Thursday, 29 December 2016

Beating the odds

I don’t do cards, and I’m not very good at letters, so, here’s my own version of the round-robin, the Jacqueline Haas Story 2016. Let's knock the bad news on the head first, then it’s easier to end on the highlights.

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder a few weeks ago, having lost pretty much everything in my life to it. (more info at the bottom of this post for those that are interested). It’s by God’s grace, and good support that I didn’t lose my own actual life, though I’ve been in A&E a couple of times, and have taken several overdoses. Now that I have a psychiatric diagnosis, I’m able to get help and to understand what my brain is doing or not doing correctly, so even when I want to die now, I go immediately for help rather than drugs. (OK, sometimes I still go for drugs, but I’m still new to this)! I stopped eating, sofa surfed, self-harmed, etc etc, bad stuff for a while. Also, my relationship ended, though I’m back now living with the 4 children, plus my eldest son’s girlfriend, who’s lovely.

OK, so let’s back track.
In January I started up Walk2Run (like the logo?), where I coach mostly non-runners to be able to love running, with a special eye on beating suicide and supporting good mental health. Incidentally, at that time I had no idea that surviving suicide would become part of my own story.

Turns out it was / is very successful, and over the year we’ve trained over 100 people to run, 70% had never run before in their lives, the oldest are 76 (there are 3 of them), and there are also around 10% under 15s. I’ve had to drop it for a few months while I get well, but that’s temporary.

We’ve attracted local funding and we work out of local community venues, also providing refreshments afterwards so you get the social bit done too. It’s so lovely. I qualified for my coach license in September, which means I really have something more to offer, and have managed to secure even more funding for the new year (times and dates to be posted on FB shortly).

Of my 4 kids, Greg is the runner. He comes along to sessions which helps me, but it’s also a real pull for others his age because he’s one of the cool kids and enthusiastic. Actually, little Anna loves to run too, she did her first official race when she was 3.

My personal highlight
My own personal highlight of the year is when I Raced to the Stones – a 62 mile race from High Wycombe to Swindon over the Ridgeway, all cross-county. I did it over two days, camping overnight after day 1. I came 6th out of 638, that’s men and women, but the best bit was that I was first lady across the line on the second day
This picture shows what it felt like – I had just run 62 miles.

Beating the odds
That’s how I’ll remember 2016, that moment, that victory, that personal story of crossing the line and beating the odds.
And it’s how I’m going to do 2017 – I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other until I make it.

Which I will.

Because God always finishes what he starts.

Come and run with us, it might just save your life J

Information on BPD
Borderline Personality Disorder is a lifetime disorder, not like depression, more like Aspergers apparently. Nope, I had not heard of it until this week either - here's a short video to fill you in on what it is and how it feels. Also the link to Mind UK is useful.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Nothing too dirty

Walk2Run has been so much fun so far, there are now well over 100 Walk2Runners, and on Tuesday night we had a record 30 getting out there and enjoying walking and running together. 70% of them are completely new to running, and over 20 of us experience mental health issues. The age range is 10 to 76. 

That’s the quantity.

Now a quote from a facebook post: “....I can honestly say belonging to this group has helped me get fitter, healthier and happier.”

That’s the quality.

We ran out into the fields and footpaths around Sidley yesterday, and as usually happens, we got chatting. I was explaining that I've recently turned down funding for this group so I am currently delivering ‘for love’, free of charge, but I feel it’s important to explain why. Getting funding is amazing, and for Walk2Run it’s been encouraging and enabling. However, funding often (though not always) comes with conditions that can water down, limit, or compromise. Walk2Run needs to be available for everyone in an equal way, we love to see whole families come and participate, all ages, social backgrounds etc etc.

Getting personal
There is however, a personal side. Am I worth money? I swing between ‘of course’ and ‘no way’. In my conversation yesterday, I revealed that not being paid means I can lead and enjoy the groups without feeling the need to perform. She (my running friend) said that I don’t need to perform, in Walk2Run, or in life actually. This morning I remembered that when I used to teach, I would pray before every session, ‘Help me Lord to serve these students well’. This servant prayer removed any pressure to perform, turning the focus away from me and back to where it should be, on the students. I also found it removed any nerves or lack of confidence.

The other thing I revealed was that I often didn’t feel I was worth paying. I heard a song last night, sung live actually. A line stays with me – “There's nothing too dirty that You can't make worthy.”

I love running. Yesterday morning, a motely group of Walk2Runners walking and running together through the fields with our arms open wide enjoying such a sense of freedom and wellbeing.

Come and run with us, it might just change your life.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Exhilarating Finish!

I recently had the slightly terrifying privilege of sharing the Walk2run story so far to a sympathetic home crowd at one of the Walk2Run venues, the Pelham Coffee Lounge. I’d put together a short presentation outlining the story of how Walk2Run came about, the challenges, my fears and failures, running for physical and mental health, the emerging team, and future dreams. But I think my favourite slide of all is the one which talks about What Are We Running For?

The reason I love this slide is that so often it is stated, and assumed, that we runners are running to escape.

I understand that, and in some senses I suppose it’s true. Of course I run to ‘escape’ the craziness of life, to be alone and quiet and recharge my batteries. But flip the lens for a second.

Let me shout as loudly as I can, we are not running FROM something, we are running FOR something. Think about it. You’re on the start line of a race, and we’ve all been there, whether it’s the egg and spoon race when we were 5 years old, or the latest Ultra Multi Day Mountain Mud Colour Rat Race. So you’re on the start line, the gun goes off, and then what? I’ll tell you what. You run like stink TOWARDS the finish line. You don’t run FROM the start line, you run TOWARDS the finish line, you run FOR the medal, FOR the prize.

