Running on a whim

I haven’t always been a runner. Cross country running was my teenage nightmare. The sight of the running track was torture.  The final countdown, 800m…400m…200m, on the home stretch of any race measuring distances that a younger me found quite impossible.

Mid-forties, on a bit of a whim, I signed up for a Great North Run charity place. I reasoned that, if other people could do it, maybe it was within my reach. I did have some old trainers, but I did not own a pair of running shoes. On Mother’s day 2005, in the knowledge that I had six months to move from being a reasonably fit non-runner to running my first half marathon, I set out on my first run. I went out early in the morning, confident that I would be out and back before anyone noticed that I had gone. The cold March air hammered in my lungs as I wheezed and gasped my way to the top of the road. I was ready to give up and go home. I might have done so but for a cheery ‘Good morning, are you off for a run?’ from a neighbour returning from an even earlier dog walk. Somehow I staggered on, managing to keep some sort of running motion until I had turned the corner. With more walking than running, I stayed out for 20 minutes that first day (completing a much shorter distance than I had planned). Day after day, over the next few weeks I built up to covering a 3 mile route, learning to set off more slowly and to keep going at a steady pace; encouraging myself to run just to the next lamp post and then to the next before I allowed myself the luxury of walking a short distance.

My lack of running shoes took its toll. Excruciating pain began to hit my shins and Achilles tendons. I was ready to give up, but the public commitment and the charity place kept me going. A trip to the running shop diagnosed my pronated feet as needing extra support. Equipped with my new supportive running shoes, I maintained my training and managed to complete my first half marathon.

I realise now that I have been running for almost a quarter of my life. I hear myself saying that I’m only doing a couple of ten milers this year and I am aware that I am no longer a novice. In just six months, I had discovered the thrill of running. From sneaking out in the early hours hoping not to be seen, I had begun to identify as a runner and learned to welcome the greetings of friends and other runners as I go. There are also the occasional white van hecklers; but, firmly wedged behind the steering wheel, they cannot spoil the sheer joy of a long solitary run.

#thisgrannyruns

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