When I was at school, I hated PE. Not only did I dislike the physical exertion, I hated being outside in the cold. Inevitably, PE almost always ended up a session of me defending myself from bullies in some way, or my poor skills because I never understood the rules to any of the sports (nor did I care).
I would much sooner have been nestled in the corner of the library reading a book.
One thing I did enjoy, however, was Cross Country. We used to have to run around the streets that went around our school, but in the end it got cancelled because kids were getting picked on in the streets by kids not even from our school.
But one incident of running sticks in my mind to this day. I had a friend I was envious of deep down. She was thin and popular whereas I was the frumpy, chubby, acne-ridden gamer and outsider. I didn’t wear makeup (still don’t), wasn’t interested in boys, and was bored as sin by gossip, fashion, and the latest TV shows (still am).
Anyway, one day there was an 800m run. I can’t remember what it was for, but I remember being unable to make it very far at all, and I watched as this skinny, popular friend carried on and on running the distance like it was nothing.
“That’s it”, I thought “I’m not cut out for this and never will be”. It didn’t help that whenever I did run anywhere, girls would taunt ‘Run, forest run’, and laugh at me (I still haven’t seen that movie by the way).
Now, aged 34, with 2 kids and a heap of adulting on my ‘to do’ list, I decided to take up the couch to 5k challenge.
Since downsizing all of my possessions, running was one of those things which suddenly gauged my interest, but I thought, ‘nah, ain’t no way I’m cut out for that’. But the more runners than pounded on past me in my town, the more intrigued I became.
I’d actually bought a load of running gear before I had my second child, then discovered I was pregnant and soon became too tired and nauseous to even move from one room to the other. So that went out the window. ‘Ah well, that’s just fate telling me I’m not a runner’, I told myself.
What made me take up the 5k challenge and rebuy all my running gear was the decline in my mental health and development of postnatal OCD after having my daughter (now 5 months old).
Due to having Ring Fit on the Nintendo Switch, I knew how good exercise made me feel, and I also knew how amazing I felt after going for my long walks. I’ve been wanting to lose the extra baby weight, but I also want to see how far I can go and what I am capable of (I’ve not been feeling very capable).
Why not up the ante and give running a try, I thought.
So, the other day I went for my first run. And it was hard. Boy was it hard. You’re supposed to start off running for 60 seconds and alternate it by walking for 90, and repeating that several times. I could only manage 30 seconds running, sometimes only 20.
I also felt self-conscious about how I might look running. In the back of my mind those old taunts of ‘run forest run’ played over and over in the back of my mind. Did my face look funny? Was I jiggling in funny places? Did I look too stooped over? But I ignored them. Because no matter what you choose to do in life there will be what I call ‘gremlins’ trying to force you to stay in your comfort zone. The mind loves to do that.
Afterwards, I realised that there has been a shift in how I think of myself in terms of ‘becoming a runner’. I didn’t feel down about my lack of stamina. In fact, I felt exhilarated by the activity, and the fact that I’d got out and there and started. I’d ignored those tatty old taunts in my head.
One of the hardest things to do is to actually start something rather than just dream or talk about it.
My next step is to make running a consistent routine, whether I manage 20 second bursts or 30 (I have the added challenge of child care).
This time next month, I hope to be calling myself a beginner runner, whether I make it past week 1’s intensity or not. The important thing, to me, is not to ‘stick to the program set out’ but to tailor it to myself until I can reach that point.
It’s even more important to prove to myself that I am capable, and to beat those gremlins down. The only way to do that is to go further, become stronger, and above all, stay consistent.
Consistency is the key. Consistency is the weapon. Consistency is everything.