Sunday, 13 October 2013

Running for my Life...

"How long have you been running?" they ask. 

Well every runner has a running story, a reason, a start line, and I should probably begin with some life-altering, mind blowing intro about how exciting my running story is. But I'll start with an apology instead. I'm sorry it's nothing desperately exciting. 

Three years ago I wouldn't have even run for a bus. But my hatred of running goes further back than that. I hated cross country running day at high school with such intensity that it was not unusual for me to cry the night before. Prior to that, I have a vivid memory of being in primary school (age 10 or 11) and asking a teacher marshalling the cross country run on Sports Day if I was allowed to scream. They said yes. I let out an absolute blood curdler that I don't think anyone was expecting and I'm honestly surprised no-one called the police.

Distance running was absolutely awful. I hated it. 

To further compound my hatred of all things kinetic, in high school we were tortured by "The Beep Test", possibly "The Bleep Test", but either way it was another one of the most degrading and humiliating parts of the entire school year. One sports hall, two lines, fifty pubescent teenagers and a PA system. The "game" is that you have to run from one end of the hall to the other before the cassette plays the beep. The beep gets faster and faster and if you don't make the line before the beep, you're out. 

Now, retrospectively this was stupid for two reasons:
1) The unfit kids clearly need more exercise than the fit kids, but they spend more of the class sat on a bench trying not to vomit on their Adidas poppers and shell toe trainers from over-exertion. 
2) Why would you warm up a room full of kids to then systematically sit them down on a bench feeling like a failure while watching the better kids keep running?

Ok, the second one is a bit of a stretch...but when I look back on the Beep Test it was just a ridiculous way of highlighting who were the fit kids and who were the fat kids. And who were the kids who barely picked up a trot just so they could sit down and watch everyone else bust their ass. 

I digress.

The point is that I hated running. 

Throughout university I chomped my way through copious amounts of panini, student union curly fries and the late-night reduced cheese section at Peckhams which was conveniently close to home. All washed down with a few pints of real ale and a bedtime single malt for good measure. Upon graduating I switched the curly fries for more beer, and lashings of it. 

Needless to say, the weight crept on and I wasn't too chirpy about that. I went on to manage a real ale and whisky bar in Edinburgh, which was great for a while but certainly not what I had planned for myself. I was overworked, hacked off and leading a pretty unhealthy lifestyle, having introduced even more beer and Mini Cheddars to the daily routine. How to get out?

I did the desperately senseless thing and I quit my job. I joined a gym and filled 6 days of my weeks of unemployment with exercise. Full workouts and a swim pretty much every day. My life and my body were changing, and I enjoyed the sense of feeling physically exhausted at the end of a day, yet mentally so alive and enthusiastic. Still, I wouldn't dream of running outdoors though. No, no. That's what those weirdo runners do. I'm not one of those. 

I then got a job in a really lovely cake shop and indulged in decorating biscuits and getting out of bed 30mins before I started work in a morning. It was great as a transition out of shift work and it paid my bills, plus it was great fun. I kept up the exercise and then one evening I got caught in the snow coming out of the gym. It was dark. I was at the bottom of the hill; home was at the top of the hill. I looked to the sky and saw a swirling haze of white snowflakes dancing around above me. 

"I wonder if I can run all the way up the hill without stopping?"

Turns out I could. And I've not stopped running since. 

In 2012 I ran my first Edinburgh Half Marathon, having never run further than 5km before signing up. My fit-pro at the gym, Emma, set me up with an awesome training plan and I stuck to it like glue, being the painfully organised person that I am (it's a blessing and a curse, trust me). I went on to run EMF again in 2013, as mentioned previously.

Last Sunday I ran the Great Scottish Run. The night before the race I was crawling around on the floor in agony with some kind of tummy bug, but there was no way I wasn't running that race. What most (including me on any normal running weekend) would use as an excuse, I used as motivation to push myself even harder. I completed the 10k in 56.16 and made a direct b-line for the train home to my bed afterwards. But I loved it nonetheless.

Today I signed up for the Teltowkanal Halbmarathon in Berlin this November. I can't wait. 

I think this means I'm a runner now? If it does, I couldn't be happier. 
Running taught me self-discipline and routine. It taught me to respect my body and look after it because you only get one go at life. It taught me to set goals and attain them, both in fitness and in the rest of your life. 

I took an opportunity that was on offer to me and it paid off to try my hardest; it lead to the greatest job ever. And honestly, I absolutely love my job. As a corporate fundraiser I get to work with incredibly generous and inspirational people. I work for an amazing charity supporting vulnerable children and young people who have been through some pretty tough times in their short lives, further making me feel incredibly lucky for what I have. Please, never take anything for granted; if your body works, use it. 

Needless to say, I lost some weight while I was at it. Slow and steady wins the race.

Ultimately my ongoing motivation to run is summed up best by this comic strip.

I don't feel like I have much to offer this time apart from one sentiment. If I can do it, if I can change my whole life with running, so can anyone. If you want to achieve something, you can do it. You just have to work hard and take things one step at a time. Currently I'm stepping slowly towards my ultimate running goal...the big 26.2. But each achievement until then will be worth every single second of effort. 

Today's top tip: Take your time. Whether you're on a long run as part of your training, filling in an application for a job, or you're making your first batch of macaroons, just take it easy. It's about the end goal, not how fast and furiously you get there. As Tim Minchin rightly said "If you focus too far ahead you'll miss out on all the stuff that's in your peripheral vision".

The man speaketh the truth. 

This week's reading: Marathon by Hal Higdon
Does what it says on the tin. Best not to ask...

Top tune: Pagan Poetry by Bjork
It almost feels like a cop out to put a Bjork tune in a running blog. But her lyrics and vocals make my heart beat with a painful pounding that reminds me I'm alive. 

...but not like the beep test.


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