Confession: I know I’m running for something, and towards the prize, but if I’m honest I’m still not absolutely able to express what that something I’m running for is. The nearest I can come to putting it into words is that I’m running for FREEDOM, freedom for myself and others, freedom from fears and insecurities, abuses and hurts and addictions. I’m not running from fear, I’m running for freedom. And of course for myself, I know WHO I’m running for.

So although I can’t completely nail what I’m running for yet, I can totally nail the truth that we’re running towards the finish to gain the prize. This quote from the bible sums it up perfectly. The exhilarating finish in and with God! Woooohooo, I love running!

Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God

Come and run with us, it might just change your life

Thursday, 9 June 2016

A Landmark Session

I’m often asked, “What is Walk2Run like?” (aka ‘will I be rubbish and come last and look and feel like a loser and is everyone else fitter, faster, thinner, more attractive than me???’)

It seems like the expectation of many people before they come to any running group is that the leader shouts READY STEADY GO, and everyone runs for an hour in the opposite direction as fast as they can.


I’ll let you in to a secret.

The first time I tried running, I went out on my own, in the dark, wearing jeans and a huge coat, in the snow, a) so no one could see me and b) because it was impossible to run too quickly because of the ice. I ran for 11 minutes and was sick at the end of it.

Now let me tell you another secret.

You can learn to run. Just about anyone can learn to run, but it ain’t by going off as fast as possible for as long as possible. That’s called ‘running to failure’, and guess what – you end up feeling like a failure. This approach is why most people who start running by themselves give up in the mistaken belief than they can’t do it.

Now. Let’s start again.

Walk2Run sessions are different. Here's how:-

Each session is divided into a warm up, a main session, and a cool down.

The Warm Up

We do this all together, the aim is to get your muscles warmed up and your heart rate raised a bit before you start the main session so your body can adjust to working harder. It’s simple things like a short walk, rolling your shoulders in circles, or marching on the spot, or a easy jog for those that want to. Sometimes we follow that with some ‘drills’. That’s things like jogging or marching bringing your knees up as high as possible.

The Main Session

The thing you really need to know here is that sessions are structured so that everyone is able to work at their own level. Let me give you an example. One of the sessions we call the Lamppost Session, but any landmarks will do. The idea is that you go out at an EFFORT to the 1st lamppost, and then RECOVER back to the start. Now repeat this EFFORT/RECOVERY cycle to the 2nd lamppost, and then the 3rd. By going out a little further each time, you’re extending your own endurance, WITHOUT walking or running to ‘fail’.

Your own effort may be sprinting, or running, jogging or marching. Your recovery may be jogging or strolling. Either way, you are encouraged to work at your own effort, whatever effort you need to make you sweat a little and get your heart working, to get fitter and feel better.

The Cool Down

The purpose of this is to get your heart rate back down again after your main workout, and it’s usually as simple as a walk in the park. Literally. Then we’ll do some stretches together to keep you flexible after your exercise and in good shape for the next time.

And there will be a next time ;-)

Forget ‘running to failure’, come and try Walk2Run, it might just change your life. 

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Life of the Cliff Edge - Part 2 A Thank You

I wonder almost every minute of every day how this ridiculous journey is possible.

The answer is clear. I am surrounded a great 'cloud of witnesses': so many people who are cheering me on to victory. I'm afraid I often whinge No!, Leave me behind! Let me stop!!! For you runners out there, it's that bit where you ask yourself 'why am I putting myself through this?' 

You people are the ones carrying me, pushing and shoving me, dragging me along, cheering and encouraging and believing in me. When I would prefer to hide under a duvet and make life go away, there are all these crazy fools who keep yelling at me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. :-)

Thank you, you crazy fun inspiring helpful lot x

To win the prize
I raced a 5k with a beautiful young lady the other day – it was her very first race, and she hadn't ever run that far before. But watching her made me think about the process we all go through to win that b***** medal, to gain that prize.

She was dead excited at the start, and very nervous. Lovely evening, gorgeous setting, plenty of supporters at the start line. You know what it’s like though – once you’re past the start line, all of sudden there are fewer spectators and very quickly it can all seem like a bit too much effort. I think her words at 1000m were ‘this was a really bad idea’. Totally know how she feels.

Then came the hills. Lots of them. Unexpected. And every time I told her I thought this must be the last one (surely!!!) there was another, even higher! She struggled, of course, we all did.

The best bit though was when we came out through a gap in the woods and saw the crowd again, and in their midst, the finish line. She totally went for it. I screamed at the top of my lungs “Go go go!, dig in, don’t stop till you’re past the line.!”, and she went went went, she dug in, and she smashed it over that line. Smiles. So proud to win that medal. 

Well it’s the same for me. Every time I want to give up Running from Suicide (or however I end up phrasing that), there are so so many who cheer me on. In fact I’d go so far as to say that I’m putting in very little effort myself, you are the ones carrying me through this particular race. I know this is true. I’m being carried along.

Please watch this 18 second video. It’s James Boardman and Jemima Hilton-Berry of BSF at the Bexhill 5k race last Wednesday evening carrying Katy through her race. I don’t know Katy, but I think she has MS? (someone correct me if I’m wrong), but she’s carried and cheered on by a great 'cloud of witnesses'. There's no better picture of the way things are. 

(copy and paste this link if the vid doesn't work)

“Greatly encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs” from the Bible.

