This will make you smile!
I hadn’t run for 10 days. A stomach bug explains why I missed the first few runs. Not such a big deal except that once I began to feel better I didn’t feel like running. I would plan to get back out there for a run and then find an excuse to postpone. My motivation seemed to slip a little bit lower with each passing day (as did my mood). What was happening to me? I consider myself a runner. I love running!
I decided that perhaps I needed to re-motivate myself. I read (actually I devoured) Scott Jurek’s recently published book ‘Eat and Run’ but, as extraordinary as his story is, I still wasn’t lacing up my running shoes. Maybe I wasn’t sufficiently excited about the upcoming races I have planned? Maybe I needed to choose different goals to spark my motivation? Maybe, maybe, maybe…
Then I remembered the words of my coach, which have been immortalised in the wonderful image above, created by one of my fellow Up and Running buddies. I still didn’t feel like running but last night that’s exactly what I did – I got off my ass and went for a run. What a relief. And the best thing is that by simply getting back out there I’m now feeling more motivated than ever! Lesson learned.
I recently came across an article that explains how to create your own scented photographs. At first I thought it sounded a bit gimmicky, but if done well I imagine the combination of the visual and olfactory senses could be particularly evocative of a special time and place. The idea brought to mind a recent holiday in Positano on Italy’s spectacular Amalfi Coast. It was a magical few days. While there I was delighted to re-discover a heavenly perfume that I used to wear a long time ago that my mother had given me – ‘Fiori di Capri’, made by Carthusia – I Profumi di Capri. I had been completely enchanted by it – the unusual scent (lily of the valley and wild carnation blended with sandalwood, ylang ylang and oak); the beautiful packaging and the story behind it.
Legend has it that when, in 1380, the father prior of the Carthusian Monastry of St Giacomo learned that Queen Giovanna was to visit Capri (an island off the Amalfi Coast near Positano), he made a flower arrangement using the island’s most beautiful flowers. The water was not changed for three days and the prior noticed that it had acquired a distinctive fragrance. With the help of an alchemist the fragrance was re-created and became known as the first perfume of Capri. Centuries later, in 1948, the prior of the monastery discovered a number of ancient perfume formulas. With the permission of the Pope, he gave them to a chemist and Carthusia, as it is known today, was born. Still today, Carthusia’s perfumes are made with flowers from the island using the traditional methods of the Carthusian monks.
So of course when I stumbled across the Carthusia shop I couldn’t resist!
If I were to make a scented photograph (which I confess is unlikely) I would choose this photo of Positano:
and scent it with Carthusia’s ‘Fiori di Capri’:
If only scented blog posts were possible!
(While there I discovered another Carthusia perfume that I love, ‘Io Capri’, a delicious summery fragrance of wild fig and tea leaves!).
With my half marathon to train for I managed to keep running regularly through winter this year. I would head out in the dark and snow often at below zero temperatures. While my weekend runs were often exhilarating, my weekday runs were much harder. I didn’t feel secure running in the dark before work so I would run in the evenings at the local athletics track which was flood-lit. Even though running around in circles got awfully monotonous at times, I knew I was lucky to have access to a safe place to run in the dark. For me it was a hundred times better than being stuck on an indoor treadmill.
As much as I was thankful to have access to the athletics track, I longed to run in daylight and kinder temperatures. I kept telling myself that this year I would truly appreciate the light mornings and long summer evenings when they finally arrived; days when I would have the luxury of choosing to run early in the morning or late into the evening. For months I checked the sunrise and sunset times eagerly witnessing the addition of extra daylight minutes each week.
And now these longed-for light filled days have finally arrived! Strangely, after months of waiting, it almost seems as if it has happened overnight. Our little garden is suddenly in full bloom and the trees seem to get leafier each day. Each time I lace up my running shoes this summer I will try to remember to appreciate these gloriously long, light, warm days. Long may they last.
*I recently discovered Susan Cain’s wonderful TED talk ‘The Power of Introverts’. If you haven’t already seen it I highly recommend it.
I did it! I ran my first half marathon just over a week ago. I was on such a high for days afterwards and I confess to a bit of a bumpy landing as I came back down to earth last week. However, after my first post-race run on Thursday I am feeling re-energised and am keenly entering more races to keep the momentum up. For anyone interested I have reproduced my race report, written for my online running group, below.
