It’s been a week of challenges when it comes to my running.
At track training on Monday we had a relay race. This involved running at full pelt for 25 minutes with (very) short breaks between sprints. I actually love running at speed, although I'm not particularly good at it. But as "grown-ups", how often do we get to move with real abandon in day-to-day life? Being on a proper track is a privilege as you’re in the perfect conditions for a runner. It’s safe, well-lit and free of obstacles, so you can really go for it.
The downside of pushing yourself to this extent is being unable to walk down a flight of stairs without looking like you’ve shat yourself for at least two days afterwards, but we’ll gloss over that bit.
On Wednesday, the Yorkshire weather gods treated us to a day of heavy rain. But I still wanted to go running. I felt a sense of solidarity with other club members as we set off, and barely noticed the abysmal conditions once we’d got going. One of our fab run leaders, Hadrian, is an ultrarunner who treats a 7k like walking to the end of his drive to put the bins out. He spent the whole time running up and down the group shouting encouragement without breaking a sweat.
For years I viewed people who chose to exercise as strange, exotic creatures. Hadrian is definitely one of them, but here I was running with him and being told I was doing well!
I was tired and soaked when I got in, but wrapped in my fluffy dressing gown after a hot shower and a bowl of chilli, I felt chuffed with myself and reflected on how things have changed since the early days of avoiding exercise at all costs.
I remember my first gym show-round just after my marriage had ended. Looking around at all the members who seemingly had it all: the right gear, fantastic figures and their dignity, I felt like a hopeless and unworthy imposter. But it gradually became my great escape, and six years later, I can finally say that exercise will always be a part of my life.
I’d still struggle to class myself as a ‘proper’ runner and probably always will, but this week I realised that:
- If you push yourself to exercise even though it doesn’t comenaturally to you and you don’t particularly enjoy it, surely you deserve as much admiration and respect as someone who does?
- If you’re prone to self-sabotage and keep “falling off the wagon” but you make the gargantuan effort to haul yourself back on, surely that demonstrates every bit of persistence and strength of character as someone who stays on it?
So the next time you compare yourself to one of those strange exotic creatures who exercises for pleasure, remember: you’re every bit as impressive.