December is always a time for reflection, so I sat down today to write a blog post about my year, but was stumped as to how to sum up a year where I’ve achieved so much without a plan, without sounding like a hypocrite. As a running coach, my business thrives on setting goals, making plans and sticking to them.

You should know that I am a running coach’s worst nightmare (ask my husband, who frequently tries to coach me). In fact, I would go so far as to say I am the anti-client. I dislike being coached, because I have a tendency to take any feedback personally, and over-analyse it, however constructively it has been given. Probably why I choose to be the coach.

Anyway, this blog post is supposed to be about my own year of running, so I thought in the spirit of being the coach, instead of a drab month by month roll of achievements (yawn!), I’d write about what I’ve learned this year from my experiences, in the hope that I can pass some tips onto you.

So what did I learn?

Don’t be afraid to follow your heart and try something different

I originally set out in January with no real goals, except to run one final road marathon where I had set my heart on a sub 4. That was it. After a pretty rubbish year of running during 2016, and putting so much pressure on myself to run a decent 10k, I was looking forward to just having fun with my running again so I thought I’d relax and see what happened. It turns out that when you really open your mind up to new experiences, the universe responds with incredible opportunities. This year I was lucky enough to be gifted with places at the Dukeries ultramarathon, Race to the Stones, the Manchester Marathon and Half Marathon, Oswestry half marathon, and the Manchester Women’s Running 10k where I also got the opportunity to take my running group along. I am truly grateful for all these opportunities, and I decided to take the plunge and commit to them. It turns out I actually rather like ultra running, and I managed to squeeze a third in last month, the Warrington Way. I’m already planning next year’s big ones!

I think tackling such huge challenges through running has taught me to embrace the more personal challenges life throws at us too. This year ended with a major relocation and a massive change for our family, but I treated it just one step at a time, the same as I do with a marathon or ultra run, and trusted that every step would bring me closer to the goal.

Running is about moving forward, just like life.

For years I have identified myself as the founder of a running club. I put my heart and soul into the club for 7 years. Running a club is extremely rewarding in that it’s lovely to see people coming into the club and improving. It’s also a lot of very hard work behind the scenes that isn’t recognised, and this year I left myself open to upset because I was too emotionally involved in it. This year, I finally made the break from the ties of responsibility to a club. It was such a tough decision to leave the club, and one I had been wrestling with for a good six months, but, the decision made, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I have since realised that my heart wasn’t in my role anymore, and my allegiance to the club was unwittingly making me stand in my own way of growing my own coaching business. I had changed. Sometimes the toughest decisions are the ones that we really need to make.

You are capable of more than you think you are. Way way more.

Last year, I had wishy washy ambitions to run an ultra one day, but I don’t think I ever really believed I could do it. However, after I’d achieved my goal at Manchester Marathon in April, I really started to believe I was capable of more. Once I’d run 40 miles a month later, I knew I could run 100k. One day I know I’ll run further (although right now I have no immediate ambitions to find out how much further). My point is that your mind is an immensely powerful tool; believing in yourself is the key to achieving your goals. Our mind is usually what limits us too – set your sights higher, so that you’re a little bit scared, and you’ll be surprised what you achieve.

“If you’re going to face a real challenge it has to be a real challenge. You can’t accomplish anything without the possibility of failure” ~ Gary Cantrell

Writing goals down is the most powerful statement you can make

Although my year had been written out for me by the opportunities presented to me, I still wrote down goals for each of my races, whether that be to have fun, pace a friend, tackle a new distance, or set a PB, and I committed to them on paper. Looking back on these, I’ve achieved a lot of them. Some I have still to work at, but I now have a tangible record of my achievements, and looking back at them makes me smile.

I also wrote down a bunch of other goals at the start of the year, less tangible ones, not related to a time or a distance, but more on where I wanted my business to be, and I was surprised to see that I have accomplished some of those too without consciously seeking to achieve them. The very act of committing goals to paper focuses your mind, and therefore your actions, on achieving them. This is such a simple, but effective, thing to do. I’ve been keeping a journal this year to help me to focus my mind more on those things that are truly important to me, because we often lose sight of them in the day to day madness of life. I’m not obsessive about it, but every now and again, I’ll sit quietly and doodle in it. It’s nice to look back on.

Running brings many friendships and opportunities

This year I’ve had the privilege of running with many people I have met through running, mostly via UKRunChat on Twitter. Many of these people I now call friends, and I never would have met them had our paths not crossed at a race, or online, thanks to a shared love of running. This year I’ve had the best runs with Paul, Jason, Jon, Claire, Ben and Chris.

Running is very powerful in bringing together like-minded spirits like that.

Despite moving across the country last month, I have a ready-made family of runners to call on for long runs and parkrun tweet ups (Claire, Garry, Ant and Brian to mention a few). I’ve since joined a new running club too, and volunteered to join the core team at my local parkrun, because continuing to grow that running family is so important to me.

When you put your heart and soul into something, magical things happen

This might be running, or it might be a career. I’m lucky that I can combine my passion for running with my job and make a living out of doing something I love. When I took the plunge at the end of 2016 to launch my own coaching business, I never dreamed how well received it would be, but I know that the fact I LOVE what I do, and I do it honestly with all my heart, shines through in my work. All I ever wanted was to inspire people to achieve a goal and help them to get there – I never planned to become an online running coach, but things have just worked out that way as I’ve found my own happy place. Thank you to all my clients who have trusted me with their training. Thank you to all those people who have recommended me to others. Thank you to all my running groups who have made my job so much fun! Thank you to Ben Lumley, who took the beautiful header image at the top of this post, and who captured most of the beautiful images I use on my website. You can read about our day of running photography here.

Thank you for reading this blog too. I hope you’ve all had a great year, and I’d love to hear what you’ve learned from your experiences.