It’s been three years since the header photo on the left was taken. This was my first ever race, a challenge I had set myself to run 10km, with all intentions of stopping afterwards and returning to my rather sedentary life. But instead, while training for that race, something clicked into place, sending me on a whirlwind adventure involving marathons, many many parkruns, and a whole load of new friends. Here are a few of the things I learnt along the way that helped me to never look back.
Changes won’t happen overnight, and that’s ok
Let’s face it, running can be HARD when you start out. Especially if, like me, you are coming out of a lifetime of relative inactivity and poor cardio fitness. I remember attempting couch-to-5k on maternity leave…overweight and struggling to push a heavy jogging buggy around the park, thinking to myself ‘Will this ever feel any easier??’. With a little persistence, it really does get easier. Your body adapts, and one day that sub-30 parkrun you thought would never happen, becomes your easy run of the week. All this takes a bit of time though.
You are literally rewiring your body; changing the nature of your muscle fibres, increasing bone density, strengthening various supporting tendons and ligaments, and increasing the efficiency of your metabolism. This can take months and in many cases years, to see the full effects. Stick with it! It can actually be quite nice to not ‘peak’ too soon, and I know I’m finding it really rewarding to see myself still improving several years down the line.
Progress probably won’t be linear
Sometimes you will feel like everything is going your way. You might find a run of good form, knocking minutes off your PB’s and smashing through your training plan. Other times, you may have days where you feel as if you are running through treacle and you can’t catch your breath. Injuries and niggles might set you back, or maybe some days you just can’t find the motivation to get out the door. The good news? It’s all totally normal! Listen to your body, rest or dial down the intensity of your training when you need to. When you are ready, think about mixing things up a little by perhaps signing up for a new race or a new challenge? Those happy runs will be back before you know it.
Find your tribe
Surround yourself with others who inspire you. Parkrun or local running clubs are great places to meet other runners, pick up tips and learn from the wealth of experience out there. Find those people who take genuine delight in your progress and celebrate with you. I’m forever grateful to those who took the time to pace me and give advice on everything from training to local scenic running routes. I’m always listening and learning. And if you don’t have any friendly running groups nearby, there’s a whole online support network to tap into as well! The social side of parkrun, along with meeting up with Twitter and Instagram runners, has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I never fail to see a friendly face at any race I go to now.
The benefits will last a lifetime – and possibly even longer!
I’m confident that everything I’ve worked on over the past few years has improved my health immensely (the aspects that I can control at least!), and given myself the best chance of staying fit and healthy as I get older. I hardly recognise myself in old photographs now. I feel…without wanting to sound weird…GLOWING…from the inside, with energy and a new-found pride that had been sorely missing for years.
The benefits don’t even stop with me, but rather become a ripple effect that pass on to those around you. It has been wonderful to see my children embrace running, enthusiastically working towards their junior parkrun milestone wristbands. I love taking them out with me on outdoor adventures, running and climbing along with them instead of sitting at the side as I might have before. I’m so pleased that I can lead by example so that they grow up surrounded by healthy, active role-models. Here’s to many more years of adventures together!
Lots of love to all of you who have helped me on my journey. And to those of starting out on journeys of your own – please stick with it, I promise you, it will be worth it. :o)