Trail running. How and where to start?

Trail running. How and where to start?

You may have heard about trail running and would like to give it a try, but don’t know where to start? Lockdown has given so many a new or renewed interest in running. For those who would like to try something new and give trail running a go or ‘Walk and Talk’ in beautiful surroundings, PenLlyn Ultras have a variety of races and challenges from 10k, 1/2, and full marathon distances to 50, 75 and 100-mile trails.

From personal experience, I can tell you that these challenges take place in absolutely breathtaking countryside and there is something for everyone.  Understandably, with the current Covid-19 situation, this year’s races will have been impacted. Adapting to the ‘new normal’,  PenLlyn Ultra has scheduled a series of virtual races. I am participating in a virtual race myself later this month and talk more about that nearer the date.

Check out their race dates and future events, visit penllyncoastaltrailseries.co.uk for details.

Rochelle

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An inspirational interview with Omaima Mohammad discussing the challenges, stigma & cultural hurdles she faced when losing weight

An inspirational interview with Omaima Mohammad discussing the challenges, stigma & cultural hurdles she faced when losing weight

OMAIMA MOHAMMAD’S JOURNEY: 

In this interview with Omaima Mohammad (47 at the time of the interview) talks inspirationally about the challenges, stigmas, social constructs and cultural hurdles she faced when she decided to lose weight in April 2016.  She explains how through physical training, nutrition, mindset, and sheer determination she was able to transform herself both mentally and physically becoming a desert trail runner, and an extraordinary role model for her children, family and anyone else reading this!

Q. What is your name?
Omaima Mohammad

Q. Where are you from and your place of birth?
Sudan / UAE

Q. Kindly brief us about yourself.
A single mother of two daughters (13 & 6 years old at the time of the interview) who have a passion for reading, writing (poems, short articles) and listening to western classical music besides my biggest passion for running.

Strictly following simplicity in my life, starting from clothes, food, entertainment and methods within my family/community circle.
Very focused & following “fewer options” method. “Less stuff, more happiness”.
My favourite colour is Yellow & my favourite flower is Lavender.
Many books have touched my inner soul & affected my thinking, but the most significant are ‘Arabian Sands for Wilfred Thesiger’ and ‘The Forty Rules of Love for Elif Shafak’.

Q. What is your current profession?
Banker / Credit Control Manager at Risk Dept.

Q. What was the trigger for starting the weight loss initiative?
Once I was dropping my daughter to her classroom at school and I was walking slowly as I was always feeling tired, I realized at that particular moment that I can’t close my arms properly due to the fat. At that precise moment, it triggered me that I could not see any future with my kids if I continued being obese.

I decided to take action and change it. With the heavyweight, I have always felt that this person wasn’t me. I couldn’t in many occasion deeply touch my deep soul as a person. I couldn’t find myself. All that made me sad, day by day, and year by year… it was just increasing and not decreasing.

Q. What difficulties faced during the weight-loss period?
Community restraints: I used to run with my Abaya as I felt shy to wear a sports outfit with my huge physical size. So, I came up with an idea to wear lighter weight Abaya so it wouldn’t increase weight while running (silk material). Also, I had cut it up to the knee so I wouldn’t trip. Running with such “weird” outfit gave a chance to some people to giggle and point at me as I used to run in Neighborhood Park.  Besides, running as a sport wasn’t that familiar 5 years back as today.

Family restraints: As a working mother, I have always had a limited time to my own self without feeling guilty about it. So, I had to scarify my sleeping time so as not to sacrifice family time. Unfortunately, the support by x partner faded quickly, especially after I increased my participation in formal races.

Fear: Fear of failure. Fear of regaining what I loose was always there (and still is). Although I understood seeking comfort triggers my ‘comfort eating’, I couldn’t manage it.  I was always relating to how my emotions are. If I was sad, then I eat continuously with no restrictions.

Huge lack of nutrition information: I did not have the education about the food or even about how my body is functioning. All this built up only after I took a coach for my running in April 2016.

Q How were you able to cope with peer pressure or social pressure?
Both handled with tremendous difficulties.

Q Did you have any inspiration or stimulation which/who helped you focus?
Retaining my kids to stay with me is my biggest and single stimulation. I soon figured out that the more my physique is controlled and in athletic form, the more my mind is clear and overall stronger.

Q. Was there any moment that you wanted to quit or you had felt weak?
Always! To take away or to control the only comfortable way I know and my body has been addicted to (comfort eating) wasn’t fun at all. Since 2012 and I’ve been losing and regaining weight. Not only 2 or 3 or even 5 or 10 kilos but tens of kilos.

