Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Hull 10k l 2014 l aka A Tale of How my Brain Hates Me

I really really wanted this to be a triumphant post about my recent Hull 10k. You would think that after last year's 10k that wasn't a 10k, this year's run couldn't really be much worse for me.

You would be wrong.

Sometimes I forget that actually I'm not really a very experienced runner. If you discount last year's race, this one would be my third ever 10km. (The first being in Preston in 2012 and then last year's Whipsnade Zoo Stampede with my fellow Stampeder Lucy.)

Training did not go well for this 10km. I was first of all lazy to get started and then was laid up for 2 months in Dec/Jan with a messed up knee. When I started back I just found it nigh on impossible to make any headway. I felt like I wasn't building up any stamina at all and wasn't making the inroads that I thought I would be.

This is the problem with having been able to do something, then being lazy and letting it slip away. You spend a lot of time berating yourself for letting it slip away and the fact that you can't get it back. If you have my brain you will constantly get on at yourself for how you used to be able to do this and now you can't and aren't you a terrible person and what the hell is wrong with you why can't you just do it already.

My brain isn't very nice to me.

Then I got injured again. Then I started back running again. Then I had a very bad run on a very hot day and I cried. Then I got a bad back and couldn't run again.

Then I thought that I might just be getting better. Which was a breakthrough because I was pretty insistent at one point that every time I went out running I was getting worse at it.

Unfortunately it was all a little too late. By the time that the Hull 10k rolled around the furthest I had managed to run without having to stop and walk was 5km and the furthest run I'd completed was 7km.

I knew that it was unlikely that I was going to make it all the way around without walking but I hoped that being in a race situation and the crowds and the fact that Hull is so flat whereas my home turf is more up and down - I harboured a secret feeling very deep down inside me that I might do better than I thought.

I did not.

 Bless me. Taking photos of my kit before the race like a real runner

This race could be a case study in the importance of your brain when it comes to running. Not your lungs. Not your legs. But your brain.

So much of running is about your mind power. And as I've already mentioned I am just not very mentally strong when it comes to running, not strong at all.

The main factors that were my downfall in this race:

1. The fact that I just wasn't ready (kind of a big one)
2. The heat. After all this crappy weather, this was the day that the sun came out and it hit 20 degrees.
3. My brain.

Mostly it was my brain.

I started out and actually for the first 2kms felt pretty good. I was going along quite happily and feeling good about it and then it was like a switch flipped in my brain and I realised how absolutely roasting I was. I overheat anyway when I run, I overheat thinking about heat, running and heat for me are not good combinations. And in fact any time that I have run in heat it has not turned out well at all (remind me to tell you about the time I tried to run 5km in Phoenix....).

"It's too hot. You're too tired. You'll have to stop. It's just too hot."

And I made the fatal error of slowing to a walk just after the 3km mark.

Some people can walk a bit and run a bit and walk a bit. For me, walking is the death knell. I find it so hard to start and even harder to keep going. Any time I try interval training all that happens is the walks get longer and the running gets slower and my brain gets nastier.

I was disciplined and said I was only allowed to walk for 3 minutes. I stuck to it and started running again.

I was walking again just after the 4km mark.

Again I said I was only allowed to walk for 3 minutes and again I started to run again.

About 5.5km I saw my Mum, my lone supporter on this race. It was actually the worst thing. I ran past her got about a further 300m and nearly stopped altogether. I wanted to quit. I didn't see the point in continuing. I had blown it as far as getting a PB was concerned. I had blown it as far as my aim was concerned (I'd wanted to make it to 6km before walking) and as far as my brain was concerned I had blown everything. I was useless. I was shit at running. I couldn't even do this one thing for myself.

It become one massive negative feedback loop on myself. My brain telling me I couldn't do it --> me slowing to a walk --> my brain crowing that I couldn't do it --> and repeat.

To be honest I don't even know why I did keep going - for most of the way between 6km and 7km I'm pretty sure I walked. Then I figured that I was more than half way done and might as well just get on with it and get it over and done with.

Unfortunately around this point my body as well as my brain began to fail. My back started hurting and my legs felt like they were wading through the sea. A sea made up of embarrassment and failings.

I couldn't even run the last 1km and I can always run the last kilometre.

I crossed the finish line and didn't feel anything. I didn't even feel relief that it was over, I just went and collected my goodie bag and made my way to the meeting point to meet up with my Mum. There was no post-run euphoria. Just blankness.

Then I started in on my stupid brain. I was so mad at myself for giving in. If I'd just been stronger and carried on running at that 3km mark I could have made it so much further. Why was I so weak? Why was I not made of stronger stuff?

So basically my brain attacked my brain which attacked me.

I think there were a couple of issues apart from my mental brain problems and the heat (oh the heat!) and the fact that I wasn't ready.

1. I was running on my own. The Person was going to run with me but had to work this weekend so stayed at home whilst I went to Hull on my own. A friend was supposed to be running but dropped out because she was even less prepared than I was.
2. No support. Apart from my Mum there was no-one cheering me on. Even with a crowd of well-wishers along the way, if you know that no-one's really there to wish you on it makes it tough.
3. Nothing to run for. I wasn't doing this for charity, I was doing it for myself. Which is all good and well as long as yourself isn't a mad evil brain that turns on you when you find it gets tough.

I didn't want to tell anyone my time but there's no point not acknowledging it. It was 1:18:46. Hilariously that is basically the same time as the very first 10km I did in Preston which I actually ran. As in ran all of it. I don't even know how I ran that slowly.

In a way that should have made me feel better because hey, I might have walked but that means that when I was running I was running faster than I used to be able to.

Instead my brain said "See you idiot, if you hadn't walked so much you'd have done even better."

I know. I don't know why it's so mean to me.

The t-shirt in the goody bag made me smile. I cannot think of anyone who made less of a big impression on the Hull 10k in 2014. Unless that big impression was the massive stomping footprint that my brain made on myself.

I have thought a lot about whether or not to continue on the running path I'm on. It's not normal to beat yourself up this badly all the time. It's not normal to do exercise and instead of feeling a rush of endorphins, feeling a headrush of shame at how shit you are.

But deep down inside I do know that my brain is wrong. I am not totally shit at running. I do like it and do enjoy it.

So right now I'm saying, never say never....


  1. I am in awe of anyone who completes a 10k. Or anyone who runs at all, to be honest. The only thing I was hoping when I read this was that you finished the race, and you did so I can continue to be impressed. Well done!

  2. I don't run. I've only just started exercising. People like you are still inspirational to people like me.

    Don't be so hard on yourself.

  3. I agree with the other comments - as someone who has never run further than the bus stop (rubbish ankle + comically massive boobs that no sports bra can contain + asthma does not = natural runner) I am totally in awe of anyone who can even stagger around a 10k race, let alone run large sections of it. But I know exactly what you mean about pesky brains, I definitely do the same thing of focusing on the negative not the positive.

  4. Stop being so hard on yourself!!!!!

    That's all I have to say.


  5. I know this is easier said than done but I hope you can see how awesome everyone thinks you are (pretty darned!) <3

    Maria xxx


Go on. Say something. You know you want to...