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RUNNING THROUGH GRIEF

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.

Running down a hill in Durford Woods – photo by Phil Hill

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.

One of my favourite friends is Oliver – he is just so nice, I want to hold him in my arms and kiss his head all day.

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.

Olympdick. Dorney HM – had to stop about 10 times to stretch my leg. Always get a good pic though!

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.

I think I’ve gone a little crazy from running around Longmoor! Photo by Susie Chan (another amazing friend this year)

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.

Struggling at the PB5k at the start of the year – I still showed up though!

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.

Did I mention I ran an ultra this year? Photo by David Miller !

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.

Hogmoor parkrun on Xmas Day – pic by Sheena Booker

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IT’S BEEN A TOUGH FEW MONTHS!

I haven’t written an entry on this blog since the end of June, 2020. Looking back on it, my main concerns then seemed to be when we would be getting races back. Little did I know what was in store for me and my family over the coming months. LOL. WARNING – this blog will contain A LOT of emotional triggers.

West Wittering December 2020 – photo by Phi Hill.

Back in June, it felt like things were getting a bit more positive re the COVID doom. Things were opening up, the sun was shining and I was also running pretty well! I was in PB running shape – I ran the 21 mile Hangers Way with my friends Dan and Oliver and I’d even been to the pub for a pint. All the posi vibes went out the window when my lovely little mum was diagnosed with cancer. To add even more darkness to an already pitch black situation – all the lockdown miles caught up with me and I got plantar fasciitis in my right foot. Obvs mum’s diagnosis was the worst thing but when you use running as a coping mechanism, it wasn’t an ideal situation and another worry on top of everything.

Little walk with Big Fran around The Heath. A day I will always treasure.

Mum’s illness took centre stage of course. I was very lucky to be able to spend lots of time with her. I took her to the hospital (along with my brother) and enjoyed our chats in my van as we coasted to the coast. She was getting radio / chemo at QA Hospital in Portsmouth and when she was in there, I sat in the back of my van working and stretching my foot. To cut a short story even shorter – mum died of cervical cancer on October 3rd. She’d only been diagnosed in July and everything happened super quick. Of course my family and I were super sad. It was such an emotional time. I’ll never forget the hug she gave me after the first lockdown ended – she burst into tears on her doorstep and said to me, “Jhonny, I just want to give you a hug.” It was my favourite ever hug. I am crying while I write this. I keep having dreams about hugging her which are simultaneously strangely satisfying and disturbing in equal measures.

Mum emailed me this a few weeks before she died. I am on the right.

I guess I have always had issues with death. It is a taboo of western society for sure and something that I never really talked about with my family when I was young. I knew that one day my parents would die. but I guess it’s not something we want to think about on a daily basis is it? My friend Steve died a few years back – and that was the last time I cried before mum got ill. Needless to say, I’ve been pissing out the tears ever since. Mum dying has improved my relationship with death. She never complained even when she was feeling terrible – and I love that about her, even though she had every right to. I guess I am lucky that I got to say everything to her that I wanted and I know she loved me, and she knew I loved her. We looked exactly the same for fucks sake – two fluffy doppelgängers. I feel like I have lost the most important part of my support network as well as a little bit of me… I kinda feel like a big bag of raw emotions that has been squeezed into a brick and then every time I feel sad, it’s like someone is picking up the brick and trying to grate it on a grater made from sadness. The tears have made the grater rusty and it’s getting harder to grate. Great!

Liss Runners summer trail run – showing off is infectious.

I am so lucky to have so many lovely friends, family and even internet acquaintances that helped me through this. Thank you all so much! I am always here for you, you know this. I owe you and I love you. I was also very lucky to have done a counselling course in the last year which helped me process stuff, as well as receiving grief counselling from MacMillan. What a brilliant service! I am still having a weekly chat with a lovely lady for an hour. I sit on my bed and cry and she says nice things. It’s like a dummy for my brain. It’s been particularly hard having to sort all mum’s life admin, her funeral as well as look after my dad – again, things you never think you’ll have to until they happen. Thank fuck for the counselling.