Sounds like an extract from a running group leader's manual to me :-)

Come and run with me, it might just change your life. 

Monday, 30 May 2016

Life on the Cliff Edge - Part 1 An update

I met an old friend this week who asked “How’s life Jack, how are you doing?”. The easy answer is ‘fine thanks. You?’
The truth is more like this : - “It’s going spectacularly well, and also spectacularly badly”. Life on the cliff edge, that’s me, living life at the height of the cliff, but always with my feet dangling over the edge.

It’s been a year now since I raced the Out of the Blue event at Ashburnham Place that kicked this whole ‘running from suicide’ thing into action, and since then, things have exploded beyond my wildest imaginings.

In the last few weeks alone ……

·       I’ve run faster than ever before, setting a personal best at the London Marathon in 3h17.
·         I’ve also run further than ever before, running my first ultra event yesterday and coming 9th overall out of 151 at the Weald Challenge 50k. Incredible race, and by far the most beautiful to date.
·         I’ve been coached by Liz Yelling, double Olympian marathon runner when she came down to Bexhill with Body Shock Fitness to take a Saturday morning session.
·         There are 39 runners aged between 12 and 76 coming along to the Hastings Tuesday evening session, another 30+ who’ve expressed an interest in the new Monday group, plus 14 who come along Saturday mornings to the Sidley group
·         I’ve joined a couple of runners for their very first 5k race, cheering them on as best as I could, and may I just say, those girls can sprint – way to finish strong!
·         I’ve completed the first weekend of running Coach training with England up in Carshalton (THAT was intense!)
·         I’ve spend 5 hours up on Beachy Head with the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team (BHCT), observing a shift as the team live their lives on the literal cliff edge, talking and loving people back from the edge.

The cliff edge.
For me, the cliff edge is quite literally ‘holy ground’. It’s terrifying and overwhelming in ways I can’t possibly express here. And yet, there is no place I’d rather be. I visit the white cliffs of Beachy Head almost every week now, and it is without doubt now my favourite place in the world. I can see it from the end of my road too. The cliff edge. It’s where I belong. It’s where life meets death, and it’s where I want to be so that I can pray, run, whatever it takes….

Fields of Life
The day I went up with the BHCT for the first time, someone sent me this. This person didn’t know anything about my visit to the Cliff Edge, making it all the more poignant that she sent it that Friday.
“God, You did everything you promised, and I’m thanking you with all my heart. You pulled me back from the cliff edge of doom. Now I stroll at leisure with God in the sunlit fields of life.”

Come and run with me, it might just change your life

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Out of the Blue

A slightly different sort of post today....
I am proud to be supporting the Out of the Blue race on Thursday 12th May at Ashburnham Place by sporting one of these lovely boards sponsored by Wyatt Hughes. 

Out Of The Blue is a fundraising body established in memory of Will Beckett who took his own life at Beachy Head in January 2013, at the age of 42. This tragedy came as an incredible shock for his family and friends – it came simply ‘Out Of The Blue’. 

Running the Race
I'm also running the 5k race on the evening of Thursday 12th May - how great would it be if loads of the Walk2Run Tuesday and Saturday groups came along? It's a super-friendly race in a beautiful setting. Let me know if you're interested in running or just coming along to watch and cheer. Both are needed!

The work of Out of the Blue
“In the immediate aftermath of Will’s death, our family was supported, guided and inspired by three charities – Winston’s Wish, Dragonflies and The Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team. Out Of The Blue raises money to support these charities so they can help others like us.

Winston’s Wish provided invaluable advice in the first few days after Will’s death on how to explain the death to our young sons – Tom and Joe. All of Will’s family have benefitted from the information and booklets provided by Winston’s Wish. We feel incredibly grateful to them for their practical advice and compassionate support. Their specific knowledge of dealing with suicide and other violent deaths has been incredibly important for us. They continue to provide counselling to the boys and me - with great compassion and expertise.

Dragonflies, our local child bereavement charity, have shown great support to the family. Tom and Joe have attended support group sessions and an activity weekend alongside other bereaved children. In a group setting the boys have talked about their dad. They have been able to realise that they are not alone in their grief and that they are able to recognise and accept their different emotions.

Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team The third charity we support is the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team. Not only did they support a group of us when our search for Will ended at Beachy Head on that January day, but the work they do is truly humbling when it comes to human duty. We have witnessed first hand the work they do to encourage desperate and broken individuals not to end their lives. The service is staffed by volunteers and relies on donations to help them provide the service they do. 

Helping to prevent further suicides at Beachy Head would be a hugely positive legacy of Will’s death.

Come and run with me, it might just save a life. 

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Life (not) under the radar

Hands up if you like being the centre of attention?

I’m the opposite. Given the choice, I’d hide in a cave, light a fire, and stay there until…, maybe I’d never come out.

Life under the radar - “when someone is in a situation where very little or no attention is drawn to them”.
No risk, No judgment, No questions, No confusion, No failure, No danger
No achievement, No sense of satisfaction, No reward for challenge, No impact in the world, No success, No excitement

I’d love to stay in my cave, below the radar.

However, I reluctantly have to concede that this is not the life we're called to, We're not called by God to live in a cave. I don’t mean (m)any of us are called to be the centre of attention, we’re not all meant for TV or the stage. But we’re told very clearly NOT to hide our ‘lights’ either.

The opposite of staying under the radar is responding to God as he puts us high on a hill and cheers at the very top of His lungs, “Shine!!!!”. In fact, next time I’m a marshal or a supporter at a race, that’s what I’m going to yell at all those passing runners: *** SHINE!!!!***

But when you put yourself out there, it can feel like putting yourself somehow under the spotlight or scrutiny, you risk exposure, public failure, and that can be scary. How can we deal with those nerves, that lack of confidence, that sick feeling that wants to run back to the cave. Most of us feel it in some situations, right?

