I started running in January 2010 when I was training for the state dragon boat team in Western Australia. To be honest, I had ‘tried’ to run the previous year and given up. My husband was asked to run a half marathon at short notice as part of a team triathlon. He’s always had a good level of fitness and even though he had not run that far before, he was amazing and stepped up to the challenge. It may be hard to believe for some of you but I was very lazy at the time. Exercise, sport and fitness don’t come naturally to me and I wasn’t interested. In fact, a friend kept asking me to join her at a gym class and I kept saying no. I was too embarrassed to go. I felt that as a petite person, everyone would look at me and expect me to be fit. This is one of the generalisations that unfortunately society makes.
However, as my husband set about training for a half marathon with a few weeks’notice, I too ‘thought’ I could start running and motivate him. It surely couldn’t be that hard? Oh how wrong I was! I wouldn’t even have been able to run for the bus! It was such hard work and no fun so I decided that I’d leave the running to him.
Fast forward a few months later and I find myself in a dragon boat. I took to the sport of dragon boating really well (probably because at the time my lack of fitness would not stand out in a boat with 19 other paddlers!) and as time went on I decided to train for the state team. Nationals were held in Adelaide in April 2010 and I knew I needed to improve my fitness.
Running seemed to be the perfect answer. I didn’t have to rely on anyone to train with. The cost was minimal and so all I had to do was put on my shoes and head out the door. I started to run before my dragon boat training, on the treadmill at the gym, and along the beach. I loved it and I soon saw my fitness really improve.
On 4th July 2010 I ran my first ever 5km at the Women’s Classic Event run by the West Australian Marathon Club. It felt really tough, but I finished, and in a reasonable time. I suddenly felt that I was a runner and I soon followed this up with my first ever 10km. But shortly after this race I got injured and after several months I was eventually diagnosed with a stress fracture. I got back into training towards the end of 2010 but in March 2011, after a small team triathlon event (where I was the runner) I got injured again-another stress fracture. I couldn’t believe it. Looking back, nobody knew what caused them but one thing I knew was that I was hooked on running and wasn’t going to give up. Due to my injuries I tried cycling, started swimming (which I really struggle with-I’m British, we don’t swim like Australians do!!) and even entered a couple of short triathlons but I knew deep down I just wanted to run! I recently found a diary entry from May 2011 when the HBF Fun Run was on. My husband and friends ran in the event and I was certainly feeling sorry for myself that I could not run!!
Within a few months I had healed and was back into my running and in October 2011 I ran my first ever off-road race. It was part of what was called at the time the ‘Anaconda Adventure Race’ and from memory it was about 14km. It involved clambering over rocks, running on soft sand and along steep cliff paths. I didn’t realise at the time that this was my introduction to off road running. I loved it and I remember running into the transition area to tag the next team member (the swimmer) and being so proud of running the furthest I’d ever gone. I distinctively recall shouting to my team mates, ‘I made it!’ I felt like I was onto something……….until I got sick in December 2011. It took until July 2013 until I was diagnosed with post viral chronic fatigue. My plans to run a marathon later that year were quickly shelved.
You can read about my story more here, but when I healed I came back stronger than ever. The call to run a marathon was still there but I knew things had to be different. In April 2014 I ran my first 10km since being sick. I felt amazing. I recovered really well and my health was back on track. I knew then I could run my first marathon that year. One of the best decisions I have made with regard to my running is to work with a running coach. I’ve been with the same running coach David Kennedy, since May 2014. He’s trained and supported me through for my first half marathon, full marathon and my ultra-marathons. 2014 was MY year. I ran my first half-marathons and my first full marathon.
I didn’t enjoy my marathon (read more here) but I did enjoy running and knew I wanted more. Running is me time. Sorry to break it to you but I don’t enjoy yoga or meditation. This is what running is for me. It allows me mind to switch off or to allow my mind to wander. Some of my best ideas come when I am running.
After the Melbourne Marathon my running coach, who is one of the best ultra-marathon runners in Australia, suggested I should consider running a 50km ultra. I laughed and told him that he was mad but later that night over dinner, I told my husband I was hatching another challenge but wasn’t sure whether to do the ultra-marathon in January which started at 3am or the one in February which gave me a little bit longer to train and would be an evening one. I had a chuckle to myself about how long it had taken me to accept this challenge.
In January 2015 I ran my first 50km ultra-marathon. It was SUCH a different experience to my marathon.
I loved it, although I do clearly remember not thinking that at various times throughout the run. I am the first to admit that I am a very unsociable runner and as is the friendliness with ultra-running, other participants wanted to run alongside me and chat!! My feet and body were so sore. But I did it and I felt amazing after. I remember waking up the next day wondering why I wasn’t sore? My running coach David came round to my house and was equally as impressed. I was hooked! I was soon looking for my next event but within a few months we were talking about moving from Perth; we just did not know where. We were flexible and so I decided not to commit to any events. I also felt I just wanted to run and not put so much pressure on myself. Since being sick I am much more in tune with my body and listen to it a lot more.
Fast forward to September 2015 and we were living in Queensland. I was introduced to trail running and I am hooked. It is such a different experience to road running. I am a classic type A personality and I put a lot of pressure on myself, including when I run. I was ALWAYS looking at my Garmin watch to see what pace I was doing. I usually run on my own but I remember running with a friend one day and he made me twist my watch around on my wrist so I could not see it. Every time I looked at my pace he would tell me off. Nowadays, running on trails I don’t worry ‘so much’ about my pace. I just love being outdoors and enjoying the beauty around me. I completed my first trail ultra-marathon in May 2016. It was such a different experience to my first 50km on the road; no better or worse, just different. Again, I pulled up really well the next day. I finally feel like I’ve found my niche.
Why do I share this story? It’s not a ‘look at me’ story
It’s a story to say, if I can do this you can too
Remember in 2010 I couldn’t even run 50 metres? Now I can run 50km. You don’t have to run 50km. You don’t even have to run a marathon, a half marathon or a 10km. But if you want to run and get fit,it is a great sport to get into. To get started all you need is a pair of running shoes. I currently don’t have a pair of trail shoes or an expensive hydration pack but am looking at investing in both of these as running is my main hobby. Running is also very sociable and although I’m still not a sociable runner, I have met some incredible people who I can socialise and talk with after running!!
I get really fed up of people saying things like, ‘You aren’t an ultra-runner until you’ve done one on the trails, you aren’t a marathon runner unless you run all the way, or X, Y and Z comments people feel inclined to say’. Do you know what ?
If you put on a pair of running shoes , get out there and run, jog or walk some of it-
CONGRATULATIONS, YOU ARE A RUNNER.
Running does not come easily to me at all. I still get people thinking I should be winning races because of my size. I remember once being really upset when someone stopped me and asked if I was warming up for Parkrun. No I replied, I don’t usually run Parkrun. I can understand that she said, you’d put everyone to shame with how fast you’d be.
We need to drop the judgements and encourage everyone to get out there and exercise.
I promise you, if you want to do this, you can call yourself a runner too. If I can do this, so can you.
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