Sunday 10 December 2023

Straight outta Roundhay. Bring the noise.

I won an award on Friday night. Roundhay Runners' Club Contribution Award 2023.

It's sort of history repeating itself. 40 years ago I won a similar award, at my local football team. Garforth Villa Under 15s. In 1983 they had an inaugural award for club contribution which I won. I was never especially good at football but I used to put my heart into it. Like running now.

Winning an award is one meaning of being recognised. Another kind of being recognised is just people knowing who you are.

If you were at the awards ceremony on Friday there was a really short silence immediately after I was announced as the winner. It's probably only a millisecond but it's there. For me it seemed like a lot longer. A bit like when a goal is scored in football, the time it takes for the crowd to realise the ball is in the net. If that millisecond was in a film it would spark a flashback sequence and it would go back to 7th July 2022 and you'd see me walking into the running club for the first time.

July 2022 I knew no one in Roundhay. And no one knew me. I didn't come to Roundhay on purpose and I had no connections there, it was just the first place I could find a room to rent after a breakup. Pure dumb luck.

I mentioned at work on Friday that I was up for an award. My colleague Lynne said 'That club has been a life saver for you'. I said I don't think that's literally true. I don't believe I'd be dead without it. But whatever the next worst thing is after death, they've saved me from that.

What would that be, that next worst thing? Maybe it would be being heartbroken and alone in a new place and having no one there who knows you to talk to, no one familiar to help you. That approximates the state I found myself in in July 2022.

My mum used to say, when she was trying to reassure me after a disappointment. "As one door closes another opens" I always wanted to say, that's not how doors work Mum, sometimes when one door closes, it just closes. Without any effect on any other doors.

But instead of retrospectively trying to argue with her I tried to put down some roots in Roundhay last year by opening the door into Roundhay Runners.

Flash forward to December 2023.

In that moment of silence after my name was announced there was the fear in me that the silence would continue. That people would just turn to each other and say Jonathan? 'Who the fuck is that?'

But then came the noise. Applause, cheering, that sort of thing. , It was a kind of affirmation. Winning, but also just a feeling of being known and recognised. Proof I exist.

Chris Dearnley said being with me on Friday was like being with a minor celebrity. That's one of those compliments you need less of. Not only was it a minor celebrity but it was only "like" being with one.

Another conversation I said to Olivia. I asked her "What if this is my peak. What if this is as good as life gets?". She just said "Just enjoy it while you can then".

I still fight thoughts most days that I'm a failure. Things that outwardly seem to matter in life. Having money, a career, a family, a home, a partner, I've found ways of either not having them, or else getting them and losing them again.

But in my better moments, I believe that other things matter too. Like belonging to a community and being a welcoming and caring presence within it when new people come.

Kerrie says I'm like a meerkat on club nights. Looking out for people whose first time it is. Making sure they're acknowledged and that they'll be okay. Well, that was what was given to me and I want to pass it on.

It's very hard to objectively judge your own contribution to anything. But on Friday people kept congratulating me on my award and telling me I deserved it. The self-doubting part of me wanted to try and disprove them but then enough people said it that I started to think maybe I should just take their word for it.

Thursday 2 November 2023

Wistow 10k. The light at the end of the tunnel

In 1990 I went to the cinema to see the film Flatliners. About 5 medical students trying to stop their hearts in order to get a preview of the afterlife. I actually passed out during the first 20 minutes,  Someone cut the foot of a corpse in the morgue with a scalpel and that was it. I was down and out. It took me about another 15 years to see the end of it. 

Looking back now, if Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts and others wanted to know what it was like to have a near death experience, they could have just tried to run a 10k.

You often hear stories of people who've had near death experiences. They mostly seem to report going down a tunnel towards a bright light, and at the end there's a beautiful garden full of their loved ones. And maybe their pets.

The people who come back usually say that they really wanted to stay with the people they've lost, where it's sunny and comfortable. But for some reason it wasn't their time yet. They got resuscitated and sent back to the world as we know it. 

On Saturday, I ran the Wistow 10k. Wistow, near Selby. They told us at the start how close the event was to being called off, due to heavy rain. Some of the route was underwater, and the field where you normally park would have turned into a mudbath with cars on it, so we ended up parking on a farm.

I set off a bit steadier than I did at last week's Abbey Dash. I did that on purpose, thinking that I might be able to keep something in reserve for the end. But it didn't work out that way. Just to keep a roughly 5 minutes per kilometre pace knackered me out. My sprint finish never materialised. At 3k I remembered the fear of last week, of not being able to keep going and how it seems easier to give in. And I thought "Why am I doing this to myself again?

