The Journey Begins at the End

Welcome to my new blog, where I’ll be sharing my progress in running and equestrian activities with you. I’ll also be focusing on healthier eating, and mental health.

I’ll begin by admitting that I’m currently on a bit of a break from running (frustratingly)… A few weeks ago my lower leg began hurting after running. Thinking nothing of it, I kept running on it, which probably wasn’t my smartest move. But having had a couple of weeks off, I should (fingers crossed), be back at it next week!

I hope you’ll join me then to hear how it goes.

Jess

The Strong Never Sleep

Sorry for the silence – it’s been a busy couple of weeks.

Last week I spent a week of work experience at an equestrian facility, which was incredible! Sure, it was intense at times, but i coped well considering my lack of confidence (just over the week I know I improved, though)!

I’ve now got another two weeks of work experience planned from Monday, returning to a yard I spent a week at last year, with the prospect of potentially enrolling on a level 2 work based diploma.

In the meantime, I’ve been running again, earlier than usual as I’ve started getting used to being up early to bring horses in and it gets it out of the way before it’s too hot (I say that as if 21°C isn’t too hot – it is).

In other news, I received an exciting email the other day, in response to a poem I submitted for Like Jerram’s Of Earth and Sky project based in Gloucester. Locations are yet to be confirmed, but I’m delighted to say my poem has been chosen to be part of the installation.

The poem is actually one of the ones I wrote as part of my July poetry challenge, writing a poem every day of the month (I’m guilty of reading/listening to too many books/audiobooks and not writing enough). I didn’t share that particular poem on Twitter as I have done with the others as I didn’t want to jeopardize any possibility of it being selected, but you should be able to view it on the exhibition website (see link above) in due course.

Jess

Trials and (not so many) Tribulations

I’ve been a bit quiet again, listening to more audiobooks (currently on The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand – thank you Rory Gilmore).

What’s that, though? I have some exciting news I might have failed to mention? I might have been slacking on the running front, but I’ve started running with a small group of other people again!

But that’s not all! Not only have I run with other people again, but I’ve also ridden for the first time since 11th March too! Reunited with my favourite Teddy bear, the lesson focused on transitions over the centre line and working without stirrups (normally I’m not too keen on trotting without stirrups as I tend to tense up and grip, but I think I was much more relaxed this time). That said, my arms were too tight, and I know I’ve got a lot to work on, including keeping impulsion through turns!

You might be wondering why I’m telling you all of this. Finally, the exciting news you’ve all been waiting for.

Continue reading “Trials and (not so many) Tribulations”

Saddle Up

Well, I guess it’s official. I’m graduating with a First!

That’s not what this post is about, though. Because the past three years haven’t just been about university. They’ve been about life, gaining new experiences outside university as well, and it’s some of those I want to reflect on now.

  1. Volunteering at Olympia Horse Show in 2018 and 2019 – I would encourage anyone 18+ who loves horses to apply to volunteer at Olympia. The first time I volunteered there also happened to be the first time I stayed in London on my own. Way out of my depth… But as soon as I settled into the routine for the week, engaging with other volunteers and assisting audience members with finding their seats etc. I enjoyed every second!
  2. Entering a poetry competition. And being among the winning entries, published in Beyond Boundaries, available through Glasgow Libraries. This also meant I was invited to a poetry reading for National Poetry Day 2018. Terrifying, despite having read at Lancaster University Poetry Cafe, but I had an appreciative audience! I also attended a creative writing industry day in Manchester, and a journalism day in Sheffield, putting myself out there!
  3. Spending a week at Pony Mag HQ to gain an insight into working for an equestrian publication – this week they announced that they’ve won children’s magazine of the year award. I got my first copy back in 2010, and still like to read it ten years later, as well as Horse & Rider. It was a pleasure to spend a week with the most amazing team! You can see some of the features I proof-read and drafted on my placement here.
  4. Volunteering as part of the media team at Blenheim Horse Trials 2019 – despite warnings that equestrian journalism isn’t necessarily a financially stable job, I remain undeterred! From social media posts to drafting end of day reports, and even gaining an insight on how Pippa Funnell intended to approach some of the XC fences, this provided me with another valuable insight to working in equestrian media!

Music to my Ears

We’re midway through July already, and things are gradually starting to look up as we ease out of lockdown.

At the end of June, I decided to set myself the challenge of writing a poem every day throughout July, and while some have certainly been easier than others, it’s been interesting delving into my inner self. If you want to take a look, you can see my poems on my Twitter feed.

My running hasn’t been going too badly either, although I’m still battling the hills to what seems like no avail to try to get sub-30. In some more exciting news, those of you who follow me on Facebook will already know that following London Landmarks Half Marathon being cancelled, and the Royal Parks Half Marathon being postponed until April 2021, I’ve decided to accept the offer of having my place rolled over to that. Hopefully that means I’ll get the run a half marathon for Scope actually in London!

