So as I mention occasionally, I love to run. Slowly. I am one of those running evangelists, that preaches a lovely gentle and leisurely run. In my mind, it’s not winning the race, it’s the taking part that counts. And whatever speed you choose to run or jog is fine. However I haven’t always been this way.
I hated gym class
As I kid, I was of the geeky and intellectual type. Like seriously geeky. I refused to attend maths lessons as they were so slow and boring in primary school. Finally the teachers realised I could understand it perfectly, but didn’t have the patience to explain it to other kids. Hence I was excused along with my fellow maths geeks rebel. We hung and chatted instead of having to do the lesson. Anyway, the picture I am painting is of an academic child, not at all sporty. And we all know that gym class is compulsory according to the national curriculum.
The kid that was picked last for team sports
That was me. I wasn’t horrendously bad, but I just didn’t enjoy sport. Getting cold, wet and sweaty never appealed, and I assumed the gym teachers were sadists. For instance there an activity billed as “cross country running”. Which was in reality just running around the block, as the school was in an urban area. Even in the rain we were forced to do this. While the teachers also did the route, they were however allowed to use their car. There was no attempt to make it fun, or even to teach us how to run. It was just “go run”. Reflecting back school did a lot to put me off exercise, and not a lot to make it fun or enjoyable. There was no nurturing or teaching, or any attempt to make the non sports kids like sports.
Up to age 33
Hence I avoided sports for most of my early life. There was some dabbling in the odd exercise class or yoga session, but nothing really caught on. My weight also started to creep up on me, and I was getting the largest I had ever been in my early thirties. Then one day when in the city, my friend and I happened across the London marathon. It was a good day, so we spectated and walked a lot of the route. My friend mentioned she actually liked to run a bit, and I got thinking, why can’t I? What exactly is stopping me?
If they can do it
So my thinking was, if all these people could run a marathon, surely I could run? I went home that night with a new idea in my head. I was going to become a runner. Why not? I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I thought I could learn how to run. And get myself out there I did. So I invested in some expensive running shoes and clothes. And booked myself on a half marathon in six months – why start small? Enthusiastically I started out, doing far too much too soon. And then after a week, the pain came.
Yes, that dreaded running injury caught me out immediately. It was sore. But luckily we have google, which gave me some ideas to stretch, recover and prevent them getting any worse. I took a few weeks off, and did lots of research. Then I began a free couch to 5k program This builds you up gradually from mainly walking, by adding running sections in a bit at a time. At the end you can run 5k without stopping. And then I started my half marathon training plan, which was free online. I stuck religiously to the plan each and every week. And every time the mileage increased I got scared, but then felt really badass when I completed it. Practically each week I was surmounting new milestone and ticking them off. The legs got tired, but I learned to enjoy the pain, in a masochist sort of way.
My start – a half
The day arrived of the half marathon, and everything aligned weather wise. I had a great run, starting out slow and enjoying the scenic route. Towards the end I realised I had more gas in the tank, and started to speed up. At this point lots of competitors in front of me were walking, so it became dodgems like getting through them all. I had a fab time, and enjoyed every minute of it. And finished much quicker than I ever thought I could.
Next challenge – a full marathon
After enjoying the half, and in the process shedding a reasonable amount of weight, I wanted something more. So I signed up for a full marathon, and convinced my brother to run it with me. Now this is where things got harder. A half marathon is only 13.1 miles, but levelled up to a full marathon at 26.2 miles is much more than double the effort. The long runs got longer, and harder. The game switches from physical to mental. You need to plan routes, and test out fuelling strategies. And work out when your body is saying I have a serious issue versus a niggle that you need to run through. There is no doubt, that a marathon is won in the head. I had to schedule couch days after my long runs, as they exhausted me completely both physically and mentally. But with the right training, even I can run a marathon. In the end I completed the marathon, but boy was it hard work. Along with the joy afterwards, my legs were so sore, going down stairs was painful for the week.
And another marathon turns into a two a year addiction
Yes, I have an addictive personality. What do you do after running a marathon? Sign up for another one. After running my first marathon, I decided doing two marathons a year sounds like an ideal number. And I’ve kept to that, completing 6 marathons to date. All of them have been different, and I’ve learned something different from them all. The standout lesson is that you get back what you put in with running. If I have been lazy with the training, my end performance is not as good. But if I follow the plan and really work hard, race day is much easier.
And a Parkrun addiction
Most Saturday mornings I can be found at my local park, indulging in Parkrun. This is a free weekly timed run, arranged by volunteers. And it’s epic. You can see if they have one near you on the Parkrun website. As well as being free to run, you get a time each week and can see all your runs on the website. More impressively, once you get 50 runs you get a free red T-shirt. And also at 100 runs, is a black T-shirt. It is a really friendly race and all are welcome, from the athletic kids to their parents and grandparents. All ages and abilities are represented. I just need to get 25 more runs in for 2018 to snag that coveted black T-shirt. I used to feel minorly embarrassed about being passed by a woman with a double buggy and a dog, but one week I surpassed this. A dinosaur passed me. And he was really fast.
I enjoy running and always take a leisurely approach. Getting faster just isn’t easy for me. I have tried many times, and I just can’t push beyond a speed that other people can. Truth be told, I am pretty sure I have a minor medical condition that stops me running fast. Once I have the time and energy I really should see if the NHS will sort it. But anyway, what I lack in speed I make up in sheer determination and resilience. I can keep going even if times get tough. Hence I concentrate on what I know I can do, and don’t worry about the speed.
As I mentioned above, I dropped a lot of weight after I started running regularly. I also became more conscious about what I was eating, and developed some better eating habits. Nowadays I believe we should look after our health. However in my younger years I was very guilty of being complacent. In my thirties life caught up with me, and I eventually saw the error of my ways. l always say running is my therapy, it does my mental health a world of good. Getting the fresh air and seeing different landscapes passing me by rejuvenates me, and gives me a good opportunity to think through any challenges or problems I am facing. I love running outside, but absolutely cannot stand the treadmill.
This is a finance blog, so obviously I’m going to dive into the costs. Running can be an expensive or frugal hobby, depending on your style. You do need running shoes, and it’s so worth getting fitted at least initially for decent running shoes. My first pair were over £100, but since then I’ve been experimenting with cheaper versions and sales. I sport the un-coolest colours of last year a lot. And on the clothing side, I also go for cheap and cheerful. The benefits of having a full weeks worth of running outfits are worth it, so you can avoid laundry! Races can be pricey, but as I only do a few a year I don’t begrudge spending the money on a few races. I have also shelled out on a garmin, which I love to pieces, and it worth every penny of the £190 (!!). Knowing my distance and heart rate when running helps me manage my pace. And reviewing maps of the route afterwards is really enjoyable.
4 years a runner
So now I am an addict. 6 marathons in I don’t feel like stopping. I enjoy the high of running, and love running in new places. The best way of exploring a new place is to go for a run. I got to see more of Central Park in NYC by running than I have ever done walking. And have explored lovely churches on hills in Verona, and worked my way around the gorgeous lake scenery in the Lake District. And running teachings me new things every time I run. My thoughts percolate, and new perspectives come to me. I declare running fabulous for both my physical and mental health.
Over to you
- Are you a runner?
- If so what sort of running do you do?