I missed my sub 50-target by 10 seconds. If it hadn't been for the 50 minute pacer, who I stuck with from 3k in, and who wouldn't let me go, I probably would have missed it by more. Where did I lose those seconds? Did I start too slow, was it the puddles, did I spend too much time waving, did my flat palm doing the wave cause wind resistance, was it because I didn't finish my pasta the night before?

The Wistow 10k is a much smaller scale event than the Abbey Dash. With less people lining the route. Morag was there though, cheering and ringing a bell. A stranger shouted to me at one point 'Keep going'. I remember thinking in the past that this is a nonsensical thing to shout at someone in a race. Who is going to stop? But, on Sunday it made sense, because actually just to keep going, when everything in you for the whole way round, is telling you to stop, is an achievement in itself. It would have been nice to hit my target, but in the end, to keep going was enough.

Every race I run is an intense emotional and personal experience. Not just during but before and after. The nervousness and the wondering how you'll do and the standing around at the start. And when it's finished, processing what you've been through, how you ran and how you felt and could you have done it any better?

At the end of the tunnel on Sunday, the voices calling out to me weren't from the afterlife, or from a past life. They were from my here and now life. The beautiful garden wasn't heaven, it was Wistow.

Once we'd all finished, this was our group photo. I sent my friend Shelagh it on WhatsApp with the caption 'Another one for the family photo album'.  

She replied to say "t's better than a family because everyone is wearing matching outfits" She also said that because the clocks had gone back, I didn't need to worry about missing out on my 50 minute target, because in effect I had finished before I set off.

Sometimes people who come close to death, who go down that tunnel towards the light, value their life more afterwards. At the end of a 10k, just being able to stand still and breathe normally again is a wonder. They give you a bottle of water and it's the best water you ever tasted. At Wistow Morag was there with a bag of Celebrations and the mini Mats bars tasted so amazing I had to have 3. And the sun was shining and the colours of people's Vaporflys were the brightest colours I'd ever seen. And, after all the rain, the sky had never looked a more perfect shade of blue.

Kerrie and I bought a coffee from the mobile coffee van and we sat on a wall watching people try their best to smash up their cars reversing badly out of the tiny village hall car park. It was better than a West End show. You can't choreograph better comedy than that.

On the way back from Wistow in the car, Kerrie said all the races you do, you remember them. And not just the race, the day itself. And she's right. The journey there and back, what you had to eat, who was there. The pain ends but the happiness doesn't.

A 10k only lasts around 50 minutes for me, and that's the total amount of pain. Once it's over, it's over. But the happiness, and the pride at completing one never really goes away.

Monday 23 October 2023

A feeling of genuine happiness: Leeds Abbey Dash Part Six

I ran the Leeds Abbey Dash yesterday. For the 6th time. Last year I ran it in 49:17. In many ways speed was all I cared about last year. This year remaining uninjured has become more important than speed.

To give you some idea of relative speeds, a week before last year's Abbey Dash I ran a 5k in under 23 minutes. This year it's been 6 months since I ran one in less than 24 and a half.

So, to run a 10k PB yesterday would have defied all logic. Even to get sub 50 seemed a long shot, but with my friend Kerrie offering to pace me, that's what I was aiming for.

We decided we'd try for 49 minutes and see how it went but our more realistic Plan B was sub 50.

I got over excited at the start, and started running ahead of Kerrie. 4:40 for the first k. My ego was telling me to go for the improbable 49 minutes. By 3k I knew that was a mistake. Kerrie had said if you're doing it right, it's meant to hurt but I'd gone too far.

14 minutes in I wasn't just in the pain cave I was the Chilean miners stuck in their mine. I was the 13 Thai schoolboy football players miles underground with flood waters rising.

I panicked. I thought Kerrie would be better off leaving me to it, and I told her she could if she wanted.

I thought I'd blown it and I had no idea how to make it through another 7k, through another 35 minutes. I'd entered a nether world of pain where I just wanted it to stop.

Rewind a year. After last year's Abbey Dash I was walking along Street Lane in Roundhay and I heard someone calling my name. It was Kerrie from the doorway of Banyan, she saw me go past and asked me to join her and some other Roundhay Runners for drinks. It was the first day I'd properly been out socially with them. It was from that day that they started to become friends and not just people I ran with.