I had a conversation last night with a very talented runner (aka faster than me J) who is running the London Marathon in a couple of weeks. She’s terrified. She’s terrified of falling over. She’s frightened of running out of fuel (that’s food to all you non-running readers), and she’s scared witless of the point at which she’s fallen before.

The strategy
Her strategy for overcoming these fears is brilliant, simple, and I believe, God-inspired. She’s running with a friend. She’s asked the friend to pass her fuel, keep her from falling, and encourage her when the going gets tough. She will shine, I have absolutely no doubt.
Although many of us like to think we can do ‘this thing’ alone, actually, let’s get surrounded by people who can cheer us on, keep us from falling, and encourage us to run through and beyond past failure. In fact, let’s make every effort to be those things for other people too.

God says “I’m putting you on a light-stand – shine! Keep open-house; be generous with your lives”.

So let's shine, ask for help, and be help to other people. Sounds like a plan :-)

Come and run with me, it might just change your life. 

Saturday, 19 March 2016

It's all about the numbers

How fast?
In this soon-to-be-sealed envelope is my race time prediction for a friend running in her first half marathon tomorrow. 

She’s written and sealed her own magic number too, but I’m willing to bet that my prediction for her is quicker than her own. Her prediction will be biased by nerves and caution and the unknown. 

Mine however is based on the evidence of all the hard training she’s put in over the last few months, the times she’s already run, together with my confidence in her and her competitive spirit. Oh, and the weather forecast tomorrow.

How old?
I was asked this week by a young man if he was too old to run. This morning I took a group running and 2 guys showed up, neither had run since school days, and both were 76 years old. They were awesome, soooo awesome. It’s all about the numbers and these 2 x 76 year old new runners show that at 49, you’re most definitely not too old to take up running.

How much weight?
I also received an email from a lady I’ve been supporting online. Back in September she desperately needed and wanted to lose weight, we sorted out a food plan, and I promised her it worked. How do I know it works? Because this week she emailed to say she’s lost 16kg (that’s about two and a half stone to you and me). It works. No need to take my word for it, look at the numbers.

How many people?
In the last 8 weeks I’ve had the privilege of teaching 21 people how to start running. These 21 people have never run before (well, except for being forced to at some time or another in school, I expect). I know there are 21 of them because I’ve counted them. 21 people who had never run before are now running once or twice a week, and are even talking about signing up for a race event. With the right help and encouragement people want to and can learn to run, to get fit, to feel better. Don’t take my word for it, look at the numbers.

How dry am I?
This is a great number. Today is my 175th dry day, 175 days alcohol-free. Almost made it to 6 months.

How many steps?
10,000 is the number the NHS recommend as your daily step count. My highest so far is 73,512. One of my goals is to pip the 100,000 in a day.

Running lends itself to numbers. What are your goals? Whether it’s a race time, holding back the effects of age, maintaining a healthy weight, celebrating freedom from addiction, or any number of other personal goals, running can help achieve them.

Don’t just take my word for it, look at the numbers J

Come and run with me, it might just change your life.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Limitless Transformation

Let me introduce you to some awesome people – 15 came out in the nasty weather last night, and I’m so proud and grateful to all of you for letting yourselves be my running guinea pigs. 

Why run? This lot will tell you that it’s more energy, walking taller, more confidence, less weight, feeling fitter and stronger in mind and body. And sometimes even fun :-) Most of them had never run before a month ago, but have already exceeded their own expectations of themselves. If you want to try us out, its free, please come and join us, drop me a facebook msg for details. You will be so welcome.

Testing the limits
You may know (because I’ve hardly stopped talking about it) that I ran my own lifetime longest run last week. I wrote a blog post about pushing the boundaries, but to be honest, running 36 miles in 3 snowstorms didn’t even touch me, didn’t even come close to testing my limits, either physically or mentally.

I had imagined that pushing my boundaries would involve putting one foot in front of the other until I broke or died. (wonky thinking, don’t try this at home). I had imagined that the only way I would know when I’d reached my limit was at the point of collapse.

Over the last few days my limits have been tested.


I reached my limit.

The good news is that today, during one of the most significant conversations of my life, I realised in one seminal moment that testing your limits is not about brokenness, but about transformation. Oh how I want to be tested, I have LONGED to be truly tested, to go through the fire and have something of worth remain. A life less ordinary. What’s left after the fire is what I’m after, that’s the treasure, that’s what I’m living and running for.

Immeasurably more
From this position, from this perspective, the boundaries are, well, unbounded, the heights and depths are measureless, the horizon is endless, and the transformation is limitless. So, come hell or high water, I am steadfast, I’m on a mission, and I will not be collapsing any time soon.

Come and run with us, (not 36 miles!), it might just save your life. 

Friday, 4 March 2016

Danger, do not cross

Permission to slap me if I ever consider running here again x

“It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I'm free!”

So sings Queen Elsa – feels good doesn’t it, yay, FREEDOM, the gap in the hedge!!!!

Hmmmm. Consider young Icarus.

“Young Icarus, overwhelmed by the thrill of flying, did not heed his father’s warning and flew too close to the sun whereupon his wings melted and he fell into the sea.”

