My Running Journey so Far

The Trigger to Run

It’s hard to believe that in June 2016 I was seriously unfit, overweight and most definitely exercise adverse.

I was unwell in Jan of 2016 which forced me to re-evaluate my life. Leading with the question “what can I do to help myself?”.   I looked at the usual suspects, diet, stress levels,  and work/life balance.  The very last thing I wanted to think  about was exercise!!  However, I did and started with increasing  my steps to 10,000 a day.  Most days I managed 2000, which I had to admit was pretty poor.  My (not so uncommon) excuse was that I work in an office and obviously, could not find the time to fit any exercise in.  So instead I tried to make up for it by going for walks along the beautiful cliff tops of Cornwall at the weekends.  Although nice, socialising with friends soon got in the way and so another excuse was found not to go for that walk.  So then I thought rather than take up my precious weekends I tried Zumba during the week, but soon found out that classes are really not my thing.  Basically no matter what I tried, none of it  enthused me enough to make exercise a habit!

Then I met up with my lovely neighbour Suzie one night for a “glass of fizz” and all that changed.  Suzie told me that some of her friends were starting an after work running club.  Apart from the two running coaches none of the group were runners.  This seemed perfect as we would all be starting at the same point, so I asked to join and my running journey began.

Can I Run?

I would love to say I was a natural runner and that it was easy but I would most definitely be lying!  For an overweight,  exercise adverse person like me it was never going to be easy and trust me it wasn’t and isn’t!

Initially I only had to run 1 minute and walk 1.5 for a total 30 mins which equated to 10 mins of running overall. After the first minute I felt like my lungs were about to explode and I was struggling to find any breath whatsoever.  Quite simply I was shocked and mortified in equal measure, how had I ever got to this level of unfitness.  However, with lots of support I continued to come to the classes each week and slowly worked up to 3 minutes of continuous running.

Pain and Trainers

Then,  came the painful shin splints and muscle cramps that would try to sabotage any attempts I made to try and complete a full 4mins of running.  The coaches suggested my footwear may need upgrading and recommended a running shop called “at your pace”.

So off to “At Your Pace” running shop I went.  I walked up to the front door and thought,  oh no no no no,  “I cannot go in there – it’s for “serious runners”.  I panicked for a bit and then braved it and walked in.  This otherworld that I was being thrown into was initially intimidating.  That is until I introduced myself to the guy behind the counter.  I explained to him I was doing the couch to 5K and was not a proper runner but had been advised to come and get some shoes to overcome shinsplints etc.  He told me firstly he hated the term Couch to 5K– it is beginner to 5K and secondly welcome to running which immediately put me at ease.

He then started to talk about ‘Gait analysis‘ this is where you run on a treadmill and video your foot placement to see whether you land on the outside (overpronation) inside (supination) or in a neutral position.  This helps to guide what trainers you require.

The thought of being video’d running on a treadmill by a fit runner was not filling me with delight!   Initially I had to run barefoot and then in the trainers I usually run in, which was not too bad lasted about 30-60 seconds each.  I manage to do this without too much embarrassment thankfully and he stated that I had an over-pronation and would require stabilising shoes. Fine I thought until he came down with 6 pairs of trainers and told me I had to run in every pair, i was horrified.   ” I have to run for a minute in each pair?” ” Yes so that we can find a shoe that puts your foot in the best alignment to correct your overpronation”.  I nearly ran out the shop, heck I could only run for 3 minutes and I was going to have to run in all 6.  It’s not like I could ask for a timed break between each pair.  I did not want to embarrass myself further,  I swallowed hard and puffed and panted my way through the 6 pairs of trainers.  I chose the Brooks ravenna 8’s – he asked me whether  I wanted to run in them one last time to be sure that I was comfortable in them.  My brain screamed “HELL NO” but what actually came out was “no thanks I am happy with my choice”.

My first pair of proper running shoes and they are still my most favourite treasured possession.

I took them out for a spin and it was like night and day!  Shin splints and cramp had vanished and I managed 4 whole minutes non-stop.  To say I was ecstatic was an understatement.

Couch to Race Line-Up.

In between the weekly running club as I downloaded the app ‘ couch to 5k in 8 weeks!’  I would like to point out that 8 weeks is false advertising as it took me 7 months to get my first 5k under my belt.  But boy was I chuffed when I did.

Once I had reached my 5k I decided to enter myself and my neighbour into a “proper race” that was run by freedom racing.  The run was advertised as flat and suitable for beginners but was also a mile longer than the 5K I was used to. Despite this I felt optimistic,  after my friend Heidi had manage to get me to the 5k milestone afterall how bad could it be?

Well the big day came – Suzie and I lined up and we were a mix of terrified and excited.  What the hell were we doing with these “proper runners”.  We both felt like imposters.  But again how bad could it be?  We made sure we were at the back  so as not to hold anyone up and off we went.

Hills, Dreaded Hills

We starting off well – it was flat…… that was until we rounded the corner and found this sloping muddy field.  They said no hills…..!  Both Suzie and I fell into a blind panic but quickly got a grip and through gritted teeth ran onwards and most definitely upwards!

It was two circuits so we knew we would face this hill again which did not inspire confidence.  Once we climbed the hill and I fell into the brook at the top Suzie was ecstatic and smiling I was focusing on just making it through without killing myself.

Suzie smiling after the first lap.

Me focused and grimacing – thinking how the hell am I going to make it around another lap,  without killing myself – someone please help me!

Finish Line

I did make it around, not in one hit like Suzie but with multiple stops.  Whilst really relieved and happy I made it around, a little later, I felt disappointed and demoralised that I had not done it without stopping.

Determination and obsession

I nearly ended my running journey there,  but with a lot of moral support I continued.  I looked at how far I had come and thought to give up now would take me back to the couch potato I once was and I did not want that.

This is where my running obsession truly started, I did not want to revert back so I immersed myself in it determined to become a proper runner”.   I read up on anything and everything I could and still do in the aid of being the best I can.  Some of the topics I have read up on are overcoming shin splints, breathing techniques,  psychology of running and how to overcome the negative voices in your head that sabotage your running goals.

All of this reading has helped as I have now reached 10K and I am about to mark this formally by running Vitality 10,000 in London.  If you want to know how I get on look out for my post!

It seems that I have finally become what I never thought I would ” A total running nut”.  I have become one of those lycra clad people I had secretly envied.  Now I spend most of my time reading running magazines, searching the web and watching you tube clips!  I get so excited about new running gear and the latest tech.  Who knew this person was waiting to come out.

So if you think you can’t do it – read this story again as I am living proof that you can.