Breaking up the running pics with the two best boys – Jeff & Frenzal. Both total twats!

To celebrate mum’s life, I always knew I would do some sort of exercise based charitable event. When she was in hospital, I spoke to a nurse on the Oncology Ward who said they needed funds for things like exercise bikes to help the patients exercise safely during these COVD times. I decided on Christmas Eve, which would’ve been mum’s 69th birthday – to run to the hospital and back from where I live. It was 34 miles and of course I had done no specific training. I set up a fundraising page and I am overwhelmed to say it raised close to £9000 with nearly £1800 of Gift Aid as well. I am sure the Oncology Ward will put the funds to good use. I am so grateful to everyone who ran with me or supported the event – it really helped me channel my grief towards something positive and to honour my mum. You can check out a video from the day here. I will never forget my friend, Dan, playing ‘Happy Birthday’ to my mum on the bagpipes on the top of Portsdown Hill – what an emotional moment.

Just some of the amazing runners who supported me on the run to the hospital (and back). Don’t let me do the route!

To compound the 2020 clusterfuck, I am also sad to say that Rowena and I broke up. She had her reasons (damn Specsavers opening up again) and we weren’t helped by lockdown life and both losing a parent last year. It was hard for us to support each other. When her dad died early in the year, I guess I blocked some of it out due to my own aforementioned issues with death. It was also super-hard as we were in lockdown and there was nothing to do and only each other to show off to. Mum got ill and Rowena was so lovely to her, I will never forget our last trip to The Heath in Petersfield and the fun we had. Losing Row was another big loss in terms of relationship / support network and one I am still probably processing but after the loss of my mum, I guess I took it on the chin and chalked it up to being another casualty of 2020. Get that brick on the grater!

Doing some trail running even though I am a bit shit at it.

I reckon I should talk about running for a bit, eh? My plantar fasciitis got better (mainly due to wearing a night-sock which looks like a bondage party for one) and I could run a bit more. I built up slowly and enjoyed training with my Longmoor Squad boys as well as running with so many lovely mates and chatting about all things life. I was lucky to be able to do a couple of races in December. The Goodwood HM – I didn’t race properly but I turned up and ran well and enjoyed it, and after the tribulations of the year – that’s all I wanted. I also got to run at the PB5k where I ran exactly 18 mins. I would’ve been a few seconds quicker if I hadn’t shown off for every camera and been so excited about running fast again.

Ardingly 5k in September. I realised I need to put some effort in right near the end.

I have to thank the Running Punks Community (especially Jimmy, Rhodri & Jon) for all their support. They sent me cool kit and the best fucking flowers when my mum died. I now know I like lilies – especially the smell! Also, HOKA ONE ONE (Joe Wade is a superstar) for having me on their Racer Program and sending me all the best shoes and kit to support my running. I am much better off for having all these people in my life, so thank you. Last but not least my Longmoor Squadron who I’ve trained with for the last few months in lieu of races.

Doing more great showing off at Goodwood HM. I was the first person home in a cotton tie-dye shirt!

I managed to run 2612 miles in 2020 (plus a few hundred on the bike) and in 2021 I am going to step it up in terms of better training. In a week, I start working with Jo Wilkinson (not the comedian, Andy) who is going to coach me so I can actually aim for some PBs. I learnt in 2020 that running isn’t all about PBs… I knew it was there for my mental health as well but now I know I can enjoy it just for getting out the door and it being like a good friend. Always there for me but not one I need to rely on for happiness – I can rely on myself for that. Having a coach will hopefully reign in my tendencies to overtrain, help me focus and also that word beginning in a which I have forgotten but will hopefully remember at some point. ACCOUNTABILITY. Got there. I am also working a lot more on my strength work to support running faster.

Running is all about the people you run with and DDP is just the best guy. And great at the bagpipes!