Race Report: Moonlight Half Marathon Cavallino – Jesolo
It was incredibly exciting to arrive in Venice by train to find my mother waiting for us on the platform. Stepping out of the station onto the Grand Canal was really something. We found our B&B, settled in and went for a lovely evening stroll as the sun was setting. I was last in Venice when I backpacked around Europe in 1995 and it was so exciting to be back again. Saturday morning arrived and I fought hard to keep my nerves under control. After breakfast we made our way to the station to catch the bus to Jesolo (about an hour away from Venice) where the race was to finish and where we would be staying the night after the race. We checked into our hotel which I was pleased to find was right around the corner from the finish of the race as I was hoping it would be. I collected my bib and booked myself onto the 18:00 bus, which was to take me to the start of the race. I was excited to see that my bib had an Australian flag on it. As ridiculous as it is to say felt like I was representing my country.
The town of Jesolo has a lovely relaxed, resort feel to it. It is right on the Adriatic coast with a stunning stretch of beach filled with beach umbrellas and chairs. You could just imagine it packed with people on holidays during the height of summer. We found a good restaurant in the main street right near the finish of the race. There was a lively atmosphere already. I had spaghetti pomodoro followed by salmon and spinach in preparation for the race. After lunch we went for a wander around the town and along the beach before I had a lie down. Around 5pm I got changed, ate a banana and headed over to the bus. I was feeling rather intimidated as I said goodbye to my husband and mother and got on the bus with a very fit looking group of mostly Italian runners. I was so struck by how many more men than women there seemed to be.
During the bus ride to the start I started to calm my nerves. There was no escape now. The bus ride to the start did seem like a very long way to have to run back though I must say. Once we got off the bus at the start area there was a tremendous buzz amongst all the runners and loud, upbeat music playing. The advantage of there being more men than women was that, for once, the queues to the female toilets weren’t too bad. A little way away from the action I discovered a low, wide stone wall right next to the lagoon. I copied what some others were doing and lay down on top off the wall. It was so peaceful looking up at the clouds, listening to the waves lapping in. I tried to deep breathe and visualise the race going smoothly and enjoyably. I had an hour and 15 minutes to kill and I think I lay there for about 30 minutes. I then had a few more toilet stops, did a bit of a warm up run and stretched for a few minutes. I got a bit of a stitch during the warm up run which was quite disconcerting but thankfully it soon disappeared. At 7:45pm it was time to start. I was allocated to the last (fourth) group and I lined up right at the back. As we crossed the starting line the music from the film ‘Chariots of Fire’ was booming out which almost made me tear up. I promptly told myself that if there was any crying to be done it was at the end of the race not at the beginning!
I was very conscious to start out easily and kept myself at a nice steady slow pace. The kms starting ticking over and I was feeling pretty good. I kept remembering everyone’s advice to enjoy it and I took in the scenery which was really pretty. We were running alongside the upper Venetian lagoon, which was very peaceful. The temperature was warm but with a cool breeze and birds were chirping. During the first few kms I could see the path stretching ahead for ages full of runners. It felt a bit intimidating to see so many people so far ahead but I tried to focus on myself and get myself into a steady rhythm. There was a girl in front of me in brown shorts and a black singlet top who seemed to be running strongly. I kept her in my sights but couldn’t quite get to her. At one point I did but when I checked my pace I found I was going too quickly so held back a bit. A km or two later I passed her and I noticed she was holding her side so I think she must have gotten a stitch. I really felt for her as stitches are so debilitating. I then kept noticing the same man right behind me for quite a long time. Every time I thought I had lost him there he was again either just behind my left shoulder or my right shoulder. He was wearing a bright orange top and he just kept right there with me. At first it was a little annoying but then I didn’t mind; he was quite good company. During the first 10km I noticed groups of Italians running together having a great chat and gesticulating wildly. I don’t know how they had the energy!