On my monster 1066 Country Trail run this week (36 miles and 3 snowstorms later), I crossed a bridge over a river. The sign next to the bridge, hidden in a thorny tangle, said ‘Danger: Do not cross. If you do you will surely die’. (Ok so I may have made up that last bit). But the sign did everything in it’s power to dissuade me from crossing.

Obviously I crossed. :-)

Unfortunately, (or fortunately, I still can’t decide), I’m not very good at recognising the time to quit, I’m not good at smelling danger, I’m much more likely to get overwhelmed by the thrill of flying.
You’ve heard it said, ‘Know your limits’. Not sure what mine are but as I was lost in a wide open space in a brutal snowstorm (Pevensey Levels, I hate you) I thought to myself that I still wasn’t at my limit. It has since occurred to me that in my wonky thinking, I wonder how I would recognise my limit. Basically, if I’m still putting one foot in front of the other, I haven’t reached it yet. The inference being that my limit is when I am physically broken or dead. I told you, wonky thinking!

As it happens, when it comes to alcohol, I know my limits. Zero. Day 160 today, and I live in a zero tolerance zone when it comes to wine.

So where do we look for the appropriate response to boundaries?

God opened my eyes to Psalm 16 v 6 not so long ago. “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

The word for ‘boundary’ here is ‘A district or inheritance (as measured); or a noose (as of cords);’ Guess which meaning I latch on to.

The wisdom must be in recognising safe boundaries that are in place for our good, knowing when to push them and when to stay well within them.

I am not so wise J

I’d love to be able to tell you that from now on I will appreciate that my ‘Boundary lines are set in pleasant places’ by a Heavenly Father who knows how to keep me safe. I’d love to be able to say that. But….. well the draw of the dangerous bridge and the overwhelming feeling of flying are just a little too appealing. Even if the price is that I finally reach my limit. 

Come and run with me, dare ya :-)

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Bog Snorkelling

I'm sorry? Same to you!

Apparently, “Bog snorkeling is a sporting event that consists of competitors completing two consecutive lengths of a water-filled trench cut through a peat bog in the shortest time possible.”

I can actually see the attraction. Sometimes it’s pretty fun getting wet and muddy and splashing the competition out of the water. But seriously, is this what I’m made for, is that my destiny, is it yours? Literally getting bogged down by sticky ooze dragging you deeper and deeper. Not me.

My favourite book of all time is A Pilgrim’s Progress, and I’ve been reading it again over the last few days (well, the children’s version with pictures!). At one point on his Journey, Christian gets swallowed up in the Great Bog Misery. Here’s the conversation he has with Faithful, the friend who pulls him out.

Faithful: “Why didn’t you use the steps? (calmly hauling Christian out the bog by the collar of his coat)

Christian: “I was running so fast, I never…. What steps?”

Faithful: “There are patches of safe ground – like stepping stones – right across the Bog. Don’t you have a guide book? There’s a map in there.”

Sometime during my sign-missing, map-forgetting glorious 1066 Country ‘Walk’ run last week I remembered a bible verse about paths and things. I read it again today. To be fair, I added the ‘bog-free’, but the sign and map bit is all God.

How can a young person live a clean, bog-free life?
By carefully reading the map of your Word.
I’m single-minded in pursuit of you;
don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted.
Psalm 119 verse 9

I can’t wait to run again tomorrow - 1066 Country Trail part B here I come. As ever, I’ll be running, believing in freedom from mud and dirt and sticky bogs.

Oh, one last thought. On his journey of a lifetime towards the City Of Gold, Christian meets an extraordinary cast of characters. Together with Hopeful, his steadfast companion, he survives snipers, mantraps, the Great Bog, Vanity Fair, Lucre Hill and Doubting Castle.

The best bit about this for me is Hopeful, his steadfast companion. I want to be like Hopeful, the best and most steadfast companion I can be.

Come and run with me, it might just change your life. J

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Follow the signs

Ever confused about which way to go?

A word of advice from a good friend of mine……“I wonder whether we complicate things too much, and we should just be childlike and go for it and pursue each and every sign?” 

Amen to that.

I went on my own mini-adventure this week. I ran from Rye to Bexhill via the 1066 Country Walk, attempting to follow those precious little Red and White circles.

First lesson: follow those precious little Red and White circles. I’m such a twit, it literally took me 45 minutes and nearly 3 miles running around in circles (not little red and white ones) before I found the first sign.

Lesson number two: deception is very deceiving. Don’t be deceived into thinking that all footpaths lead to the 1066 Country Walk. Nope. (more running around in circles in muddy fields). Never follow anything other than a precious little Red and White circle.

If I sound frustrated, I really wasn’t – part of the fun and the reason I went on my own was to work it out by myself, see if I had it in me to find my way and go the distance. It almost goes without saying, but I had an amazing day, recapturing some of that “childlike pursuit of each and every sign”, with hapless abandon. Pure joy on a beautiful day in the Sussex countryside.

I love signs. I have my own precious little signs that I carry around with me to remind me to keep on the right path in my own life. They change sometimes, but at the moment, these are my signs, the little tangible symbols that remind me of who I am and why I’m doing what I’m doing.

As you can see from my poor navigation skills above, I’m sometimes not very good at finding or remembering to follow the signs. I get lost. I get confused. But I reckon the wildest thing we can do is be childlike and go for it and pursue each and every sign. Now THAT’s a proper adventure.

Come and run with me, it might just change your life. J

Sunday, 21 February 2016

A fabulous leg day

This is not me :-)
Today is a fabulous leg day. I woke up, stretched (as you do), and blimey, fabulous legs!

