My journey from running phobia to 5k

pair of running shoes next to a phone with headphones attached, for a blog post about my journey from running phobia to 5k

Running phobia

I could never run.

I think I did okay at my first ever sports day in Reception because I remember getting some certificates, but I realised the following year that that had been a fluke – perhaps at 5 years old I’d grown a bit quicker than everyone else or something – because it quickly became apparent that I wouldn’t be getting first place in a running event ever again. Or second, or third.

Let’s face it, no one really cares that much at primary school. But at secondary school it starts to get harder, when sporting ability becomes a factor in popularity and you have to take part in the absolute shame that is a bleep test. I think I got pretty much the lowest score of anyone and was mortified. The same again with our annual “road runs”, which meant huffing and puffing round the local school neighbourhood in our house polo shirts, and the worst day of them all – sports day – when you were forced to stagger your away around a track in front of everybody.

Add to that a changing body, and suddenly getting big boobs out of nowhere and the embarrassment that is two bouncing weights on your chest.

In short, running was an altogether stressful experience, both mentally and physically. Meanwhile my sister was one of the best runners in her year, and with her friends, became relay county champions.

I was always proud of her, but jealous that I didn’t seem to have received a single sporty gene and that she’d apparently got all of them! I hated my body as a teenager, and I think my lack of ability at exercise was a big factor in this. Rather than thinking about what my body could do, I always focused on what it couldn’t. As soon as I turned 16 and P.E was no longer compulsory, I stopped doing any exercise at all.

Fast forward to uni and I developed a lot more confidence, but when, in second year, all my housemates took part in a race for life. even FOMO still couldn’t induce me to join them. I sponsored them of course, and went and cheered them on and took photos, feeling super proud, but there was no way I was competing.

A change of heart

It wasn’t until final year that I joined the gym, and started to realise that with music, exercise could be kind of okay.

Post uni, I found exercise on my own terms. When I lived with friends, we went to zumba together. I took up pilates for a while, and in the last year or so have done a fair bit of yoga…see my post from last year: “Exercise – why I’m finally learning to embrace it” for more on this mental shift. But, apart from maybe some brief stints on a treadmill, running was still always out of the question. Running outside was never going to happen.

So I couldn’t have predicted that a few weeks after Aaron suggested the crazy idea of me doing a Race for Life this year, I signed up.

Why 5k?

Back in November, one of my favourite people was taken by breast cancer. She was my mum’s best friend and like a second mum to me and my sister. She’d suffered with the disease previously and it had gone, but cruelly it came back and worked its evil way around her body, spreading and spreading until there was nothing anyone could do. Jenny, one of the kindest, most loving souls I ever knew, was gone. Even now, I can’t really accept it and writing this is making my throat close up a bit and my eyes start to leak.

I think when awful things happen, we try to find some purpose in it. It’s human. I wouldn’t say I can find any purpose in Jenny’s passing but if some good things can come from it, like raising money for charity, then there’s at least something positive in all the darkness.

That’s my main reason for running. But there are more selfish reasons too – I wrote in my intentions post at the start of this year that my word for 2019 was “responsibility” and that I wanted to start taking more responsibility for looking after my body. This is part of that – finally doing something to increase my fitness, and show myself that I can reach a goal when I put my mind to it.

How?

So it is that I downloaded the ‘Couch to 5k‘ app and am now in my fifth consecutive week of training! I can scarcely believe it. I’m the proud owner of some new running trainers and one of those phone holders that velcroes onto your arm (the phrase “all the gear and no idea” springs to mind!).

If I told you it’s been easy, I’d be lying of course. But bit by bit I’ve started to run for longer, slowly circuiting my local park one laboured lap at a time. I think about Jenny as I run, and I think about the end goal. I think gratefully about my body and what it can do, and how this whole time it was a beautifully functioning instrument that just needed to be appreciated, and gently pushed.

Doubt inevitably creeps in, and I start to think about how much of an imposter I am, as I see others around me running faster and for longer. Then I remember to focus on my own race, and think how far I’ve come already, and it feels okay.

A month today I’ll be doing the full 5k. It might sound like a very short distance to the average person, but if someone as scared of running as me can do this, any of us can do anything! I hope this post inspires you that you too can achieve things you’d never thought possible. What goals have you considered that you’ve put off till now?

If you’d like to sponsor me, I’ve included the link here.

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