In my first post, I wrote of my journey from someone who never ran AT ALL, someone who found every excuse imaginable to avoid PE at school, to a runner (albeit a slow one who could really only manage 5K before my poor wee legs felt like they might fall off!) So how did I end up as someone who has run 3 full marathons in 2 years? The answer lies in 2008…
The early part of 2008 was a very difficult time in my life. On a personal level, everything that I had known as “my life” for years was suddenly ripped away and I had to adjust to a great deal of quite challenging change. I’ll admit that in the early days I was pushed further than I had ever been before in order to cope, yet as the weeks turned into months I had a realisation: I had to reclaim my own life and LIVE IT! From that point on I decided to try new things, meet new people and take advantage of whatever opportunities came my way. I hadn’t yet read Danny Wallace’s book Yes Man at that time, but in many ways it was like my (slightly less extreme) version.
And so it began. I tried new foods, made new friends and went to places I had never been to before. Then a chance meeting with a personal trainer at a friend’s party became a major catalyst for change (I just didn’t know it at the time!)
As I made polite conversation with this complete stranger, I learned that he ran marathons. Not just “he had run a marathon” but that he had completed marathons, plural! I hadn’t run or been anywhere near a gym in months and was embarrassed to admit my “running” history, but the conversation reminded me of what I had previously achieved. Why not run again? I thought. The “new me” that was grabbing life by the horns started using the gym at work once more and returned to previous habits of steady, 5K runs on nice evenings.
Later that year, that PT came back into my life as a much more permanent fixture. By the beginning of 2009 he set me a challenge: build up my mileage (with his support) and run a 10K race in the autumn. 10K? But I’d never run as far as that! Surely only “serious” runners could cover that sort of distance? Yet with my “take advantage of opportunities” life plan and competitive spirit there was no way that I would be turning down the challenge…
On a cold, dark January evening I set out for my first run in a few months (I was a fair weather runner, remember!) and discovered I still had the fitness to manage 5K fairly easily. Over a number of weeks I gradually increased my mileage, going a bit further each time and continued to use the gym at work once or twice a week. I progressed so well that I ran my first 10K race in the spring and talk began of stepping up to a half marathon in the autumn – it seemed I had long overtaken the original challenge (being a bit of a stubborn so-and-so I probably shouldn’t have been surprised at this!)
As the weeks ticked inexorably by towards that first half marathon, a mere matter of months since becoming a “proper” runner, the “M” word was first mentioned. By this time I had joined a running club and was constantly meeting people who regularly ran up to half marathon distances and many who had run marathons. I soon realised that these people were just like me, and as I listened to their stories of how and why they started running, I decided there was no reason why I shouldn’t give it a go. Once more I had to take advantage of the opportunity that had come my way – just once though; it was bound to be REALLY hard, right?
To paraphrase Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre: reader, I did it. There were a number of hiccups along the way, but in April 2010 I completed my first marathon in Paris. Hard work? Definitely. Painful? Absolutely. Horrible? On the contrary, I loved every minute! Even as I slogged through the last, aching miles in the Bois de Boulogne, desperate to see the Arc de Triomphe once more before me, I knew not only that I wanted this experience again, but that I wanted it in London – I mean, if you’re going to run a marathon, make it THE marathon! – and as soon as I located my fiance (yes, that PT and I were by this time engaged) I informed him of my new ambition in life – to run the London Marathon.
A year later I did indeed run the London Marathon (and the Edinburgh one to boot!) and I’m already thinking about future marathons. What all this has taught me is that everyone can run and we should never write something off as impossible. The human body is an amazing thing and human beings achieve incredible feats all the time. Why do I run? Because I love it. Not running makes me miserable. I may not be able to break speed records, win races or compete in the Olympics, but I can push myself to achieve a new personal best or help make a difference by raising funds for charity. And I can say something that only a small percentage of the population can say: I can say I’m a marathon runner.