I’m 44 now but it wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I felt comfortable enough with myself to wear shorts. It’s a body image thing you see. The funny thing is about negative body image is that it has precious little to do with reality, and it actually has very little to do with being fat or thin or tall or whatever else. It’s a mind thing.

The Challenge - Let’s take it up a notch. 

Are you wearing matching lingerie at the moment? Men – I hope not. Ladies – why not?

When I was set this challenge last summer my first response was ‘what are you talking about, why would you bother, what does it matter anyway?’. But I love a challenge so I went with it.

Turns out it took me several weeks to even say the word L I N G E R I E. I did a straw poll at work and the responses from the (female) staff went downhill from ‘why should I, men don’t bother wearing matching socks’. So it’s not just me then.

I toyed with the idea of buying matching L I N G E R I E. Honestly, I tried. I looked on the internet and freaked out. I took a few weeks off then tried again. I asked around friends (male and female). It seems that all too often women matter more to men than women matter to themselves. I'm no feminist but that’s not good! I finally went into an actual shop, but was in and out in seconds. Without buying any L I N G E R I E.

After 4 months of trying and failing, after a long swim and resulting endorphin hit, in a mad and impetuous moment, I walked next door into M&S. I begged that poor lady, please help me, I’m 44 and I’ve never owned matching L I N G E R I E, get me everything in this shop that is white, matches and fits...


What’s that got to do with running? Well not much directly I don’t suppose. Except to say that this morning a lovely lady ran up to me in delight. After 2 weeks of starting to walk/run with our Tuesday group, she’d lost 5lbs and was celebrating wearing a shirt she’s not been able to button up for some time. More importantly, she was glowing. From the inside.

Matching lingerie. Are you up for the challenge?

Today is a fabulous leg day, today I will mostly be wearing white J.

Come and run with me, it might just change your life.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Amazing grace

“When the dawn breaks, and the clouds clear, in an open space, together we will run.”

Earlier I wrote a dry blog post about how running beats walking for making you feel better. Which it does, I’m not taking it back.

But I went out tonight and listened to a man talk about his art class. He talked about a painting that his tutor was showing them, and that as the artist applied the paint, it just looked like a dirty smudge of blues and greens and browns, no distinction, no beauty, no definition, no way to tell what the picture was or what story it told. But watch and see the artist at work, watch as magically leaves and trees and blossoms emerge. Don’t be put off by what you see at first, don’t give up on the dirty smudge, wait and see what emerges, see what beauty the artist brings forth.

The lesson from the artist was patience and hope. As I repeat this analogy to you, I understand that it’s childishly simple in its application.

But as I heard it, it hit me like a tonne of bricks, how grateful I am that out of this muddy mess of a life, I know that beauty is emerging and it brought tears of love and gratitude to my eyes. I know that my Hope is in God the artist and I know that patience is all it takes to see what He will do.

This is what it means to me to get people up and running, this is my reason for being. It means that no matter who you are or what your starting point is, no matter what the state of your life, your heart or your head, I can see beyond the muddy mess there may be because my Hope is in the artist. Oh, and because I’m a muddy mess who’s just emerging too.

There you go, that’s the heart blog I wanted to write earlier but couldn’t.

Lots of love,


Ps – come and run with me, it might just change your life x

3-2-1 and back in the room

11 Days after giving birth to number 4 (me not Mrs W)
I’ve been injured lately so I’ve hardly been able to run in 2016 at all. I finally went to see someone about my dodgy hip yesterday, and she gave me the go ahead to run 20 minutes per day. She didn’t say how fast I should run so, well, I went out and enjoyed myself a little J

I feel incredible. Not the elusive runner's 'high' necessarily, but, I’ve gone from feeling what you might call deflated over the last few weeks to being, well, back in the room.

I did a little experiment today. As well as running, I’ve been thinking about and talking to people about walking, and in fact I’m wearing a pedometer to monitor my steps. You know, NHS 10,000 step challenge and all that.

To run or to walk, that is the question.
It’s given me cause to ask myself what I’m doing here with this running lark. Do I want to get non-movers to simply move (walk a little bit, play ping pong – all good stuff), or do I want to encourage non-runners to run, or run better, stronger, further, faster? Why am I a runner and not a walker, what’s my raison d’etre, how can I justify helping people to run over helping them to walk?

I’ve walked lots today, but I’ve run for just 15 minutes. Honestly?, walking has done very little to excite me. On the other hand, after just a short burst of running I’m ‘back in the room’, awake, alert, connected, turned on by life again.

I did a little research (googled for 30 seconds) and came across Spark: How exercise will improve the performance of your brain. On Page 4 it says:  “to keep our brains at peak performance, our bodies need to work hard.”

So perhaps it’s about intensity. Running gets my the blood pumping, and perhaps it’s that blood-pumping intensity that makes me feel better, brighter, higher, stronger, more confident, more creative, and most importantly, more motivated for life. The physical benefits running are well known, but I reckon that the main benefits are the affects on the brain. When we run, the dirt of life simply falls away. 

The best
So in this very scientific little experiment, walking versus running, I can conclude that in terms of physical and mental benefits (please don’t ever try to separate the two), walking simply does not deliver. Taking public transport is good. Walking is better. Running is best. And we all want the best, right ;-)

Friday, 29 January 2016

Start where you're at

Allez les filles!

Where am I at?
Well, not at the beginning that’s for sure. The beginning of anything is the same place for everyone. The race begins at the same time and the same place whether you’re an experienced elite or whether you signed up the night before having never run a step. That’s pretty liberating now I think about it. Same beginning, same route, same finish.

