I’ve been asked many times by various people as to why I run. The simple answer is I run because I can. It was the realisation during my late 20s that I was no longer getting away with eating as much as I wanted and as a result my weight was beginning to creep up. There was also a growing awareness about the fragility of life and how, by leading an increasingly sedentary life, I was taking for granted my health and fitness. I knew that there’d be people who weren’t as lucky as me who’d give anything to be able to be more active but were unable to due to ill health or age.
So, I started running. I’d been very active from when I was 9 through to 18, competing in athletics and cross-country events for my school and district before giving it up due to recurrent problems with my hips and knees. Running was something I’d always enjoyed but the constant pain no longer made it a viable hobby. I reacquainted myself with running in April 2008. Due to the fact that I used to be quite a decent runner, I assumed I’d head out of the door and tackle a 3 mile loop easily. Boy was I in for a shock! After 50 seconds I thought I was going to die and after 90 seconds I had to stop. It brought me down to earth with a bang and I realised this was going to be a lot harder than I initially thought!
After that experience, I took things slowly. First going out for a slow jog of 5 minutes, then 10. The day that I managed to run for 30 minutes continuously seemed like such a momentous occasion and that’s when I realised that I’d rediscovered my love of running.
In January 2011 I joined Carlisle Tri Club. This has helped enormously with my running technique and the camaraderie it fosters has been a massive boost to my motivation. My minutes per mile time has also fallen by 2 minutes; the interval sessions on the track, and being pushed by faster runners, has helped me achieve this. I would recommend joining a running club to everyone. Most clubs welcome novice runners with open arms and it really doesn’t matter how slow you think you are, there’s a club for you.
Last year I ventured into the world of trail running. Another thing I have taken for granted is the fact that the Lake District is on my doorstep. Trail running has allowed me to explore the surrounding fells and the miles seem to fly by as you’re so occupied as to where you’re placing your feet. Getting to the top of a particularly gruelling ascent, you’re rewarded with a breath taking view. This is when you realise how fortunate you are to be doing something you enjoy and how lucky you are to be alive!
Running has also brought me closer to family and friends. Every weekend I go out for a run with my cousin, Ali. We set a time, a place and a route so that we’ll ensure we turn up and get that long run in. Long runs are so much better with company as we gossip and put the world to rights and spur each other on if we begin to struggle. Occasionally we drag my twin sister out with us. She’s quite happy to join us as long as it’s not too wet / too windy / too cold and she hasn’t been out the night before…. Running really has enriched my social life!
To keep on running, particularly when you’re going through a bad patch, it’s so important to have support. I am so lucky that my partner, Tristan, is very encouraging. He’ll stand around for hours in all weathers while I’m racing and doesn’t complain. Too much anyway! At the end of a race when every ounce of your being is screaming at you to quit and just walk, I’ll see him and I’ll find that extra energy from somewhere and cross the finish line beaming like the Cheshire cat. Seriously, every race I finish has me smiling like a mad woman. The emotion of it all is overwhelming. The months of training have led to that moment and the hard work and pain is worth it for that feeling of complete elation.
Of course, you will have bad runs. Everyone does. But, without those bad runs, you won’t fully appreciate those times where everything just clicks………
Running has also become a way of dealing with my increasingly chaotic life. With 3 young girls, I don’t get a lot of peace and quiet. My dad was diagnosed with dementia in January 2010 and I know I would be struggling with this a lot more if I couldn’t (quite literally) run away from the pain and stress this has brought to mine and my family’s lives. I know that when I’m running I am in that moment and my head empties of all the stress allowing me to focus on the next step, the next breath. Running has become a crux for me in that respect and I can’t imagine a time now when I won’t run.
So, while I will never be the fastest runner, I love the energy, enthusiasm and new friends that running has given me. I also hope that I’m setting a positive example to my girls and that they will lead healthy and active lives.