Payday Is Coming

Don’t throw in the towel – it will simply create more laundry!

In last week’s post, I made a joke about housework and washing and always enjoy starting the day with a good laugh. Here is another one I like, and I am sure you can relate:

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For many people it has been a long December/January and payday is finally around the corner.

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Our paycheck after the holidays is a welcome reward and the promise of its arrival keeps us going, especially when January 25th feels like January 75th. In the same way, payday is coming if we refuse to quit through hard times. No matter what you are going through, keep moving in the right direction and when you become discouraged, do not give up. Enjoy the journey, be patient and trust that God has a wonderful, unique plan for you.

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‘Every flower must grow through dirt.’ – J.Sonnett

Watching my amaryllis buds opening this week brings me so much joy. It reminds me that even though we have to push through ‘dirt’ at times, something beautiful can come from it. Keep pushing through, little by little, even when it feels you are not moving an inch, you are making progress. Refusing to give up is a victory in itself.

Sani Stagger Marathon

“It’s not the mountain that we conquer but ourselves.” (Sir Edmund Hillary)

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The Sani Stagger Marathon is one of the most challenging marathons that one can take on, with runners making their way to the top of the famous Sani Pass and back down again.

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The temperatures reached the high 30s and a 14 x veteran of the race said it was the harshest conditions he had faced yet. Those medals were earned!

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As always, there are many stories to be shared but for a change I am going to keep this light and simple and leave the deep thoughts for another time. However, I will say that looking at the incredible views from the top of that mountain, brought clarity to my recently tormented mind, that we need to zoom out and stop stressing about the small stuff in life, and instead remember what really matters and what brings us joy.

I started off slowly, full of anxiety and even though this was my 6th time doing this race, it demands respect with every attempt. After a three hour run-walk-crawl up the mountain, I reached the top, enjoyed the snacks on offer and then began the steep descent.

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I walked down the mountain for the first few kms, as my anxiety kicked in, but I also knew it would be wise to take care of my quads for later on. I was humbled as runners flew past me, but this paid off later, when I felt surprising strong and was able to make up time with a sprint finish, which earned me an age category prize and 6th placed lady overall.

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It truly was a race that epitomized struggle, growth, failure, victory, surrender, fear and love all wrapped up in the gift of running.

“And by pushing past our comfort zone we did not only climb that mountain, we became the person who could climb that mountain.” (Michael D’Aulerio)

Don’t Get Stuck In The Mud

The rain is falling outside, triggering memories of my cold, wet run last weekend. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the icy drops landing on my head, before they slowly dripped down the back of my neck.  The swishing noise from the fabric of my oversized jacket is the only sound I hear, as my arms pump back and forth, propelling me forward on the muddy road. It’s easy to let my mind go back there….

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Part of the allure of endurance running for me is to see how deep I can dig. It is a brilliant way to build mental toughness and help you learn how to manage discomfort. When I look back on my life and some of the things I have endured and overcome, perhaps I was born to do this. I have had a lot of practice when it comes to dealing with physical and emotional pain and giving up has never been an option.

Tonight I am fortunate to be indoors, warm and dry and I wonder how did I do that? How did I manage to run 50 miles in those conditions? My mind is about as clear as the muddy puddles on those farm roads and it will take a few weeks to process all I went through during those 11 hours (10 hours 40 minutes to be exact!) I look forward to sharing many stories and lessons learned in future posts, when I can see clearly and the rain is gone!

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Winston Churchill said, “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” We can’t allow difficulties to intimidate us and instead need to face them head on and in doing so, we develop the determination needed to be everything we were created to be.

This post is a bit of a muddy mess but I hope I have conveyed some kind of message and encouraged you to face your own challenges with relentless determination. Don’t get stuck in the mud. If you are going through something, keep going. Hypothermia was a real concern at the race and one way to keep my body temperature regulated was to simply keep moving forward to keep warm. Step by step. One mile at a time.

We will go through difficult circumstances but that makes us people who know how to overcome adversity. We grow when we persevere and don’t give up. It comes at a cost and you will have to be willing to push through obstacles that stand in your way and perhaps you are tired of doing that, but let me encourage you to press in one more time. You can do it!

