Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Running On Tough Girl

Our new house backs onto a national woodlands and for the past weeks I have got back to lacing up and jogging through the winding, tree laden roads which lead to the ancient reserve. Im all these years it has never occurred to me to listen to something while running. On the odd occasion when I tried listening to music, I found the device too fiddly, the headphones too unwieldy, the music too intrusive to my thoughts and so gave it up to instead jog to the rhythm of my own footfall and to whatever song was looping around in my head. This time however, when I discovered my decade-old iPod - a gift for one of my birthdays from my thirties - I decided to give it a whirl.

Headphone designs have significantly improved since I last tried them and I was delighted to find a pair that fit snugly in my ears. When I finally worked out how to find my way around the extremely clunky iTunes (why is so user unfriendly?), I realised that I'd downloaded a some podcasts earlier. Among them was one called Tough Girls. So one morning a couple of weeks ago, I slipped into my shoes, stuck on the iPod and got jogging. What followed was an hour of gripping story telling by women who have gone on to achieve the most unimaginable feats known to humans.

Sure, there are stories of endurance runs and biking through hostile terrain and much more. But the ones that strike me are the ones with unlikely heroes who overcome demons that lurk within. Of the ones that I have listened to so far, the podcast that stands out the most is the one about Paula McGuire.

Paula suffered from severe anxiety and had tried and failed various therapies to overcome her crippling condition after years of living with it. Until one day, a switch went off and she decided to believe in herself and in true hero-redemption route, set herself a challenge of trying every Olympic sport in a space of two years. Never mind if she did not how to cycle and never mind if she was aqua phobic. In the podcast, Paula documents her trials and tribulations throughout her attempts at various sports. How she felt when she rode a bicycle for the first time or how she completed a triathlon while wearing a float, each experience reinforced Paula's belief in what she was capable of doing.

Having done the first challenge she set for herself, Paula then attempted to swim around Britain. But when her old fears returned and it got too much, she had to give the attempt up and turned her attention instead to other experiences. She has since gone on to write about her in a book called (what else?) Paula Must Try Harder.

Tough Girl podcast follows an interview format with the host Sarah Williams (herself an adventurer) asking intelligent questions steering the conversation with a firm but friendly hand. These days, despite the colder weather and the shorter days, I eagerly look forward to going on runs with the rickety old iPod. The other day, without intending to, I ran a comfortable 23 kilometres fuelled entirely by the podcasts. I'm not about to start running the Sahara any time soon, it is enough that I can experience it vicariously.

Listen to the Tough Girl podcast here.