Earlier last week I ordered some reusable face masks, which came this morning! Naturally, I was excited to try them out as soon as possible, wearing them for my run (turns out glasses steaming up combined with rain is a bit of a problem, but I’ve had a few tips on how to stop them steaming up so I’ll be experimenting over the next few days).

I mentioned in a couple of previous posts about applying for equestrian apprenticeships, and I’m excited to have a trial/interview for one of them at the start of August! Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze a lesson in beforehand as I haven’t ridden since early March. I think I can remember what a horse looks like?!

In other news, I spent yesterday creating a logo for The Running Equestrian, alongside some ideas for the future!

As usual I’ve also had more ideas for articles so now I need to get writing – as much as I enjoy reading, I don’t think it can be all I ever do… Although having watched the first episode of Mystic, available on iPlayer and CBBC, last night, I’m thinking I may need to reread Mystic and the Midnight Ride!

Jess

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Another week has flown by, and I’ve finished listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama and started (and almost finished) listening to Jackie Kay’s Trumpet. That was one of the set texts on the first year of my course at university, and while I focused on gender then, two years later I realise just how rich the text is. It’s about more than just gender – it’s about race, culture, life, and death. It’s about not being, and being. Sure, it’s a little uncomfortable to listen to at times, but it’s honest and it’s compelling.

Talking of honesty, I’ve had a mixture of runs this week from a couple of steady miles, a not-too-bad-for-me 5k, and a not-so-good 5k today. The kind of run when your body just kind of refuses to cooperate at all. The kind that involves almost as much walking as it does running. The kind when, as you take your post-run photo, you end up blinking the second the photo is captured. Tomorrow’s another day, though!

On what’s hopefully a more positive note, I’ve applied for a few equestrian apprenticeships. Having not ridden since early March, I want to return to it, even if it turns out now’s not my time. I actually saw a post earlier about musical halts, which I think would be brilliant. Think musical chairs, but you lose a stirrup, then another stirrup. Then the saddle. Reins. I’d probably end up on the floor, but it’d definitely benefit my position and (hopefully) teach me to stay the right side of the horse. For now, I’ll leave you with the link to a video of my riding, which I’ve been using for applications (I thought it best not to feature any of my fails, although we all have them).

Jess

A Different Sort of Graduation

It’s been a busy week with a lot to process. I’ll begin by saying that 3 years ago I was all set to celebrate finishing A Levels at the year 13 leaver’s meal.

Three years since my first Parkrun, and since then I’ve completed over 50 5k runs, a few 10k runs, a 10 mile run, and a local half marathon.

Oh, and a BA Hons degree in English Literature. More about that in a moment.

Last week I took part in a LURAC team event, completing my run in 30:46. Sure, it wasn’t a PB, and sure it was the slowest entry, but the team I was part of didn’t come last! Hills slow me down, ok…

Or do they?

Let’s imagine that my degree was a hill. No, a mountain. The rocky sort of mountain, with undulating terrain. Moments when I got too close to the edge, and moments when I paused for a second to take in the view, consider how far I’d come.

And I have come a long way. I know I’ve made mistakes, and I’ll probably continue to make mistakes, but I’m learning all the time. Taking time to breathe, focus on myself, do things because I want to, because I love them.

I’m currently working on a few equestrian articles, with ideas for more buzzing around in my head, applying for equestrian apprenticeships, still thinking about an NCTJ Level 3 Diploma in Journalism.

I want to make a difference in this world, want to focus on making equestrian sports more mainstream, more accessible, more diverse. And I guess it all starts with the media – with literature, with culture. I wrote my dissertation on the representation of Autism Spectrum Disorder in literature, and hopefully I’ll be able to include my dissertation on here once results become official (provisionally I achieved a First, including an A- in my dissertation). But it goes beyond that. It’s about raising awareness, giving people voices that represent them accurately, not being afraid because we’re uneducated. These past few weeks alone, I’ve read (listened to) The Bluest Eye, Girl, Woman, Other, His Dark Materials, and I’m currently on Becoming by Michelle Obama. Next up, I’m planning on revisiting Jackie Kay’s Trumpet. All of these – including His Dark Materials – raise issues of innocence and experience. Reading is learning.

Jess

Be the Rock you need for Support

After a few days off, I got out for a run today!

I mentioned in my previous post that I had done a couple of runs for charity, including part in the #mentalhealthmile. That’s now done, and I’ve received my certificate and a medal, and a little surprise – a rock with #mhm and 1 mile ur way written on it! I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t filmed my #mentalhealthmile though, so you guys can watch it here!

I also received my #LLHM medal in the post the other day – it’s a shame it couldn’t go ahead, and unfortunately it doesn’t look as if charities are able to buy places for next year with all the uncertainty, but I’m donating my entry fee to Scope, and hopefully I’ll be able to run in London one day!

