1. Teens: My first ever running memory is the time I started getting up at 6am every morning and getting out there before school. I don’t know what prompted this, but I did it for a good few months. I remember my Dad cycling alongside me so that I was safe. That’s a really special thing to be able to look back on
2. Twenties: After gaining a lot of weight while living in Dublin, I returned to England and got a flat opposite a reservoir in Leeds. I ran around that reservoir every single night after work for a period of time I couldn’t quantify now, but again, despite the amount of discipline it required, I didn't overthink it; I just did it until I felt better, and looked better
3. Thirties: Although I was almost always on some sort of (unsuccessful) diet after having my son, exercise was little more than a novelty. So when I did a Race for Life with colleagues for charity, I might as well have been running the London Marathon. My family came to watch me and I was so delighted to complete it without stopping, despite feeling like I was going to collapse at any moment. My sister even brought a bottle of prosecco for me to open afterwards. That was such a lovely gesture, but says a lot about how unusual it must have been to see me get off my arse
4. Early forties: Those of you who have read my other blogs might recall my experience of joining a gym after my marriage ended. I was initially like a fish out of water in my unsuitable gym attire (think normal bra, ex husband’s old t-shirt and scruffy trainers). But once I’d taken that first humiliating step, I enjoyed what was definitely the most profound chapter of my fitness journey, in fact, of my life. From feeling like I couldn’t run for more than two minutes on the treadmill, I started feeling more capable, and thanks to earphones and 90s dance music, made running the main focus of my workout. I started running with my friends from work and on my own, and soon enjoyed it so much that I left the gym to focus on it. I remember turning down an offer of a meal at my parents’ in favour of running in drizzle. And I remember wondering why more people didn’t run and feeling as though I was part of a select club which had bestowed on me a special secret. I looked and felt better than I ever had before. Then – and I can’t remember why – I stopped
5. Lockdown: There is nothing like a global pandemic to mess with your head. Like many of us, I used the ‘unprecedented situation’ I found myself in as an excuse to eat and drink too much and thought that if I did work out, a quick 15 minutes with Joe Wickes on YouTube or a stroll to the canal with my dog would be enough to dissolve my lockdown bulk. It wasn’t. Soon, my jeans were restricting my circulation and I realised that I was in danger of reverting to ‘old me’. I decided to give running another go, feeling sure that the timber would drop off like it always did. Only this time I didn’t get quite the magical results I’d hoped for. Yes, the pandemic situation was unprecedented, but my level of fitness was also grave enough to warrant its own COBRA meeting. Every time I set off, my hip would hurt and my legs felt like they belonged to someone else (someone immobile). I was genuinely worried because I’d never felt so restricted before. While running had never been easy, I’d always managed around 4k+ and at one point worked my way up to 8.5k. I wondered if I’d reached the point of no return because I was in my mid-forties, that I’d left it too late and my body had finally seized up. I’d finally become one of those women who had to exercise for two hours every time they ate half a KitKat. I was snapped out of my melodrama by the wonderful running community. I tweeted about my issues and the response was absolutely phenomenal, with so much goodwill, and good advice. I started to believe that I could run more than 3k without dying, and eventually I could
6. Now: My lockdown running didn’t really improve, and feeling a little stir crazy having not seen anyone other than my family for weeks, I decided to join a running club. I’m now a proud member of Rothwell Harriers and I’m loving it. It took me a little while to figure out the formula that works for me, and I still feel like I’ve gone back to basics, but I’m a more confident runner that I’ve been on a long time. I’m inspired by the members who’ve stuck at it, the ones who look amazing approach the training with apparent ease. And I’m inspired by the members who struggle, like I do, but are upbeat, quietly determined and persistent. And there are so many other benefits, from expert and encouraging run leaders who you don’t want to disappoint through to knowing that twice a week you’re going to meet with lovely, likeminded people after sitting on your own in front of a screen all day. I’ll be elaborating on this in another blog, but in the meantime, I can’t recommend joining a running club highly enough
This is very much an ongoing and varied journey, and although it would be a barefaced lie to say I enjoy the act of running itself, there’s something about it that’s very powerful for my wellbeing. When I throw myself into it, the result is always fuss-free, fast physical health benefits, a real boost for my figure and a massive shift in my mental wellbeing too. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. And it’s free (although there’s plenty you can spend your money on if you want to add an extra spark to your training).
Looking back on my running moments, rather underwhelmingly, what most have in common is the fact that I stopped. But I’m hoping number six will be different. Because after all, the key to success in any endeavour worth pursuing is to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Do you have a workout you just keep coming back to? What is it and why? Comment below!