Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Be Prepared

When I was nine, I was briefly a member of the Brownies. You'll note I don't say I was a Brownie. That's because I don't feel that I was there long enough to do justice to the uniform.  I managed twelve weeks in total - long enough to encompass the Hallowe'en party, the Christmas disco and the New Year pantomime trip. Then, with a long period looming that promised little but washing socks for the Housekeeper's badge, I left, adrenaline junkie that I am, to seek my kicks elsewhere.

Thirty-three years later, I am running, and it's going phenomenally badly, and for some reason the Brownie motto is going around and around my head: Be Prepared. I am not prepared at all. I am running a half-marathon in six weeks' time and I am not prepared for it. I am running to raise money for the National Autistic Society and to raise awareness of autism, because of the experiences of my daughter, who has Asperger's Syndrome, and my daughter is starting secondary school almost RIGHT NOW and I am not prepared for that either, at all.

I don't mean I'm not prepared. I mean I'm not prepared. I've bought her new uniform, and her new shoes, and her new schoolbag. I've bought her some stress balls, and an alarm clock that will wake her with light and natural noises to try to minimise the stress of getting up. I've talked through the transition with her countless times and I've emailed and spoken to the woman who will be coming to pick her up and travel in with her on the bus for the school's statemented kids. But I'm not prepared. My girl is going to a new school, with all the change and people and noise and bustle and smells and demands and schedules and people, people, faces, faces, talking talking talking that that involves for her, and I don't know how she will be and I don't know how to prepare for that. So I am running to get strong at least, but if the level of my running ability is any reflection on my current levels of core strength, then I am royally screwed on that front too.

I have run half a mile and already I am staggering and weaving. There is absolutely nothing in my legs. This is because I have overtrained and underslept, a killer combination. That week in France when I let myself go easy on the runs turned into another week in France when I only did one or two runs, which turned into another week in France (I know - jammy) in which I mainly ate and lay in the sun. And then that turned into a week at home in the sun, eking out the summer, in which I didn't really do much, and and and and suddenly I had seven weeks to get ready to run 13.1 miles and went mad with panic and now here I am and I've just looked at my watch and it's crawling and I'm crawling and I've still got another six miles to do.

Be Prepared. Be Prepared.

As I groan and stagger on I tell myself that the process of getting prepared is simple: I just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. If I keep going then hopefully at some point I will find that I am prepared. This is endurance training, after all. They call it that because it hurts, and it teaches you to endure.

So I keep running and though every single minute of the bloody run is bloody torture I am absolutely determined to finish it - because if I don't finish it then I won't have anything to point to and say 'look, I did this, which means I can do .. this', without which I won't get through the week - and so I do finish it. Then I hobble home to tick off the next box on my training plan.

Over the next few days as I chip away at the preparations for my event, and for Grace's event - interval runs, ugh, and sewing her school badge on her blazer skewiff, ugh - I realise that it's not just about being prepared, it's about how you act when the moment arrives. You can prepare all you like, but how you act when the pressure is on is just as important, and Grace, my Grace, always shows grace under pressure, at least in the big picture when you look at what she is coping with every day - what's a few meltdowns between friends and relatives - and so, so can I.

I may not be prepared yet, not really, but I am another step towards being prepared by having remembered that keeping going is important too.

So this one's for everyone who is starting school this week - children and parents alike. You can do it. We'll be right alongside you.

Just keep going.

Just keep going.



I am running the Royal Parks Half-Marathon on October 6 in aid of The National Autistic Society. I will be ready! Meanwhile if you would like to ease the pain of my preparations, please click here

For more information about me and Grace Under Pressure, please click here


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  1. I have read your blog posts (all of them) for the past day and a half (between my busy schedule) and bought your book on Amazon. Your daughter sounds EXACTLY like my daughter... there are parts of your blog that truly made me weep and others that made me laugh. I am going through the process of having my daughter who is six and just entered the first grade evaluated- I always knew that she was slightly different but never thought that she was on the spectrum. When she was 2-3-4 we all just thought she would out grow the meltdowns and the difficulty in class but now that she is six and really struggling with school I have sought answers and researched beyond countless hours and although she does not have an official diagnoses as of yet I believe that she does have Aspergers and possibly with a side of ADHD as you put it. I also have a one year old daughter. I know I am in for a bumpy road but your blog has brought me a great deal of inspiration and I am so happy to have found it! I don't know if it is possible but I would love to pick your brain. I have so many questions and I feel like NO one understands. If you would be open to talking with me please let me know my email is jalkire@familycreations.net-- thank you for writing this blog!! Thank you- thank you!

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  2. I'm not prepared either. I was on track, then I had a bad cold, then I had a couple of weeks in France just like you, where I ate too much bread and didn't do enough running. Then when I was just about getting back into my stride I got another cold and it's been hanging around all week. I was meant to do 10 miles this week but I can barely walk up the hill to my house without needing my inhaler. I sound like I smoke 40 a day!
    I know I can do it, I've run that distance before, but it won't be in the quick time I was hoping for. But there is no giving up, my daughter can't give up, she needs to struggle on everyday, so I can't give up.
    Maybe we'll bump into each other on the course and can spur each other on, maybe carry each other over the finish line!

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