Last weekend, I headed to the stunning Cairngorm mountains, as part of my training for climbing Peak Lenin in August 2020. I was less than six months away from this adventure and within the last two weeks of training for the Tokyo marathon.
Packing my bag with crampons, ice axes, down jackets, thermals and goggles, I felt hugely excited and nervous! As well as battling my nerves, this weekend I would also have to battle the elements as Storm Dennis hit Scotland with a vengeance!
Over the course of the weekend, I learnt how to dig snow buckets to safely belay someone up a steep slope, how to tie myself in to ropes (I never realised how many ways there were to tie knots into ropes!) and how to find a crack in a rock that could be used to secure myself and a partner as we went up a steep crag. It was exhilarating and, for the first time, I enjoyed a lot of it in the moment rather than when I was reflecting afterwards in the safety of a warm hotel! There were moments of fear but the weather – rain, snow, heavy winds and temperatures below freezing – meant that I wanted to keep warm and so I didn’t allow myself much time to worry, I just kept moving. A technique I’ll need to use when it is better weather!
My favourite part of the weekend was climbing up a crag. It was rocky, snowy and steep. I needed to use my crampons and ice axes to secure myself in the ground and I needed to cope with drops to my side. Uncommonly for me, I was with others, which helped hugely as I could see how others tackled the tough parts and had people to talk to.
Having successfully got to the top of the crag, I stood on the top feeling very happy, until the wind took me…. With 70mph winds, I was literally blown across the top of the mountain and the only reason I stopped was because my crampon got stuck under a boulder, for which I was very grateful! I had never been in such strong winds and it took a huge amount of concentration to navigate down safely. It was a wonderful weekend and I felt elated at how my skills were slowly improving. And, in very good news, my knees were only slightly black, which was a huge improvement on previous visits!
I woke up on the Monday morning, tired but happy, and looking forward to ten more days of training until we headed to Tokyo to run for my six star medal. And then Tokyo was cancelled…..
When I tried to avoid any long distance run at school, did I ever think I would be in tears because I couldn’t run a marathon? If you had told me that, I would have thought you were thinking about someone else! But that is what happened.
After spending the last four years aiming for my six star medal and the last 16 weeks training hard to be ready for 1 March, it was incredibly disappointing to hear that the Tokyo marathon was being cancelled for all but the elite athletes (so, definitely not me!) due to the threat of the coronavirus. The news leaked out on social media and at first I couldn’t believe it and then when it was confirmed, I succumbed to some tears.
The next 24 hours were an emotional rollercoaster! With my wonderfully supportive husband and marathon friends, initially we thought we would still travel to Tokyo, as we had flights and a hotel booked, but over the course of the 24 hours, some sanity returned and we decided to look at other marathon possibilities. Having put in all of the training and, for me, having already raised a lot of fundraising from generous supporters, we were all determined to run a marathon!
The only marathon in the UK on the same day is at a car race track near Chester – Oulton Park – and this is the one that my husband and I have decided to run. It will require us to run 10 laps of the track! I know that this won’t be the same as a finish line at the Tokyo Imperial Palace with a six star medal waiting for me, but it is still a marathon and will no doubt be a tough mental battle given the lap format. I allowed myself one day off of training, with some chocolate (!), before continuing with the training programme for the final two weeks of the taper. I now have one week to go and I’m looking forward to a new format of marathon and to once again testing myself, physically, mentally and emotionally. I’m also very much looking forward to 7 March 2021 when I hopefully will cross the Tokyo finish line and receive my long awaited six star medal!
Over the last week, I have been overwhelmed by the lovely and supportive messages from family, friends and colleagues, as they heard the news about the marathon. Everyone has been so understanding and supportive. Despite most not having run a marathon themselves and probably thinking that any normal person would be delighted at not having to run 26.2 miles (!), they knew that it mattered to me and therefore they wanted to make sure I was ok. I felt surrounded by care and love and it reminded me again of the ability we all have to make a difference to others through very simple things. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me this week. I hope to make you all proud through ten laps next week.
As well as reminding me of how lucky I am to be surrounded by so much kindness, this week has taught me that we can choose how we react to things that challenge us. A quote that resonates is:
“Someday everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.”
Or as my wonderful marathon friend said “when life gives you lemons, make some lemonade!”
Thank you to everyone who has already kindly supported me for my challenges this year. If anyone would still like to do so, I am fundraising for the wonderful Cancer Research UK and you can sponsor me via my my justgiving page. Thank you very much