Running On The Rooftop

Perseverance in the parking lot.

“I’m not running around as a continual ray of sunshine. I just I don’t believe in wasting time feeling sorry for myself.” (Aimee Mullins)

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Tenosynovitis (inflammation of the fluid-filled sheath that surrounds a tendon) is not a fun injury. Underlying medical conditions mean I take longer to heal than others and I always have to think long-term when it comes to my bones and muscles, which are already compromised. This is why I chose to rest and stop completely, rather than take medication and injections to speed up recovery.

(Despite the poor quality of the photos, I still wanted to share them. I think my phone was as dizzy as me after running in circles around the parking lot a few times!)

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I have been out of running for a month, but still get up at 4:30am every day, doing my best to keep fit at gym and tread water in the swimming pool. I refused to give up on my goals, despite the fact that my Comrades Marathon training has fallen away and vital mileage is lost. I am happy that I am finally at the stage where I can slowly start jogging again and monitor myself step by step.

“Life is getting up an hour early to live an hour more.” (Unknown)

I needed to find a flat course for my return to running and since I am alone and safety is a factor, I decided that the best option would be to use the rooftop parking lot of our local mall. It has been humbling and mentally tough to run round and round (it is only 200m!) However, I am grateful to be back on my feet and have adjusted well, making the most of this limited space and solitude.

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“Everything starts with a sunrise, but it’s what we do before it sets that matters.” (K. McGraw)

One of positive sides of running on a rooftop has been the incredible views of the sunrise each morning. Often I have spent more time admiring this majestic sight than running!

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“The sunrise of course, doesn’t care if we watch it or not. It will keep on being beautiful, even if no one bothers to look at it.” (Gene Amole)

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I am not sure what will happen on 4 June 2017 but for now, I am doing my best to keep positive and focus on today, rather than worry about the future.

Treading Water

“To tread water” is an idiom that means doing something / being active without making any progress.

The idiom alludes to the term’s literal meaning that is “keep one’s head above water by remaining upright and pumping the legs.”

In my last post, I mentioned I was struggling with a niggle in my left leg. I am still not fully recovered and the pain and inability to run is starting to get the better of me. Unable to cycle or walk, my only option is to swim, which is my least favourite exercise. However, today I attempted to run in the pool at the gym (the small heated pool at the back, not the big one in full view of everyone!) and it is here that I came up with these thoughts…

I know that the only thing I can change right now is my own attitude and I need to choose to be happy right where I am, even if I find myself treading water in a closed space, instead of running outside with my friends. If we refuse to have a positive attitude and make the most of where we are, our progress will be stifled.

There are always going to be problems to get through and after you overcome one obstacle, there will be something else to overcome. That is why the popular phrase, ‘enjoy the journey, not just the destination’ is so important. I have to bear this in mind because as admirable as it is to set big goals and reach them, I can’t get so focused on accomplishing them that I don’t enjoy where I am right now.

Perhaps it is time we stop treading water and start making waves!

The Comrades Marathon and The Arnold Classic Africa show I am aiming for are both prestigious events but they will not keep me happy. We can’t get into the habit of waiting for a special occasion or for everything to be ‘perfect’ before we grant ourselves permission to enjoy life. No big event is going to provide lasting happiness.

We have to appreciate today and enjoy life’s journey.

On a positive note, I was in a bikini this weekend (nothing to do with the swimming pool this time!) and placed 6th at The King Shaka Classic bodybuilding competition. I almost didn’t enter, as my swollen foot was too severe, but in the end (with the help of a tub of Vaseline!) I managed to squeeze it into my heels and with a slight limp, step on stage with a smile.

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For some reason the verse from Paul McCartney’s song “We All Stand Together” just popped into my head (and will probably play over and over in your head now too!) so let me conclude with this:

“Win or lose, sink or swim

One thing is certain we’ll never give in

Side by side, hand in hand

We all stand together”

Stage Fright

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“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” (Vincent Van Gogh)

If we listen to our fears we will never reach our full potential. Last weekend I competed in the IFBB South African Body Building Championships. This fitness journey is one of the hardest things I have ever done but one of the reasons I pursue it is to overcome my fears. Fear wants to stop you. Fear of what people think; fear of sacrifice; fear of change are some examples of obstacles I have been working through and with God’s help I am choosing to no longer let fear rule my life.