Around the 10km mark I felt relief knowing that I was almost halfway and was starting to get into a good rhythm. We had left the lagoon by this stage and it was getting dark which was quite exciting. All along the way there were groups of locals cheering us on and a band was playing around the halfway mark. Next thing I remember being at the 15km mark and I was still feeling pretty good. I knew by then I’d make it to the end. Around 18k it started to feel tantalisingly close. The final 3k stretch was along the main road leading into Jesolo. At some point I could see the finish lit up way away in the distance. It was literally the light at the end of the tunnel! I saw my mother and husband at around 20.5k at which point I sped up as much as I could to the finish. And then I’d done it! Even though I wasn’t too concerned about my time I was thrilled to see I had run it in 2 hours and 5 minutes.
I was absolutely thrilled to have both my husband and mother at the finish well as a friend of mine Sara, who is part of my online running group, and her husband Ale. Sara and Ale were both supposed to have been running but couldn’t due to illness and injury and yet they drove an hour from home on a Saturday evening to come and support me. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the support I did. It made the whole experience all the more enjoyable and rewarding. And of course without Julia and Shauna there’s no way I would have been there to begin with.
I am not long back from an amazing four days in Bologna where I attended a running camp with a group of women from my online running group, none of whom I’d met before. I say ‘running camp’ but that may be slightly misleading. There was as much eating, cooking, pampering (Bologna has a fabulous hammam!), shopping and sightseeing on offer as running. The four day event was organised to coincide with an all female running race organised by our coach Julia. I had been looking forward to this event ever since it was first announced in October last year. I remember the exact date because my aunt (my running inspiration) had passed away that morning.
Despite looking forward to Bologna for so many months, the night before I was due to leave I found myself wondering if perhaps I may not go after all. I could simply enjoy the two days of annual leave I had booked, relax at home and catch up on things. Despite the fact that all the women on our online running forum couldn’t be more friendly and supportive I was quietly terrified at the prospect of actually meeting them in person. I tend to be most comfortable interacting with people one-on-one or in smaller groups so it suddenly felt quite intimidating.
As it turned out I had absolutely nothing to fear. I was the first to arrive and the sheer excitement of meeting Shauna and Julia (the two women behind the running group) in person was overwhelming. Over the course of the afternoon everyone else arrived and a very relaxed and comfortable dynamic was formed. Although we’d never met we had been communicating on the forum for sometime so we weren’t complete strangers. But still, it was a relief. It was a fantastic few days and much to my surprise, as someone who needs time alone, I didn’t find myself drained by the constant company. The support, encouragement and excitement amongst the group were palpable and I absolutely loved being able to talk about running non-stop without feeling like a bore!
Having been the first to arrive it turned out that I was also the first to leave. Much to my embarrassment I found myself in tears as I said goodbye. It is a long time ago now but I experienced a vastly different dynamic with a group of young women at a time in my life when I was particularly vulnerable and most in need of support. In Bologna it was incredibly heart warming to see, and be a part of, the best that can emerge when women join forces. As tempting as it was to stay at home I am so thankful I didn’t!
Update: Shauna describes the retreat wonderfully here (yes, a running retreat that’s the perfect description!)
I’ve recently had a bit of a set back with my half marathon training. During a run over Easter I became aware of a sharp pain in my right Achilles. While I finished the run I knew that something wasn’t right. After a couple of visits to the osteopath and a few weeks of rest I am now, thankfully, back on track. While I’ve lost some fitness I’m hopeful that I will be able to get through the half marathon, which is now only two weeks away.
Last weekend I called in to my local running shop to buy some carbohydrate gels to try out over the next few weeks. While chatting to the manager of the shop he happened to mention that he had recently completed the Marathon des Sables in Morocco. I had recently heard about this race, a 6-day 242km endurance race, known as the ‘toughest footrace on earth’, so I knew what an incredible achievement this was. The Marathon des Sables is the equivalent of five and a half marathons, run in the Sahara Desert over sand dunes and rocky ground in temperatures of up to 50 degrees celcius. If that’s not difficult enough, participants must carry all their own provisions (except a tent), including food, clothes, medical supplies and sleeping bag and prepare all their own meals. It was a thrill to meet somebody who had just completed it!
I found myself absolutely enthralled as I listened to him speak about his experience. I hung on every word and couldn’t help but ask question after question. He said it was the hardest thing he has ever done but he spoke so enthusiastically about having finished and he keenly showed me photos. I have always been fascinated and inspired by people who push themselves to the very outer limits of human endurance. It can be tempting to dismiss such athletes as completely crazy but I think it’s too easy to do this. Perhaps they are an uncomfortable reminder that we may not be stretching ourselves, whether mentally, physically or both, in our own lives.
