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Running and Race

This post takes an uncomfortable but important turn so please stick with me even if you couldn’t care less about my running ?

There has always been a desire in me to run but since I was a kid I was always just a sprinter; anything more than the 100m on sports day would fill me first with dread and then with pain!
At uni I tried again to run for fitness and stress relief but was only met with knee and back ache around the 3km mark. I resigned to not being a runner, accepting I didn’t have the body for it. 
But then lock down happened and I was challenged to the ‘donate 5, run 5, tag 5’ and it re-ignited a spark in me. I couldn’t climb due to the restrictions so running (and cycling) became my medicine.

I have developed a very different relationship with running compared to climbing. For me climbing is unique, it’s more of a meditation, I don’t think – it’s all encompassing. Running makes me feel amazing but it allows me time to think. After gently building up from 5k over the last few months, last week I started doing longer distances. Maybe I just needed the time and space to think as my previous 7k longest run suddenly turned into 17km and today I ran my first half marathon. 21km of beautiful scenery across the Moors and just under 2hrs of therapeutic thinking time! 

This month has brought up some really challenging subjects for me ponder on.
LGBTQ+ month began with sharing my article about falling in love with Hannah with my Volume 1 community. Then the death of George Floyd hit us all and I had an uncomfortable, embarrassing realisation that my sheltered, white, privileged background has had the same effect on me regarding race as it did same sex relationships and ableism.

It’s hard to see things that we are not exposed to or educated in until it slaps us in the face. Well, at least that is the case for me and how my rather narrow, focused mind works.
I’m not proud but I’m also not scared to speak out as it needs to be said – I have never considered myself or my upbringing racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist… anything ‘ist’ but sheltered and uneducated, yes! 
I was bought up in a farming family in the country side, went to small private schools and did a degree where ethnic minorities were not only just under represented but not present! Now I am immersed in the world of climbing which is exactly the same… I was saddened to realise this week that I know just 5 black people in the climbing community. This is something we are passionately addressing at Volume 1 Climbing (www.volume1climbing.co.uk)

I didn’t know I could fall in love with a woman because I didn’t know anyone else in my position who had.
I didn’t know how prominent ableism was because I had never spoken in depth with someone who lives a life that is disabled by societies barriers.
AND I didn’t know I was racist because I wasn’t taught what racism really was and I didn’t spend time with black people to hear their stories.

Discrimination is not something I consciously saw before I started working with the Paraclimbing team and met Hannah. Now people double take every time I walk down the street holding her hand as she wheels her chair … BUT I know NOTHING of the life times of discrimination and growing up in a minority group. I am on the first step of a steep learning curve and I am willing to learn and open my mind to a world of things I don’t know enough about! I should have been taught these subjects along long time ago but I’m so grateful for experiencing it at an age where I can process and understand why people judge and don’t understand. The damage caused at a more vulnerable age can ruin lives and we must be aware of that.
Education is key – in every school and every avenue of life.

Learning to run further has reminded me of my potential for growth. We should not label ourselves or put limitations on our ability to change, adapt and learn! Our minds, bodies and souls are ever adapting and have endless potential for growth. Let it all in and ultimately be kind to everyone, including yourself! 
We are all in this together.

Vulnerability

Put yourself out there and don't be afraid to fail

I’m not sleeping as much as I need to at the moment and I now know that’s a sign things are bubbling up in me that I need to write down and eventually share. A middle of the night splurge of my thoughts was always imminent and now feels like the time to share.


This brain fart of mine spreads broadly, and is stinky and uncomfortable; including topics ranging from vulnerability to neuroplasticity. Things that I didn’t even know I knew and certainly didn’t (and still don’t) really understand at all. These subjects I talk about have been trickling out in my life for the last few years through my exposure to vulnerable, scary situations. I’ve never quite known why I do some of the things I do, why I put my self out there is such an exposing way- I’ve always just followed my heart and my gut. Yes this is scary, stressful and leaves me vulnerable to judgement, discomfort and potential failure…. BUT it also opens doors for unity, learning and fundamentally true happiness.


I first listened to Brene Brown’s Ted X Talk on Vulnerability a while back and it really resonated with me but last weekend (whilst driving to Font on a compete whim) I found a podcast of her talking to Oprah Winfrey and had even more profound ‘Ah Hah!’ moments. This next level of resonance was because it came at a time I was ready and needed to hear it. 


Firstly why was I driving to Font on a whim? Well bottom line- you only live once and “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” (Elbert Hubbard).
Things change all the time and what you do with that change is what defines how it influences your life. A swift change in my weekend due to a cancellation meant I was left with a very rare two days off in a row so Hannah and I decided to escape the rain and find summer again in Font, even if just for a day. We were not disappointed. 
For various reasons that I won’t bore with you with, I started driving to Font feeling sick to the stomach with stress, worry and uncertainty BUT I drove home a day later feeling alive and ready to fight again!



“The last freedom we have is to chose the meaning of our circumstance” 

This is one of my favourite quotes of all time and I’ve probably shared it in previous ramblings but it’s a game changer for me and worth saying again. I can choose the meaning of my circumstances- I can’t choose how I feel or my gut reaction but I can choose to not act on my angry- I can choose not to act with hate towards someone- I can choose to act with empathy and kindness. It’s not easy and yes it’s scary because it’s vulnerable to let down your guard but I believe it’s the only way to truly be happy. 