Exactly a year later, here I was with Kerrie again. Let's just slow down for a bit, she said, get things under control. So we did. For a couple of k.

At the 5k point at the Abbey it really helped that other friends from Roundhay Runners were there, cheering me on. I hoped they couldn't see how bad I was feeling but of course they could.

Somehow, in the second half of the race I managed to settle down a bit. The impossible simply became difficult.

I felt myself coming back to life. And yet, at the point where Kerrie said, only 7 minutes of running left, I didn't believe I had 7 more minutes in me. When she said only 3 more minutes I felt the same.

It seemed to me that only when I crossed the finish line and I had actually finished did I really believe I would finish.

Our finish time: 49:59. By exactly one second we got what we were aiming for.

I was 42 seconds outside a PB. But it really didn't matter. It wasn't my fastest run, but it was one of my best.

At the start Kerrie said I'll do the pacing, you do the running' I made life more difficult for myself by not trusting in that enough at the start, but the main thing was just to keep going.

Too often I'm a skeptic, a pessimist, my own worst enemy. Someone who's anxious and afraid, who doubts himself, who makes life harder than it needs to be. On the day I didn't quite believe in myself enough. At 3k my internal monologue was trailing me through the dirt, like someone in a western who's been shot but is attached by one foot to a horse which is still running. But the external monologue of a friend, running with me, who calmly talked me though it and who wouldn't leave me behind when I wanted to leave myself, carried me through.

We went for burgers after the run to a place called Almost Famous. With the race now finished, I said to the people around me that I was experiencing a 'feeling of genuine happiness'.  Chris said to me that's what I should call this blog post. So, there it is.

Some people I talk to think running sounds nuts. And sometimes it is. Running can be the best I ever feel or the worst I ever feel. On a 10k it's usually both.

If this story has a hero, then because it's my story, I would say that it's Kerrie. But that's not the whole story. We were in it together and I did my part too.

Postscript. If you care about such things, here is my race according to Strava. Quite an accurate reflection of how I was feeling.

Monday 2 October 2023

Jonathan 2.0. Finding myself at Morag's party

When I was 7 (around 1975) I wrote a story called ‘Martian Maroons’. It was (as you can no doubt tell from the title!) about some people being stranded on Mars. My teacher Miss Hodgson asked me what a maroon was. I said it’s someone who is marooned somewhere. She said that’s not a real word, and she crossed out my title and called it ‘Marooned on Mars’.

I said 'Miss, you may have made it grammatically correct, but you’ve also ruined it. It sounds all wrong now. You can’t just put words in any order, you know, they have to sound right!'

Despite ruining my story, she did also say to me ‘When you grow up, you should become a writer’. My oldest friend Shelagh from primary school is always telling me that too.

Last Saturday in the year 2023, I went to my friend Morag’s 50th birthday party. She’s a friend from the running club. I went there with other running friends (Kerrie, Megan, Chris, James, Eleanor amongst others) It was the swankiest party I’ve ever been to. It wasn’t so much a party as a trip to another world. I was having trouble following the sat nav on the way there and I think I must have accidentally gone down a portal into another dimension.

Morag said there was a tee-pee in the garden. That sounds small to me. When I arrived, it was less a tee-pee, not even a marquee, it was as if the circus had come to town. It was the kind of big top you can see for miles around.

Earlier on Saturday, I’d got myself in a mental tangle trying to organise something which didn’t need organising. A trip to York parkrun. I kept getting stressed about the logistics of getting 10 grown-ups from Leeds to York and having breakfast after. As if I was playing 3D chess.

Anyway, I may have used up all my nervous energy in the morning trying to be in control of something which didn’t need controlling, because I felt quite relaxed by the evening.

I dressed in a Hawaiian shirt given to me by my brother, which I’ve never worn, I had some flowers for my hair, and some glasses with yellow lenses. Morag also had a box of hats. With the yellow glasses on instead of my own, and in a fancy shirt and wearing a Mexican hat or a policewoman’s hat, or a red sparkly bowler hat, I suddenly felt like I’d accessed a different version of myself. The boring person I think I sometimes am with my not very interesting job and my self-consciousness about the way I move was hidden behind a disguise. And the songs were mostly by Abba, so I know the words. Songs that are mostly from the 70s, like an earlier version of me also is.

For one night only, those things I think about myself; having a boring job, and being anxious, they were just concepts. Mental constructs I’ve acquired. Stories I tell myself about who I am. But on Saturday, I was someone else entirely.