I cannot imagine ever contemplating participating in an event such as the Marathon des Sables, however, I think people who push the outer limits of human endurance can serve as inspiration to us all to push ourselves towards our own outer limits, whatever they may be. I came away from the conversation feeling, more inspired, more focused and more determined than ever to complete my half marathon. It was just the spark of inspiration I needed to help me lace up my running shoes again.
(Photograph from Marathon des Sables website)
I recently watched a lovely short video in which Hailey, the founder of the 365 Grateful project, talks about how she found her way out of a difficult period in her life by taking time every day to find something she could be genuinely grateful for. She began documenting her journey of gratitude through photography and in the process inspired others to embark on their own journeys of gratitude. I particularly loved what Hailey said about her husband. Having always assumed that he just wasn’t really the romantic type, a whole world of romance revealed itself to her as she began to notice her husband’s small but loving everyday gestures. Practising gratitude helped Hailey realise just how much love she had in her life.
Not long after watching Hailey’s video, I discovered a post on the Brain Pickings blog about Charles M. Schulz’s (creator of the beloved Peanuts characters Snoopy and Charlie Brown) small book ‘Love is Walking Hand in Hand’. I was a huge Peanuts fan as a child, and it was a treat to rediscover this touching yet profound book, originally published in 1965, which defines love through the simple acts and moments of everyday life. It is another reminder to take the time to notice and appreciate the tender moments in life that we can too easily take for granted.
Speaking of love, it seems appropriate to share the following letter in which John Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, responds to a letter from his eldest son. His son had written from boarding school to tell his parents about a girl, Susan, that he had fallen in love with.
November 10, 1958
We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.
First—if you are in love—that’s a good thing—that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.
Second—There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.
You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply—of course it isn’t puppy love.
But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it—and that I can tell you.
Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.
The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.
If you love someone—there is no possible harm in saying so—only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.
Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.
It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another—but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.
Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.
We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.
And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
(Letter extracted from the wonderful website Letters of Note)
A few days ago marked exactly one year since I headed out for my first training run with Up & Running, an online coaching programme for aspiring runners. On a whim I had signed up for U&R’s first ever 5k programme. Little did I know back then how important U&R, and the fabulous women behind it – Julia Jones and Shauna Reid – would become for me. U&R re-ignited my long lost passion for running and has seen me running consistently, and loving it, for a whole year. Unbelievably, thanks to Julia and Shauna and the amazing community that they have created, I am now six weeks away from running my first half marathon. I am delighted, and incredibly honoured, that this dynamic duo agreed to be interviewed. It’s the perfect way to celebrate an amazing year of running!
Coach Julia, as she is known at U&R, (an American living in Italy) has been training runners for over ten years, has authored a bestselling book, and even has a running festival named after her! She has, herself, run an incredible 33 marathons and completed numerous triathlons as well as a half Ironman. Julia is everything a coach should be and more – inspiring, motivating, strict but caring, committed and dedicated. Oh and she really knows her stuff!
Community Director of U&R, Shauna, (an Australian living in Scotland) is known for her hugely popular health and wellness blog ‘The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl’ as well as her book of the same name. Shauna’s mission at U&R is to encourage, inspire and support each and every person who signs up. You couldn’t ask for a more helpful, encouraging, inspiring, warm and caring supporter. Somehow Shauna manages to make you feel as though you are the only person on the programme.
I recently watched a documentary about The Beatles during which Paul McCartney likened each Beatle to one corner of a square, each making a unique but essential contribution to the whole. It seems to me that Up & Running is much like a triangle with three such corners – Julia, Shauna and the community of fellow runners. Thank you Julia and Shauna and everyone at U&R!
What does happiness mean to you?
Shauna: Happiness is having a purpose, creating things, having meaningful work to do. It’s also feeling connected in my relationships and generally feeling foxy.
Julia: Feeling light with work done on time, moving my body in any way, knowing my children are healthy and happy, spending quality time with my husband, sunrise, creating something I’m proud of.
What and/or who inspires you?
