It hasn’t always been that way. Well, yes, to be honest, it started off that way. Just over two years ago, I started training for the Great North Run, having never ran before. Running alone. And hating every minute of it. I don’t think I ever got to enjoy it in those first months. But it didn’t matter if I loved it or hated it at that time. That wasn’t the point. I was on a mission. To run the Great North Run – all 13.1 miles of it – without stopping. I was determined. More determined than I have ever been about anything in my life. And I did it! It was one of the greatest achievements of my whole life.
I had fully expected to stop running after the Great North Run. I wasn’t planning to run ever again. I had done what I set out to do. But somehow I wasn’t ready to pack away the running shoes just yet. I wanted to share the joy (!), so I started a running group for reluctant runners. If I could do it, anyone could. I firmly believed that and that belief overflowed and rubbed off on some of my friends. Just a few of us on a Friday morning at first, then a few more…until now there can be up to ten of us running along the Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside on a Sunday evening. Running became more of a pleasure. I stopped dreading it. I found myself actually enjoying the process of running.
Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t. I found myself hating running. Hating it with a newfound passion. I was left running alone – a few out in front, a few trailing behind, and I had zero motivation. I dug deep and found nothing but resentment and negativity. I wanted to give up right there and then and never run again.
And these are the reasons I hate running at the moment:-
- That first mile. Oh my word, that first mile never gets any easier. I’m one of those runners that really struggles in the first mile. Struggles to breathe. Struggles to keep moving forward. Struggles to keep moving at all. Others are chatting away and I cannot utter a word. I feel pathetic. Humiliated. The negative voices in my head are screaming at me to turn round and give up and go back to the car. It takes all my willpower to keep going and believe it will not feel that way for the whole run. And it really is every single time. That makes me mad. It should get easier. It shouldn’t be that way. I get so angry and frustrated.
- It’s hard. Running is hard. Well, it is for me. It doesn’t come naturally. It takes a lot of mental effort just to turn up. That hill in the Park Run is unbearably hard. Physically and mentally. The head games are sometimes harder than the physical exertion. It’s a pretty much constant battle against that voice telling me to stop and walk.
- I’m no good at it. It’s true. I’m not. And I never will be. I’m pretty rubbish at running. My husband can walk with the dogs as fast as I can run. I blame my body shape. I have short legs. I’m carrying a lot of weight. People who’ve been running a lot less time than me take to it so much better. They’re faster than me. They cover more distance. They don’t look like they’re about to die at the end.
- I’m not getting any better. That’s what it feels like anyway. I’m not into timing myself to be honest, but the Park Run stats don’t lie. I’m not driven by shaving minutes off my time, but you do have to wonder what the point is if I’m not improving at all…
- The others don’t need me any more. Yes, I think if I’m honest, I was spurred on for a bit by feeling needed. I was the leader. I did the organising. I did the motivating. But my reluctant runners are all grown up now. They’re not reluctant any more. They organise to go running together at other times. Without me. They are more fired up and motivated than I am. They are leaving me standing. They are putting me to shame.
‘So give up’ Helen H said to me the other day. ‘If you hate it that much, don’t do it. Why spend all that time and energy doing something you don’t enjoy? Find something else you love more.’
She’s right, of course. Life’s too short to be doing something that makes you miserable, I get that. But I’m not going to stop. And these are the reasons why:-
- that buzz. There’s nothing quite like it, is there? As soon as I finish my run, it crashes over me like a wave. That exhilaration. That inner glow. Nothing else does it for me like running does.
- that confidence. If I can keep running, I can do anything. I have gained a confidence in my body’s potential, but not just my body…that confidence has spilled over into my whole life. For a whole year after the Great North Run, I was riding high. I could do anything. I achieved so much in my work and tried new things that I don’t believe I would have had the confidence to try before I started running. I love how running makes me feel about myself.
- that example. I love that I have inspired other people to start running. I want them to experience the difference running can make for themselves. They already are. The change in some of my friends is amazing. I love that we have done this. That we are still doing this. That this year, some of them will be doing the Great North Run for the first time and I want to be there, running with them and experiencing it with them.
- that change. I am a different person to who I was a couple of years ago. I seem to have shaken off the depression that plagued me for so many years. I’m healthier and happier than I have ever been. My body confidence has rocketed and I feel so much fitter and more active – younger even – than I have ever felt before. I feel ready to take on the world and live life to the full. I don’t know how much running has had to do with that change, but I do believe it has played a significant part. I don’t want to ever go back to how I was before.
- I’m no quitter. I never walk away from a challenge. I believe in pushing myself. I’m not sure I could look myself in the mirror in the same way if I gave up. I don’t know how I’d live with that ‘What if…?’
So actually, I’m not going to stop. In fact, to be honest, I’m terrified of getting an injury that would stop me from running. I don’t know what my life would look like without running and I don’t want to find out.
I don’t have to like it. In fact, sometimes I’ll hate it. But running is here to stay.