However, (and this is all about the language), our starting point, our journey, our goals are all so different aren’t they? Again, that’s pretty liberating isn’t it!

I must admit that when someone says to me ‘start where you’re at’ it can seem a disappointing encouragement. A kind of ‘you give, and you take away’ kind of thing.

Again. Again!
Why is that? I can think of a couple of reasons.  I think it’s partly because it can feel like ‘Oh crap here I am starting again’. Again! I’m a bit of an expert at starting again. Maybe it’s my inbuilt lack of consistency, or my love of extremes – (I vainly like to think I fly higher and fall harder than most). Having put in the best race performance of my life I was immediately couch-bound and have been for 4 weeks now. Yikes, step away from the biscuits.

Red Herring
And secondly, and I trust this isn’t just me, maybe your starting point can seem disappointing because you can see others ahead of you. It’s so easy to look at other people and feel intimidated. Now let me just say this. HELLO! RED HERRING!. Kick this thought into touch RIGHT NOW. And anyway, who are we to judge someone else’s race, most of which is invisible to the naked eye. Trust me, it’s WAAAY more fun to cheer them on to even more success. Allez les filles! (et les hommes).

It starts today
Whether it’s coming back from failure or injury like me, having a baby (definitely not like me), starting a new course to get a qualification, or whether you’re actually at the peak of your career, fitness, weight loss, happiness or whatever, we can only start today wherever we’re at. I think maybe there's freedom in that grace.

So start where you’re at, turn your magic on today. Don’t even worry too much about the journey as it will have thrilling twists and turns that you can’t even see yet. The excitement of the journey takes my breath away!
Go back to basics, raise the standard of your own life and inspire others, and once you’re up and running, look back and give me a wave J

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

115 Days of Change

It was a beautiful day today, and playing with Anna on the beach in the sunshine, I couldn’t help but thank God for the changes that have happened since the summer of 2015.

If you’re flying or falling through Dry January and thinking what to do when February hits, maybe these thoughts will help you decide. J
In no particular order…..

  1. Quitting alcohol dependence after 30 years, not using alcohol as a hiding place or an anaesthetic. How? Someone suggested I stop, and in the hours surrounding that conversation I sensed that God was declaring something open that had previously been shut.
  2. Life in High Definition. I’m not gonna lie, I never stopped to realise that when you stop using an anaesthetic, you start to feel the pain.  There have been more than a few tears and screams, but music, running, praying and excellent friends have carried me through. The upside? Life in high definition, a tsunami of emotions and feelings undone, some nice, some not so comfortable, but all wonderful. A light switched on. Life in high definition.
  3. The nightmares have stopped. Again, after 30 years, no more terrifying nightmares. Not one.
  4. A purposeful life. I’m a dreamer, but I had stopped dreaming. I started to remember my dreams again, and at the same time a friend wrote ‘every person you run with has treasure and riches buried deep within them, buried under hurt and pain of abuse, abandonment and rejection. Your purpose is to run, and in running to help shake the dirt off their lives and pull out the treasure’.
  5. The will to live. Every hint of depression and suicidal thoughts has gone, I’ve been off medication for 4 months now. Depression for me was simply losing any will to live. Now? Now life is bubbling up in all kinds of ways.
  6. Skinny ribs. I’ve lost over 7kg. (don’t panic, this is it now!)
  7. Running. My journey started on my own, running 70 miles in a week. That week changed my life. Recently I put in the best race performance to date, finishing in the top 2% rather than the usual top 4% in the field. It felt electric.
  8. Energy and Sleep. I get up an hour earlier and go to bed an hour later than before, and I still have plenty of energy without the need to sleep during the day. I have a normal pattern of energy in the morning and ready for sleep by bedtime.
  9. Confidence. Back in August I believed I was nothing and good for nothing. I’m still testing out the theory, but it looks like this might not be true.

    So when I’m asked if I want a drink, when I’m asked if I’ll ever go back, when people suggest it might be ok to just have the odd glass of wine on special occasions, I can look at this list and thank God that I made it out the other side. No, I won’t go back.

Oh a thousand years, a thousand tongues, are not enough to sing His praise.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Curved Balls :-)

Sometimes life throws you a curved ball doesn’t it? You’re jollying along quite nicely and then oops, life happens. What do you do? Here’s a little lesson from a running conversation I had today with one of my minions. 

C: Felt dizzy at the end of my run and I know I really pushed myself. Legs are burning. Feel proud of myself, but my legs hate me.

J: There you go, that’s proper mind over matter.

C: Yeah I kept saying to myself “you can run for 53 minutes, you can do this!” And I’m pleased I didn’t walk at all. I kept thinking “I wouldn’t walk if Jax was with me!”

J: There you go, that’s proper Jax over matter.

J: Part of learning to run is learning to deal with feeling uncomfortable and pushing through. Yet another life lesson from running J

Running is so simple. When I’m racing I fix my mind, I can focus, I can demonstrate courage, determination, perseverance, all those things that get the best out of the race and the very best out of myself. When you cross that line, no matter who you did or didn’t beat, what your actual time was, the exhilaration of knowing you gave it your all is to die for.  You can’t buy it, you had to work for it. Nothing less than 100% satisfies, and I love the high and the satisfaction of knowing I’ve given 100%.