Quitting is never an option for me. I decide what I need to do and made up my mind to finish what I start, however this doesn’t always guarantee success or an easy road. There will always be obstacles. They may come from others or your own doubts. I have met many athletes over the last few years and they all have stories and none of them are where they are today, without having faced opposition. They inspire me to never give up and never allow difficult circumstances to crush my dreams.

Of course you can’t pretend the problems aren’t there but you don’t have to let them rule your life. I used to hate my body for denying me the ability to have children. I felt useless and ashamed. However despite being told I will always have bone problems and muscle weakness, I have worked hard slowly over the years to build my strength physically and mentally, surprising the doctors and myself.  I’m still under construction but realize it is an ongoing journey and instead of withdrawing and hiding like I used to, I now share a large part of this story publicly, in the hope that it encourages others to do the same. I don’t always get it right and often face disappointment when I don’t get the results I hoped for but I make sure I finish what I start and don’t give up! I learn from my experiences and move forward.

One can’t judge a person’s life by a single event or photograph and behind the scenes there is always more to a story than meets the eye. Take these recent championships for example, where months of sacrifice, hard work, time and energy are poured into a goal and as much as everyone admires the end result, very few people are willing to do what it takes when they realize it isn’t glamorous and in fact quite a lonely road. Be it a sporting discipline or raising children or a successful relationship, you need determination. Choose courage over fear. Encourage and help each other and receive God’s grace daily. Remember to enjoy your journey and always have a heart full of gratitude.

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” (Harriet Stowe)

IZOKUTHOBA – It Will Humble You

On 24 May 1921, 36 runners lined up in front of Pietermaritzburg City Hall, set to run 90kms to commemorate fallen comrades of the Great War of 1914 to 1918.

Tomorrow is the 91st running of the Comrades Marathon, the Ultimate Human Race. The numbers have grown from the original 36 entrants to approximately 20 000 of us, embarking on this great physical, spiritual and emotional journey.

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This year’s race campaign is “IZOKUTHOBA – IT WILL HUMBLE YOU”.

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Here are a few points taken from an article written by Sean Falconer (editor of Modern Athlete Magazine) which highlight the thinking behind this slogan and why the Comrades Marathon is so much more than a running event:

*You will be humbled by the history and the traditions of this great race.

*You will be humbled by the famous Big Five hills, and the many others in between.

*You will be humbled by the camaraderie of running alongside fellow athletes from every walk of life.

*You will be humbled by the global unity of the event, with runners from all around the world joining you out on the road.

*You will be humbled by those running to raise funds for the six Amabeadibeadi official race charities.

*You will be humbled by the 6000 volunteers doing duty along the route.

*You will be humbled by the crowds of supporters lining the route, driving the runners forward as they play their part in this great race.

*Most of all, you will be humbled by what you have achieved.

To our family and friends supporting us, you too will be humbled as you witness the runners out on the route tomorrow, as they bravely make their way to the finish with sheer guts and determination. The Comrades Marathon provides an opportunity to unite on the road in running camaraderie and ends with a united spirit. I am honoured to once again be taking part in the greatest ultra-marathon in the world!

Thank you to everyone who has shared this journey with me.

Whole Pieces

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“Until the lion learns to write, every story will always glorify the hunter.” (African Proverb)

When two of my friends announced their pregnancies this week, my whole being was shaken and I couldn’t believe my body could still physically react in this way. Come on Debs, this is pathetic, get over it already! I was so frustrated. 24 hours later, I had a strong sense of gratitude engulf me, when I realized how far I have come, since those days when news like this would send me into a downward spiral of depression and now, by the grace of God, I can weep and grieve, yet embrace the life I have wholeheartedly and move forward.

Below is an extract from my book “Whole Pieces” which is compilation of some of the emails, journal entries and poems I wrote during the first five years of my infertility journey. Over the next few weeks I will share various passages from the book and my prayer is that perhaps you will be able to relate to some of the more common raw emotions we all experience in our daily lives: the searching, suffering, smiles and silliness that emerge from everyday trials and triumphs.

