One Womans Journey
The Road to Running
The story of probably the most unlikely person in the world to ever run and how she gets there (hopefully)!
Part 1: Forever holding coats
Have you ever heard the expression “if I can, anyone can”? It’s used so many times but not often is it true. Often you find out that the “if I can anyone can” person used to be a brilliant swimmer, regular tennis player, or even a runner somewhere in their dim and distant past. Something, somewhere, can usually be dragged out of their history which sets the basis for their running journey.
With me though, the expression is true. I don’t even know if I can yet, but this is the story of how I am determined to get from holding the coats to joining the race!
I have always been quite an adventurous person but NEVER sporty. I jumped out of an aeroplane for charity, went waterskiing with friends and on safari in Africa but the one thing I always completely avoided was sport and the worst sport of all was definitely running in all its forms. I did shot put and javelin at school to avoid track events. On cross country runs I took the short cut down our street and called at home for a cold drink. If I had to take a bus I would make sure I was early to avoid ever having to run for one. Running was something I never intended to do because I knew I would never be able to do it.
So what changed? Well – having been married for 23 years (wow does it feel weird to say that – although 6 children, 3 house moves and a thousand arguments give testament to the fact) between us, my husband and I have had many hobbies. Little did I know how much his latest one would affect me. Three years ago he started running. He was one of those runners who ran a 10k race 3 weeks after his first run so really that should have confirmed to me that it would never work for me. After all 6 pregnancies and some self neglect hadn’t exactly helped my sporting prowess – in fact carrying 2 and a half stone in extra weight would mean more to drag along. But a seed was sown. When I went to Dublin with him and watched him run the marathon there, a little voice said “wouldn’t it be good to do this?”. Of course, I squashed it as soon as I heard it but it kept coming back.
It lay dormant for at least a year. All sorts of excuses such as “you’re too fat”, you’d look silly” and “you don’t have time” planted themselves firmly in my mind. Then another event caused that voice to shout a little louder. We went to the club handicap with the small local running club which my husband had joined. By now he had got the bug and was gearing up for some ultra marathons. It so happens that close friends of ours are active runners with the club too. When we arrived at the handicap the children were just about to do a run. I ended up holding all the coats. My friend turned to me and said some words which burst the seed into blossom – “you’d better start running yourself or you’ll be forever holding the coats”.
Isn’t it strange how a few words can have such an impact on you? That voice was not going to go away now and at this stage I think I knew it. Nothing happened though. I didn’t become a runner. I didn’t even start any training plan or even verbalise my thoughts to anyone. I just knew that one day I would run. Perhaps I was waiting for someone to tell me when and how. Then the third and final thing happened which got me going on my first tentative steps out of the door.
My husband entered the Highland Fling which is an ultra marathon up the first half of the West Highland Way alongside Loch Lomond. Being his support crew on that run made me realise that I really did want to run – not half marathons, marathons or ultra marathons – just a 10k. And I wanted to do it before my 50th birthday. I am only 46 but I imagined at that point it would take me 4 years to get there.
I also realised that no-one was going to do this for me. I knew then that it would push me outside my comfort zone. I have done hard and challenging things before but never really been pushed outside my comfort zone. I got books to read like “The New Runner” by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield, “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall and various others but still I didn’t start running.
I don’t really know what made me take the first tentative steps but one day in early July last year I decided to see how it felt to run. I ran from one lamppost to the next on a back street in our little town and walked home. Somehow though, although it was pathetic really, it didn’t discourage me. Something had clicked inside me and at that point I became absolutely determined. I didn’t do much really over the summer but at the end of September 2010 the determination and desire met and I started on the journey which has brought me already further than I ever imagined and I hope will take me further still.
The next few articles will follow that journey with all its highs and lows and hopefully continue on as the new adventure continues!
I will no longer be the person forever holding the coats.