On a whim, when I was 28 years old, I signed up to participate in the London Marathon completely oblivious to the huge commitment I’d made in terms of that single goal, but also towards a pursuit that has, simply put, changed my life. Oh the drama, I hear you say…. But let me tell you why.
With very little training under my belt, I turned up on the start line in London wearing trainers from Marks & Spencer, a non-technical t-shirt, and not an ounce of nutrition. I was clueless and staring into a running abyss. Needless to say it was a long and chaffing slog to the finish line that day, but I did it. At the time, I thought I’d ticked the box of ‘running’ a marathon, and the experience left me thinking that someone like me didn’t really have a place in the running community.
In fact it would be six years until I found myself signing up for another race, but since then I haven’t looked back. As I slowly started donning the trainers again in 2012 (this times proper ones!), did my research and started knuckling down to some structured training, I noticed that I may have been getting older, but I was also getting faster and stronger. The fruit of my labour was tangible and I realised that perhaps there was a place for me in this running game after all!
I have since run eight marathons, including four of the Abbott World Majors, and two ultra
marathons, the North Downs Way 50, and Race To The King. Whether I am pounding the tarmac
doing tempo sessions, visiting the track completing relentless reps, splodging through the muddy trails on long runs with my boyfriend and eager cockerpoo, running is an integral part of my life. At the age of 41, I feel fitter mentally and physically than I did in my 20s. My only regret is not finding the confidence sooner.
It’s not all about speed, and despite getting a fourteen minute PB at the San Sebastian Marathon in
2018, my favourite races, on reflection, have been those were running fast is secondary to the
experience. My first marathon in London all those years ago surely has to take the top spot, simply because I deserved that medal for completing a 26.2 mile race ingesting nothing but water and a gifted banana from a stranger. And who can forget the wildly eccentric Man v Horse in Wales; racing horses over 23 miles of rugged trails and testing climbs. There’s nothing quite like having to thrust yourself into a bush to allow a galloping horse to pass you. If anyone says running is boring, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
WHAT DO I LOVE ABOUT RUNNING?
So, when all’s said and done, there’s a lot to love about running, and love is a strong word... I love
the discipline and structure running brings to my life. I love the sick feeling when I realise I have a big tempo session to complete after work, tired, and then the clear-headed joy I feel when I smack it out of the park. I love running in the dark, I love running in the rain, I love running with my friends, and I love running in my solitude. I love racing the hideous lung-bursting 10k distance, and I love the mind and leg-annihilating 50 milers. I love the fact that my super-talented coaches have the same respect and genuine enthusiasm for the work I put in, just as they do their elite running peers, because they buy into the fact we are all runners. I love the fact a good result, despite all the hard work any of us put in, isn’t guaranteed. I love that even when I feel soul-destroyed when a race goes wrong that I still want to come back for more. I love that I realised there is a place for me in the running world, and I simply love that I am able to run, and share it with so many others.
My next goal is to ride on the back of a good marathon training block, and work towards a half
marathon PB in February. Then it’s straight onto ultra training for the South Downs Way 50 in April, and Race to the Stones in July. I think I’ll deserve a break after that, but I’ll then work my socks off later in the year in an attempt to achieve a sub-3.30 marathon PB in Valencia, in December.