Soraya and I worked together for two and a half years at a design agency in Birmingham in the 90s and have been firm friends ever since. Though we now live several hundred miles apart, she’s my ‘go-to’ person when I need encouragement or advice. She is creative, kind, gracious and a great source of recipes! A couple of weeks ago, she ran her first marathon. Given my professional interest in setting and achieving goals, I wanted to know more about how she did it so I interviewed her.
Soraya, firstly huge congratulations on your incredible achievement! When did you first start running and why?
About 8 years ago, I was staying with a friend who was running the Race for Life. I went along to watch her and thought the atmosphere and the reasons why people were running were so moving. I thought to myself, ‘I am sure I could do that’. So over the next few years I did a few 5k Race for Life runs with no real intention of doing much more.
Just a few weeks after my last 5k race, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The whirlwind of surgery and treatment left me feeling completely shaken up emotionally. Then I was introduced to The Haven Breast Cancer Support Centre which offers free support, information and complementary therapies to anyone affected by breast cancer. It was there I met Harriet who in 2010 said she was going to run a 10k to raise funds for The Haven and again I thought to myself, ‘I am sure I could do that’.
If you believe in something passionately, your whole heart is in it and people seem to catch on to your enthusiasm. Once I started telling people what I was going to do, I suddenly had volunteers offering to run with me. So little by little I trained, having no real idea if I was doing things right or not! The prospect of running 10k was mighty daunting, but I did it. It felt like a momentous achievement and so emotional. I was running a distance I’d never run before and for The Haven, the charity that helped put me back together when I was feeling so lost. Raising funds for them would mean they could help put other people back together too.
At the beginning of 2011, I joined a running club and went each week for a jog and a chat: it was a good way to keep fit and I met some nice new friends. It also gave me a better understanding of running. Then I decided to do the Great North Run, this time for MacMillan Cancer Care. Once again I found friends and neighbours who were happy to run with me. What an amazing way to see the area you live in, be out when you would normally be bobbing round the house doing this and that!
A friend at the running club helped me by putting together a running plan to build the miles. I went out 3 times a week and I fitted this round normal life by going early in the morning and just after work so it didn’t feel too intrusive. Well, lining up with 54,000 people was a sight and a feeling to behold: everyone prepared to do the same thing, lots running for charities, lots of reasons for doing so! How incredible we can be when we feel passionate about something!
Even before I began running, I had a dream that one day I would run the London Marathon so last year I asked The Haven if I could have one of their London Marathon places for 2012. My friend at the running club had just qualified as a coach and she again helped me with a running plan, first to 10 miles, then to 20 miles. This time there was no way this was going to fit around my ‘normal life’: this had to become my ‘normal life’.
What kept you going when the training was tough?
Well, I accepted every offer of company on my runs; I made a note in a diary detailing how long I ran for, how I felt and what the conditions were like. I ticked off every training day and felt pleased each week that I had completed the miles. My hardest time was when the miles really cranked up and I was running for the first time ever 16 miles, 18 miles, then 20 miles, I was nervous, could I do it? And boy, was it hard. Arriving home I had an ice bath, then a hot bath, lots to drink, then lots to eat, then I just nursed my aching limbs for the rest of the day. I started running out of friends who could run the longer distances, apart from one who helped me so much. Her encouragement helped me to believe I could do it. It made me smile thinking ‘I’m going to run The London Marathon’ and I was so looking forward to it. Don’t ask me why but all along I kept thinking ‘I’m sure I can do this’.
Alongside training for the marathon was the marathon of fundraising. So many people supported me, donating costume jewellery for fundraising events, making cakes, giving their time. I did bag packing, had raffles, put posters up, emailed people I didn’t know, told anyone who would listen what I was doing. And bit by bit I crept towards my target of £2,750 and now I am close to £3,000: how amazing is that?
Tell me about the day of the race
So the big weekend arrived. I wondered how I was going to find the start. ‘Just follow the thousands of other runners’ was the advice. It was a beautiful morning: the sun was shining and there was a cool breeze. Perfect. Then everything just fell into place, what a completely fantastic day! I did it and I was smiling right to the finish.
If my readers are teetering on the edge of committing to a really stretching goal, what would you say to give them the courage to do so?
People told me I was mad to consider doing this but I just kept thinking, ‘I am sure I can do this’. Having focussed my energy on recovering from cancer, I knew I could focus on the marathon. Like Della Reese said, ‘if it feels good, do it’.
If you would like to contribute to Soraya’s marathon fundraising effort, you can do so here.
What I noticed during our conversation was this: This time there was no way this was going to fit around my ‘normal life’: this had to become my ‘normal life’. To achieve her goal, Soraya had to prioritise it.
This week’s pebble for you to consider:
What do you feel so passionately about that you will make it a priority?
I’d love to hear from you,
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?