Confessions of a Running Evangelist
If you have been looking for something that can help with your fitness, something that will enable you to feel stronger (mentally and physically) while fitting in around other commitments in life, then you have come to the right place. Running is the answer!
I am a Running Evangelist, and I would talk about the benefits of running until I’m blue in the face. “Why?” I hear you say, “It’s painful, tiring and hard work!” Yes, it is, and that’s precisely why I love it so much. I have been on a running journey; indeed, I am ON that running journey, and I am loving it. I’d like to share that passion with you.
It feels like a Very Big Adventure and one that I am thoroughly enjoying. The key message that I’d like you to take from today’s sermon is that you can do it too – if you really want to. “That’s a bold statement, Liz!” Indeed it is, so, why do I feel so confident? Because I started at zero and I am now doing things I never thought I’d do, and I believe you can too.
I started running in Autumn 2018 after a long period of ill health. Beginning with walking and adding small periods of gentle running in between, I found it very challenging. I understood that pacing correctly was important if I wanted to go further and it was the one thing I felt that I could do. I simply couldn’t run any faster than I was running so I kept it in my mind that I would add a little bit of distance at a time. So, I started with 200 metres and gradually build it up. I went out three times a week and included a parkrun into this routine. I walked most of parkrun but added a few little runs in between trees so that I could get round the course in 40 minutes. I was happy with that.
The routine was very important to me, I kept my commitment to my three runs a week and gradually built up the distance. I started to see small gains in distance and, although my pace remained at around the 17min mile mark, I decided that I would work on running for longer as my first goal.
Top Tip No. 1 Commit to it.
Make a commitment to your running and stick to it. Three times a week is a good amount in my opinion. If you include a parkrun, then it’s twice a week for 30 minutes at a time. If this is important to you, you will find that time.
I joined RUN Harpenden in March 2018 after hearing stories about how good it was to have a coach and a group of people who share your passion. I was the slowest in the group, but, at that time, I was just happy to be doing what I do. I loved the weekly sessions, enjoyed seeing what I could achieve if I stuck at it and met a wonderful group of people who I love running with now.
Top Tip No. 2: Get a coach. It works!
I had run in my 20’s/early 30’s so I knew that I could ‘do’ it but having a coach has made so much difference. I feel like I’m doing things I wouldn’t have done had I not joined RUN Harpenden. Although mentally, I felt strong and capable, my body firmly disagreed with me! My head said “Do it! Do it!” my body screamed “Noooo!”. There was always a disconnect between what I thought I could do and what I could actually manage. Having a coach has helped my body catch up with my head.
Top Tip no. 3 Find your Tribe
Running in a group is a very different experience to running alone too. I was always a solitary runner in the past, my run time was my headspace, but I have found a joy in running together that I didn’t think was possible. The encouragement and support from others have been life-changing, and we all look out for each other. When I watch the other runners in the group, it feels great for me to have something to aim for, and it feels amazing when I overtake (yeah, yeah, I know they are letting me, but in my head I’m Mo!). Being part of something bigger than yourself always feels good and I love to encourage others on their journey.
As mentioned, I have difficulty with my mind thinking that I can do anything, and my body really struggles to catch up. There must be a name for it? This year has been an example of this ‘disordered thinking’. I ran my first half marathon in April 2018, a very wet and muddy Wimbledon Common Half. Following this, another half in June, along the Thames Towpath. August 2018 saw me celebrating my 25th Wedding Anniversary with a Family Half Marathon (disappointing that they all came in 50 minutes before me despite very little training on their part!!). The St. Albans Stampede followed In September with a team from Run Harpenden. This was a lovely day, and I would recommend you to run it if you are around.. A couple of weeks later, the St. Albans Triathlon – LOVED IT! October 2018 saw me step up a gear and tackle the Yorkshire Marathon followed by an Ultra in December. 2018 had been a good year.
I started 2019 in the same vein, January 2019 I ran the Fred Hughes 10 mile followed by the Canterbury 10 mile the week after. In February, the Marriott Way Trail Marathon and, for my 50th birthday, I had the pleasure of running the London Marathon. Two weeks later, another triathlon and I’m packing my gear for a double-marathon this weekend. I can’t wait! The rest of the year is filled with races, and my goal is to run 100 marathons by the time I am 65.
When I read the list of runs I have completed over the past 14 months, I feel so proud of my journey. Not because I am good at what I do, I am frequently at the back of the pack smiling at the tiny handful of spectators who have hung around long enough to see the ‘fun-runners’. Neither am I particularly stylish when I run, fellow runners have asked me if I am ok as I look like I have a disability when I shuffle along. I am proud because I have put myself out there month after month, frequently at the very, VERY edge of my comfort zone and when I do a race, I am so happy to have got round. I have had tearful moments when I don’t feel as if I am improving, and that is very demoralising. I have had tearful moments when it physically hurts, and I really feel like I’m going to die! This leads me to tip no. 4.
Top Tip no. 4 Running is a Mind Game
This is what I say to everyone, and this is why I love it so much. Yes, it is a physical activity, and you need to train to enjoy the benefits. That goes without saying. But running is about the conversations you have with yourself about what you can and can’t do. Where are your limits? How will you feel when you hit that limit and reach for the next? Nothing feels as good as seeing those small steps amount to something. Your ‘something’ is different to everyone elses and there is fun in discovering what that something is. It might be 5 or 10k, it might be longer. It’s for you to decide and that’s very empowering.
So, my advice to you is to make a commitment to yourself, enjoy your time outside and expand your comfort zone a little. Do something that scares you. Book that 10k and train for it. Go to parkrun and see if you can knock 10 seconds off your time the previous week. Just keep moving forward. You won’t regret it.
”make a commitment to yourself