Back on the road again - by Nicola Lingley-Heath

Towards the end of last year we posted a hugely inspiring bit of writing by Nicola, about her epic half marathon at the 2016 Potters 'Arf.  It was such a powerful piece of writing that we included it in both our recent books:  the Potters 'Arf 2016: A Celebration of the Race and Sporting Stories Stoke-on-Trent: European City of Sport 2016.  When we launched Sporting Stories last month we managed to confuse Nicola, who'd missed our message that she was in both books - as you can read here in her blog post on the evening:

Nicola is now signed up for the 2017 Potters 'Arf, which is great news as we've just teamed up with the race organisers and the main sponsor the Hanley Economic Building Society to start work on a new Potters 'Arf book to celebrate this year's race, its history and the 10th anniversary of the Hanley's sponsorship. See more here. Hopefully Nicola will survive her training and be able to tell us of her adventures in this year's race!

Anyway, here's another piece of great writing from Nicola about the start of her 2017 journey...

With a heightened sense of positivity, I decided that Monday 6th February would be the day that I restart my running journey, on the road to becoming marathon runner. Having spent all day at work on my feet, and the feeling in them gradually getting less, along came the excuses to cancel my run and just go home instead. I didn’t feel much better when I headed to my car through the pouring rain either. Arriving home, I got into the house as fast as I could, changed into my running gear before I had time to change my mind. Standing outside my back gate, waiting for my Garmin signal, I felt strangely out of place. Like I’d never done it before. Nerves sprung through my stomach, making it flip, and I fought with the idea of just going back in the house. I moved round a bit to warm myself up whilst my watch took its time to locate. BEEP! Ready to go!

I had planned to walk to Orford Park to warm up, before covering a 1 mile route, 3 times. This way, I was close to home and could stop at any point if needed. This didn’t happen though, and without thinking, my feet started to move quicker than I’d anticipated. With trepidation I decided to just go with the flow, not letting the priority of my hip slip my mind though. I had also planned to follow a Couch to 5k style, walk-run method too. Seventeen minutes later, I was still running! I’d reached the park and was already taking on the first loop. After realising I’d been running now for almost 20 minutes, I got excited and decided to just keep going. The adrenaline pumped through me! I didn’t care that it was pouring with rain, windy as hell, and pitch black. The darkness hindered my view of the footpath and I splashed through an unseen puddle. I felt the coldness of the water splash through the fabric of my trainers and gradually seep through my socks until they, and the skin on my feet were soaking. It made me laugh. I felt crazy. Having done no running since August 2016, here I was, alone in the darkness, with only the illumination of a few street lamps, in the dampness and cold of the February weather. Music in my ears and laughing at myself. That I’d just splashed through a puddle like a 5 year old in a pair of new wellies. This just made me carry on, plodding along, enjoying the freedom of being alone with my thoughts. Quick check of my watch showed I’d run 1.57 miles. I’d reached half way of my planned target and I felt amazing!

I didn’t care how slow I was going, how soaked through to the skin I was, or how cold my legs were, because I was running. I tried not to think of my hip in case it hurt and then the hurt interrupted the happiness I was feeling at that moment in time. Then I realised that, I wasn’t thinking about it… because it wasn’t hurting. I couldn’t think forward to how it may feel once I was finished, but for now it was ok. Although I got excited about the prospect of being able to run again, I was so focused on the here and now of that moment. When I was in deepest depths of depression, running helped me; when I was fed up of the day to day stresses of life, running helped me; and when I just wanted to feel good, running helped me. Unless you’re a runner, it’s hard to get across how important running can be in a person’s life. Not being able to run for the last six months has had quite a drastic impact on my life, but Monday nights jolly jaunt gives me hope that I’ll be out there again soon enough.

My personal challenge for 2017 was to recovery from injury, enough to be able to train for the Potteries Marathon on 2nd July. As it stands, and realistically, I’ve had to seriously reassess my current ability and plans, with guidance from my friends who have much more experience than myself. After much consideration, I’ve come to the decision that the Potteries Marathon has to wait until 2018. For me to be able to achieve what I want to achieve, I need to be 100% back to fitness. It’s about being sensible, taking control of my own progression and listening to my body. With this in mind, the marathon is a longer term goal, with my immediate goal being to take on the Potters ‘Arf on 11th June, but this time finish strong, and not hobble across the finish line. This time it’ll be tears of happiness, not tears of pain. And, this time I will settle the score with this race! All in good time though. The road from baby steps to giant strides begins again!