Running Struggles

Running teaches me that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined.

Since I moved to the UK, running has been a bit of a challenge. It got better at the end of last year/beginning of this year but it’s now worse than ever. After running two 10K PBs within a week in February, I’m now barely able to run 5K without taking numerous walking breaks.

The past few months have been overly busy and since November, I haven’t really had time to stop and recharge. I work full-time, do occasional freelancing, blog and juggle creative projects; add to that several festive gatherings, birthday dinners and a couple trips abroad, sprinkle with race training (until recently, I had hoped to run my first half-marathon next October), daily yoga practices, weekend hikes and sporadic HIIT workouts or barre classes and you have a good recipe for exhaustion – both mental and physical.

Two weeks ago, I ended up in the A&E with cardiac arrhythmia and intense abdominal pain. After a few hours spent waiting, my heart rate came back to normal and I was sent home with nothing more than a recommendation to see my GP, which I did the following morning. This little trip to the surgery came after months of me complaining of being constantly out of breath and moaning that this breathlessness was getting in the way of running, so the doctor sent me for tests to see if it was related to my heart and stomach issues.

I still don’t know the cause of the problem but I suspect fatigue and stress have something to do with it. This breathlessness has made running very frustrating so I started running less and lost fitness – it’s a vicious circle, really.

But the physical issues are not the only thing that have gotten in the way of training… After weeks of bad runs, I started feeling anxious about running itself – to the point where even just walking out the door is difficult. I’m not certain what exactly triggered the anxiety, I just suddenly felt very self-conscious whilst running, especially when I had to stop and walk. Then, the comparison game began… It seems that everyone on my Twitter feed is either running a half, a marathon or an ultra! The running community in the UK is simply amazing and so supportive but at the moment I feel like I don’t belong, like I’m not a ‘real’ runner.

I thought of getting a treadmill – I might still do – but I know it’s not the solution to my anxiety. I try and push myself to get out, even if it’s only for a mile or two. Longer days also mean that I can escape on the country roads or hit the trails where there’s much less people around. Back in Canada, most of my routes included bits of trail and I’ve been missing the solitude of it. I’m hoping a change of scenery will help me get out of this rut and manage the anxiety until I feel confident enough to get back on the road for longer runs.

Like the breathlessness and anxiety weren’t enough, I’ve also been struggling with my trainers. I recently retired my beloved Nike after nearly 700K in them, and exchanged them for a pair of New Balance. They seemed perfect in the store – comfortable, good cushioning, good arch support (I have very arched feet) – but they felt awful once on the road. They have no ‘bounce’ and are rather heavy so I feel like I’m running with rocks attached to my feet, which is nothing to help me breathe more easily!

I might not solve the health and anxiety problems before my two races in May but I’m at least shopping for new shoes. After years of trying to guess which ones are the best, I’m finally going for a gait analysis and getting fitted with a proper pair of running trainers.

Edward and I are both signed up for a Virtual Race next week (a Star Wars one, how could we not?) and for the Nottingham 10K at the end of next month. I don’t have big aspirations for race day other than enjoy myself, and finish running and smiling. I know I can physically go the distance – and who cares if I have to take a short walking break – I simply have to convince and calm my racing (haha!) mind.

In the meantime, I have a follow up appointment with my GP for the physical issues and I’m still going to therapy to help with my anxiety. I’m being more careful about what I put into my body; I’m intolerant to casein and should be avoiding dairy and other bovine products, which I’ve not done as religiously as I used to. I’m also trying to find a balance between work, training and other projects.

The love of running is still there and the motivation is not lacking; I just need to get past those temporary hurdles.

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