I'm not so great at this blogging business because I rarely find or take the time to indulge in sitting down with my laptop, blabbering on about what I'm up to. Instead I spent a lot of time over the festive season indulging in things like mince pies and mulled wine, blabbering on about what I'm up to.
I'm going to do the obvious and highlight a few 2013 things with a view to encouraging others to see every step back as a potential spring board. Things might not have gone as you planned in 2013, but I firmly believe it can serve as a boost into 2014 and the rest of your short or longer term goals.
I have completed two more Half Marathons and a 10k race in 2013, including my first destination run (which is already becoming an expensive hobby). I went to Germany at the beginning of November to run the Teltowkanal Half Marathon, a really small race that was three laps of a beautiful circuit along the huge Teltowkanal in the very southern part of Berlin. Firstly, wow...what a beautiful place to be.
Challenge number one was information gathering. I speak absolutely no German (not out of being lazy and British, I have to add...I absolutely loved my French and Spanish at school), so the registration process was interesting to begin with. To gather details of the race I looked at all the photos on the website, as one does. How very Sherlock Holmes of me. Everyone was happily trotting away on tarmac, so I trained away on the pavements of Edinburgh and took my eenie weenie road running shoes with me to run the race.
Challenge number two was navigation, because I have to mention that getting to Teltow was equally interesting. Long story short, we took a tram, the S-Bahn, a bus that never arrived and eventually ended up speeding through the streets of Berlin in a taxi with a driver who didn't speak any English and had only lived in the city for TWO DAYS. None of us knew where we were going or if we were ever going to see another bratwurst again. I've never been so happy to see so many people wearing lycra as when I spotted those runners.
As for the challenge of the race. Oh, it started off so well...
Three laps of a 7km (tarmac?) circuit. No problem, she says.
3.5km in we crossed the road bridge and came back...bottlenecking along a muddy, narrow tow path. What the-? A dirt path scattered with tree roots, stones, mud, cobbles, wooden slats, mud, grass. Did I mention mud? And to top it all off I had to haul my ass up about 10 HEUGE great whacking stone steps to end each circuit and get back up to street level from the canal. Then go round again. Clearly this part had been omitted from the photo gallery. Blaaaaaaah...
It wasn't what I had planned and by the end, my soles felt bruised. But I finished it, because that's just what I do. I have to thank my wonderful friend Bryony and my lovely boyfriend Neil for cheering me on at every lap, because when you're starting to feel like you really don't want to go round again it's such a boost. Needless to say, I was so delighted to cross the finish line and receive my meda-...what, there's no medals?! No medal in this race? What about a certificate? No?! It's ok though, there's bratwurst and mulled wine - the greatest post-race grub imaginab-...what? We're not staying for bratwurst and mulled wine? We're going to a...restaurant? A nice one?! I've just run 13miles in these clothes. I don't need a restaurant, I need a shower and knitwear.
But, God love Berlin, I not only went to a swanky restaurant (and foolishly ordered myself the teeniest, tiniest bowl of bouillon on the menu - linguistic breakdown number 101) but then ran for a bus back into town, missed it, walked a few more miles, eventually caught a bus and went straight to a performance of Faure's Requiem in a church, all while dressed in my hi vis running "geddup" that had seen me round the toughest Half Marathon to date. When I re-tell it it sounds more traumatic than it felt at the time. No-one batted an eyelid at me munching away on my cereal bar and someone else's bottle of water during the Sanctus in Eb Major.
Not what I had planned, but it was a beautiful, refreshing and uplifting experience to wander around a city completely un-judged...no-one cared what I was wearing, they just cared that I was there.
I absolutely loved being there. Go to Berlin - it is a humbling, inspiring and welcoming place to be.
And then for the really unplanned part. Just prior to my trip to Germany, we very tragically lost a great friend, our mentor, and perhaps the most inspirational woman I've ever known. Not many people can say that about their boss. Those close to me know that I seeeriously love my work (arguably too much sometimes), and much of that is down to the motivation, encouragement and kindness that was shown to me by our lovely boss Karen. I've never been in a job where I've felt so compelled to bust my ass for anyone like I did for Karen, and I still do now for my team. She had a unique warmth in her encouragement and always recognised and praised our efforts and successes. She knew the secret of making her team go the extra mile for her, every time, and was the most generous person I have ever met. One night over several gins, I sat with Karen and asked her to tell me all about how she got to where she is; I'm so glad I did. I was inspired to the point of complete emotional meltdown. The gin probably had something to do with that.
Karen's death was untimely, very sudden and a huge shock to our close knit team. We are all still grieving the loss but have had great support from friends of our charity and friends of our own. Thank you to everyone who has sent us kind words and made donations to Aberlour in Karen's memory. It has been a really sad time but we are doing ok because we have each other.
That wasn't what I had planned for 2013, but I'm more motivated now than ever before to realise Karen's vision and achieve all the things she saw I had the potential to achieve. And here ends the blog about life throwing you a multitude of curve balls, but the key is to use them all to an advantage, push yourself harder, and you can do things you didn't think were possible.
Case in point...
Onto a more positive (musical) note, one record that has taken me through the highs and lows of the past couple of months has been San Fermin's debut album of the same name. Easily my album of the year, it's been a really long time since I've been so enthralled by a collection of songs. I'd go as far to say it's my favourite album since Statues by Moloko, and that was ten (eleven?) years ago and they are one of my favourite bands ever!
To me, San Fermin is a story book, one that's impossible to put down and makes you use your imagination and your own emotions and memories to evoke a very real reaction. Whether that reaction is to sing out loud and throw your arms up in the air to Sonsick, to shed a tear to Methuselah or to squeeze your eyes closed at the final few seconds of strings in Alltogether Changed (not advisable while driving), it's...well I'm lost for words now about how amazing it is. Just go and buy it and find out for yourself. The more you listen to it from start to finish, the more wonderful it becomes. I've been banging on about this album to anyone who'll listen...but for a very good reason.
So, to end on a running note - I have just started using energy gels and my newest and best friend is the GU Blackcurrant gel with caffeine. That stuff has you seriously focused, my friends. It might even be good for sitting through the new Hobbit film. I've tried lots of energy supplements over the past few weeks (isotonic gels, blocks and bars), and this one's my favourite for the runs longer than 12miles. Porridge 2hrs before setting off, gel 45mins in, happy days.
Boring, isn't it.
Happy New Year, everyone.