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“…I have always found it helpful to write down my thoughts when working through a crisis. So here is some of what I have tried to figure out during the last few days…maybe it will be helpful to you too someday, when your faith is challenged and you don’t know how to handle it.

Expect confusing experiences in your life, and see them as an opportunity for your faith to grow. In situations like this, when you feel betrayed and wounded in spirit by an experience you don’t understand, trust God. Any other approach would be silly. Don’t lean on your own understanding. If I look over all the pieces of this story, how every step came together and how wisdom was always sought through prayer beforehand, it doesn’t make sense that in the end the final pieces don’t fit. It is confusing and honestly so tempting to fall into despair. But God has seen every tear we have shed and was with us every step of the way.

We know in our hearts we did the best we could and to walk around bitter now would destroy us spiritually and emotionally. That would be a waste. We’ve learnt, we’ve grown, and hopefully bring glory to God by our example and behaviour.

May our pain be someone else’s gain.”

Run Your Own Race

I recently ran a half marathon race at record speed (well, for me anyway!) and as a result I have been limping all week with a hamstring strain. During those 21kms I did not even stop for water. I simply put my head down, pumped my arms and ensured that the group I was running with did not pull away from me. I would like to say that this flash of irresponsible brilliance was fuelled by a desire to test my full potential but instead, it was driven by my own insecurity and the need to prove my worth to myself and others.

These immature thinking patterns rear their ugly head every now and then, and this happened at the start of the race, after a passing comment caused my self-esteem to plummet. Instead of rising above it and not giving away my power, I decided to race as fast as I could, to prove that I was just as good as the person next to me.

I know I am not alone in this thinking and many of us get trapped in this self-destructive cycle. Our identity gets wrapped up in our accomplishments and we add unnecessary stress to our lives by seeking approval and value from the wrong sources. We are a community starved of love and fill this void with things that can never satisfy. We simply don’t realize how valuable we are and instead let self-hatred and self-doubt consume us.

Our sense of value cannot be based on how well we perform, how popular or successful we are or how somebody else treats us. We cannot earn our value but instead it is based solely on the fact that we are God’s children and nobody can take that away from us. Constantly remind yourself that you are God’s masterpiece and don’t let circumstances or other people deceive you and influence your estimation of your value.

Receiving God’s unconditional love is the beginning of emotional healing and as I sit here with my hamstring on a pack of ice, I am comforted by the face that no matter what we are going through in life, God will never give up on us, so we mustn’t give up on ourselves. You may feel insecure or overwhelmed but God will use you in spite of your weaknesses and He sees you as a champion. Keep going (at your own pace!) knowing that we all have faults and make mistakes but the good news is, God loves us anyway.

A Bittersweet Battle

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

“A person who lives in faith must proceed on incomplete evidence, trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” (Philip Yancey)

God understands your pain and knows what you are feeling. You aren’t alone. Since writing my previous blog, “Good Grief” my circumstances may not have changed but I do feel I am finally climbing out of the pit I found myself in. I am getting better at sharing my pain but when prayer is not answered it is easy to get discouraged. During the waiting period doubt, disappointment and depression can sink in and I have experienced all of these.

Our thoughts are especially important at this time and I have had to renew my mind daily and change my thinking. Often when I am feeling my worst, I realise it is because I am thinking about the wrong things and I have to examine my thought life – think about what I am thinking about. You have to go through grief. There is no way around it and if we don’t express our emotions, that is when we get stuck. If we don’t deal with it now then years down the line we will keep reacting to something that happened a long time ago.

You may not be able to control the pain you go through but you can decide whether it is going to make you bitter or better. I often don’t have the words to describe how I am feeling and the most I can manage is “God, help me!” At times like these this verse is great:

“The moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayers out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” (Romans 8:26)

We all experience physical and emotional exhaustion. We are all broken, and at times want to give up. God will meet you there. When you feel like you are sinking and you don’t know how you are going to keep going. God will meet you there. Out of the ruins of whatever you may be experiencing right now, believe that beauty will rise and with God’s help, you will triumph over your suffering.