Through the fake glasses, I couldn’t see properly, so I couldn't properly analyse other people's facial expressions. If anyone had a look on their face saying ‘Look at that idiot’, I had no way of knowing.

At one point, Kerrie told someone that I was miles out of my comfort zone, and I thought ‘Yes I am’, but that’s because the people I want to be with are here. And if I don’t go, I won’t see them. The next day Megan said maybe my comfort zone is expanding.

Morag introduced me to a few people, but when she did, she mostly described me in the context of things I’ve written. And it occurred to me later, ‘who you are isn’t your job, it’s what you’re known for’. Other people throughout the night came up to me and said ‘I loved that blog post you wrote about the Otley Run’. James told me how relatable he’d found it reading something I wrote about joining the running club.

I always think of myself as failed potential, as someone who was supposed to be a writer but who has never had the discipline to do it, as someone who was supposed to do lots of things but hasn't, And as someone for who, the things I did instead of the things I should have, didn’t always work out. But all that is just mental projections. Who I am really is maybe not for me to say.

I don’t write for a job, I don’t even write all that often. I only do it when ‘I can’t NOT do it’. When there are things that happen to me in life that I have to share, because keeping them inside would make me burst. Because I think I’ve seen an aspect of something that no-one else can.

Anyway, I had a dream last night. I was back in primary school. It was the 70s again, and I was back in West Garforth Junior School. The old wooden building, the one that doesn't exist anymore because it got burnt down in the 80s, the one that existed before the school that's now called Strawberryfields.

Shelagh was there, and so was Miss Hodgson. At this point, Morag hadn’t long ago been born, and some of my other friends were a long way off their parents even meeting.

In the dream, I’d just written a story called ‘Martian Maroons’. Miss Hodgson said 'I’m not sure you can call your story that’. I said ‘You know that Mars is the Red Planet? Well, in the light there, the astronauts space suits look dark red, a colour not unlike Burgundy. Because of that colour, they've decided to call themselves Maroons'

“Oh I thought it was because they were marooned there?” She said.

'No, that's just a coincidence'.

'I like it', she said. 'When you grow up, you should become a writer'.

I was so excited I could barely get my reply out.

‘But I did, Miss, I did!’

'I did grow up, and when I did, I went to a party at my friend Morag’s. In the year 2023. It was the fanciest party you could ever imagine. And she introduced me to her other friends and told them about all the things I’d written. This Jonathan that’s here now, that’s Jonathan 1.0. In the future, I’m going to be a writer, and I’m going to go running and to parties with friends, I’m going to wear silly hats and glasses I can’t see through, and I’m going to dance like no-one is watching. I’m going to be Jonathan 2.0.

Miss Hodgson said ‘That sounds a lot like a dream’.

And I said ‘Some dreams come true, Miss!’

Friday 21 July 2023

Compare the Meerkat: Seeing and being seen at the Zoo

Last Saturday I went to the human zoo (Headingley during the Otley Run)

This week I went to an actual zoo, one with animals. Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire.

I went for the monkeys but I was unexpectedly taken aback by three things I hadn't expected. A blue butterfly, a black Rhino and some Meerkats.

I did see some primates. I saw a chimp that the person next to me said looked really sad. I thought he was maybe just thinking. Possibly we were both right and he was thinking sad thoughts. I also saw a black spider monkey collecting up pieces of aubergine like a greedy person arriving first at the all you can eat buffet.

There was a sign on one of the animal enclosures which said something like 'Don't bang on the glass. You'll see more if you just remain quiet, watch and wait'. How much of human life is us just impatiently banging on the glass? I wondered

The butterfly and Rhino I saw were at opposite extremes. One was delicate and floating, a beautiful luminescent blue but incredibly fragile; it maybe only lives a few weeks and not even that if it gets swatted by a scared child. Having seen them fly around me, I can understand why Muhammad Ali used to boast that he could float like one.

The Rhino on the other hand looked like every movement was an effort of will and determination. He took longer to get himself in a lying down position than I do with my creaking middle aged frame. Although he had two horns, he could probably wouldn't need to gore me in a fight, he could just crush me. His body was massive, like he was carrying a car on his back. I was imagining the strain on his joints and whether he felt as heavy to himself as he looked.

On the day I went, all the zoo's big name attractions like the Gorillas and Tigers were asleep or hiding (hopefully hiding rather than escaped in the Tiger's case, Jurassic Park alert!) With the tigers missing, I liked the meerkats best.

