Pushing the Zone

A time warp moment.

Just six weeks ago I could barely contemplate going for a run, and now I’m planning the challenge of my lifetime. How come I’ve gained so much ground in such a relatively short time? Where is the research that can follow this and report back so that it can be handed out to others when they’re also on the brink of collapse? Surely someone should be bottling this up for distribution.

Here’s what happened. I got inspired. Plain and simple! Why couldn’t I have been inspired back in March when I went into freefall? Who knows. Timing is obviously key, but also the right kind of inspiration. You see, I wasn’t inspired by a world champion, a polar explorer or even Bradley Wiggins. I was inspired by my next door neighbour. I was inspired by the fact that she (my neighbour) had finally taken up sport and exercise because she’d realised that she was not getting any younger or fitter, and felt unhealthy, with a busy family, work and social life, and ultimately needed to feel better about herself. And she went and did it! No major races, no crowning glory. Just for self-satisfaction and to feel better, the result being that she looked healthier for it too. That simple recognisance that my neighbour had done something that I’ve been living and preaching for many years had helped to turn the active lights back on inside my head.

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So I started running. But me being me, I needed a goal to aim towards to motivate me. I couldn’t think of one off the top of my head, but the Bipolar UK newsletter came into my inbox just when I needed an aim – to fundraise for them and take on the Cardiff Half Marathon. My previous post When Irony Strikes Hot covers some of this – I decided to take on two events, the Eirias Triathlon (for which my partner and I won the relay prize) and a week later the Cardiff Half on 4th October. Both running parts would be wearing a polar bear outfit and I would be recognised as BiPolarBear. It was a good call, the race was not only fun but I laughed, danced and nearly cried throughout it. Supporters called out my name – be it Polar Bear, Super Bear, Super Teddy, Teddy Bear, or even Bipolar Bear – and I felt like a celebrity, bringing smiles and joy to the crowds. I momentarily considered applying to Disney World for a spot in their park.

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Photo courtesy of Lee Slocombe

Crossing the finish line, I certainly was spent, wearing a full head-to-toe costume on a body that already sweats profusely once the heating goes up was tough. One thing that will stay with me is the support from other runners, giving me water on the route and at the end, congratulating me for my efforts as they overtook me, and generally recognising that I was doing something with an additional challenge.

Getting home, jubilant that the fundraising support had raised over £450, and having done my first 13.1 miles in a year, I noticed that this buzz was still ongoing. I was riding on some emotion that I didn’t want to lose. It was the challenge, the adrenaline, the realisation that I had done something I never thought I would and achieved it, and why couldn’t I do more?

So I am now here, in my studio, preparing a challenge that will take about six weeks to complete, will stretch my body to its ultimate limits, and push me so far out of my physical comfort zone, it’s positively astronomical (for me). The funny thing is, mentally, I’ve already completed it.

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Which possibly speaks volumes: there is no correlation between mental illness and mental weakness.

If you’d like to donate to the Bipolar UK cause you can visit my fundraising page for ongoing efforts here. Thank you!

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