I am going to start off this week with a question. When you look in the mirror, what do you actually see? Not who do you see, but what do you see? Do you see something positive, or do you focus on the negatives?
The reason I pose the question is to prompt a discussion about confidence and self-belief. When I look in the mirror, I still see an overweight, unfit guy looking back at me. Now this is despite the fact that I have lost more than three stones in weight and am now fitter than I think I have ever been in my life, so why do I think this way?
I have always struggled with my weight…
I think it is about feeling that the other guy – the overweight and unfit one – is ready to come back at any moment and take over my life again. I have always struggled with my weight, even going back to childhood. I became tall and fit through my teens and twenties, but as I moved into my thirties then forties the struggles returned and the pounds piled on. I used lots of reasons as excuses, working too much, travelling too much, flying too much, free food in airline lounges, eating out when staying in hotels, going to the bar when I was away, and so on. All of this sits in my psyche and lurks at the back of my mind.
When I lost weight three years back, and then subsequently took up running, I did it for my future. I did it because I wanted to be healthy, to prolong my life, to do something positive and make a change. Now I have done all of that, and succeeded at what I think will be the ultimate physical test for me – running the marathon earlier this year – it is really about just keeping things going.
I found it difficult to keep going
I have to confess that I did think my marathon training would help me lose even more weight, but as things transpired by weight really did not vary all that much even though I was running up to five or six times a week, including serious distances. I found that the discipline of running plus also trying to stick to a diet regime was too tough. On the weeks I was very strict with what I ate I lost pounds but was pretty miserable. I found it difficult to keep going. So I traded off the running with being a bit less worried about what I was consuming. Now this did not mean I went back to what I was eating in the fat old days, but I took off the shackles a bit.
But there were times when I looked in the mirror and thought, my god Craig, you have actually got cheekbones. The funny thing about this has been that various people said to me they thought I looked too gaunt. People who I maybe have not seen for a few months do come up to me and say, “wow, Craig you’ve lost even more weight!”. While my marathon running did not result in me losing weight, it has definitely changed my body shape so I think I look thinner and leaner. Some of that fat has definitely transitioned into muscle mass.
I need to focus more on what I have achieved, and am still achieving
But why do I still think I look fat? I believe I will always think this way. I am constantly striving to do better, to improve. I focus too much on what I do not do well rather than what I get right. I think it is also related to comparing myself to others. I think, “I have run a marathon, but oh my god look at these people doing triathlons or ultra-marathons. They are amazing!”, and I downplay my own achievements. I need to focus more on what I have achieved, am still achieving, and that this is greater than anything of which I thought I was capable.
Anyway, enough of the soul-searching. The running this week has been really great. A weekend away with my wife meant I did not get in any running at all last weekend, and i was pretty tired when I flew out to Dublin on Monday for work. The last few months of constant travelling is beginning to take its toll I think. While I have gone to the Irish capital many times in the past, this was the first time I had the chance to run in city centre along the banks of the River Liffey.
It was warm all week – in fact my hotel room felt like a sauna – so I took advantage and went out three times during the three days I was there. On the first run I realised that trying to run through the tourist area of Temple Bar was not really on, as there were just so many people, but once I got past O’Connell Street things opened up and I was able to get in around four miles right along the river to the waterfront and back.
Other than races, I almost always run on my own, but a colleague from work was in Dublin with me this week, so I persuaded Jon to come out and we got in a gentle three miles the following night. It was great to run with him and I will continue to pester him to join me on a 10k race later this year. He is definitely capable.
Returning home on Wednesday night, there was then a lovely package for me when I got back. I have written a few race reviews for the website, Racecheck this year, so I was lucky enough this month to be chosen as a new member of their Visor Club. You can read more about the club here, but I have found the whole online community on Twitter of the likes of Racecheck, #ukrunchat, @great_run and others really supportive and I hope I can play a role in that community in the future, wearing my visor with pride when I race then posting a review to help other runners.
I had a day off from work on Friday, so I got out for a nice four mile run combining a bit of road and trail around the moors where I live. Since my 10k a few weeks back I have put a bit of focus onto pace work so my runs are getting quicker and I feel my ability to handle this improving as well. It is now around three months until my next race – the Great Aberdeen Half Marathon – so my training journey towards that is about to start. I have really enjoyed my running this week, so maybe when I look in the mirror I should reflect more on that than anything else.