It doesn’t take much to learn that people run for all sorts of different reasons. Some have been runners since school, others take it up later to keep fit and healthy, and every year countless numbers take up running to raise money for a charity close to their hearts (you only have to look at the numbers who apply for a place in the London Marathon every year, in hope of covering 26.2 miles dressed as a Womble or wearing fairy wings to see how true this is). Everyone starts running for a different reason, and everyone is looking for something different as they continue: fitness, new challenges, or the simple love of lacing up a pair of trainers and heading into the great outdoors.
For me, the journey began in 2005. As I watched the effects of cancer on my gran, helpless to do anything to change the outcome, I knew that I wanted to do something to make a difference. My sister had previously taken part in the Race for Life, which helps raise money for Cancer Research, and I had been frankly amazed at all these women who simply breezed through a 5K run in around 30 minutes or less. “How are they doing that?” I thought, “I don’t even run for a bus!” And so the decision was made. I could have signed up then and there and taken part in an event just a month later, but that wasn’t good enough for me. Yes, you can walk the Race for Life, in fact you can probably crawl around or do somersaults or walk on your hands, but that wasn’t the point – if I was going to raise money, then it had to be something that would be a big challenge for me – I had to RUN it!
That summer I asked a PE teacher friend of mine to help me get started. I figured that the mechanics of running would be easy enough – after all, we all ran around as kids – but I knew my fitness would need some work. I did already try to go to the gym once a week or so, but had no real idea what I should be doing so generally did a bit of this and a bit of that until I got fed up and went home!
That first run was a real eye-opener. Having no real concept of pace, I set off far too fast and after less than 2 minutes was gasping for breath, feeling a bit sick and wondering what I was letting myself in for. Soon though, thanks to my friend sorting me out with a run-walk programme, I was building up the length of time I was able to run each time I went out and eventually ran a complete lap of the local park (about 1.4 miles) without stopping – my first major achievement in running!
I completed that first Race for Life in something like 32 or 33 minutes, raising about £120 for charity…and I ran the whole thing! I was nowhere near the fastest, nor was I the slowest. I was red-faced and exhausted by the end, but some of that glow came from the knowledge that I had completed my challenge, taken up running and raised money. I knew that my gran would have been proud of me.
After that, I continued to dabble in a bit of running (by which I mean I would head out to plod around about 5K if the weather was reasonable and I had a bit of time!) for another 2 or 3 years, I even ran in another Race for LIfe, taking a little bit off my previous time! I enjoyed knowing that I had a little bit more fitness, I enjoyed the chance to clear my head and mull over any problems, and most of all I enjoyed feeling a “connection” with my gran since her illness had been my inspiration to lace up those trainers in the first place. Things were to change dramatically in 2008, but I’ll leave that for another post…