Q. Was there any withdrawal symptoms faced when you tried to avoid certain items on the diet?
I did not have a diet plan. I ate everything but the idea was to minimize the quantity. My coach taught me not to be afraid of food and to see it is just a fuel for the body to move. It was difficult to adopt such thinking, but I tried hard until I accepted to treat food as my friend and not my enemy. Although I had to totally avoid or take a lesser quantity of the regular things which would make me fat such as sugar, pasta, and bread.

Q. Was there any external support or helpful factor (person/thing) that kept you motivated?
Yes my Coach, Mr Lee Harris continuously & unconditionally. The better my athletic life was getting & achievements met, the more I am motivated.

Q. How has this change benefited you?
It definitely benefits me in all life aspects significantly on 2 levels; inner level and outer level.

Starting from the most important which is self-respect & believing in self, to be capable of achieving goals. It opened my thinking and mind to how beautiful the natural world is.   Also, I learned how to focus and how to put a long term plan into action.

The external factor is that people changed how they looked at me and showed greater admiration and respect. My voice became heard. Although a physical look shouldn’t matter, this is honestly how it does work in our world.  Also, it benefits me both at home and work, as I became more active in doing things.

Q Briefly explain how was your journey to success in achieving the target?
Painful, needed lots of sacrifices, time-consuming, money consuming, heavy concentration needed; but definitely, the best thing I have ever done for myself.

Q How important is it to be fit and healthy for one’s life?
Extremely.
Being healthy and fit = high self-esteem = inner genuine happiness & satisfaction = better personal, career, & living lifestyle.

Q Do you have any message to the people around you regarding the importance of fitness?
Yes. Fitness is not a fancy lifestyle, fitness is your whole life as a normal individual. It is SO important as it doesn’t only shape your body, but it opens your thinking and mental. It feeds your soul and the most important it gives you the solo time you need daily for your own self; which ultimately helps you to love yourself more.

Q How did the transformation period affect your family life?
I was trying to have a minimum impact around family or in the house. I tried my best to balance. Balancing is the keyword. I try to utilize my time only in 3 main things: my training, my house and kids, and my work. I don’t do other stuff which might occupy my thinking or my time. I live a very, very, very simple life. Time-wise, financially, socially etc.

Q What’s the impact of your new lifestyle on your children?
They love the “happy” version of me. When I get upset now, they ask me to go for an extra run!

They sense that I am more focused and I don’t pressurize our small family with unnecessary traditional stuff such as family visiting obligations, frequent birthday parties, etc.

I try to teach them to CHOOSE and minimize their preferable options so they can FOCUS on them.

Republished courtesy Omaima Mohammad – Originally published in the magazine Outdoor UAE

 

Rochelle

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Why dropping out is sometimes the bravest thing you can do

Why dropping out is sometimes the bravest thing you can do

DNF, three letters that strike fear into the hearts of runners. Did Not Finish. But my years as an endurance runner have taught me there are times when you have to quit for the sake of your body and your mind

I just pulled out of my VERY FIRST race. I never thought it would happen.

The fact is, when I sign up to a race, I always have every faith I will complete it. No question. I run through my checklist: what’s the distance, the cut off time is my training, nutrition and mind in a strong place and so long as I’m happy with the answers, I enter. I never say “I just want to get around”. For me, it insinuates I’m going to be pulling myself across the finish line broken and on all-fours.

I don’t want to just get around, I want to do the best I can put all my training and race experience into action. I expect to be strong physically and mentally at the finish.

But at the Pen Llyn Ultra, the wheels came off.

A 35-mile off-road race along the dramatically undulating coastal paths of North Wales, I was confident I could cross the finish line before the 10-hour cut-off. I wasn’t planning on spending all day out there!

But then came the rain. Monsoon-like and relentless. Not ideal, but I cracked on. On and on I ran through a section that had me wading through the ocean, through tight checkpoint times and a puncture wound on my hand from a barbed-wire fence.

What I didn’t bank on, was being last! Happily, I’m never last because I get lost easily! Being in the middle allows me to ignore my serious lack of navigational skills and follow the runners in front of me. But when you’re last and there’s no one in sight, your navigational plan is kaput!  No matter how much I persevered and found strategies to keep myself moving forward, I ended up standing in a sheep field in the pouring rain. It was not fun.

Finally, I had to weigh up the whole situation. Did I really want to risk getting even more lost in the middle of the countryside with my headlamp for the ever-fading light and the rain still lashing down?

I love these ultra – challenges but this started to seem reckless. I finally found checkpoint two and bailed back to the finish.

But you know what, failing to finish this race taught me a lot. I learned that reaching the finishing line isn’t necessary to feel proud of myself. I gave it my best shot and ran solidly for 3hrs 47min. I covered 21km, used positive self-talk and strategies to keep myself moving. It confirmed my feeling that it’s more important for me to get up the next day, feel strong physically and mentally. I know I did my best at that time. A medal isn’t worth a week or more laid up with injuries.

