast recording so it’s like a story) and the scenery was really nice in the sun.  Then about halfway round the lap, something amazing happened and I started to feel like I was actually real and with it for the first time in ages!  No idea why or what caused it but it was a massive relief- I’ve felt like an emotionally dead zombie pretty much constantly for the last few weeks and even though I still feel rubbish, I’m definitely feeling a lot less dissociated than I have been which is a big shift.  Really hoping it wasn’t just a one-off!

During lap six, I started running with a lovely woman who I hadn’t met before and we spent the last couple of laps running/walking and chatting which was really nice.  Finished well within the cut off time which was a big relief and was great to see more running friends at the end.  Definitely a better day than yesterday and so happy to have run another marathon!  Shower and bed time now ready for another go tomorrow, fingers crossed it’ll be another positive one…

What I’ve learned from distance running

I wrote this in the middle of an ultra last year- it was a 12 hour overnight run and I took my usual 20 min break at 2am, and started to list things I’d learned over the previous seven hours. It’s amazing how runnign for that long really clarifies your thoughts and puts things into perspective!  The notes turned into a poem which I haven’t edited since because I want it to reflect my thoughts mid-ultra.  So…

What I’ve learned from distance running:

There’s no secret or special skill. 
You just put one foot in front of the other 
and keep going. 
Don’t forget to look at how far 
you’ve already come. 
 
Sometimes you feel fucking amazing 
like you can do anything; 
other times it hurts like hell and you feel  
shit. There are times when you want to quit, 
you can’t seem to get rid of negative thoughts, 
or everything seems too overwhelming.  
Then you need to slow down, assess, stop 
if you need to, or take a break. Focus 
on the moment you’re in, 
try your best in that moment.   
 
Don’t even think about speed or times. 
Fuel yourself properly 
and drink lots of water. 
alk the hills- you’ll get there 
in the same amount of time. 
Run your own race. Don’t feel guilty 
for running at your own pace.  
Look around you at the scenery, find 
something nice in every moment.  
Breathe. Have fun. 
 
The same rules apply to life. 

Moments that make you feel alive

Last week, a friend was describing a moment that had just happened that she’ll remember for the rest of her life- one of those magic moments where it’s intense and amazing for any particular reason.  We were talking about that type of moment afterwards and at the time, I couldn’t remember any time I’d felt like that but I know I must have done.  I’m still in a bit of a negative, feeling rubbish phase at the moment (although I’m trying REALLY hard to change that) and it’s hard to think of anything positive at all most of the time but I had an amazing weekend last week where, for the first time in ages, I actually felt ‘real’ and connected, and it was FUN which is something I haven’t felt in months.  So I’ve tried to harness that positive energy and spent the week trying to think of ten moments that made me feel good, alive or connected.  It was really hard and I literally had to go through my life systematically to find them but I think I’ve got a pretty good list and surprisingly it was a really positive experience to think of them and try to recall the feelings from the time.  It’s definitely an exercise I’d recommend to anyone who’s feeling a bit rubbish- really helps to put things into perspective.  SO, in an attempt at counting down…

10) Last weekend.  This should probably be higher in the list because of the context (it was such as massive shift in feeling from the slightly detached rubbishness I’ve felt since last December) but I’m putting it here since it was the first one I remembered.  I spent the weekend with my absolute favourite people in the world and we made a blanket fort, watched my two 0f my favourite Disney films (Treasure Planet and Tarzan), went to the park and took selfies on the swings, played on the trampoline, played board games and just generally hung out which was amazing in so many ways- I felt ‘real’ and like I was actually ‘there’ instead of just existing, and the amount of love I have for those people is incredible.  Had a bit of a ‘comedown’ crash near the start of the week but have tried to focus on the positives and channel that which has been really, really useful in response to the bitch in my head- I think I’m finally managing to make a Patronus!!  Which I’ll talk about in another, Harry Potter-focussed post 🙂

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9) Running through Hampstead Heath.  Last year, I lived in London and was lucky enough to live near Hampstead Heath, which is a massive park on the top of a hill in north London.  The views there are incredible- there are spots where you can see the City and a lot of it is woodland paths.  I used to run there early mornings to see the sunrise over London which was incredible in itself but my favourite part was getting lost in the trees and following random paths which would occasionally lead to something like a magical fairy dell.  The particular moment I’m thinking of was a morning last February when I was running just as the sun was coming up and the trees had that magic stillness of not-quite-daytime when there’s no-one about.  It was really cold and there was frost on the ground, and I was pretending I was in Narnia when suddenly snowflakes started to fall all around.  It was genuinely magical- I felt like Lucy entering Narnia for the first time and there was no-one else on the planet, and I was dancing and jumping through the snowflakes feeling like I could connect with God and I was part of the world around me.  It was an incredible, magic feeling and I don’t think I’ll ever be able reconnect with the world around me in the same way again.  Just amazing.

