**WARNING – LONG (but hopefully worth it) POST** **CUP OF TEA MAY BE REQUIRED**
I have had a mixed relationship with running over the years, so I thought I would share some of my story with you in the hope that it might encourage those of you that think ‘I can’t’ that actually, you probably can.
I am not fast. I do not have perfect form or ‘proper’ technique. I do not win races or break records. But I CAN put on my running shoes, head out of the door and RUN.
My first true love was gymnastics. More than fourteen years have passed since I trained and competed, but it still features in my dreams from time-to-time. I was glued to the screen during the artistic competition during London 2012. The British team were incredible…but now I’m going off topic…
At school I also enjoyed netball, rollerskating, hockey, swimming, and athletics. I liked running during PE/Games and ONCE I went to some kind of cross country county trial thing…but it was never something I excelled at, nor was I interested in doing so. I was definitely an active child and was happy to get involved in anything that took place on the field or in the gym.
When I left school and headed to sixth form college this completely stopped. I was much more concerned about joining in with everyone else and fitting in. So… I said goodbye to that fit and active part of my life without even realising. Little did I know that we would not meet again for another seven years!
Whilst at university I did join a gym and would go occasionally. This was more of a social thing than anything else. A number of us would workout together, counting every calorie burnt before piling on the carbs over dinner and heading out for an evening of partying. This was nothing like the healthy and active lifestyle I am working towards now.
We Meet Again
It wasn’t until 2008 that I started to run. A friend signed up for the Sheffield Half Marathon. As I have already confessed…I like to be included…so I signed up without really thinking about it! I purchased a pair of Asics online (NEVER do this, unless you have already used that particular shoe…), got myself some Nike dri-fit leggings, a sports bra and a vest, and out I went.
I probably made it all the way to the end of the road. If that. It was HARD. It looked so easy, I didn’t understand. I had successfully worked hard, obtained a degree, found a job, lived on my own…why couldn’t I run for five minutes? Years of eating rubbish combined with many late, alcohol fueled nights may have been a factor. That and the fact that IT IS HARD until you are used to it.
So…I walked a bit, ran a bit. Did small distances at first and gradually my breathing became lighter and that horrible burning-lung feeling (you know that pain!) subsided. I think it took around three weeks to start feeling comfortable whilst running. Around six weeks after I first stepped into those running shoes, race day had arrived.
The Sheffield half marathon started and finished at the Don Valley Stadium and consisted of a varied route throughout the city. As a recent Sheffield University graduate it was exciting to run in a city that was the location of so many fond memories. The supporters were incredible; I really enjoyed the first ten miles. Around mile eleven I started to doubt myself but pushed on and managed a sprint finish on the track in the busy stadium. As I had never raced before I had no expectations which was probably a great thing! Such a fun day. I just checked my race time online and it was 02:09:51, I think that is a fraction of a second faster than I remembered :).
With my first half under my belt and a new enthusiasm for running, I
was foolish was enthusiastic and signed up for the Paris Marathon 2009. You will not be surprised to hear that a friend was doing it and I wanted to join in…
Training started pretty well. I was building up the mileage between October – December, ready to crank it up to a proper schedule in the new year. A few days after the new year things changed very dramatically. Not just in relation to the marathon.
New Year New Start
I would like to say I had an unexpected start to the new year, but in some ways it wasn’t altogether surprising. Towards the end of 2008 I was not in a great place in my personal life, despite all the positive things that were happening in terms of my career and finally getting fit. I was making some really bad choices. Something had to change. And it DID.
A few days into the new year I was headed on a ski trip with my friend when we were involved in a nasty and very scary car crash. Obviously I know that I am going to die one day. But until that moment I had never considered the possibility that it today could be that day. By the grace of God we walked away from that accident with very minor injuries, but for me it was the wake up call that I needed and wanted. Time for change.
