Half marathon: done

run to the beat

As I lined up at the start I thought “why am I doing this?” As I ran the final few miles – which were uphill – I thought “I am never doing this again…” But guess what. By the time I was on my way home (wearing my medal like I’d just won gold at the Olympics) I started to think “Weeeell it wasn’t that hard. Maybe I should do another one to try and improve on my time…”

Gotta love that thinking.

Now the question I’ve been asking myself is: Would I have been able to run a half marathon if I’d still been drinking? I’d like the answer to be no (because that would be much more satisfying and frankly, a better post) but I suspect that I would’ve made it, just. I’ve white-knuckled my way round races before.

Last December, in the middle of the party season, I ran a very hilly 10 mile race. I’d not been drinking the night before but I had drunk a lot in the days leading up to it. In fact I hadn’t done much training at all as I was arrogant enough to think I’d be able to wing it. Look at me. I can drink and still stay fit. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’d not bothered to research the race so the never-ending hills were a surprise. I did manage to cross the finish line but needless to say it was a painful experience.

Yesterday felt different. Yes, it was tough and I was nervous, but I felt quietly confident that I could do it. I had prepared for it. I had done the training, I’d put the work in. I just had to put everything into practice. When I was drinking I always had lots of big ideas (I think I signed up to the half marathon before I quit) but I rarely saw them through to the finish or if I did I was very half hearted about it. 

On a slightly different note, a weird thing happened to me on Saturday night. For the first time in ages I had huge wobble about whether I should stay sober.   

As the race was in London – and I live in the north – I stayed overnight with an old school friend. We were making dinner when wine came up in conversation and I told her that I’d stopped drinking in April.  

So far, no big deal. I’ve told lots of people that I don’t drink anymore and I usually give them a brief but honest explanation. This time I found myself telling big fat lies. I ended up saying I’d quit as part of a running related health kick because I’d started to ‘react badly’ to alcohol. (“React badly”? WTF?! Talk about an understatement) I certainly implied it wasn’t a permanent thing. 

Later, as we talked about my birthday plans (next month) I found myself actually believing the lie that I’d told earlier. My friend said: you can’t celebrate your birthday without a drink! Once the race is over the health kick will be too, right? And I found myself thinking the same. It wasn’t just a craving or a fleeting thought – it was a full on “why have I stopped drinking? I can’t remember” type moment. That uncomfortable feeling lasted the rest of the evening and I was relieved to have the race as an excuse to go to bed early. I crawled into bed to read some blogs and try and sort my head out.

I woke up feeling fine and the night before felt like an odd dream. Still, it’s bugging me. It strikes me that the longer you’re sober the easier it is not to drink. But the further you get away from your last drink the harder it is to remember all the downsides.

I think on Saturday night two things happened: firstly I chickened out of telling one of my oldest friends the truth, probably because it would hurt if she reacted badly. Secondly, I got caught up romanticising the idea of going out like a ‘normal’ person.  The truth is, drinking with my normie friends was never very satisfying as they never drank nearly enough. They don’t drink to feel numb or sink into oblivion. That’s how I drank. They drink to feel tipsy and silly and to celebrate a special occasion – and I am still a bit jealous that I can’t do that.

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29 thoughts on “Half marathon: done

  1. David September 9, 2013 at 7:02 pm Reply

    Great article! I really enjoyed it!

  2. Drunky Drunk Girl September 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm Reply

    Congrats, that’s HUGE! And, you’re right, we don’t want to drink like our “normal” friends. At least for now, we know this. So…why not just keep things simple and just keep not drinking?

    • soberjournalist September 9, 2013 at 7:48 pm Reply

      That’s kind of what I’m trying to do these days – if I’m unsure, I just keep going, and try to stop over thinking things. Sobriety has definitely become a habit, which is good, it’s just that some days I question the reasoning behind it. And then other days I don’t care because it’s the best thing ever! Swings and roundabouts.