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8) Seeing Roger Waters perform The Wall live.  This was just…WOW!  I am a massive Pink Floyd fan and so is my dad, and since I was a teenager I’ve really connected to their lyrics and the atmosphere of their songs.  I was constantly jealous that my dad saw them in concert in the 70s and that he met Nick Mason randomly at a car event (my dad’s obsessed with cars and asked Nick Mason for a ride in his Ferrari 250 GTO!!  And it broke down so he was stuck in the car with him for half an hour- so jealous!!) and I really wished that Pink Floyd would reform and do more gigs.  So when Roger Waters announced that he was doing The Wall tour aged 69-70, I was mega, mega excited!!

I went to see him in Wembley stadium with a close friend from uni.  I was genuinely terrified about going- I get panicky in crowds and have mild paranoia about terrorism, and 120 000 people in a massive London stadium REALLY isn’t part of my comfort zone- but I really, really couldn’t miss the chance to see Roger Waters so I took some diazepam and went.  WOW.  I am so glad I did!!  The atmosphere was INCREDIBLE- imagine the most intense concert you’ve ever been to times ten, mixed with immersive pyrotechnics and special effects.  It’s so hard to put into words but it was INTENSE, incredible and genuinely life changing.  There was everything from planes on zip wires over your head, red pyrotechnics and smoke, strobe lights, a giant wall which was knocked down…

The whole thing was like a religious experience with over 100 thousand people singing along to the lyrics with more passion than Scotland fans in Euro 2000, Roger’s message was passionate and scary, it was unpredictable and terrifying.  Near the end, he took out a machine gun and simulated firing it over the crowd- at that point, I was convinced he was going to kill everyone and was close to panic attack stage because it really was that intense.  Roger Waters’ presence is scary enough in itself: an intense, commanding figure in a full length black leather coat and shades, dominating the stage.  Seriously amazing.  I came out the stadium feeling dissociated and zoned out, not because of the crowd but because of the intensity of the concert and how deeply it had affected me.  INCREDIBLE.

Roger Waters - The Wall Live

Roger Waters The Wall Live at the Time Warner Cable Arena on July 10, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina – © 2012 David Oppenheimer – Performance Impressions (photo taken from http://www.performanceimpressions.com)

7) The release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I know this might sound superficial and trivial to include in this list but it’s one of the moments in my life that I can remember so vividly that I have to include it.  I’m a mega Harry Potter fan and have been since 1997 when the first book was released.  I genuinely grew up with Harry and was the same age as him when all the books came out- I did my GCSEs when he did his OWLs, was emotionally on a level with the characters throughout the series and learned more from Dumbledore and McGonagall than I did from most of my real life teachers.  I used to use Hogwarts (pre-GoF) as an escapist world growing up and I’ve read all the books (apart from the first one) on the day they were released.

The build up to DH was massively intense for so many reasons.  Firstly the obvious- waiting two years to find out whose side Snape was really on and if Dumbledore was really gone which was hard in itself.  Then there was a more personal reason- right after the sixth book was released in 2005, I was admitted to a psych hospital as an inpatient and was there pretty much up until the release of DH in 2007.  This was pre-smart phones and Facebook etc and you weren’t allowed any internet access anyway or mobile phones so there wasn’t really much to do apart from reading or arty stuff.  I read the fifth and sixth books over and over during that time, partly because they were so long and intense that I could get completely absorbed in them and forget where I was and partly because of Luna Lovegood and how much I could relate to her character.  There’s so much in both of those books that I could relate to, and still do.

So when the seventh book was released, I was so excited and nervous and it was such a weird experience.  I’d had ten years where HP had been such a massive part of my life and now it was almost over, and I didn’t want it to end.  Thankfully J.K. Rowling seemed to have pre-empted that in the King’s Cross scene near the end and I am so, so grateful to her for that.  I don’t want to go into too much detail for anyone who hasn’t read it but it’s perfect in every possible way.  If anyone’s interested and doesn’t mind spoilers, here’s a link to the FB post I wrote right before I saw the last film: Thoughts on Harry Potter.  But, to end with my favourite ever Dumbledore quote, “Of course this is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”  For me, Harry Potter will continue to grow and influence me throughout my life and I love that.