My Paris Marathon training was on hold. I had a whiplash injury which took around 4-6 weeks to die down. I am embarrassed to say that I did not go and get help / have physio until around TWO YEARS after the accident. This was obviously very stupid! I suffered semi-silently with neck problems that whole time.
By the time I felt ok to run, I only had another six weeks until the Paris marathon. So I broke a golden rule of running and ramped up my mileage very quickly. It is not advisable to increase your mileage by more than 10 percent per week. As a result of this I developed a pain in the arch of one foot that increased significantly when walking and running. It got to the point where I really couldn’t walk! I was on a shopping trip with my Mum and sister in London and finally admitted that I was in agony, sat in the middle of the pavement on a busy Saturday in central London, and cried. I went to the hospital that evening and was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis.
The funny thing about the injury was that the pain reduced significantly if I tried to walk in heels. I like to think that this is evidence that I belong in glamorous footwear. In reality I think it was caused by overuse and potentially due to the fact that I may have altered my running style due to the neck pain I was suffering with. All in all, it was a big old mess. I still went to Paris; I had a fantastic holiday and created some VERY amusing memories with my friends, but I wasn’t running anywhere.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though! I may not have been running anywhere fast, but within a week of that accident, I met my husband-to-be. Actually, I met him as a child and we re-met several times after that, but this time we were adults, we were single and we were both coming out of some difficult places in our lives. We hit it off instantly…but I will save this story for another time :). All I need to say is that one year after the car crash, I was travelling down to the airport again, but this time it was for our honeymoon. 🙂
Back To Running
So…an interesting fact about my husband is that he is a great runner. He was an athlete in school and kept it up until shortly before we re-met. He is a fast and furious middle distance runner, highly competitive and if he is going to do something, he will do it properly. This applies not only to running but most parts of his life. I think this is why he has stopped running; he will only do it if he can commit 100% to it. He is very different to me in this respect and I don’t really get it, but he probably thinks I’m weird too!
I was determined not to let the Pairs-debacle get me down, so I got back in the game. The first thing I did AND THIS IS KEY was to get properly fitted for my running shoes. Wearing the wrong shoes can lead or to aggravate injuries, so I made this a priority. And then I just ran. It felt like starting from scratch. The burning lung pain, the mental battles, the doubts. But it doesn’t last – ALL THINGS SHALL PASS – so of course it got better!
I didn’t race again properly for a while. I entered a few local fun runs, usually with work, and sometimes DP joined in too. But the important thing was that I was running and I was enjoying it.
The Big One!
Determined not to let the Paris-nightmare be my only brush with marathoning, I made the decision to sign up for London 2011. My workplace at the time supported a number of local charities, one of which was the Papworth Trust. They are based in the East of England and provide support in so many fantastic ways to people with disabilities of all kinds. I was impressed with the work they did and decided to sign up to run the London Marathon for them.
I will try and do a separate post on my London Marathon experience, because this is already REALLY long, but suffice to say that it was an incredible experience. It’s not just the race day that sticks in my memory; it’s the months of training, the blisters, the commitment, the shift in priorities, the fund raising, the cold winter mornings….I could go on.
The marathon was on my bucket list…and I successfully checked it off. The problem with this is….as so many other marathoners warned me….the marathon is like childbirth (apparently). During the act itself you think ‘never again’…but as the memory of the pain fades, you are left with the elation you felt at the finish line and an incredible sense of achievement.
Like most first-timers that I have spoken to, the race ends up being much harder…and usually slower…than expected. This left a niggling thought in my mind that I probably could go faster..if I had another chance. I suspect this, combined with the childbirth-pain-forgetting thing, is why I put my name in the ballot again this year and why I just couldn’t say no when that ‘Congratulations’ magazine landed on my doorstep back in September.
So…there you have it, my journey from not-much to marathoner. Really looking forward to adding to the story over the coming year. With a new half marathon PB under my belt and several races in the diary I am feel motivated and positive about the next chapter.