  3. Runningfromthebooze September 9, 2013 at 7:15 pm Reply

    Yaaaaaaaaasy for you!!!!! Nothing beats that feeling of finishing and getting your medal. ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
    Your wobble sounds like one I had recently on holiday. It was so weird and so real, it almost felt like those around me could tell.

    • soberjournalist September 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm Reply

      Thank you! Hope you get back to the running soon.

  4. fattymustrun September 9, 2013 at 7:16 pm Reply

    Such an honest post. I too don’t drink like my normal friends which is why I rarely drink now, but every time I do I bypass that line that other people see and abide by. I did run to the beat too, the logistics of the run were enough to drive anyone to drink…I managed to stay clear though as I was too shattered

    • soberjournalist September 9, 2013 at 7:45 pm Reply

      Hey did you have Fatty must run written on the back of your t-shirt? I think I saw you and it made me chuckle. I was going to google it because I think we may have met many years ago, at a bootcamp in Bournemouth, in 2010. Or 2011? I’m not sure. Anyway just looked at your blog and I’m sure you’re the same person! Really nice to hear you’re still doing all the running. I totally agree with you about the logistics – I could not believe it when we came to a standstill at Woolwich. Not only did it waste time but once we got going everyone was so squished together I nearly fell over someone!

      • fattymustrun September 9, 2013 at 8:59 pm

        Yep I did do a few bootcamps in Bournemouth. You should have said hello!!! Well done for finishing!!

      • soberjournalist September 9, 2013 at 10:21 pm

        I wish I had said hi now, but I wasn’t really sure it was you… What a small world!

  5. Debbie September 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm Reply

    So proud of you. Half marathons are the best. Enough to push you, enough to make you feel like you really accomplished something but not all THAT hard!! Good job!!

  6. Maggie Shores September 10, 2013 at 5:10 am Reply

    Awesome! Congratulations! And thanks for sharing your thoughts about telling your friend that you don’t drink! I have recently realized that some people don’t get it when I even tell them why, it’s strange. Maybe they just don’t want to believe – I don’t know – but I got a similar reaction few times – So when you can drink again we’ll celebrate! LOL! It makes me laugh! Sometimes I just say ok and move on – not because I think that I will drink again (goodness I hope not) but because it just gets really tricky. Anyway, great post, thanks!

  7. Riversurfer September 10, 2013 at 10:09 pm Reply

    Whoa, you completed a huuuge accomplishment!! Congratulations and WELL DONE!

  8. thompsononthehill September 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm Reply

    Very honest post and so heartening. Thank you. Well done on the half marathon too.

  9. Penny September 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm Reply

    Congrats on the half marathon. I hear you on the normal drinking and the inability to do that. I just spent a weekend with my college roommates, and was surprised to find I was drinking WAY more than everyone else. Way more. It appears no one else has kept up that level of drinking — they’re growing up, while I’ve stayed in the party mode. Good for you for sticking to your plan.

  10. carrieonsober September 11, 2013 at 10:40 pm Reply

    Hi Kate
    Well done on your half marathon – I would like to do that one someday. I did the North 3 times, first one, like you, didn’t know how hilly that was going be, drinking days…never bothered with details. Just threw myself gung ho into everything and anything just to prove there was no problem! Always made life just that bit more difficult than it needed to be…and I don’t miss that!
    It’s understandable to have a wobble with our resolve every now and then. It doesn’t mean you are secretly thinking it would be ok to drink, especially as you recognised it so quickly and wrote it on here.
    You are doing brilliantly, have a fab holiday!

    • soberjournalist September 12, 2013 at 10:56 am Reply

      Thank you! It’s just frustrating when you start questioning yourself. that wolfie voice is so strong, it cancels out all the hundreds of things that you know are good about being sober. Will let you know how the holiday goes – I fly on Monday!

