This blog post isn’t directly about my role on the council, however, it is loosely related to the climate change emergency we have just declared, and I felt benefited from a bit of explanation.
I’ll take you back to approximately 9 years ago when I took up running after giving birth to my first son. I started running for a couple of reasons: I wanted to lose the baby weight, and I wanted to deal with my mental health as I was struggling with depression. I like exercise classes, but I’m quite a goal driven person, and wanted to target something, so signed up to a half marathon. Plus, I could run when it suited me rather than to someone else’s timetable which fitted in perfectly with a new baby. I quickly caught the running bug!
Fast forward a few years and I became a British Athletics qualified leader in running, and have coached lots of ladies for a range of distances (from complete beginner through to half marathon distance) through local firm Elite Conditioning. I have loved being involved with this fantastic company who have inspired me and many other local women.
In the lead up to the by-election campaign in February this year, I decided to take some time out from coaching as I was trying to keep a lot of plates spinning, but I carried on running for myself and in March, did the London Landmarks Half Marathon. That was the last time I ran until the summer holidays. Despite lots of people warning me, I stopped looking after myself, no longer finding the time to do what I loved, that had the added benefit of keeping me physically and mentally well. I don’t want this to put anyone off considering standing for council, because believe me, it’s a real privilege to do this role, but should you find yourself in this position, don’t let the role consume you.
I decided during the summer holidays that I needed to find a better balance and was thinking of how to motivate myself to get back out there again. Then, one of my friends from school gave me the perfect opportunity. He had started something last year called the Million Metre Tribe. The idea is to complete a million metres in whatever discipline you like over whatever time scale works for you. It’s about setting goals, pushing yourself, but most importantly, getting out there and doing something. Last year he rowed it. One of his other friends took part in it last year and did 10km a day running for 100 days. I liked the sound of that – if I started in September when the kids were back at school, I’d be done by Christmas and can indulge myself over the festive season knowing I’d earnt it.
I discussed the challenge with an experienced running friend of mine (I say experienced, she is medal winner for Team GB no less), and she suggested that mixing up running and walking to reduce the chance of injury, so I committed myself to 1 million metres over 100 days on foot, mixing up running and walking where appropriate. And today (8th October), I am one month in and have achieved 30% of that target so far.
You’re probably wondering why this is relevant to the scope of this blog page, so let me explain. The biggest challenge for me hasn’t been the physical aspect (although I do have a purple big toe), but the time commitment. I can run a 10km in under an hour, although when you’ve been doing it several days consecutively, that sometimes is more of a struggle. Walking obviously takes considerably longer. What I have found though, is that whilst I have slightly less time to do my work, I’m more focussed and achieving more in that time. But the most important change is that I’m incorporating it into my role and making active choices about how I travel to meetings. The council offices are 2.5 km away from where I live, so a 5km round trip which is approximate 1 hour. Other than evening meetings (I don’t feel safe walking home in the dark on my own at 11pm at night), I almost exclusively walk to council meetings now, and make sure I schedule meetings that allow me the time to walk in. I did find myself in a pickle the other day when I didn’t quite have enough time, so I ended up running to the meeting. No one seemed too fussed that I was in this meeting with my sports clothes on, although someone did point out that the building had a shower I could use (they did say that they were just informing me and that I didn’t smell 😊). I walked over 13km yesterday (7th October) by attending several meetings within my ward. Rather than driving around the ward between meetings, I timed them so I could walk to each of them. I’ve also taken to having my phone with me and as I run around the area, picking up defects/issues that I can report to the council. It’s been a good way of keeping on top of what’s going on in the ward.
I still have another 70 days to go, and whilst most days I love it, there is the odd occasion I question why I’m doing this. The benefits I expected are there (the physical and mental health benefits), but the added benefit of organising myself to actively travel places and take my car off the road was one I hadn’t contemplated at the beginning of this challenge, and actually has in my mind been the biggest benefit. I hear a lot of excuses for not doing these things, and I for one have been guilty of it myself. There is a lot we can do as a council to help make active travel easier and I am working hard to push this agenda because we need to reduce congestion, air pollution and our carbon emissions. But there is so much we can already do as individuals, and one of those barriers is ourselves. For many I totally accept this won’t be possible. My husband’s commute is quite a way away and there are no public transport services that can get him there in a timely manner. However, he is getting ready to make the plunge into the second-hand electric vehicle market. We are making other conscious changes in our lifestyle that are better for our planet, but this one was kind of accidental, I guess. What I’m getting at is there’s always lots of reasons not to do something, but why not look at the things that we can do and change for the better and just go for it. This planet will thank us.