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6) New Year’s Eve 2011.  I went to York to stay with my best friend and we watched Disney films, did crafty stuff and made an incredible collage which is still on my bedroom wall.  Not a massive amount to say except that I absolutely love any time I get to spend with my best friend who is one of the most amazing, incredible, talented and accepting people I have ever met.  Best New Year’s Eve ever!!

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5) The most amazing card I’ve ever been given.  From when I was a teenager, I volunteered in primary schools and in one school in particular for nearly ten years.  There were two classes especially that I worked with a lot, and I also worked in the after school club so I got to know some of the children really well.  Obviously working with kids you’re not meant to have favourites but you end up getting particularly close to certain children, usually ones who attach themselves to you for no particular reason.  There was a child in one of the classes I worked in who also went to the after school club every day and he ‘latched on’ to me a bit, wanting me to play with him every day, sitting on my lap, holding my hand and doing all the sweet things kids do.  He was very shy but one of the nicest children I’ve ever met, and when I stopped working in that school, he got quite upset.  He used to make me things and I’ve still got a ‘flower’ he made me out of paper to wear in my ponytail- I laminated it and wore it every day for luck, and now I carry it around in my purse.  The year after I stopped working at that school, his class had a lesson making cards for people they look up to and he made one for me, saying I was his best friend and listing why.  It’s genuinely the nicest thing anyone has ever given me and it’s still on my bedroom wall four years later ❤

4) The only time I have ever skipped school.  This is a weird memory- the type that you’re not quite sure if you’ve made it up or not, but it’s so vivid and detailed that I’m pretty certain it actually happened.  It must have been when I was about 17 and doing A levels (it involved driving), and I’d had a really rubbish day for some reason which I can’t remember now.  It was a Friday lunchtime and I was feeling really horrible, and my then best friend came up with the awesome idea of going to the cinema to see the (then) new film with Audrey Tautou called A Very Long Engagement.  We justified it by the fact that it was in French and it was French speaking we’d be missing (or I would anyway, I don’t think she had any lessons that afternoon) and it was AUDREY TAUTOU who we both had a bit of a crush on.  So we went to see it and I’m sure it must have been a good film, but I genuinely can’t remember anything about it!

What I do remember is that we went to get a pizza afterwards and this is the part that sticks most in my head.  I had a barbecued chicken pizza without chicken or cheese but with added pineapple and mushrooms (I’m vegetarian and dairy intolerant), and it was the first time I’d actually eaten pizza in years.  It was AMAZING and the magic part was that, sitting with my then best friend who I still couldn’t quite believe wanted to be friends with me and eating pizza during school time, NOTHING MATTERED and I could eat the pizza without mega anxiety, panic or urges to get rid of it.  Then I felt like I was flying and I could do ANYTHING so we shared a dessert which was waffles and maple syrup (she had ice cream on her bit) and it was the most amazing thing I had ever eaten.  It was a really big deal at the time because I’d had an eating disorder for about four years by then but wasn’t really aware of it (it wasn’t diagnosed till I was 18 and an inpatient and even then it took another four years to actually accept or believe it) and most of my teenage years were fixated on avoiding food or throwing it up without anyone noticing, so being able to sit in a restaurant and eat ‘normal’ food without running to the toilets to throw it up straight afterwards was a mega big deal!  The only time I’ve felt even close to that since then is when I’m running an ultramarathon but one of my mega aims is to feel like that again someday without having to run for ten hours first…

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3) Sleeping in a tent last summer.  Last year, I camped in the garden with some kids I babysit and it was the most awesome, amazing night I’ve had in a long time.  It was FREEZING and their mum had made the sleeping compartments (it was a massive tent!) into mini nests with mats, blankets, sleeping bags and more blankets, and it was the most cosy and comfortable place I think I’ve ever slept!  I had three hot water bottles and two sleeping bags as well as the blankets because I’m a lightweight who gets cold really easily, and the kids had lots of blankets around their sleeping bags.  We played Fluxx (an awesome card game) and messed around with teddies, and it was such an amazing experience- their mum had hung lights up in the centre part of the tent and it was like a magical den!  The kids loved it, I loved it and I love hanging out with the kids anyway so it was like a magical surreal experience and so much fun.  Definitely worth spending most of the night feeling like I’d got hypothermia because even though I had a ridiculous amount of warm-making stuff, I still managed to feel freezing!!  Woke up with purple hands and white feet but was one of the most awesome experiences ever 😀