Shauna: People with passions. Whether it’s my husband and his homebrewing obsession, or Julia and her running, or a chef geeking out about the perfect ingredients, or a busy mum writing at midnight when her kids have gone to bed, I find people identifying, exploring and carving out time for their interests to be the most inspiring and sexy thing in the world.
Julia: I get inspired by looking at what other people create, usually in an art form. I also get truly inspired by words (books lectures) and powerful nature like oceans and the immensity of mountains.
What would be your perfect day?
Shauna: It would start with a pile of French toast festooned with bacon and maple syrup. Then I’d look out the window to see oh my goodness, I seem to be in some amazing private retreat resorty kind of thing with a big clear lake and wildflowers and cheery birds. And I don’t have hayfever. I take a swim, then I get an amazing massage, then I head into town for an intimate-but-rockin’ Radiohead concert avec backstage pass, then I go out for a mind-blowingly tasty dinner. Then I am magically transported into an enormous bed with cosy sheets with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate. Hopefully my husband will be up for tagging along the whole day.
Julia: Early wake up, a walk on the beach and dip into the sea, a nice breakfast with a morning newspaper, four to six hours of intense working on any project in progress, a nap in the afternoon, tea, a run that lasts about an hour and a half, an evening spent with my family. (This is how a lot of my summer days play out so I feel pretty lucky!)
Do you have a favourite place or environment where you feel most at peace?
Shauna: Anywhere near water. Or in a library.
Julia: Any place in nature, Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods where I grew up, or Firenze in Italy. Any beach in the world.
If you are feeling stressed or anxious is there anything you do that you know will make you feel better?
Shauna: Either wrapping my hands around a hot cup of tea, or going to bed. A cup of tea in bed, even better.
Julia: When that happens I make a list for myself of all the things that need to be done to clear my mind. Sometimes it’s a long list but if I even get two or three items checked off I can feel myself calm down again.
What worries you most about the world?
Shauna: I worry about the environment. Wildlife, climate change and the amount of stuff we consume. On one hand I go around switching off lights and fishing people’s Starbucks cups out of the trash and putting them into the recycling bin (I’m known as the Recycling Fascist in the office). But on the other hand I travel quite a bit, which is a zillion times worse for the planet.
Julia: The environment and world pollution. Combine that with politics and ignorance it’s just a recipe for disaster.
What makes you most hopeful about the world?
Shauna: That there are brainy and/or creative folks out there actively trying to make things different.
Julia: That there are still people that think “differently”. Sometimes I even run into one or two!
What, if anything, would you like more of in your life?
Julia: I would love more time.
What, if anything, would you like less of in your life?
Shauna: Mundane administrative tasks.
Julia: Less laundry!
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Shauna: My grandmother once advised me, “Never marry a man with greyhounds”. I have no idea why she said that but it cracked me up as a ten year old. Seriously, I love what my kickboxing coach always said, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. I’ve learned that there’s a difference between pain and discomfort, and that you gotta ride through initial discomfort (for example, when doing something new, like running or writing a book) because that’s when real growth and groovy things start to happen.
Julia: I was working for Avon Running in Italy in 1999 and we were hosting the “World Championship” that year. Kathrine Switzer was the program director for Avon International and had come over to make sure everything went smoothly. I was really stressed out about how things were shaping up and I think I was freaking out a bit on race morning. I remember asking her something at breakfast and she looked me straight in my eyes and just said “Buck up, Julia”. It was very effective! Ever since then whenever I find myself whining on about something I just say that phrase to myself.
Shauna, what are you most drawn to in Julia?
Shauna: I love Julia’s attitude to life. She’s daring, open to new experiences and doesn’t worry about what others think. She is also a woman of her word – if she says she is going to do something, she just does it – no fuss, no excuses and no faffing around. As a result she has a had a rich and interesting life. She has a mysterious voodoo power to inspire the people around her to dig deep and make more of their own lives. I know I’ve been more bold and brave since we started working together, purely by osmosis.
Julia, what are you most drawn to in Shauna?
Julia: I think Shauna is just one of those people that has a natural charisma that draws you in. Being with her makes you just want to be with her even more. She’s brave and isn’t afraid to experiment. I also want her hair, love that colour!
Photograph: Shauna (left), Julia (right)