This morning I have something special for you: a guest post by Julia Jones - triathlete and running coach. Alongside Shauna “Dietgirl” Reid, Julia created Up & Running online running courses for women. These lovely ladies invited me to be a stop on their Blog Tour this week (Yay!). You also have the chance to win a great prize - so read on...
Today Julia is talking about rocking into her fifties with a splash:
My birthday has always been a special day for me. Better than Christmas, better than Easter, better than summer vacations. Some of my favorite childhood memories are from birthdays - the special birthday breakfast, the phone calls, the extra nice treatment and the evening birthday celebration. As I’ve got older I’ve kept my birthday as my special day. Sometimes it’s friends and a dinner party, other years just me at a day spa. When the big 5-0 came up a few years ago I wanted to make it truly special.
Physically, approaching fifty felt great. I’d kept fit with running, triathlons and a regular yoga practice. Emotionally I was a little apprehensive. I didn’t feel “old” - I actually was loving life more than ever - but the years from forty to fifty had gone in a flash. I decided to give myself some natural therapy and do something unforgettable for this birthday. Something exciting, something thrilling; something that I could look back on a say “Wow, you did that at fifty!”.
It had to involve physical activity, for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to give myself the message of being in wonderful shape. Secondly, I knew that when sport is involved, emotions are too. I wanted to have positive thoughts and feelings whenever I recalled the moment I began the second phase of my life. I wanted to stretch my limits a little, but not so much that I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Out of the blue I came up with the idea: swimming the Messina Straits, from Sicily to Calabria.
I knew they held a race there every year but when I went to sign up it sold out within fifteen minutes. Then I heard about a group that would simply do the crossing with a special permit from the harbor captain and a boat to assist swimmers. I sent my enrollment in, booked a hotel and began to train.
3.5 kilometres separates Messina, Sicily from the Villa San Giovanni Beach on Italy’s mainland. During my months of training I imagined the distance between “Scylla and Charybdis” to be something out of a Greek painting. In reality there was a strong current, but with proper instructions to swim north, I couldn’t wait to dive in!
There were forty swimmers and we were divided into groups of three with a boat following each group. My two swimming companions and I, Matteo and Lorenzo, were told to stay together and use the boat for assistance if needed. I wasn’t nervous but I had those racing butterflies in my stomach. I dove into the water and started swimming and after a few hundred metres knew that I would make it over to the other side.
I tried to focus on the boats ahead of us and occasionally I’d give a look to where my two companions were. I stopped and waited for them every once in awhile, I didn’t want to swim alone. I tried to “look” under the water but I could only spot a few crustaceans and some small fish so I focused on the intense blue tones layered in the depths of the water. In some moments I concentrated on the feelings of pleasure, the gratitude I had for being in this clean water and the wonders of this planet. Then before I knew it I was only two hundred metres from the beach. While my other companions raced to the finish, I slowed down to savor the moment, sad that it was coming to an end.
Nobody put a medal around my neck when I arrived. My husband, who had followed me on the boat, gave me a kiss and just said “good job”. †But I have powerful memories of fifty years celebrated as a precious gift and it’s how I’ve celebrated my birthday ever since. Fifty-one had me finishing my first Half Ironman. Fifty-two will be a return to marathon training. Every year is still a reason for celebration, just as it’s always been.
Want to give yourself an early (or late!) birthday present? Join one of Up & Running’s next e-courses, starting on 3 September. To win a place on the course of your choice, simply leave a comment below! Entries close on Tuesday 27 August at 5PM AEST and the winner be drawn at random.
Julia after her epic swim.
Julia Jones lives in Italy and is coach at Up & Running. They offer e-courses for super-new and seasoned runners tackling 5K, 10K and half-marathon runs with expert coaching, awesome training plans and vibrant community support. Julia has rocked 33 marathons, 2 half Ironmans and numerous triathlons and is a columnist in Italy’s most popular running magazine.
Thanks, Julia! An inspiring "fit at fifty" story is something close to my own heart. :)
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