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2) An amazing moment babysitting.  To be honest, I am lucky enough to have LOTS of amazing moments babysitting and I genuinely love some of the kids, but one moment in particular sticks in my head.  It was from last year and I was sitting on the sofa with a boy I babysit (and have known since he was tiny) cuddling into me and we were watching Brother Bear.  I’d had a really rubbish day because earlier that morning, my then best friend of 20 years had just told me she didn’t want to keep in touch any more and that really, really hurt more than almost anything else I’d ever experienced and I was feeling zoned out and horrible so one of the kids I babysit suggested watching Disney.  Brother Bear happens to be one of my absolute favourite films but there’s one part of it (the song near the end- No Way Out) that I find really, really hard to watch and it makes me cry every time I see it, even when I’m not already upset.  It reminds me a lot of how I was feeling when the film first came out in 2003 and I was trapped in ED thoughts and behaviours that I didn’t understand, and the lyrics could actually have been written to describe how I felt.  So I ended up crying while we were watching it, partly from the song and partly because of losing my friend, and weirdly it kind of helped to let some of the emotion out.

When the film finished, we were watching the credits and the boy I was babysitting said that he loved me.  I know kids say stuff like that all the time and it’s not a big deal but it was to me- I can count on one hand the people I’ve said ‘I love you’ to (not including pets) and I genuinely love the kids more than anyone else in my life- I’ve known them forever and they accept me without judging me, and their mum is incredible.  They’re like my ‘pseudo-family’ (that’s how I think of them anyway) and I love them, and I am so lucky to have them in my life and that they let me be a part of theirs.  At that moment, my heart was literally stinging with emotion which is REALLY not like me and I realised again how lucky I am.  Much as it still hurts really intensely that my then best friend doesn’t want to be friends with me any more, I need to keep reminding myself that there are other people in my life who are genuinely amazing and accepting, and I need to appreciate that…

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1) Running my first marathon.  This was amazing for so many different reasons!  Partly because I genuinely didn’t think I’d ever be able to run a marathon and I’d only been running properly about a year and a half by that point, and even then I was averaging six miles per run.  I got into distance running really randomly in 2011- I was doing an MA in Creative Writing and found it hard to write poems.  My poetry tutor, who is also a distance runner although I didn’t know that then, lent me Haruki Murakami’s ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ because it linked running and writing, and I started to run a bit more to match what Murakami was doing in the hope that it would help write poetry.  Weirdly, it did and even after the poetry module was over, I carried on running every day and until a few months ago, I still was and am trying to get back into it after a bit of an unmotivated phase.  I think it helped that I really, really look up to my tutor- she’s an amazing poet, runs marathons and is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and she was so encouraging about my running that I actually felt like a ‘real’ runner instead of someone just pretending or messing about.

After a few months of daily running, I signed up for my first half marathon and amazingly managed to complete it.  Then my tutor (who I’m still in touch with) suggested running a marathon which I really didn’t think would be possible but signed up and tried to start increasing my runs.  Even right up until the day of the marathon, I didn’t think I could do it but my tutor was so encouraging and positive about it that I decided to give it a go.  She even offered to come and watch which was so, so nice of her and made the whole thing a million times less scary.  Right before the marathon, she lent me a rubber foot (marathon foot) to run the marathon with who’s been in her pocket during her marathons and is charged with good karma, and that seriously helped probably more than anything else during the race which was an AMAZING experience but really hard because it was so bloody hot!!  Then after the race, she said I could keep marathon foot as long as I kept him safe and he’s been my good luck charm ever since.  That was genuinely the best day of my life and not just because of the endorphins- ten years ago, I would NEVER have believed I’d run a marathon or even 5K and now I run ultras!  Distance running has changed and improved my life in so many ways, and I am so, so glad I ran that first marathon.  Having run nine more since then as well as at least nine ultras (losing count!!), I can genuinely say that starting distance running was the best decision of my life and I learn so much from every running event.  And marathon foot is still karma-charged and awesome!! 😀

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SO, having written those, I’m now feeling weirdly positive and grateful for all the amazing moments and especially people in my life.  THANK YOU to everyone who’s been a part of any of the moments on this list and to all the other awesome people in my life- I didn’t mention any family events but all of my cousins are amazing people who deserve a whole post to themselves, and I have some incredible and accepting friends who it would be too hard to choose just one moment with.  One thing I have realised and am going to try to internalise is that the people involved in moments on this list (apart from my ex-best friend) are all people I’ve met as an adult and now they’re probably the most important and influential people in my life.  I need to keep reminding myself of this because when I turned 18, I felt like my life was over and I’d never survive as an adult but actually most of the most significant and amazing things that have happened to me have been as an adult, and I think that’s really, really important to remember.