They were the ones who had properly understood their jobs. Maybe they're just better at being around people since they started making car insurance adverts.

The meerkats uniquely seem to have realised that the point of a zoo is not for us to look at them, it's for them to look at us. The never-ending procession of humans with their packed lunches and snart phones and overpriced ice creams pushing small humans in pushchairs, constantly passing by for their entertainment. Based on the sunshine and showers weather situation on Monday meerkats must think that human behaviour consists largely of taking raincoats on and off.

For meerkats, there's always something worth seeing, and it's important to be able to see it from high up so that you can summon your friends if something interesting is going on.

A lot of the animals at the zoo looked fairly bored and largely underwhelmed. The meerkats look like they're constantly operating at the optimum level of whelmed-ness.

They are brilliant at just paying attention. And so a kind of stand-off developed between me and one meerkat in particular where I paid attention to him and he wouldn't stop watching me. It became like the World Staring Championships. We were having an attention off, a game of attention chicken.

Parents I overheard were often urging their children to notice things, maybe to get more value for money. Just tell them to be more like a meerkat, I thought.

I felt like the meerkat and I started peering directly into each other's souls. It wasn't a Pixar movie though, it was reality, so the meerkat never actually spoke.

But if he had, he might have said:

'Never stop being curious. Life is better that way. Just be still and pay attention, all the answers are there if you just look'

Maybe I shouldn't compare myself to a meerkat. Or to a butterfly or a rhino. But what's the point of having a supposedly bigger brain if you can't imagine or wish for things.

I wish I could move with the lightness of a butterfly, especially when I'm battling gravity going uphill on a run. I wish I could be more like the Rhino and accept uncomplainingly whatever it is I need to carry. And I wish I could pay attention to everything that's going on and not get lost in a world of thoughts, like the meerkat seems to be able to do.


Tuesday 18 July 2023

The Otley Run: It's not a run and it's not in Otley.

The last time I went on a pub crawl in Headingley was 1986. I think in those days it was 5 pubs at the most. We used to call it the Headingley Mile. Woodies, the Three Horse Shoes, the New Inn, the Original Oak and the Skyrack. 5 pints at most and maybe a Chicken Korma at the Curry House near the Skyrack. Starting at around 8 pm. Last bus home at 11.

37 years later. WTF?

Now it's called the Otley Run, even though it is neither a run nor is it in Otley. It should be called the Leeds Fancy Dress World Queuing Championships. There are 15 pubs and if you make it that far alive it finishes at the Dry Dock near the University.

Even at 2pm on a Saturday, there are bouncers on the doors .It took us half an hour just to get in the door of Woodies, us being me and a group of mostly young people from the Roundhay Runners, most of them dressed as Foxes.

The euphoria of making it inside Woodies soon dissipated when you realised a) there was another half an hour queue for a drink. b) it had been better outside.

I eventually got settled with my first drink and found a seat when I heard 'Right, we're off now' 'Eh, I've just got comfortable'.

I'd been looking forward to going back to the New Inn (pub 3) as I spent most of my Friday nights there between ages of 16 and 18. There was no Challenge 25 in those days. There was barely Challenge 16. I went in there unchallenged to celebrate finishing my O levels.

I literally remember quiet nights in there in the 80s by the open fire, having actual conversations. No one had a phone. Maybe somebody would put a song in the juke box occasionally.

The inside of the New Inn at 3 o'clock on Saturday was like the scene of a ferry disaster. There was so much noise and pushing and shoving, and I couldn't see the cricket on TV because someone with an inflatable crocodile was standing in front of it .Also fighting for the lifeboats on this ferry were the cast of I'm a Celebrity, some golfers ,Hawaiians, minions, Ghostbusters, and football referees

I made brief eye contact with a disconsolate looking ninja turtle who looked a bit unsure of himself and then at everyone else who seemed to be loving it and I wondered how many people were hating it and just pretending to have fun.

I skipped the next pub (Headingley Taps) to go to Greggs for water, coffee, and a doughnut. They were playing shit local radio quite loud, but it was a relief. At one point, some cast members of Baywatch, an astronaut, and some Minions came in to fuel up on sausage bean and cheese melts. Next,
I literally punched the air with delight when the queue was too big at the Box to get in. Then when Becca the 28 year old doctor I was with got refused entry at Manahatta, I was positively jubilant. The bouncer said 'It's the Otley Run, we ID everyone'. Not me you don't, I didn't say. But then I probably looked like an overprotective dad trying to force his way in to reclaim a wayward child rather than an actual participant.

