Sunday, 29 April 2012

Love Running - Pre-Race Reflections

Logo Used with Permission

With exactly three weeks to go until race day, this morning found me on a treadmill at my local gym. The last couple of weeks I have been conspicously absent from training for one reason or another, and - hoping to make up for my unintentionally long hiatus - I set myself some rather ambitious goals.

I would love to be able to report that I pushed through the inevitable pain-barrier and achieved everything I hoped to and more. But the truth is that somewhere around the 7km mark, after pushing myself to run faster than I have before, I found my legs doing a kind of scissor-leap so that both feet were on the outer edges of the treadmill with the belt whizzing away beneath me. I just stopped running.

Literally moments beforehand I had been successfully talking myself into continuing. Five more minutes, two more songs, 0.5km more: mini-milestones of hope. My plan was to keep them coming, ticking them off one by one until I'd finally gone the distance. It was a good plan and I was really, really disappointed to have "failed".

But there are three things that I'm taking away from my workout:

Encouragement is oxygen - Despite believing in the causes I've signed up to run for, despite the money that people have generously given us so far and the hope of future donations to reach our target, I was so completely ready to pull out of the race. All past investment in preparing paled in comparison to 'heat-of-the-moment' exhaustion and fear of failure. Only external encouragement (in this case from my husband) could change my perspective. 

Only fools don't count the cost - There's an Old Testament bible narrative that I find mesmerisingly beautiful and it keeps coming to mind as I train. Its main theme is about a personal choice between self-reliance or the security of trusting God. Interwoven into the drama are King David's ageless, haunting words: "I will not make a sacrifice that costs me nothing" - words that are picked up again in the New Testament teachings of Jesus on the cost of spiritual life. Sometimes I'm not honest with myself about how much effort my choices require from me - whether that's in running or in other areas of my life. But until I reconcile the glory of the dream with the reality of what it will take to achieve it, I will always end up feeling the frustration of unmet expectations.  

A little grace goes a long way - Choosing to do the costly things, the things that are worthwhile but grinding in their demands, is like taking a highlighter pen to every area of personal weakness. Every time I run, I get to greet the parts of me head-on that I would rather not see: the insecurity that compares my body to other people in the gym; the selfishness that would rather stay at home than raise money for charity. In those circumstances, I've found there's absolutely no point in either dwelling on or excusing my less-than beautiful attitudes. Instead, I look to the best version of myself - I look to the goodness God gifts me with when He says "My grace is enough for you; my power is made perfect in your weakness". And I keep going, motivated by the knowledge that, in the end, kindness - not guilt - is the greater force for change.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Wardrobe Stories & House of Beth

A friend introduced me to House of Beth via facebook, and although it seems to be an enterprise in its early stages I'm really intrigued. The idea of basing ethical clothing collections on the dress-sense of influential women is so quirky and visionary: Virginia Woolf and Audrey Hepburn have been the centrepiece for collections so far. The website also has a link to its facebook shop "diffusion range" which seems to be essentially an online charity shop with proceeds going to the anit-human trafficking charity Red Light Campaign.

In celebration and support of pre-loved clothes, I've fished out a picture of one of my favourite charity shop outfits. The jacket, originally from Villa, has become a wardrobe staple - smart but fun, with its brash, "brass" buttons that have anchors etched on them. I'm also becoming an increasingly devoted fan of the spaghetti-strapped maxi dress each time I wear it. Both were sourced on a particularly successful outing to a charity shop in Putney, London, and came in at less than £20. The mottled brown suede bag is an older wardrobe faithful found in the original Oxfam shop on Broad Street in Oxford. 

But perhaps the feature I love most of all about this outfit is that it reminds of good times with wonderful people. The floaty texture of the dress has a way of making me feel like I'm on cloud nine when I walk in it (I inevitably find myself sauntering), especially when coupled with the fact that I'm almost always celebrating when I pull it out. Add to that the memory of finding the items whilst out and about with a close friend and it's pretty much threaded through with love.

Shopping can be so much more than knee-jerk consumerism. Whether it's a start-up boutique turning things on their head with innovative ideas or just a good old charity shop success story, it's nice to think that with a little bit of research and effort there are ways to have a different, deeper retail experience.

'Wardrobe Stories' are a string of posts helping me to appreciate the clothes and accessories I own in an atmosphere where it's easy to end up taking things for granted.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

"Spilling Open" - Sabrina Ward Harrison

There was a time when this book was permanently open on my desk - a constant reminder that someone else sometimes feels the way I was feeling.

Some people find Sabrina Ward Harrison's confessional style self-indulgent, but in the times I've turned to this book I've mainly seen her bravery. She's brave in choosing to create with the most personal parts of herself, instead of the things that might seem more polished and impressive. In publishing her art journals, she has documented a life in progress - the process of changing, growing up, working things out.

These days it mostly lives closed on my shelf, but I took it down again tonight to remember the beauty in unfinished things, fallibility and trying not to try so hard.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Thank Goodness for... Wonderbag

Find out more about Wonderbag here 
Shared from Youtube - No rights infringement intended 

I was sent this link a little while ago, but found it particularly encouraging following on from conversations with friends over the weekend. For one reason or another we got on to the environment, and in particular the powerlessness and sense of hypocrisy we sometimes feel when it comes to the impact our lifestyles have. 

When our slow, incremental changes seem inadequate, it's reassuring to remember that there are also people out there who are putting all of their creative talents into developing innovative products capable of going deeper and faster. There are people who are changing the whole framework of 'the way things are done'. It's the little bit of hope that we all need to spur us on in our own contribution. We can keep going in our efforts knowing that they partner with a bigger picture and that, thanks to the visionaries and the do-ers, it might not be such a bleak one after all.

'Thank Goodness for...' 
Posts that celebrate the positive impact people and organisations are having on overwhelming issues
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