Lessons from the above conversation
  • It’s what you do when you’re legs are burning and you want to stop that marks you out. Anyone can do it when it doesn’t hurt. But what do you do when the going gets tough, when your legs are tired, when your lungs are burning, when you’re pushing yourself further or faster than before?
  • Success breeds success. You’ve overcome before, so have confidence that you can do it again.
  • Having someone with you makes all the difference in the world, whether they’re physically there, or with you in spirit. That person who encourages you to go further, work harder, fly higher.
So keep running and racing and testing yourself to see what you’re made of. If you need that voice of encouragement, give me a shout and I’ll take you for a run, it might just change your life :-)

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Parting of the waves

Demonstrating stretching to the 2nd of 3 groups.
Favourite line from a song that I’ve been loving for a few months. “You split the sea so I can walk right through it.” (click here for the full track)

It seems this might be literal as well as metaphorical.

This week I’ve had the very great honour of joining 3 lots of beginners as they start their first steps into running fitness and despite a week of record-breaking relentless rain on a biblical scale, each time I leave the house to run, it stops. Seriously – not a single drop of rain during any run this week! So maybe it’s literally true, He splits the sea so I can run right through it :-)

Metaphorically too, it seems like seas are parting as opportunities are opening up for me to take people out running.

Pestalozzi Students
This morning for example, I had the joy of running with a 15 strong group of International students from all over the world. Can there be any better way to start your Sunday than running through the beautiful undulating countryside of East Sussex with a group of gifted and talented, highly motivated young people from Bhutan, India, Belize and Spain etc.? I got the chance to ask some of them about their stories, backgrounds, and hopes for the future.

They all come from, in their own words, ‘economically challenged’ backgrounds but show academic potential. Each student was selected by their school to be put through a rigorous selection process, and having been successful they were invited to come to study at Pestalozzi International Village near Hastings. The Pestalozzi charity pays all their travel, living expenses and education, and supports them in making applications to University in the US (where scholarships are easier to come by). They all miss their families back home (a quick thank you Skype and facebook) but are looking forward to exciting futures. What an amazing charity, and what an impressive, articulate and motivated bunch of students they are.

How motivated? At 7.50 this morning it was still dark and chucking it down with rain, yet as I sat in the car waiting, one by one they all showed up to run. High five to you people, huge well done for turning up, and you did so well running up those dirty great hills :-). Anyone who lives in Hastings, look out for them on the Hastings Half Marathon and be sure to give them a HUGE cheer.

Be inspired
If you’re in any doubt as to whether you could or should have a go at running, let these young people inspire you (or maybe shame you) into giving it a go.

Meet us at 7.30pm on Tuesdays at the Hastings Half Marathon/Park Run start. No experience necessary, but wear comfortable trainers. Come and run with us :-) I'm pretty sure it won't rain. 

Friday, 8 January 2016

Small Beginnings

So we had our first little running group on Tuesday evening, thanks to a kick up the bum from Nat. Thank you to everyone who turned out even though the rain looked for a while like we might have been swimming rather than running. 

I absolutely loved it, but to be honest that’s more in retrospect than at the time, just down to a lack of confidence. However, having done it, I feel a million dollars, like I’ve had a huge injection of confidence! From feedback from those that came on Tuesday evening, it sounds like taking that first nervous step out the door into running has had a similar effect on them.
One brilliant thing about running, and especially racing, is that I know what being nervous feels like for me, and I can recognise that feeling in other situations. The real bonus is that I also know how awesome it feels to have overcome those nerves and that incredible sense of achievement when you cross the line. Success really does breed success. So for anyone else who’s considering joining us on a Tuesday evening, 7.30, once you’ve taken that first nervous step, you’ll feel amazing, proud of yourself, and next time will feel a little easier.

Lessons learned
  • Landmarks are more useful than stopwatches. A session needs to be completely doable by anyone without any kit (heart rate monitor, watch, gps) and they should be able to repeat the session on their own.
  • It’s the people at the extremes, the one that needs to go a bit more quickly, or slow down that you have to pay more attention to.
  • Demonstration of stretches as taught on the LiRF was fun, although delivering them in silence as prescribed is almost impossible, but in a good way, because it’s way more fun to chat.

So my bible verse today is Zechariah 4v10 – “Who dares despise the day of small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”

THAT’S AMAZING! We may feel a little bit rubbish at the start, we may feel like we can’t, but come on, we went out and we began, we started, we took the first step. That's totally worth shouting about :-)

Come and run with us, see you on Tuesday, 7.30, the bowling green in Hastings at the Half Marathon start line,

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Day 101 - Facing your fears

Today is day 101 for me, no alcohol for 101 days. 

Along with 1066 (the battle of Hastings) and 42, (the meaning of life), 101 is a famous number. Actually, infamous of course, for being the Orwellian room where the prisoner is subject to his or her own worst fears. Strange then that lately and especially today I should be facing some of my own greatest fears.

I got a message this evening from one of the people that came to the running group tonight. “I feel amazing too. I’ve always wanted to lose weight and enjoy life more. Now I can see I could have the support to make it happen”. Thanks M!

In the bible it says that there is no fear in love because fear has to do with punishment. My paraphrase? God is not going to beat you up if you make a mistake, and therefore you don’t need to be afraid of anyone else either. Conclusion? Get out there and live life in all its fullness, try stuff, if you make a mistake it’s ok, there’s someone to love you and catch your fall.

I’ve been listening lately again and again (I mean, like, 20 times a day) to some worship music someone gave me a few months ago. I always skip one track, every single time (nope, don’t know why, just never fancied it). Odd that today I chose to listen to it for the first time, and the words are so relevant to 101.

It’s you and me
Sometimes it’s painful to be brave
To look fear in the face
And know your name
To find your strength

Day 102, rock on. Want some support to get fit, lose weight, feel better about yourself, whatever your goal, we’d love to see you J Come and run with us!