  11. byebyebeer September 12, 2013 at 5:36 pm Reply

    It seems a lot of sober runners were runners before they stopped drinking. And they were impressive runners then too, which maybe speaks to that ability to withstand great amounts of pain and discomfort (endless hangovers and humiliation = running a marathon). I read an article on that once – why so many ex-drunks are also runners, but now I can’t think where.

    Anyway, so glad you did the half-marathon and LOVE that you wore your medal home and even felt your perception change a little so soon after the hard race.

    Those sudden thoughts of drinking always scare me. But they are just thoughts and I think the best thing is to open up as you did here. Maybe exposing it will take away some of its power, or maybe someone will offer helpful advice. I’ve had a hard time telling some people about my decision not to drink at all – forevermore – and heard strange explanations come from my mouth, but then again no one reacted half as dramatically as I’d feared. I also feel more comfortable giving a brief, less involved response these days, which of course is touchier with friends.

    • soberjournalist September 12, 2013 at 8:35 pm Reply

      I think I was particularly concerned about telling my school friend because we go so far back and to be honest we’ve always been a bit competitive! I still feel that not being able to drink normally is embarrassing and it’s not something I’m ready to admit to her yet – perhaps this is what prompted me to question myself so much.

      I would love to know where you read that stuff about drinkers and runners! I think there’s definitely something in that, as coping with hangovers on a regular basis toughens you up for sure.

  12. runningonsober September 13, 2013 at 1:32 am Reply

    Congrats on your half, Kate! I did my first half while I still drank, and I was totally unprepared for it. My second, I had 9 months sober and I trained my ass off for it since it was up a “mountain” and I felt so proud over that one. The first was actually depressing because I only did it out of false pride and I knew I could have done so much better.

    Very very happy for you for all the training and dedication. Way to go!
    Christy

    • soberjournalist September 13, 2013 at 8:33 pm Reply

      Thanks! I’m seeing a bit of a trend here amongst us sober runners – its so satisfying when you actually train for something properly!

  13. Anonymous September 14, 2013 at 3:10 pm Reply

    Great job on the run, girl! I get so caught up in romanticizing normal drinking. When will it end?! Or does it ever?! I’ve been sober almost 17 months and that voice is still strong. I feel like summer has been so hard in sobriety. So many triggers, and also getting further away from the drunkin’ times (like you mentioned). My sponsor had me write a list of things that happened while I was drunk that I SO wish didn’t happen and she tells me to look at that when I start thinking about trying drinking again. It helps sometimes. I think it’s harder being young and sober because it’s such a part of so many events, get togethers etc. Keep on keeping on! Love your posts!

    • soberjournalist September 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm Reply

      Thanks! I agree summer can be tricky – there are lots of triggers. I like the idea of writing down things you regret doing when drunk. That would be a great reminder. I have been meaning to write a detailed account of my drinking so I have it there in black and white. I keep putting it off but must do it soon!

  14. martinbooe September 21, 2013 at 8:33 am Reply

    Hey Kate, I’ve been checking in on your blog, rejoice in your progress, and relish your writing. After fighting it 10 years, I’ve got 8.5 months, and I’ve started a site that is kind of an audio/visual/book-in-progress that is kind of a spiritual recovery journal (implicitly Buddhist, sometimes explictly). I’d be honored if you checked it out. It’s http://www.bluesforabuddha.com. Rock on! (I too am a recovering journalist).

    • soberjournalist September 22, 2013 at 6:29 am Reply

      Thanks I will check it out! And congratulations on your 8.5 months – amazing stuff.

  15. Mrs D September 22, 2013 at 2:25 am Reply

    Hey what’s up with you ? You going ok ? Just popping in to say hi, hi! xxx

    • soberjournalist September 22, 2013 at 6:31 am Reply

      Hey I am fine, thanks for thinking of me! I’m on holiday actually and just had a crazy few weeks trying to get myself organised and on the plane in time. I have a half written post that I am going to finish later so will fill you in on the details then! Hope you’re well too xxx

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