I’ve not really experienced many negatives yet but I know being a business person (especially a business woman) is scary- it’s exposing and there is fear of the unknown, people’s judgement, others in your industry watching, waiting for you to fail. But I know those people are very few and far between and ultimately any one with negative feelings towards my endeavours are just reflecting their own experiences and insecurities- it’s actually nothing to do with me. So I keep pushing forward, keep putting myself out there and accept that to live the full, exciting life I want to live I’m going to get some scars on the way… but hey why the hell not! 


Lastly a word to those also putting themselves out there and feeling like they are banging their heads against a brick wall, getting nowhere and fighting through resistance and self doubt… it’s going to be ok. The haters are going to hate but they are just afraid and reflecting their own insecurities on you. Its hard to not feel resentment back but I don’t think that makes those ‘haters’ bad people they are just struggling too.
Everyone is different, no one is perfect but we all have feelings and we are just doing our best to survive and protect the people we love. 
I find it hard to believe anyone is inherently bad or deep down wants to hurt others (maybe some are dangerous and they need to be in prison to protect others) but are we not just a product of what we have been exposed to in our lives? How we perceive the world and any given experience is based on our prior knowledge and experience. If we can see the world through each other’s eyes or at least try to be empathetic to each other’s feelings it’s allot easier to be kind and patient. Because fundamentally we only bring hurt and anger on ourselves if we chose to respond and act with hurt and anger. If we chose to be kind, loving, grateful and empathetic those positive feelings will eventually fill our lives. 


I’m am not saying by any stretch of the imagination I have nailed this because I am far far from it. But the more I think about it and the more I share it the stronger it becomes. Yes sharing this is scary and I am opening up to the world for criticism; there will be people with far greater knowledge than my ‘brain fart’ on this subject that might snigger at me or think I’m naive but I don’t care- this helps me and sharing it might just help someone else too.


If you got here, thank you for reading till the end. Like I used to, this time I am not going to apologise for rambling on for so long because I’m not sorry ?

Honesty is the best policy…..

For once this is not a post about climbing….but love ? 
 
I’m writing this for many reasons, but above all I want to share my story in hope it will help or resonate with even just one person. I’m happy and I’m not afraid to be honest and share my story.
 
Last year I began a journey that I didn’t plan and never thought I’d go on; the hardest, most confusing but in the end most rewarding and happy experience of my life.
 
Until October last year my life was all lined out in front of me- to settle down with my boy friend and live the life I thought I wanted.
 
I think what happened has actually shocked me more than anyone else…I fell for a girl!
 
I’ve learnt a valuable lesson and if I’m honest, I now realise how naive I was. It is possible for anyone to fall in love with anyone, of any gender and if you follow your heart the truth can bring the truest happiness. In the words of Beyoncé “True love never has to hide”. Love is love. Am I gay, am I bisexual or have I just fallen in love with a girl- not even I know and it really doesn’t matter, I don’t need a label, I’m still just Be! 
 
Believe me I tried everything to override my feelings and convince myself this wasn’t more than a friendship; we’ve both been in denial for months, lying to ourselves out of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of rejection and fear of the truth affecting our careers. 
 
To keep everything above board and professional the GB team psychologist was informed and involved from the start and she has been completely comfortable with how our relationship organically developed. It would be easier to carry on as we are, with only those who need to know involved, because really it shouldn’t matter, our personal lives are no one else’s business.  But now rumors are beginning to spread about our relationship we feel honesty is the best policy and our openness may actually help people. Whether or not we’re ready to share this yet, we’re not ashamed and our climbing community is so small we would rather tell the facts than allow speculation.
When we’re working together or with the GB team we are professionals; we don’t and will never let our relationship affect either of our careers. The other GB team coach has known since the start and has taken primary care of Hannah during team training / events and makes the decisions regarding her position on the team. The BMC (the organisation that run the GB team) acknowledge it as a private, adult relationship with no negative implications. 
 
 Falling in love with a woman was not part of my plan…falling in love with a member of my paraclimbing team was absolutely not part of my plan! I’ve had to dig real deep, go through hell and say good bye to the life I had to understand the truth. I didn’t have a choice- Hannah and I just clicked- once I had time on my own I realised what my feelings were. Having Hannah in my life has completed me, she allows me to be me, something that for all I know a man could never do and she means the world to me. I’ve always been a happy person but I never knew it was possible to feel this comfortable. 
 
So I’ve accepted the next part of my journey is telling you guys (most of whom really won’t care- I’m no Tom Daley ?!) because I’ve learn’t a few key things that I hope will help someone else go through this journey with a little less stress!
 
Firstly, no one really cares, not in the negative, judgmental way you expect, they just care hugely that you are happy; our friends and family still love us and fundamentally nothing’s changed. 
Most importantly no matter what you’re told, what society suggests or what you are led to believe, if you learn to listen to your heart and feelings you can find true happiness.
 
Last year a very wise man told me something that changed my life- “feelings always beat thoughts, don’t fool yourself.” He also taught me the wonders and benefits of meditation.
Once I learnt to listen to my feelings I was able to override my thoughts (that constant noise and chatter in our heads created by society, upbringing, opinions, schooling, church etc.) and experience true happiness. 
I’m no master but with a busy brain and life like mine sitting in silence for 5-10 minutes a day meditating may have saved me! Climbing is also a meditation for me, a time and place where I can be myself, clear my mind and just feel and enjoy the flow. 
 
My hope is that my openness around this subject will help climbers and many more to free their minds and find happiness and peace in themselves. This is also the intention of my charity ‘Climbing Out of Depression’ which will soon be offering support at as many walls as possible around the country. 
 
At the end of the day being happy is all that matters, we’ve only got one life and love conquers all! 
 
Thank you for reading.
 
Best wishes,
 
Be (and Hannah)
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