FUCK! This has been a long post hasn’t it? Did you make it to the end? Well done. If you did, you can listen to my Running Punks Playlist as a reward. It’s really good and not really that punk. Or maybe it is. Let’s hope the next time I write a post, that 1) It’s not so long and 2) It’s not called ‘It’s been a tough few months.’ Ironically I know it’s going to be a tough few months with lockdown and especially babysitting my dad (read this for context) but I am up for the challenge and I actually feel in a much better place than I was this time last year. Life’s much more than races, I understand myself more, why I am like I am and when COVID eventually fucks off, I am going to hug the fuck out of you all. Something we can all look forward to, eh?!

Festive Longmoor Squadron

Did I mention you should really listen to my Running Punks playlist? It’s the perfect companion for running to get your vaccine and one step closer to a hug from me.

Gonna make a splash in the running world in 2021! Even if its in puddles of my own piss. Photo – Phil Hill.

Gonna sign off now and just say – Mum I love you and I miss you.

Took Mum out for Xmas dinner in 2018 – this photo always makes me cry. Look how gawjus she is.



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RUNNING THROUGH LOCKDOWN

It’s been over two months since my last blog post – that was all about running a garden marathon but to be honest – it feels like bloody years ago! It’s taken a trip to the vets for Frenzal (my dog who is convalescing from a minor op, he’s drowsy AF and I wanna keep an eye on him) for me to sit down and start typing some word sperm for you all soak up through your eyes.

Photo by my lovely friend, Oliver Herdsman. Sorry I don’t know when your birthday is.

This time has given me time to reflect on the whole lockdown period we’ve been going through. As I type, we’re currently at Defcon 3 and the U.K (well England at least) feels like it’s moving away from the stricter lockdown we’ve experienced over the last few months. No idea if that’s the right idea, I am not a scientist – just another internet turd with an opinion. Although, I feel this blog is more about feelings than opinions. Someone once told me, “opinions are like arseholes, everyone’s got one” and the same can be said about feelings – but sometimes it’s easier to share your opinions out of your arsehole rather than your feelings out of your mouth. I think they call the former – Twitter. That wasn’t an opinion, it was a joke.

Another 5k TT – another poser on his doorstep.

LOCKDOWN EH! Feelings wise, looking back on it – fuck me, did my head feel like I was in a tiny little brain bubble. Before I write this, I realise I am EXTREMELY privileged – I live in a lovely cottage with a garden and my family were all safe and shielded from the cruel impact of COVID. That doesn’t mean to say that it’s wrong to still feel a bit shite sometimes. I’ve worked hard the last few years about pushing myself to leave my brain-bubble and try and genuinely connect with people a bit better. Obvs COVID brought this to an end, with the only way to connect to people was by waving a nipple at them on Zoom. I definitely value freedom, and even though we could still run (thank fuck), looking back – the world went from feeling unlimited to existing in the palm of my hand. Not a wanking joke.

Trails for days – especially Ashford Hangers!
Anyone else like the curves on a field? Definitely field-sexual these days.

I was also extremely privileged to be able to WFH, do my college course online, live with Row and Frenzal and have enough money for lockdown bagel-orgies as well as my health. It’s really interesting to look back even a couple of months and think how I felt, and how I feel now. I feel much better – how about you? I hope that by the next blog I write things in the world in terms of COVID will be in a better place, again I am just being positive, I am not a scientist. I think we have to *try* and be positive going forward (while respecting others’ feelings) and get out of our lockdown brain-bubbles (I’ve been calling it bomb-shelter culture) but again I appreciate this isn’t for everyone – especially people who have had the virus, had a loved one die, or who are worried about getting it. I understand your worries and I genuinely hope that one day soon you’ll be able to live in a world free of fear.

Not even the stupidest thing I bought in lockdown – anyone else buy pegs online?

