Everyone who runs has their own story about how and why they got into running. Some are naturally gifted and/or have been doing it since childhood, but for plenty of others it doesn’t come naturally, it’s a struggle to begin with, but they soon get ‘the bug’.
For me it was the latter. I was never athletically minded through childhood really. Sure, I was fit as a kid, growing up in a village with not a lot to do other than climb trees, ride bikes, go for long walks or just generally playing outside saw to that! after leaving school and going into adulthood though I never took part in any kind of activities to keep me fit.
In 2013 my best friend’s husband passed away, having suffered with a long term, rare, heart condition. My friend wanted to do something in his memory to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation, something adventurous. We set our sights on taking part in a BHF organised event the following July, Yorkshire 3 Peaks. 24 miles, 5,200ft of ascent taking on the peaks of Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, in under 12 hours!
And so, begins the story of how I started running…
I knew I would have to do something to get myself to a level of fitness where I could realistically complete this challenge and I decided that running would be a good place to start. I started off with a one-mile loop and on my first time out realised I had drastically underestimated how unfit I was! It was a struggle, I had to stop to walk several times and felt so sick by the time I’d finished.
Note the time of day that I ran, 3:12am! I did this because I was so self-conscious and didn’t want other people to see the state of me while I was running. I worked 6am-2pm at the time, so went for my run before work. I know lots of people worry about what others will think, when starting out. As it turns out, exercising early in the morning works well for me anyway, but now I care less about what other people think, and wish I hadn’t been worried about it back then either. At least I was getting up and doing something, something that was the start of a much healthier lifestyle.
I had no friends who were into running or fitness in any capacity at the time, and if couch to 5k was a thing back then I didn’t know about it, so had to find my own way.
I kept going with my one-mile loop, setting myself targets around the loop for where I wanted to get to before allowing myself a walk. Once the mile loop started feeling more comfortable I slowly started increasing the distance I ran. I’d heard about Parkrun and thought this would be a great thing to do to get me used to running with other people around me, but I didn’t want to be last (a feeling I have no doubt lots of people have when they first get into running). I had no idea of whether I was fast or slow in comparison to other people, so decided I wouldn’t attempt Parkrun until I knew I could do the distance in under 30 minutes.
My first parkrun was on 8 Feb 2014 and I completed it in 31:17. My local Parkrun is mostly on grass and I had only been road running. I had no idea how much more difficult running on grass would feel and was back to feeling sick when I finished. But, that didn’t put me off.
At some point my friend and I decided it would be a great idea to take our dogs on our adventure with us, so I started taking Hathor out on my runs with me (not a great idea with a dog who is very excitable and has never been taken out running on a lead before). She was great company and actually made me feel a bit safer about running before dawn.
My friend and I took the dogs out on some long hilly walks to get trained up too. We also went up to Yorkshire for a mini trial run (with my friend’s dog Bindi), trekking up Whernside.
While training, I took part in my first road race, Green Park Royal Berkshire 10k, on 18 May 2014. I remember it being a roasting hot day and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the end, but I did. Even though I felt really ill when I finished, I had a really positive experience for my first race. I learned a lot from it and it was actually my 10k PB for quite some time.
As part of my training I joined a fitness class, which I built up from just one day a week to eventually doing it five days a week. This led to me doing a Race for Life Pretty Muddy while I was training for Yorkshire 3 Peaks. From this I got into Obstacle Course Racing, but that’s a whole other story!
On 19 July 2014 I completed Yorkshire 3 Peaks, with my dog Hathor, in 12 hours 12 minutes. Unfortunately, my friend had fallen really ill shortly before we were due to head up to Yorkshire, forcing her to pull out.
I’m not sure at what point I went from running as a means to get fit, to actually enjoying it, but it became just a part of life, a thing that I do now. Running gave me headspace, something I didn’t know I needed until I had it.
I hope my stories will inspire others and help them to see that anything can be achieved if you want it enough. I’m now a Personal Trainer and a UKA Leader in Running Fitness. I actively help others who want to get into running, those who are already active and competent runners and everything in between.
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