I used to forge sick notes to get out of physical education in school; running was a definite no-no and would only be acceptable if I was chasing a football. In my late teens I moved out of my family home and my diet and exercise regime got worse (I didn’t think that was possible!)… I ate what I wanted, mostly junk and frozen pizza, and was even more sedentary than ever; my only exercise would consist of walking to university. I used to look at runners in the street, come wind or rain, and just think to myself, “What on Earth are you doing? You’d never catch me doing that”.
When I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in 2014, my doctor told me that exercise was beneficial and could help me manage my mental health, but that was really the last thing on my mind after the diagnosis. I spent months adapting to my anti-depressants and still never got around to going to the gym or working out; everything just felt overwhelming and daunting. My anti-depressants, combined with the contraceptive pill, led to some weight gain and then I had the unfortunate experience of having gallstones and requiring surgery. Since having my gallbladder removed I gained more weight, and ended up feeling uncomfortable about my self-image and weight.
In November 2016, I joined the gym in an attempt to lose some weight. I didn’t really have a gym or workout plan, and just did some cardio and then a little time on the weight machines. I realized how unfit I was when I hopped onto the treadmill and attempted to bump up the speed to a jogging pace… I was struggling to jog for 30 seconds before ending up red faced, out of breath and very uncomfortable. I started looking for a beginner running plan, as I really wanted to improve, and stumbled upon the Couch 2 5k plan. The plan utilizes a run / walk interval method, where you build up the running sections each week and reduce the walking until you can run the entire 5k without walking.
Before I knew it I was hooked on running and trying to improve with each run. I purchased a Garmin Forerunner 35 to help me track my progress. I soon ditched the Couch 2 5k plan and started following my own plan. I realized that running helps me to cope with my negative feelings and anxiety; it gives me a positive outlet, a way to push myself and allows me to be a better me.
It feels great when I see myself making progress; it’s the one aspect of my life that I have full control over and I know that I only get what I put in. I constantly want to improve and push myself to my limits. When I train, I get a nagging voice in my head that’s telling me to stop but every time I overcome that voice, it feels like I’ve won a massive battle. Not giving in when my head and body are both wanting to stop is a great feeling; the euphoria after a great run, when you know you’ve given it your all and are covered in sweat, or when you’ve beat a personal best for distance or pace… it’s an amazing feeling.
Looking at what I’ve achieved since first starting out gives me the strength to get through the bad training days or events. I’ve gone from not being able to run for 30 seconds to running an hour non-stop. My 5k time has gone from 47 minutes down to 36 (could be even quicker but I haven’t done a dedicated 5k run for a while), and I have completed a number of 10k events. Running is great because it can be as competitive as you want it to be… you can train to win races, or just to beat your own personal best, and there is always something to work on and improve.
I aim to keep pushing myself and have my first half marathon in October. My first marathon is in April and then after that I will be working on improving my half marathon and full marathon pace before pushing to complete an ultra-event and obstacle events.
Why do you love running and when did you find your passion?