I started Couch To Runner as a way to document my own journey of becoming a marathon runner, and to help those who are just starting out, as well as experienced runners. Here you will be able to follow my training journey from beginner to marathon and beyond, as well as finding advice, tips, recipes, inspiration, motivation, personal stories and more. Running has changed my life and given me a new outlook. As such, I have also started studying to become a personal trainer so that I can help others reach their goals. With CTR I hope to build a community of aspiring and experienced runners, where questions can be answered and people can get support and motivation.
My name is Natalie and in 2014, at the age of 22, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, which was hard for me to accept. I was prescribed anti-depressants which I had to take every day; these would give me the worst headaches imaginable, make the room spin and make me sensitive to light – I hated taking them but knew it was a long road to feeling “normal” again. My doctor told me that along with taking my medication, I should stop bottling things up and also try to do some light exercise to clear my mind… talking felt difficult, especially because I wasn’t sure why I felt the way I did; I was surrounded by supportive family and friends, had a good job and had no reason to feel down, and that was what made it more difficult because I felt guilty for feeling bad when I knew how bad other people had it and how they would happily switch lives with me. Exercising was out of the question because I had no energy or motivation. I just wanted to go back to work and lead a simple life, either that or wrap up in bed and never move.
It was a long journey that required a lot of talking, but also listening to how other people saw me; they didn’t judge me or think I was weak, instead they offered support, a shoulder to cry on and someone to listen. Eventually, I returned to work and tried to focus on the positives rather than the negatives; I’m quick to criticize myself for things I can’t do, but don’t stop to look at what I’m good at. I met a great guy and was honest and open with him from the start; with his support, I eventually weaned myself off of my medication (after consulting with my doctor). My head can still make me doubt myself, but I refuse to let it talk me out of things that I really want to do or to achieve. I have more positive voices in my head and regularly flick through a few motivational quotes or stories for inspiration.
Running helps me clear my mind; it helps me to set goals and to see my progress, and gives me something to be proud of – I can see my improvements and my journey and that keeps me pushing for more. I respect myself more now, I watch what I eat, I try to exercise 4-5 times a week and I’m a much more positive person; I don’t dwell on the things that used to drag me down, instead I tell myself that life is too short and there will be something better out there.
For me, the support of others was crucial – I didn’t want to be labelled and I felt as though everyone would look at me differently, but that wasn’t the case; everyone should have the support that they need to overcome their barriers, but not everyone is as lucky as I was to have a great support unit around me, and that is why I decided to fundraise for Mind.
I started running in November 2016, and could barely run for 30 seconds without ending up red faced, out of breath and bowled over with stitch; at the end of November, I entered my first Parkrun (a timed 5 kilometre “race”) and completed it in 46:11 – I had to walk a fair amount of it and felt absolutely shattered by the end. Since then, I started the C25K program using walk / run intervals, but then ended up adjusting it. At the start of March 2017, I entered my first 10 kilometre race, and finished in 1:22:28, with a 5k time of 39:08. In March 2017, I ran over 100 kilometres (challenge for Combat Stress UK). My first half marathon was in October 2017, where I finished in 2:59:47. London 2018 was my first full marathon, with a finishing time of 7:03:07 (hottest VLM on record though!). Almost exactly a year after my first Parkrun, I managed to run my first ever sub-30 minute 5k.
When I first started out, I weighed 12 stone 7 pounds; I currently weigh 9 stone 1 pound. I am now looking to improve my race times from 5k to marathon distances, and also train to run my first ultra-marathon. I will be looking to enter a 50 mile event soon, with the long term goal of running a 100 mile event.
I have also started Black Dog Fitness as a way to help others on their journey to finding fitness and positive mental health.
My current personal bests are:
1 KM = 4:51.4
1 Mile = 8:14.0
5 KM = 25:58
10 KM = 1:01:11
Half Marathon = 2:11:02
Marathon = 7:03:07