Dr Julie Carter



photo by Jessie Leong

It’s March. It’s daffodils. It’s new lambs and Easter eggs. A time of new beginnings.

Now, after a severe bout of covid which stopped me for weeks, I am struggling to restart my running. But it’s coming, slowly, and the wheeze in my lungs and the lead in my legs are gradually resolving. And last Saturday, in good faith, I joined the merry band of Park Runners for the ritual 5k out-and-back along Keswick’s old railway line. I wanted to get an objective measure of my level of fitness. Maybe I’m not as unfit as I feared—I set off in hope.

The good things about this Park Run were that I met some old friends, chatted to some strangers, and I got from the start to the end and got my measure. But it was a personal slowest time by a long way­—new beginning or the beginning of the end?

By the time I had jogged home I had run out of excuses / reasons why this could not be a truly accurate measure. I hadn’t slept well. I had eaten a banana and some yoghurt an hour beforehand. It was windy. Maybe my shoes weren’t very good. Finally, I had to accept that my time was my time, and that is the baseline pace I need to use in planning training. OK then. I’ll be a grown-up and deal with reality. I’ll work with what is, not what I wish was the case. On any journey, the first rule of navigation is to know where you are on the map. And yet… the business of dealing with life as it is, rather than how we would prefer it, is tricky. There are emotions to navigate too.


                         photo by Annabel Holmes

Last month I wrote about treating ourselves kindly, about celebrating what we can do rather than admonishing ourselves for not being good enough. If we have dreams, ambitions, and aspirations, if we are really alive to ourselves and to our experiences, then of course this does not mean living a life of passive acceptance. Sometimes it can seem as if there is a conflict between being able celebrate our experiences and at the same time wanting to broaden and extend them. It took me a long time to understand there is no contradiction here, or at least no contradiction that cannot be lived with. As I say in my book, ‘Running the Red Line’:

“When then am I satisfied with my running? The answer is always, and never.”

For me running is a practice. Like playing an instrument, like creating art, like cooking good food or growing a garden. It’s a kind of prayer. A physical act of both appreciation and a reaching out for more. It is not something which comes from a fear of failure. It comes from love, of life.

My poet guru Mary Oliver says in her famous poem ‘The Summer Day’:

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.”

Well, maybe she would have known, if she had ever done a Park Run while recovering from being ill.

why do you think it is that over

photo by Jessie Leong

Here is a wee poem from my collection ‘Is It Serious?’ I guess it’s about acceptance. At any one moment I’m not sure if I’m ever just feeling one thing. Complicated, isn’t it… real life.



                             There is a Sweetpoint in my soul where joy and sorrow meet.

                             where all is one, and one is all, successes and defeats.

                             It is the facing of my fears, it is the dewpoint of my tears

                             and after all these years and years, I stand serene to meet myself

                             at the Sweetpoint of my soul, where joy and sorrow meet.