I haven’t done a whole lot of writing recently – I’ve still been feeling quite overwhelmed with everything going on in the world, but I’ve been doing some research for a literary/historic project, especially into the history of my hometown.

I’ll admit, I needed a bit of a break after reading The Bluest Eye, so I’ve finally been reading (listening to) Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I wanted to read it when I was younger, but having the trilogy in one volume makes for a rather hefty book… Anyway, once I’ve finished it, I’m intending to revisit some of the colonial texts I’ve studied at university, and some that I haven’t studied before but would like to, for my literary/historic project.

What I have written, has mostly consisted of poetry, which will hopefully be included in an anthology of writing which will help a selection of charities that support Black Lives Matter.

I’ve got a few ideas in the pipeline, so I’ll be working on those in the near future – I think they’ll be a welcome distraction from the thought of getting my degree result on 26th June. Fingers crossed!

Jess

Running in Circles

Following on from mental health awareness week, I won’t lie, with everything in the news at the moment it hasn’t been easy. I’ve never used my blog to voice my opinion on politics because a) I know I don’t fully understand it; b) my blog is focused on equestrian and running and c) I’m terrified of saying the wrong thing.

I’ll admit, though, after finishing my dissertation (almost a month ago now) I started reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. As much as I’m aware the events of the novel (which I haven’t yet finished) are not confined to fiction, it made me uncomfortable. Because no one should be treated in those ways. Words can be powerful, though, and no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel, I know I still have a lot to learn and I will read the rest of the novel.

In terms of running, now I’m back to running 5k every day (most days) I’ve completed a couple of slightly longer runs this week. A 10k, which I submitted to Relish Running as a member of #TeamTarmac, raising money for Dorothy House Hospice Care, and a four mile run. I also submitted both of these runs towards Equestrian Club’s Run of the Roses mileage, supporting Morecambe Bay Foodbank.


I want to leave you with a poem I wrote last week, which captures my feelings in these draining times.

Giving up on Dreams

My face glows,

catching the sun and the moonbeams,

carved out to meet unrealistic

expectations.

Misshapen, I’m not what you see

on the surface. Below

the water, my legs thrash as I try to

suppress my feelings,

but it hurts.

I miss the touch of trees,

the breath of the grass,

the warmth of the birdsong,

the embrace of the breeze.

Seeing, hearing, but not feeling

because I’m too frightened

to keep my head above the clouds

Mental Health Week

Since the start of the week I’ve wanted to post something about mental health, it being mental health awareness week, but I’ve struggled to come up with anything.

That might, in part, be because I’ve not really had as much of a focus since finishing uni work, but I think it’s more than that. It’s about finding the right pictures, the right words, not just this week, but every week. Not just today, but every day.

Earlier today I signed up for the #MentalHealthMile, which normally takes place in Williamson Park, but I’m going to be running it virtually on 7th June. Why? you might be asking, because you know I run already. Because for me, keeping fit – whether that’s family walks, running, or riding – is just one of my many forms of escapism. A way of improving myself, and my confidence.

Yes, I’m scared of motorbikes (sometimes)… No, I don’t know why…

Running and riding aren’t my only ways of boosting my mental health. I write to let go of feelings I’ve been holding in, that threaten to bubble over. I read, listen to audio books, music, watch TV becoming someone else, just for a moment, at least.

Next week I’m hoping to do something special, which might have something to do with poetry and mental health, so watch this space.

Jess

Where You Lead I Will Follow (Virtually, of Course)

With lockdown rules being gradually eased, we’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been getting back to running, but still remaining local, and observing social distancing. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be riding for a while though, even though some equestrian centres are starting to reopen with reduced services. That won’t stop me wearing equestrian clothing though – for today’s run I wore my Flexars, but I also love my Blackheart Equestrian clothing, and my HorseGloss jumper!

Dressage jumper

Events obviously remain cancelled, but the team at Royal Windsor Horse Show have put together a virtual show, and what a day it’s been at Virtual Windsor with the more traditional showing classes from Arabs and Cleveland Bays to brand new classes such as man’s two best friends – horses and dogs. Don’t forget that Virtual Windsor will be streamed live from 11:30 for the next four days, including the never before broadcast Pageant on Saturday evening, when you can join in the fun by hosting a watch-party on Facebook live from 7:30pm.

I’ve decided to write daily reports from the show, which I might email across to Southern Horse Magazine South East at the end of the week. Even if it’s not of any use to them, it’s good practice for me to write articles and reports, and I can hopefully share them on here instead.

I’m also working on a piece of experimental writing which is interesting. I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls, and it was that which inspired this piece of writing, which is an exploration of sorts about feeling and emotion in literature and TV. Talking of which, I discovered today that one of my childhood favourites – The Pony Club Secrets – is being made into a TV series! Unfortunately filming has been put on hold due to the current situation, but once it resumes the show will be on CBBC, so I’ll be looking forward to watching that!

Jess