If you’ve been big, like me, you probably have whole years of your life without a single photo reference. When I was writing my book, after escaping from the prison of my 23 stone body, I had to beg for ‘big’ photos from my friends and relations to document the ‘before’. I’d cleansed them you see, completely erased every large unflattering print of myself, to complete my denial that I was obese and getting bigger.
The Power Within…
Lately I’ve been bouncing out of my skin with delight at my growing fitness and strength. After a dodgy winter with the weight piling back on, I’ve been back out on the wilderness trail, climbing mountains and running; working hard to reverse the damage. Finally this week, the results began to show. I felt the power building in me, my lungs burning less when I run, my calves burning less when I climb. On Friday I joined a night-hike on the Sugarloaf with the Oldtown Road Trailbreakers. On Saturday myself and some old mountain buddies climbed Leinster’s highest peak, Lugnaquilla, with Ronan Friel from Irish Guided Walks, surprising ourselves by finding snow at the summit. I stayed overnight in Wicklow to join the mighty JuJu Jay from ‘Mud, Sweat and Runners’ for a beginner trail run on Sunday, and accepted an invitation to go sea-swimming at the 40ft in Dublin for St Patrick’s Day.
Then came the photo of a thousand knives. Casually taken and innocently posted on Facebook, it was a photo like the photos that had haunted my past. Caught at a vulnerable moment, legs akimbo, muscles slack, crudely placed limbs facing into the camera, and worst of all, a glimpse of pain and discomfort in my eyes as my rusty old joints complained at their treatment. A horrible image that burned into my heart and soul and poked open the scars on wounds considered long healed.
Lycra or Bust…
I am often asked how I exercise when I’m heavy, if I am embarrassed, or how can I bring myself to wear Lycra or a swimsuit? Yes of course there is an element of ‘cringe’. If I am out running and kids jeer me, it hurts; but I’m usually too out of breath to answer back! Besides, the best response is to just keep running.
Mostly I just breathe deeply and get on with it. Knowing the freedom of being strong enough to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, is worth the effort. But occasionally there are setbacks when it all seems pointless, when I see defeat looming and feel the temptation to lie down in front of that wave of sadness and just give up. This was one of those moments. In the middle of a busy, active, fun weekend; my heart leapt and my breathing caught as I fought to keep my eyes from watering. My personal ‘pity-party’ gathered pace as looking at this horrid image, my confidence disintegrated around me. Is this how I look in my unguarded moments? A ridiculous caricature of the person I see in the mirror. Chewing on my upset, a timely call from a good friend gives me a chance to vent my sadness. Heading to bed somewhat earlier than expected, I suddenly feel tired and old and foolish.
Waking up this morning in Wicklow where my soul usually soars, I started out for my run with JuJu Jay with a stubborn reluctance in my step. It felt pointless. ‘Fat people can’t run’ I told myself. Except a sneaky voice in my head insisted that if I ran, I’d feel better.
I got JuJu’d…
JuJu’s chirpy greeting and jokey instructions have me loosening up my joints and my mind, before I have a chance to bolt. Within minutes we’re running. Beginners trotting out into the woods, at different levels and stages. When my breathing gets heavy, JuJu’s practical advice cuts through my embarrassment, and before long my head is up, my pace has slowed and I’ve found my rhythm. Not fast, not slow, but just right. Like Goldilocks, I’ve found what works for me.
Sometimes life knocks you out of rhythm, and like trail-running up a hill through a forest, you need to tune out the confusion, focus on the stillness, give yourself a hug and learn to breathe again. Thank you for today Juju Jay, and for helping me to breathe again.
JuJu Jay has promised to take me running… his Mud, Sweat and Runners group has already brought me on a navigation course; and I keep bumping into Juju when I’m out hiking in the mountains. Last time, he jumped off his mountain-bike to give me a hug as all his mates disappeared over a nearby hill. Another time it was my turn to rescue him, when his dog got bitten by a tick. ‘JuJu moments’ just seem to happen when he’s around and everyone I know thinks he’s just great. When I think ‘Juju Jay’ – I think of sunshine, laughter and mountain air. So I’m delighted to invite this breath of fresh air to share his magic with you as today’s ‘guest blogger’. As Juju would say…. ‘Peace’ (Teena G)
As most of you know I am very passionate about Mountain running and other outdoor sports like mountain biking; hiking, power kiting, cycling and much more…. My love for running and sharing great trails with people resulted in my starting up some group runs, which proved so popular that the M.S.R Facebook Page and Website followed. That’s Mud, Sweat and Runners folks!
My runs can be from 5k to 50k, and I am hoping to do longer distances in future. Our group runs are not just great adventures but also happy times; sharing new friendships along with new challenges – as you can see from the gallery photos on the M.S.R. website.
We are a casual group with no fees and no commitments. The group gives the opportunity for like-minded runners to meet up and run together. Whether you are going for a 5k or a 5 day race, or just training for a particular event, you will meet people in the same boat. There is no need for ego or elitist mentality in our group. We are all equals, no matter what the ability.
Mud, Sweat and Runners is a great way for runners to partner up, stay motivated and stay fit. All running is done at a pace that is suitable to your own level of fitness. You are not obligated to stay or even show up every time and you can turn back at any point on the runs.
We teach navigation skills and pool information about training, nutrition, inspiration, adventures, and swimming; along with sharing knowledge about races and challenges and beautiful places to run, cycle or hike. If you are into pushing out even further into the great outdoors, we also have weekend mini-bus tours to beautiful places around the country.
The structure consists of a choice of two runs; 10 – 20k & 20-50k. We schedule Day & Night runs, and route suggestions are also very welcome.
Mud, Sweat and Runners is based in Laragh, Glendalough in County Wicklow, which is where we meet. So check out details for the next meet on FB or the M.S.R. Website, and let’s all motivate each other & stay fit!