HEY – IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME! I haven’t written a blog this year – mainly because I kinda use my Instagram / Facebook to write. I will try and do more on here in 2022 though because I love writing and people keep messaging me to say they’re into it too. People are nice.
I was going to do an end of year post anyway, but Paul from Vegan Runners UK asked me to write about my year of running for the club newsletter. I thought that instead of relaying a reel of run related experiences and achievements, that I would write about how grief has affected my running this year. After all, this was the sad cloud hanging over my head – no point denying it and pretending everything was rosy for the internet.
It hasn’t been a bad year – kind of a numb one really. I do feel that the glistening spark of enthusiasm is coming back to my eyes slowly but surely. I generally feel pretty happy right now – and I am all for feeling things, whether that’s sadness too – rather than being a numbfuck. Other than running, it has been fun to start playing music again with Domb (singer from Pickled Dick / Mike TV). I also feel grateful to resume college as I continue to train as a counsellor. Let’s not forget that it has been a weird year in terms of coming out of the social COVID cocoon with the latest threats of heading back towards it. I also turned 30 plus 10 – which was quite the milestone.
Overall – I really need to thank friends and certain family members for being so supportive and kind this year. They say that friends are like family you choose, and that has really resonated with me this year. Thank you, friends. You know who you are and I love you. I’ve also learnt I need to put myself first a bit more and in 2022, I will be aiming to do that as well as more self-care! All part of the process to improve my self-worth and actually love myself a bit more.
Right… that’s the intro done, here’s what I wrote for Vegan Runners complete with references to the club. Obvs trigger warns regarding death & grief. Feel free to leave a comment, I appreciate them. It was written just before Xmas.
RUNNING THROUGH GRIEF!
If you’re not feeling up to reading about my experiences of running through grief and you want to keep it festive, then I would advise skipping this… it’s heavier than listening to Slayer whilst deadlifting 500kg of weights made from only the biggest emotions available. I can also promise when you finish this piece that the skies will rain mince pies down on you, Elf will be dancing in your front room and your hair will be made from mistletoe. Christmas will have truly started! When Paul from VR asked me to write something for my lovely vegan massive, I could’ve just written a banal list of my general running and ups and downs throughout the year – but I would be masquerading the real truth behind my year of running and not being an authentic version of myself.
Let’s start at the start – my name Is Jhon Cosgrove. I’ve been a VR since 2017 which is when I also started running. I fell in love with running immediately and being a part of this club made it all the more special. I loved going to meet ups and meeting like-minded, lovely vegans, from all over the country who wanted to go for a run and have a laugh after. I’ve met lifelong friends, girlfriends and Mike Harper through this club and it holds a special place in my heart… right next to the bit that loves Mike Harper and nutritional yeast.
When I first started running – I got relatively quick after a few months and did the fairly normal thing of chasing PBs while trying to validate my existence through the special feeling of self-worth that only a running PB can give you. I was also aware that running of course improved my mental health and I loved being a part of such a special community. There’s always ups and downs with it – success / failure, injury, motivation and testicular chaffing. When we approached the start of 2020 and we went into our first lockdown, I used my running to keep me sane while exploring pretty much every path in and around the East Hampshire town of Petersfield.
In August, 2020, my mum was diagnosed with cancer. Running took a backseat and it became my self-care tool in between trips to the hospital. Sadly, she died in the October and the ensuing months of the year were pretty gross – but running kept me grounded as well as being able to meet up with people and talk through it. I did a very special 34 mile charity run at the end of that year to the hospital where she died, and friends like Mike Harper (big fan) came and joined me. Cue the start of this year – if 2020 was the year of running through death, then 2021 was the year of running through grief. It almost feels like a lifetime ago – wrapped up in the grossest grief, as well as a blanket, as I lay on my living room floor during a very isolating lockdown, watching constant films and ingesting the scent of any poncy candle I could find in a supermarket.
I got myself a run coach (thanks Jo) and the plan was to get super-fit, smash some PBs, get ready for when lockdown was lifted and we could race again. I love racing! I love the uncomfortable pressure, I love meeting new runners and leaving my all out on the course. Usually it’s literally my all, as the aforementioned testicle dangles down from a pair of run shorts that would be a belt on most people. I worked super hard for the first 6 months of the year but couldn’t shake off a massive pain in the arse… something was holding me back. I could just about do an interval session but every time I raced, my arse and left leg would cramp and stop me from going all out. It may’ve been a weak cheek but sometimes I felt like my unresolved grief was holding me back and telling me to sort that before I could put all my effort into racing again. Mental and physical pain go hand in hand or in this case – hand in arse. I was grief’s hollow puppet.
The Summer came – I did a really fun trail HM and concentrated on rejuvenating trails, yoga and strength work to sort out my arsey-ailment. It worked and by September, the shackles had been lifted and I could race again. Nowhere near those coveted PBs but I didn’t care. It was so liberating to be able to run hard again and start reppin’ the green and back at parkrun. I entered a local HM in Nov and my first ultra-marathon in December. TBH I haven’t felt myself all year and with hindsight, I did the classic thing of putting subconscious pressure on myself to succeed and run times. I totally bombed in the HM, I was drained from all the deep emotions of the year and ended up jogging half of it. My favourite race of the year was the ultra – I spent 5 hours running through some woods eating PB & Jam sarnies while drinking coke. What a day!
What would I do different? The grief held me back all year from achieving what I thought I wanted to. It’s not an excuse because I did all the training but when it came to it, I just didn’t care enough to have that little spark in my head that I needed to push myself to my limits. With hindsight the sadness from pushing my emotions to the limits through the year prevented me from pushing myself to my limits while running. Maybe I could use the Vegan Runners teleportation device to go back in time, and tell myself to relax, be kinder to myself and just go and enjoy my running. Which is what I am gonna do next year! And I will keep wearing my VR shirt, I will keep telling people I am a vegan and I will keep talking about this grief that’ll always be with me. When the time is right – I will channel it towards those PBs but in the meantime, it’s all about self-love and kindness. It only took me 15 months and a whole bunch of counselling to sort that out.
If you’ve been through a similar experience and this resonates with you – I hear and see you. Let’s have a hug at that next meet up. If you do have to go through something similar, I’d love it if you’d learn from my experience and just be nice to yourself. Keep running, keep talking and keep being vegan. All the good stuff. I use my Instagram @pickledjhon to write about stuff like this all the time – so HMU and let’s share the darkness to help the light shine again.
Happy Holidays to all the VR massive – make sure you eat the sprouts as you’ll get a wind-assisted PB the next morning.
I love running and I love my mum.
2022 – be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you. Whatever happens I’ll be running through something.