A couple of weeks back, I had the absolute privilege of writing a piece all about self-love to feature in a series about the topic for the fantastic blogger, Suzy-Marie and to feature on her brilliant blog – Eeep I’m a blogger!
I decided to write all about my experience of how I discovered running & fitness, how it has helped me and continues to help me everyday and how training for a marathon helped me to love myself a little bit more and overcome confidence issues that I’ve faced ever since I was young.
I am so proud and chuffed to bits to be apart of this series, a fantastic topic and something which a lot of people can relate to, I hope it helps some of you too!
My story follows below, however please also check out the piece on Suzy-Marie’s website: www.eeepimablogger.co.uk , I have had the most amazing, humbling and inspiring feedback, which truly is as fantastic as running the marathon itself, please check it out also the fantastic work of Suzy-Marie!
My journey to self–love, one run at a time
By fashion, fitness & lifestyle blogger – Debs Cortes – www.mywardrobeutopia.com
Self-Love…it’s a strange term isn’t it, it has many meanings, many concepts, many outlets and many paths.
The one thing I have learnt about myself is that self-love is something which is ever evolving within me. It’s a constant journey of self-discovery, ups and downs and learning to understand that what you do and who you are is enough.
I find this topic so interesting having gone through many cycles of learning to love myself and trusting that the person I am is…well…great!
I think we all do it right? We all have moments (even long bouts) of self-doubt and compare ourselves to others over anything and everything whether it be our career, our ability, our looks, our weight, our house, our skills – anything really! And if we’re not careful we end up in a whirlwind list if things to doubt ourselves for.
Personally, my self-doubts crept in over my looks and weight when I was a teen, be it lose it, maintain it or simply trying to accept it for what it was.
After years of trying every diet and make up range under the sun, I realised I needed a focus and a much healthier way of analysing my body, I was fed up of feeling the way I did and decided it was up to me alone to change this stigma I had attached to myself and I wanted to be happy with who I am.
In the spring of 2011, I decided my personal goal was to get fit, dedicate time to myself and learn about fitness and nutrition, that’s when my journey to self-love truly started.
I figured that if I educated myself about how to fuel my body, the weight and confidence would follow and with this, I discovered running, and what a truly great discovery for it was for me.
I started slow, walking a bit and running a bit and if you’ve never run before the feeling you get from accomplishing your first run is fantastic. I set myself small challenges in bite size ‘achievable’ chunks.
That word ‘achievable’ is key, if you’re on a mission for improving self-confidence then you need to be honest with yourself and set yourself challenges that are within reach, because if you don’t, it could actually have the opposite effect on you if you feel like you’re not achieving your targets. Once you start accomplishing these goals, you’ll be amazed at how your confidence grows and it encourages you to do more!
You need patience, determination and a willingness to succeed, and if you can start bringing these aspects of your personality to the surface, you’re halfway there!
So this is what I did and slowly but surely I started to feel better about myself. I set myself small goals, staying at a certain pace and distance for a while and then upping my game bit by bit. Don’t get me wrong, some days I didn’t feel like doing it and some days I can’t go the distance but throughout this process I have also learnt that this is ok too. It’s ok to give yourself a break, to have an off day and to feel like quitting – but the most important thing is that you don’t quit, you dust yourself off and pick yourself up and start again the next day. Just make sure you do!
So the weight began to come off and my confidence began to grow. I knew I wanted more and more from running and it gave me the buzz and hobby that I had been craving. I feel amazing every time I achieve a personal best goal and it keeps the game interesting because there is always new targets to try and reach. Most importantly it keeps the feeling of self-accomplishment going – it can be as big and as much as you want it to be! Set your goals, know your limits and stick with it!
Little by little I started to increase the distance I was running, along with the time I wanted to do it in. ‘I’ll just go to that next lamppost’ or ‘one more lap today’ I’d say to myself, and over time I felt like I wanted to go that little bit further and push myself for a bigger challenge.
I decided to go for my first competitive race which was the Race for Life 5k for Cancer Research in July 2013. It was an amazing experience and it felt thrilling to be taking part and even better for a great cause. I was quite nervous on the day and wondered how I would do, but the adrenaline gave me such a buzz and the crowd were fantastic. I completed the race in 38 minutes (my goal was 40) and it felt amazing to complete the race yet alone exceed my expectations.
This race gave me the fuel to want to fulfil a dream of mine – to run a marathon. I finally had the self-belief that I could do it and I knew I had the right attitude and work ethic to give it a go – so what was I waiting for!?
This new found journey of mine has turned me into a ‘can do’ person, I never doubted myself as a person in terms of my personality, but I had always doubted my confidence and would shy away from doing things I dreamt of. That’s changed and now I thrive upon new challenges and pushing myself more than ever.
So this was it, decision time! I signed myself up for the Paris Marathon in September 2013, I was so excited! I planned my training to be slow and steady, giving myself rewards for goals along the way, including spa days, shopping, make up and of course shoes! I found that having rewards added an extra element and motivation towards sticking to my goals. Plus, who doesn’t want a new pair of shoes!?
Of course, there were times during my training when I wondered if I could do it, but one thing I am not is a quitter. I vowed that even if I had to walk to the finish line, I would complete this dream of my, just to be competing and be running in one of the most beautiful cities in the world was more than enough for me.