This is the fifth paragraph and I haven’t even really talked about my running yet. It’s almost like there’s been more important things happening. I have to say again, we have been so lucky that we could run all through our lockdown. Running through lockdown has been a fucking godsend. Looking back again, my training has been:

Pre-lockdown – Training hard for HM races
Into lockdown – Fuck it, I will run a garden marathon
Phase 1 – Explore, explore, explore – trails and Strava Routes galore.
Phase 2 – Fed up of exploring and following a line on my watch, challenge me!
Phase 2.5 – Centurion Community – 100 mile week / 5k TTs
Phase 3 – I CAN RUN WITH MY FRIENDIES AGAIN
Phase 3.5 – Speedwork with mates is so much more fun than on my own

Phase 4- Finally bought some Aftershokz headphones and have been LOVIN’ running to punk rock. Never ran with music before and it’s a whole new world of motivation.
Phase 5 – Who knows what is next but prob more TTs until we can race again! Who cares, I am having fun.

Working hard on a 5k TT – you have to earn that gurn.

I am sure most of the running community went through similar feelings. The Centurion Community event to run 100 miles in a week – was a great challenge! It was my first attempt at running a 100 mile week, and without a lockdown – I would never have even attempted it. Kudos to Centurion Running for organising a brilliant event that came along as the perfect time.

A real race number! Oh my lord!
Last run of the 100 mile week – an unplanned 10k and art attack!

Again, without lockdown – I wouldn’t have spent hours boring Row to death about a new route I worked out on Strava. She knew when I’d found one because she’d hear the dull thud of my skinstick poking my laptop. I’ve also done a couple of 5k TTs recently – did a 17:35 and a 17:52. Happy with those considering they were on my own and I buzz from running with people. Hopefully someone can drag me along to a sub 17 at some point this year – I will keep going with the speedwork until this happens! I wasn’t sure whether doing speedwork / TT without an actual race would be fun BUT I still get the same positive feeling from running my best / as fast as I can.

Hooray for running with friends – friends who are faster than me!

Mileage wise I did 230 miles in March, 228 in April, then 296 in May (biggest ever but there was no way I was going to run 4 more miles to hit 300, haha) and we’re now cruising through June. My plan this year was to be consistent (100 mile week challenges aside) and not compare myself to others. I am happy to report back, both are being successfully kept to. What’s next for running? And the answer is – who fucking knows. I sure don’t. I am going to keep running, keep my consistency, keep smashing my speedwork with my mates (big up the Longmoor Training Squad) and keep strengthening my body. Maybe we will see some races / parkrun before the end of the year? Maybe not. I am taking each day and each small win as they come. Now my win is to be able to train with my mates and show them my balls through my tiny shorts.

Oliver likes to keep his balls hidden.

That’s running done! Obvs there’s lots more going on in the world… and straight out of semi-lockdown we had the despicable murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests. This whole thing made me realise more about my white privilege and how lucky I am to be a white man in this world. The murder of Ahmaud Arbery while running also highlighted this – imagine going for a run and not coming back home just because of your skin colour? And also – what is it with people beeping at females when they run? I keep seeing it on Strava and this regularly happens to Row. I am lucky and I’ll never know how it feels to be treated unfairly because of my skin colour or gender. Everyone has their opinions and you’re prob fed up of people telling you what to do on social media. Ultimately there is only one opinion – racism is wrong and we need to fuck it off forever. I am educating myself so I can be a better person and to help others who haven’t had the joys of being surrounded in a social echo-chamber of beautiful, non-racist, liberal people to educate them. Read more here.

If there’s a good thing to come out this lockdown, it’s this sexy’tache.

Last but not least – massive shout out to HOKA for all my running shoes. Currently still loving and rotating the Clifton 6, the Elevon 2, the Rincon, Carbon X (all road) and Speedgoat 4 and Torrent for trails. I’d also like to encourage you all to follow Running Punks on Instagram – it’s a great community for like-minded positive-vibed runners / music fans. Go check it out.

Proof of said 100 mile week.

I think at the beginning of this blog, I said something about not sharing opinions. And I haven’t. All of the above is stone-cold fact-gold. Feel free to leave a comment (I’d love that) and hit me up on the links below.

Lots of vegan love,

Jhon xo

Instagram
Strava

Ultra running vegan legend, Harry Jones, posted this cool vid from Cardiff HM last year! Check me out at 7 mins
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