Go go gadget legs!

Mirrored signs

I made it. Yesterday I walked 15 miles across London, visiting every station from Walthamstow Central to Brixton along the Victoria Line.

Well, I say 15 miles. It was probably closer to 16 in reality, because I got mixed up and walked the wrong way at Seven Sisters for a while, and then got totally confused by Kings Cross St Pancras and ended up turning round three times before I finally managed to find Euston. I have the natural sense of direction of a concussed duck.

Anyway! Batteries held out, food was good – pretty certain that bulla bread is basically the same as the elven waybread the hobbits ate in Lord of the Rings – and thanks to the decent pair of trainers I picked up when I started this whole mad thing, no blisters to speak of. Legs ache in a good way, and I seem to have developed unexpected thigh muscles overnight. And I can cross 16 more stations off my list.

When I was 14 I was desperately unwell. I almost passed out while trying to run the 800 metres in a PE lesson – I remember the grass under my feet swimming, and for a while it felt like I was trying to run across the sky. I was eating perhaps half the calories I needed a day, because I was convinced I didn’t deserve to eat; looking back, it’s clear I was underweight. And I was often shaking or sick from shock, because of how badly and how often I was hurting myself.

Yesterday I walked more than 15 miles.

Achievement unlocked: Go Go Gadget Legs!

I got worse before I got better. Much worse. But I did get better, and Mind were a big part of that. Without their services I would have fallen through the cracks in NHS mental healthcare provision more than once – and so would many other people I love.

One of Mind’s ongoing campaigns is to stamp out the stigma against mental illness that exists in the UK today. I’m still frightened of speaking about it – this blog post is pretty scary to write – but it’s part of supporting their work. I shouldn’t have anything to fear from talking about my problems, and neither should anyone else. And I’m living proof that with the right kind of help and a lot of fighting, it can get better.

Between 1 in 6 and 1 in 4 adults in the UK suffer mental illness at any one time. If you or anyone you know (hi!) has benefited from the services Mind offers, please donate to support them. I’m plotting a few things I can do to say thank you for donations – but if you’ve any ideas, please share them.

Running wrong

Last night we went running and for the first time Grant ran behind me, and took a look at how I ran. He realised something a bit odd – I wasn’t picking up my feet or swinging my arms the way you should if you’re running. I hadn’t realised, but when I thought I was jogging I was in fact doing something closer to race-walking.

I know it sounds completely ridiculous to suggest I wouldn’t know what my body was doing – but this is part of why this is a real challenge for me. I don’t have a great relationship with my body at the best of times. I don’t know it well; I don’t know its capacities or capabilities, where it works well and where it doesn’t; I don’t know how to use it. Yet. I’m desperately sad that it’s taken me 26 years to work out something so basic as this, but happy that it’s finally happened.

On the way home I ran properly. I ran downhill and Grant sang the free-running music from Assassin’s Creed, which is fantastically free-flowing and evokes big wide-arm-stretched I-am-running feelings, and I ran, and it felt good.

So this is a good thing, because I’m finally getting to know my body. And it’s a bad thing, because I’m doing nowhere near as well as I thought in terms of training. But it’s good in the long run, because now I know what was going wrong, why my calves and knees were hurting but my thighs weren’t, why I couldn’t keep up with Grant. Now I can get better at this.

So yay. Mostly.

A series of Tubes

So. I’m going to walk the Tube lines. Overground, I hasten to add, and the point of the walk isn’t to follow the tunnels precisely. What I’m hoping to do is walk between stations and try to cover as many lines as possible end-to-end in a single day.

For some, that’s going to be very easy – the Waterloo and City line, for instance, is about 2 miles long in total. For others, it’s going to be very, very hard. I’m hoping to train to a point where I can walk 25-30 miles in a day – and that’s no small task, believe me, because I’ve never done any sort of systematic exercise before.

For most of my life, the most important things I’ve focussed on have been mental challenges. I’ve fought mental health issues and battled to stay strong in all sorts of ways, but I’ve neglected my body in the process. Thanks to a huge array of charities and professionals, including mental health charity Mind, I’m finally in a place where I don’t have to worry about my brain so much any more – and it’s time to try a physical challenge for a change.

But I don’t want this to just be a simple get-fit-for-the-new-year resolution. I want a real challenge – and in the process I want to give something back. So I’m asking people to sponsor me in my madness, and give money to Mind. The best way to do this is by donating here, but if you’d rather not donate online you can email me at mary@aseriesoftubes.co.uk, or come along to a Tube station during one of my walks and donate in person.

The name of the challenge, “A Series of Tubes”, is simultaneously a pretty accurate description of what I’m doing and a nod to US Senator Ted Stevens, who notoriously described the internet that way while discussing problems he’d had with email going wrong. It’s a hilariously wrong description of how the internet works, and it strikes me that it’s also a pleasingly close-but-not-quite wrong-headed description of how the brain works too.