As part of my training, I signed up for my very first half marathon which was at Lanhydrock, Cornwall in February 2014. I was so nervous! It took me ages to get my rhythm right because I was so anxious, but I persevered and stuck with the whole 13.1 miles, having a little cheer to myself with every passing mile.
I completed the race in 2 hours 35 minutes, and I felt immensely proud! I didn’t care that I finished in the final 10, I was just elated that I’d completed the race and within a respectable time. The only thing I was conscious of is that it was only half of what needed to complete in just 6 weeks’ time! Eeek!
What the half marathon gave me was confidence and it was another notch on the to do list before the marathon. The following week I completed 17 miles and I felt euphoric. I was really doing it, I was seeing through my training and remaining dedicated to what I needed to do.
I did have a couple of setbacks and after a visit to the physiotherapist I was told I had the onset of a stress fracture in my left foot and an ITB problem in my right knee (to do with my hip rotation when I run), I was told to rest and do low impact training. This was so difficult to take in and it did set back my training, but with the help of my fantastic Physio (and a lot of patience from me!) I was still able to compete in the marathon -phew!
As the weeks grew closer, I was getting anxious and so many things were running through my mind. Was I ready? Could I do it? What if my injury stopped me? What if my time wasn’t good enough? All classic things a self-doubter says to convince themselves they can’t do it!
I started doing yoga to help with my anxiety and it really helped. I also have a fantastic support network and my biggest rock is my husband who constantly makes me feel like I can achieve anything, plus he makes a kicking protein shake!
Before I knew it, I was packing my bags ready for Paris! I was so excited and I remember feeling like I wanted to tell everyone what I was doing! To me that speaks volumes that you are proud of what you are achieving, it’s not big headed and it’s not egotistical (something I constantly have to remind myself of because I don’t shout from the rooftops enough about what I’m up to in my life, but I should, and I will!).
I had a day’s rest before the marathon and my husband competed in the breakfast run (a 5k around the city) and he completed it in around 35 minutes. I felt really proud of him too, what a fantastic place to do a 5k!
I walked the breakfast run, I took in the sights, stretched my legs and I couldn’t stop smiling thinking about what tomorrow would bring. I knew it would be tough and I knew it would be such a challenge both physically and emotionally but I was ready and I was day dreaming about how I would feel.
Afterwards, we took in Tuileries Gardens, strolled the city and took it easy. Champs Élysées was lined with flags, ready for the next day and the buzz in the city was already gaining momentum. True to form, I had a carb fuelled dinner full all the foods which I’d trained with and knew would help me along the way.
Back at the hotel, I prepared my things for the next day; race number, gels, charged phone, jelly babies, safety pins, you name it I had it! I felt prepared and I felt that I’d done everything I could to prepare for the race which was a really happy feeling in itself.
So, the day was finally here, I woke early as I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited! My head was filled with thoughts about the day and the challenge ahead of me, I was so focused on achieving my dream and crossing that finish line at that moment, it was all I could think about.
I got myself ready and we made our way to the Champs Élysées, the atmosphere was electric as the crowds started to gather. I concentrated on my stretching, breathing and generally energising and focusing myself. We all lined up in groups according to our approximate race finish time and as my group slowly made its way to the front I was getting butterflies.
There was music playing and people gathering all around, it felt incredible to be taking part. Before I knew it, my group was ready to go. We all cheered 3, 2, 1 and we were off! My belly flipped and I off I went, this was it!
I focused on myself and my timing, it’s so easy to get swept away with all the people around you especially those whizzing past you. I got into my stride at about mile 4 and felt at a comfortable pace. It was incredible running this race in an amazing city, taking in Arc De Triomphe, The Eiffel Tower, River Seine and The Louvre to name but a few! I could help but smile from ear to ear!
At times the marathon was hard and I felt it around mile 21 (oddly I also thought I was at mile 22!). My drive and focus got me to that finish line, but it was made so much easier with the amazing crowd who cheered and clapped for the whole 26.2 miles. There were also amazing bands playing the whole way round which was such a surreal experience and such a motivation booster. My husband was also amazing and he came and cheered me on at the halfway point. As we high fived each other, he ran with me for a few minutes and was telling me that I could do it, it was so amazing to have that support right beside me.
As I reached mile 25 I couldn’t believe it, I quickly sent a pre-programmed text to my husband who quickly reply saying ‘go for it, you’re almost there, get a good time!’
I felt overwhelmed as the crowds grew in massive numbers towards the finish line, and I will never ever forget the feeling I had going up the last stretch when it was in sight. The roar was massive and from somewhere I got the energy to sprint myself across the finish line. I screamed ‘yessssssssss’ as I did and people were congratulating me on what I had just achieved.
As my medal was placed over my head, I was in tears and I it was one of the happiest moments of my life so far. Not only for completing the race but also for proving to myself that I could do it and that I should never have doubted myself. I would call that a defining moment of complete self-love.
I am so pleased and proud to say that I completed the race in 5 hours 11 minutes (my goal was 5 hours 30 minutes) and not only that I had my best ever 5k, 10k and half marathon times. Kerpow!
So self-love? I still get off days like we all do but I’ve learnt to know that they are ok too! I am still in love with running and I am currently planning my next half and full marathon. I call it my therapy!
We are all capable of self-love, no matter how great the task, how low you are feeling and how bad you feel right now, it’s within us all to achieve our dreams and learn that you, me and us are truly amazing – you just have to believe it!
As Albert Einstein said ‘If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects’