I have never been, and probably will never be, a natural runner.
I was someone who hated PE at school. That’s not an exaggeration, I hated it. I wasn’t very good. I didn’t think it was fun. I was once chased by a girl wielding a hockey stick. I hated it.
But as a grew older, and yes, a little podgier, I realised that exercise was going to have to be a part of my life whether it brought back the old trauma of secondary school sports or not.
I’d heard good things about exercise, and many people around me seemed to really enjoy it. But for me, I just couldn’t get passed the “ugh I’m out of breath and uncomfortable” stage to get to their enlightened place of zen.
I tried, and quite liked, swimming but it ended up being too expensive when I moved. I attempted recreating HIIT videos within the confines of my own home, and then gave up 2 minutes in. I even got a gym membership. I went for a while. But the feeling of being watched while I attempted, very badly, to exercise never sat that well with me either.
So, in December, that well known time when people like to be outside in shorts I decided to try running (again).
Throughout my attempts at exercise I have tried and given up on running, or rather shuffling, including an ill-fated and school sponsored mandated 10k.
I’m not sure why I thought this time would be different, but I did.
I knew I wasn’t very good at running. I wasn’t sure I could even run a single kilometre. But, instead of using that as an excuse not to try very hard I decided to get some help. I downloaded the NHS Couch to 5K podcast. I’d heard about it while at work and I thought I’d use my insider knowledge to beat running once and for all. I know realise, there’s a whole cult of Couch to 5K-ers and I wasn’t at all cool, alas.
The Couch to 5K podcast leads you through a series of run-walk sessions until finally you run, without stopping for half an hour or 5km. I followed the sound of Laura’s voice and ran and walked and ran and walked for 9 weeks.
Was it a bit embarrassing to feel knackered after running for just 3 minutes? Yes, but that’s where running on cold, dark December nights actually came into its own. Did I sometimes not quite make it? Of course, and I just did the run again because I became weirdly obsessed with earning the levels. Did I get there in the end? Oh yeah I did!
Once I got to the end of the programme I felt like I could jog reasonably well, enough that I could say I was going out for a run and actually run for a socially acceptable amount of time.
So, I, who hated PE with the burning rage of a thousand suns, now run 4 times a week. What’s more I kind of like it.
I’m still not at a stage where I just switch off and have a wonderful time while I’m running. I get out of breath. My legs ache. I get way too hot. But I do enjoy it.
As someone who sits at a desk at work all day, only to come home and sit at a desk some more, it feels really good just to move. It’s also so good to have half an hour away from a screen, outside. Whether I’m listening to a podcast or just my thoughts it’s so freeing to run in the “fresh” air, without a backpack or a coat to weigh me down, and just go.
I’ve also grown to like running because every time I go out it feels like an achievement. I’m reminded of the fact I stuck with it, and I went from not being able to run at all to where I am today and it makes me feel so powerful.
That confidence has helped me creatively too. It’s reminded me that if I set my mind to something I can actually do it and its encouraged me to try and learn new skills and actually push myself. Plus, having my half an hour outside gives me time to think about those skills.
I wanted to write this piece not just because I’m proud that I’m now running but to encourage you guys to commit to something new, even if it’s hard. Even if it’s exercise. Actually, especially if it’s exercise because we all need to get outside and move around more. Honestly, it feels so good to stick to something and keep going.
So here’s to running some more, maybes next year I might be writing about attempting a second, hopefully less ill-fated 10K.
*I would also encourage anyone who wants to start running to try Couch to 5K or something similar.