I found on the day, the only thing worse than queuing to get in places was actually getting in them.
The Skyrack wasn't too bad though. That's another one of my 80s favourites. We actually had time here to sit and have a chat. Mostly about shitting yourself while running. At one point I felt moderately attracted to someone dressed as a bottle of ketchup.

The Skyrack turned out to be my last pub. I wanted to regain use of my ear drums so went home at this point. By 8 pm, I was in pyjamas in a quiet room. The Otley Run carried on without me till about 2 am. Who had the stamina (or the money) for that. Not me!

It's not an age thing that I find noisy pubs and drunk people hard work. I felt similarly aged 17. And the pubs in Headingley are mostly full of young people. I envy them their energy and their hope.

People with their whole lives ahead of them who seem happy and carefree, and are looking ahead. A lot of my life is behind me now including the young me from the 80s. If I had a plan for how my life would work out, this isn't exactly it . But, if I could, would I like to go back to the New Inn circa 1986 and start all over again?
No, I don't think I would.

The thing I remember most about those evenings from the 80s are my friends and how much fun it was to hang out with them. 

And the thingI liked best about the present incarnation of the Otley Run was the young people I was out with on Saturday. Same as in the past I go to places that are a bit nuts because that's where people I like and who want to spend time with are going.

The Otley Run, also known as The Fancy Dress World Queuing Championships is a curious way to spend time with people, one that makes no sense at times, but ultimately the people are the best bit.

It's a different world now, a world of queues, bouncers, ID checks and people who've painted themselves yellow to look like the Simpsons.

But the people being the best bit hasn't changed.

Friday 19 May 2023

Lost and Found: Tales from the Baggage Store

I ran the Leeds Half Marathon on Sunday. For me it was an intensely emotional experience which I am still trying to process. I wrote this down to try and help. 

There's a really short poem by Raymond Carver called Late Fragment. When I was sitting quietly for half an hour in the baggage reclaim at Headingley Stadium after the race on Sunday, it was this poem that came back to me. 

This is it. 

"And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth."

I ran past so many places on Sunday that are meaningful to me for different reasons and which connect me to Leeds but one place in particular was very special.

The place where my running club had decided to set up their supporters' tent was right outside Lawnswood Crematorium and Gardens of Remembrance. As it turned out, putting the tent there was exactly the right place for me. It's the place where my mum and dad's funerals took place and where their ashes were scattered. 

Even though it was 9 years ago for my mum and 49 years ago for my dad I still go up there sometimes to let them know how I'm getting on. It's not that I think they're still there but I don't have any better ideas of where to find them. There's no childhood home or other place which offers a better option. 

Last summer on what would have been my mum's 80th birthday I went up to Lawnswood. I don't always talk out loud to my parents but I did that day. I said to them that I know my life isn't going to plan at the moment but that I was working on it and to please stick with me as I'm not giving up and I didn’t want them to give up on me either.

A year ago I felt so low and so lost in life. I was a disappointment to myself at how my life was turning out, and I didn't know what to do or where to go next. Luckily one of the places I decided to go was Roundhay Runners.

I sometimes struggle to accept myself, my mistakes, imperfections and failures. I judge myself harshly for the things I get wrong, and I feel so sad about things from the past that I couldn't keep control of as they were falling apart. I take those failures personally. 

And that's why it's meant so much to me to see the pictures of myself from the weekend at the half marathon; looking so happy, so un-self consciously happy. Especially at Lawnswood, which is as close to my parents as I can be these days; being recognised and cheered on by so many people who know me and who have given me a place to belong during the last year. 

I'm fond of a saying which says. "Everything I have lost is everything I have gained". My mum used to say something similar. "When one door closes another opens". In my case the door that opened to me was the door to Roundhay Runners. 

On Sunday, their support was exactly what I needed and exactly where I needed it to be. They helped me to run my best race. Sometimes the past weighs heavily on me, like an old suitcase I can't put down but on Sunday there was nothing for me to carry. I left my baggage in the baggage store. After sitting quietly on my own for half an hour at the end with a Mars bar and a can of 0% beer, it felt a bit lighter when I picked it up again. 

I know one run can't fix everything. However fast I run, I never really leave anything behind. But on Sunday I got my (slightly less than) two hours in the Sun. While running through the streets of Leeds, cheered on by strangers but also more importantly by friends "I got what I wanted from this life."