Running is actually pretty amazing. Please hear me out.
A few findings:
- l feel amazing after I’ve been running. Endorphins are real.
- Your body will change shape.
- The dread you feel before is worse than the actual run, by far.
- It gets easier.
- I’m still not Usain Bolt.
The thought of running used to horrify me. I’d set out for a run, channeling Jessica Ennis. Hell, i even looked like Jessica Ennis, in my new Nike shorts and running trainers (if she was a chronically unfit teenager).
Yet 10 minutes in, I’d be redder than the ripest tomato, and panting like a dog.
I’d turn up Will.i.am to volume 10,000 just to drown out my laboured breathing, and innermost thoughts screaming STOP.
Nike said just do it. But I just couldn’t.
So, in a huff, I abandoned my running dreams. I was not physically capable of running. Walking was so much easier and more enjoyable anyway- I deemed running pretentious and overrated. I shoved my running shorts into the back of my wardrobe disgustedly.
And yet every week, my parents would run 10 miles, and return smiling and annoyingly jovial. I felt myself getting frustrated, as they told me to try again. I accused them of implying I was fat (they weren’t) and rubbing in the glory of being runners (they weren’t).
I made it my mission to spite my annoyingly fit family by not running. My Grampy, in his 70s, was marathon training. My Dad was too. Yet I returned to Leeds after Christmas and joined wine society instead of running society and deemed clubbing my favourite (and only) form of exercise. Why would you put yourself through the pain of running, I wondered.
As a bit of background, my physique is the antithesis of Paula Radcliffe’s and my lack of motivation is awful. I was, undoubtedly, unfit, yet were you to suggest this to me, I would have been enraged. Funnily enough, one of the reasons I deliberately did not go running was to prove the point that I was happy with my body the way it was, even if this was just thinly veiled self contempt and a rather destructive outlook to have held. So if you are picturing Mo Farah at the moment, please rethink.
Then lockdown happened, and i wasn’t feeling my best, mentally. Change is never easy, and living with my family again took some getting used to, especially with the undercurrent of total despair and confusion.
Bored, disgruntled and lost, I decided to give running another chance, as I knew it could have a profound benefit on my mental health.
So I started at 0.5 miles. It wasn’t easy! I remember being sweaty and obscenely red faced. No one actually cares though. I ran this distance five times (every other day) and, shock horror, it got easier!
5 Rules for giving running another chance
- Go slowly! Like you’re walking but a bit faster
- Start with going for around half a mile- no more.
- Go every other day, if you can, and stick to it!
- Make a good playlist with fast songs (I’m unashamedly obsessed with running to The Black Eyed Peas)
- Leaving the house is the hardest part!!
After 5 runs, it was time to advance the distance.
1 mile it was. I left the house thinking nine minutes? I can manage that!
I was wrong. Sprinting off was a bad idea. I felt disheartened after that run. My inner Mo Farah had failed me.
So i spoke to my Grampy, who is a seasoned runner and overall very helpful guy. He told me to get Strava (a free running app) and track my runs. That way I could monitor my progress. And OH it was addictive! You get virtual medals for your personal records: suddenly I had a 1 mile PB. Result! (I’d only done it twice.)
Having my Grampy watching my Strava progress was motivating. It made me stick to my self imposed schedule, of going every other day. I began to build up my runs, without injuring myself or aching too much. In fact, I began to enjoy it, if that’s possible.
5 rules for building up
- You are meant to build up no more than 10% a week. So if you start at 1 mile, week 2 should be 1.1 mile.
- Have a goal in sight. Mine was 5k. Now it’s 10k.
- Speed means nothing!! You should aim to enjoy it; that’s the ultimate win
- Get into a routine. I printed out a calendar and write each run on there. Keep at it!
- Don’t go off too fast.
Now it’s May. I’ve advanced from 0 miles to 4 miles in the space of lockdown. If I can do it, then I’m sure you can. I’m still wondering at what point I can call myself a runner. Is it when I get to 10k? Was it from the moment I decided to commit to running?
The point being, objectively, there’s no such thing as a runner. Only people who go running. Yes, some people can do a four minute mile, others can do 20 miles. But every runner has had to start somewhere, be in going up the road and back, or half a mile.
Final tip: don’t compare yourself to others! Your own achievements are the only ones that matter.
Running isn’t easy, but you only need to do as much as you can manage. I’ve realised now that I don’t need to be Paula Radcliffe to run round the block. And I don’t need to be Mo Farah to make running a part of my life.