Archive for February, 2013

  • Running

    Today I went for my second outdoor run of the year. For me, and indeed for most seasoned runners, that’s not something to shout from the rooftops, let alone broadcast on the internet. It was pretty cold (snowing, in fact) and I’ve never been a fan of running in the cold. Then again, neither am I a fan of running in the rain, running when it’s dark, running in remote, suburban areas, or running at then end of the day. I guess in that sense I’ve always been a bit of a ‘fair-weather’ runner; a runner who likes to have their cake and eat it (not that cake can really be used appropriately in an analogy about running, but you get my drift). As most of you will know, however, (if you’ve read my list) I’ve recently renewed a pledge that I made with a friend back in 2011 to run a marathon before I turn 30, and preferably within the next 2 years. What this means is that I really need to get my backside into gear if I want to make it happen.

    Running has never been something that I’ve ever been really good at, though when I was at school I wasn’t particularly good at any kind of sport. Personally, I put that down to the fact that I wasn’t given prescription lenses until the age of 14 and so my hand-eye coordination must have been out of kilter for most of my childhood! My lack of sporting dexterity actually became a bit of a running joke amongst my friends – so much so that they thought that it would be really funny to nominate me as ‘Games Captain’ for my form one year. We all laughed about it at the time, and I continued to shun sports in the same way that I felt all sports had shunned me.

    I’d like to think that those days are long since past. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a sports enthusiast, but I do enjoy an active lifestyle. When I left school I found out that I could express this enjoyment for activity in ways that didn’t constrain me or make me feel humiliated. I joined the university gym and went fairly regularly (it was hard to argue with a £1.50 pay-as-you-go fee). When I left university, however, I discovered that working out in the real, corporate world was pretty expensive, and I simply couldn’t afford the £50 a month memberships that most gyms were charging. It was then that I had a brainwave; I decided that from that moment onwards, I would start running. Initially, I wasn’t doing it for anything other than maintaining my fitness regime. I would get up on a Saturday morning, go for a 2-mile run, come home, and enjoy the rest of my weekend. It wasn’t until 2011 that I decided I needed a challenge to work towards. My friend (the friend that sparked the new ‘list’ phenomenon, and a friend that has always been much, much fitter than I) suggested that we plan to run a marathon together in 2013, and we began to lay the groundwork for that very challenge.

    Well it’s now 2013. Those two years seem to have vanished into the ether. I’d like to think that we could still do it this year somehow, but I think that it’s going to be difficult – especially when I’m only just starting to run again after a 6-month hiatus that was brought on by a knee injury and when I also plan to make a research trip to New Orleans in November. I’m conscious, however, that it’s really difficult to wait before starting, as it might just not happen. But then I’m just looking for obstructions, I suppose. I need to do it; I want to do it, so I’ll just have to do it, even if that means training through the winter and training at times that don’t best please me. Because ultimately when I’m out there, on the road or on the grass, I love it. Even when the snow is hitting me in the face and my fingers are going numb, I just love it. I think it’s always easy to forget just how much we love doing something when we don’t do it for a while, and because we haven’t done it for so long, we convince ourselves that it was never that good to begin with. I, for one, am going to stop listening to the excuses that I make for myself and just start doing, because if I don’t start doing then I will never get anything done.

  • Lists

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    Two weeks ago I went for dinner with a friend. We had agreed at the beginning of the year that we would make a conscious effort to see more of each other in 2013 as we realized that 2012 had passed us both by without us having time to pause and take stock. We naturally drunk a large quantity of wine and had a wonderful time, giggling, gossiping, venting our respective frustrations, and reflecting on how far we’d come together over the past fourteen years. We recalled the moment that we made a list with three of our friends at the age of eighteen of thirty things that we wanted to do before we hit thirty. It was a joint effort with contributions from each of us, some of which were frivolous; some of which we’ve already achieved. With several exceptions, we agreed that there were probably few things on the old list that were really relevant to our lives now, and agreed with one of our other friends after our dinner to make new, individual lists.

    It has been a source of great fun and has brought us even closer together as we have laughed, cried (with laughter) and started to build exciting plans for our future over the past two weeks. It has also made me realize how truly blessed I am to have such wonderful and vivacious friends – friends that have inspired and sustained me as I have grown up. My mum told me when I was on the cusp of adulthood that she had always felt reassured by how mature, headstrong and resilient my friends were, and by how we seemed to fuel each other. We all have a lot to be proud of; we’ve each made lives for ourselves using the materials that we’ve had at hand, we’ve struggled through difficult situations and have all experienced grief, love and happiness. Above all, we’ve made some incredible memories – memories that beat any ephemeral mementos – and we’ve made them together and apart. We’ve been able to harness the support of each other throughout all of this and we’ve come so far as to make our primary ‘list’ virtually redundant.

    As the first week drew to a close, the girls had already completed their lists. I was sadly lagging. Of course, I had been tempted to fill my list with ludicrous and off the wall fantasies as I had the first time round, but this time I knew that I had to take it (semi) seriously. Usually so impetuous, and keen to get going on a project immediately (I wrote the first post for this blog several weeks before the blog was even up and running!), I came to appreciate the importance of taking my time and making a list that really expressed what I wanted to achieve in my life (and try to squeeze in before I hit the big three-zero.) After a few deletions, insertions and revisions, it’s finally complete, and I’m fairly happy with it. The list that you see here is only a sample of the full list – only my girls get to see the complete thirty – but I wanted to let you in on my plan:

    1) Run a marathon
    2) Work and live in America
    3) Go to Haiti
    4) Publish a book
    5) Have an amazing all-girls holiday
    6) Take part in a protest
    8) Sing live with my guitar
    9) Ride a motorbike
    11) Have a small home-run craft business
    12) Learn how to use a sewing machine and make my own clothes
    13) Buy myself an incredibly expensive designer dress
    17) Start writing a book about my life
    18) Learn to speak Italian
    20) Go to Thailand
    21) Spend Christmas serving food to the homeless
    22) Be able to bring all our families together in one place at Christmas
    23) See the sun rise and set again in a beautiful place
    25) Drink absinthe
    26) Organise a vintage party (and perhaps establish a regular event)
    27) Learn how to swing-jive with Julian
    28) Learn some practical skills (putting up shelves, sawing a plank of wood)
    29) Graduate as a doctor
    30) Get married in a magical and memorable place in the company of all my friends and family

    If we’re still here together, ‘on our feet’, by the time I’m 30, you can check in with me to see if I made it. It may be a little ambitious, but I’d like to think that I can. Come on, future; show me what you’ve got! (I dare you…)