Sunday, 20 October 2013

Why I started running: a series of challenges

I've been helping at Stotfold Runners for over a year now. I enjoy the club, it's good to meet new people who want to run. Everyone has a different background, they come along for so many different reasons: to run with other people; to have fun; to lose weight; to run 5K, 10K, a marathon. This post is for the new beginners at Stotfold Runners, who have just met me and aren't aware of my running history.

I started running with Stotfold Runners in January 2011; I gave in and joined the club after about 3 months of gentle persuasion by friends to give running a go. My reasons for running were to lose weight (I weighed more than 14 stone) and improve my fitness. The last time I'd run before 2011 was cross-country at school, back in 1994 I think. 15 years of inactivity. Terrible... but I'm sure a lot of us are guilty of that, finishing school and just stopping all exercise.

January 1st, 2011
For my first session I was run-walking at 5 minute intervals, and I covered about 2.5 miles. There was no Stotfold Runners beginners group in 2011. The beginners now who are allowed to run for 1 minute then walk for a minute are LUCKY! I ran with the club every Tuesday and then again on my own at the weekend. After a month I was running three times a week, for a couple of miles each time; after 2 months I could run 4 miles. I'd also lost about 2 stone in weight, through cutting alcohol and bread, not snacking, eating smaller portions, and I'd changed my hair colour several times! I decided to set myself a challenge, to run in a 10K race, the Flitwick 10K in April 2011.

April 2011, before Flitwick 10K

On race day I was so excited; the atmosphere was amazing, the buzz beforehand and the noise from spectators and other runners at the start gave me such a good feeling; I just loved the whole event. I was completely hooked on racing! I finished that race and immediately wanted to run another one! I began to train again, this time for a half marathon.

I ended 2011 having raced in three 10Ks and two half marathons. I was also at my lowest weight ever (a never-to-be-seen-again 8 stone 12; I lost 50 lb in weight in 2011). I didn't want to stop running ever!

In 2012, I ran two other half marathons (I set my current half PB of 1:46:30 during the Greenway Challenge) and Flitwick 10K again (setting my current 10K PB of 48:16), and I ran an amazing 22:42 5K at Marston Forest in June (I don't think I'll ever run that fast again!). I also attended Run England's Leadership in Running Fitness course, and became qualified to lead sessions at Stotfold Runners. Around this time the Stotfold Runners beginners group started.

My next challenge began soon after; I started to train for my first marathon in October 2012, the Preston Guild marathon, which is every 20 years (very special indeed!).

After Preston Guild marathon

Don't ever think that running a marathon is easy "because so many people do it". The training is long and hard and tiring and painful. I'm not sure I ever want to go through it again. I picked up a bad knee injury that forced me to physiotherapy, made me miss running Standalone 10K, and has resulted in me doing Pilates once a week ever since and leg and core strength work most days. But it did teach me how to become a "better" runner, about foot striking (toe vs heel), cadence (number of steps per minute, 180 is best), posture (upright and tall, not slouched!), and to concentrate.

After the marathon was over I didn't run for several weeks, apart from a few beginner club nights. I just didn't really feel like I wanted to run anymore, because of my knee problems mainly, but I'd also lost a lot of speed (perceived at the time as loss of "fitness", I was disenchanted). But some long, hilly, slow runs around Lancashire with my sister over the Christmas period got my mojo back and in 2013 I was ready to start over again.

This year I've been focusing mainly on getting faster again. I'm still plagued by leg and knee problems; I've had two periods of non-running from knee and shin problems, and a sore heel that comes and goes. But in a way that's been good; because I wasn't running I started to swim more and to cycle. I took part in an aquathlon in August, and I loved the challenge of a dual discipline event. I've also started to refocus my training, concentrating on heart rate, making sure my training plans incorporate speedwork and long slow runs, ensuring every run is a quality run.

It's been really good to help out at Stotfold Runners these past 2 years, to coach "non-runners" to become runners. I don't want to push advice at people, but I am happy to chat if asked. And I'm always ready to explain why it's important we do speedwork! It makes me incredibly proud to see friends now running 5K and 10K and training to run their first half marathon. 2014 is going to be amazing!

Now to think of my next challenge.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. It's taken me a year to put into words what I wanted to say!