There are many things that I want to talk about in life, yet this particular blog is not always the most appropriate place to share those elements. I wanted this blog to purely be about autism and dedicated another blog to much of those ‘random’ posts where I felt the need to get something off my chest. I have realised over time though that it’s not always easy to compartmentalise my life and many events that occur outside of autism have every little bit of impact on our lives with autism.
A topic that is frequently crossing over into what I write about autism is running. Now bear with me here if you are not a running fan and purely here for the autism, hopefully you’ll see where I’m going with it.
I’ve spoken before how running helps me find a release from the everyday pressures I face. I love to think but equally, I like not having to think. I love that time alone where I can see everything around me, yet often see nothing at all. I love how I only need to focus on one step in front of the other but sometimes I can think about everything I need to and solve the world within those 60 minutes of the solitude of a run. It’s for me to decide whether I need the space or need time to sort anything and everything that is running through my mind.
I am my own worse critic though and even with an abundance of praise when I have completed an organised race, I am often left feeling I could do better. Sunday was one of those days. What should have been a relatively easy 10k run, turned out to be the run that beasted me (in my head anyway). I knew the route like the back of my hand. I had practised the killer hills and I was ready.
What I hadn’t expected though was the 24 degree heat. I knew that could totally change the whole run. Despite having a mountain of fears in the 24 hours leading up to it, I knew I couldn’t let my doubting inner voice have the upper hand. All I needed to do was hydrate before, during and after and nothing needed to change. I would get round and that would be another challenge ticked off.
Only it didn’t work out that way. By the time the half way point came, I was blowing out of my arse. The water helped but I needed as much to pour over my head as I did to consume orally. The three killer hills hit soon after the water station and I needed to stop to regain my breath. I had a committee meeting with myself and told myself repeatedly that I could do it.
I could do it
There was no reason why I couldn’t conquer those hills. I didn’t need to stop. It was a little (actually it was a lot) hotter but I could do this.
The family cheering me en route, brightened my spirits and despite not seeing the beautifully worded banner, their voices kept me going a while longer.
Unfortunately, two more committee meetings with myself didn’t help much and when a spectator saw my flagging face and offered me an ice-lolly, I rudely declined and asked her for water. My manners seemed to have left me at that point and I was struggling to continue. I knew I had only 1K to go and despite wanting to quit, I couldn’t.
My drive to succeed and not be defeated saw me to the finish line and even managed a sprint for the line.
Some of you may be reading this and see this as success. Completing a 10k run in 63 minutes despite it being the hottest day of the year. Despite wanting to quit, picking myself up and carrying on.
But not me.
So less than 24 hours later at 07:30, I power-marched the one mile to the official start line. I walked with attitude with my tunes blaring out. I re-wrote the story in my head. I had the title and I knew what the ending would be.
Stupid Courageous Woman Re-Runs 10k and Knocks Five Minutes off her Time
This time, there was no other runners. Nobody annoying me with their heavy flat feet. My own breathing not getting on my own tits. No encouraging marshals or spectators. Nobody stopping the traffic and nobody offering water (or lollies) and no heat. No family lovingly cheering me on and certainly no banner this time.
I wasn’t stopping, I wasn’t going to let the (bastard) hills defeat me.
My legs were tired from yesterday but I kept on and on, not checking my time, only my pace.
I crossed the line, pressed stop on my garmin, only to find that my time was exactly the same as yesterday.
It’s true, the word ‘bastard’ did come out of my mouth and then I laughed. I realised, how bloody pig-headed I was being. I wasn’t able to accept that on some days the conditions are not in your favour despite the best possible preparation. I wrote previously that sometimes it’s just about turning up on the line and giving it your best shot, yet I seemed to forget that race day and the day after. I wanted more and I did not want to be defeated.
I was the same last year when I participated in the Great North Run, a world famous half marathon in the heart of the North East of England. In the lead up to the run, I had suffered with a pain in my hip and thigh but I was determined to complete it. Completing it should have been enough but as soon as the pain subsided, I knew I would be taking part again - injury free and with a better time. The opportunity presented itself when I secured a place running for a wonderful charity called Family Fund who provided help for me and Joseph when I needed it most.
So how does this link to my autistic son and the life we lead?
I’m not a defeatist. I like to think I challenge the impossible and get results. I also like to think that I know how to come back fighting even if something doesn’t necessarily go our way. But more importantly, I know (sometimes) when to accept that I gave it my best shot, accept it was my best shot but learn from it.
Running another 10k less than 24 hours after the previous one was unlikely to be the winner’s story. Sometimes you just need to recover, regroup and then attempt it again on another day. Maybe with more preparation, maybe the same.
This applies to everything I do when it comes to Joseph, whether that be school, the local authority or from a health perspective. Life throws up curve balls at every opportunity but it’s amount ensuring you have the mental strength to deal with it. There is no better advocate for a child than his/her parent. Sometimes it’s appropriate to listen to that inner voice and other times it’s appropriate to turn the volume down a little. There is nothing wrong with striving for success and the best for your child, but it’s just as important to pick those battles. Even if it’s purely for your own sanity.
You can’t win every fight, but you can certainly win the battle.
....and maybe next week I’ll try it again.
* if you do want to sponsor me in the Great North Run, click here.