I wasn’t always sporty, I was in my mid twenties before I got started. Well, that is not entirely true; I rode horses. I loved horses and immersed myself in the horsey world, including going to university to study them. But was not a runner and I didn’t really cycle.
I started to run when a friend suggested taking part in the Cancer Research Race for Life 5k. My friend’s mum had died, far too young, from breast cancer and we all wanted to do something to raise money for the charity. I bought my first ever pair of ‘proper’ trainers and I’m pretty sure I tried a few practice runs.
The atmosphere was so emotionally charged on the day. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people were there to take part for their own reasons. Participants stood with loved one’s names written on their race numbers. People were excited and happy but on the edge of tears.
We jogged round as a group, wearing a variety of crazy pink outfits – I wore a rather brief, pink dress which I could get away with to go clubbing at the time! The run took us round the rowing lake at Holme Pierrepont Water Sports Centre and I remember how long one end of the lake looked from the other. I work by the lake now and it still looks a long way from one end to the other when out running!
As we made our way steadily up one side of the lake I could see the fast runners already starting to flow down the other side. It all looked like hard work to me; actually attempting to run fast, actually getting properly out of breath. Those girls clearly cared about their finish position and wanted to push themselves. The joy for me was being with my friends, supporting Jeni, who had lost her mum and feeling that we had made a difference.
Celebrating in the pub after, having allowed the men to take over the wearing of the pink deely boppers (see pic!), I was pretty sure I would never be like the women I saw putting all that effort into the race. The socialising in the pub seemed far more fun than the actual running bit.
Next weekend, October 29th, I will be running in the Beachy Head Marathon; an off-road, somewhat hilly 26.2 (ish) miles from Eastbourne. It won’t be me in the first group crossing the line but I will care about my position. I know that I like to come in the top half and, yes, I do look at my gender and age group position – I have to come near the top somewhere!
I will get properly out of breath as I push myself to do the best I can. Earlier this year I completed my first ever ultra-marathon in the Lake District. This meant a summer dedicated to long, hilly practice runs, getting used to permanently blistered feet. If I had never gone above the 5k run distance it would not have mattered; a runner is a runner no matter their speed or distance. But I have lost nothing and gained so much from my distance running. I still get to socialise, long runs are so much better with company – someone to get lost with! I still head (hobble) to the pub after a long run but now I can eat bigger bowls of chips and the difference I have made is to myself. My mental health is so much better for getting out running. Long runs are head space and discovery.
So many of my friends tell me they ‘can’t run’ and then go on to complete 10k runs and half marathons. I love to see someone getting bitten by the bug and achieving things they didn’t think they would. This blog post was partly inspired by Mandy Miles’ blog post on Parkrun UK, From Sideline To Start Line. If you have any doubts that you can run 5k she will convince you otherwise with her story.
Who knows where 5k might take you?!
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