It also taught me that my training weakness is navigation. I can be fitter than ever, but without the skills to find my way, I’m always going to end up back in a sheep field in the rain! And finally, it taught me about the nature of running itself. You see I love my ultras. And when I don’t love it, I’ll stop. I did that day, and I don’t regret it for a second.

 

Rochelle

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Chasing The Dolphins!

Chasing The Dolphins!

Pam’s story:

After suffering months and months of bullying behaviour at the hands of my boss, I was feeling very low, fragile, and mentally exhausted.  No one, including myself, would stand up to this bully and eventually, having decided I could not stay in such a toxic work environment, I walked out of my very senior well-paid job. I walked out on my career, and straight into the doctors’ office as I knew I was about to have a breakdown. I can only explain the breakdown feeling as if I was in an emotional black hole of sadness. I was constantly crying and was experiencing the world as just a bleak place. I was prescribed antidepressants and advised to “drink plenty of water and get more exercise.

Whilst off work, and after a few months of taking antidepressants, I did begin to feel a bit better.  I was less weepy, sleeping better and had the motivation to take small steps and get my life back. I found an online competition to train with 2 personal trainers for 8 weeks to take up the ‘Couch to 5k’ running challenge which they held in the local forest. I didn’t want to go out and meet people, I just wanted to be active again. This felt doable. I entered and won the competition!  

It was then I discovered how wonderful it felt to run, or walk when necessary, through dirt, trees, up and downhills.  The fresh air felt rejuvenating.  Each week I went a little further and felt I was achieving something.  Each time I ran, my mood lifted.  I felt better, more positive, and my husband noticed a change in me. “It must be those dolphins”.  We nicknamed those often talked about feel-good endorphins ‘dolphins’.  Running helped me become stronger both mentally and physically.  It was key to my recovery.

What running also did was teach me to set myself challenges, so six months later,  when I was offered redundancy,  I happily took it as I had no desire to be in a toxic work environment and now, my husband and I gratefully have a successful business.  That ‘little bit further’ I ran each week in the forest motivated me to trek 2 marathons in 2 days in the Sahara Desert. Trekking the Sahara is nothing I ever thought I would do, as it never crossed my mind!  As my spirits lifted, it seemed like a good idea!  The trek was organised by Action Challenge, a company that specialises in creating challenging adventures which allow you to ‘push yourself and find your own personal reward’.  I found mine… a huge sense of belief in myself, determination and accomplishment. I raised money for Mind, the mental health charity as well. 

Since then I have continued to run regularly. I do not take any medication now as trail running is my anti-depressant. When I run, I always feel energised afterwards. It lifts my spirits. I never thought when I was in such a low place that I would ever recover my self-esteem. Running has definitely given me that back. An added bonus is all the lovely people I have met through trail running. Everyone loves those “dolphins!”. 

Rochelle

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Getting green fingered during ‘lockdown’

Getting green fingered during ‘lockdown’

Every morning when I wake up, I always look out of my window and into the garden. I look to see which flowers are blooming, which tree has grown more leaves, and if the deer have eaten all the tulips. For the last few weeks, since ‘isolation’ I’ve found myself looking out and examining my garden, even more, thinking… ‘I need to grow vegetables,” because in my ‘risk management’ thoughts I’m really appreciative that our supermarkets are open with enough food to go around. However, what if this wasn’t the case. I have no clue anymore about how to grow healthy nutritious vegetables apart from planting seeds and hoping for the best! I am certainly not green fingered!

‘Sustainable Food Trust’ founded by Patrick Holden in 2011, whose vision is ‘for food and farming systems which nourish the health of the planet and its people has an article by Adele Jones called, ‘Harmony: A new way of looking at our world’ talks about Prince Charles ideas of Harmony, and how a primary school on the outskirts of London, UK has adopted this concept and is learning to grow their own food and what is involved.

The article has made me wish I was back at school! Learning and creating a small vegetable garden is now on my ‘TO DO’ list! Why not use this time to research and learn new green-fingered skills to improve your own wellbeing and health during this time. My vegetable garden will start with small step goals…investigating on how to make my herb plants thrive on the window sill!!

You can find out more here: https://sustainablefoodtrust.org/articles/bringing-modern-life-into-harmony-principles/

 

Rochelle

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Disclaimer: Run Body Run is an online magazine that shares events and services related to fitness, health and well-being that may be of interest to our followers. Please note Run Body Run is not affiliated in any way with the pages or people whose stories and recipes are shared in our articles. However, this article may contain affiliate links for products that we feature on our Recommended Products Page. We only endorse products we use and truly believe in. If you are interested in any events, products or businesses mentioned, please contact the companies and organisers directly for full information. If you feel that parts of this blog relate to you and you’d like to discuss this further, please fill out the form on our contact page.