I go running, but I’m not ‘a runner’

In January 2012, I was 3 stone (if not more) overweight, unfit & – knowing I needed motivation to get off my large bottom – I decided I needed a challenge & this challenge was going to be the Great North Run.

I filled in the ballot application & sent it off with my fingers crossed. At this point, I hadn’t actually tried any running & turns out I had massively underestimated my fitness levels! I used to be very fit & played a variety of sports, so on the first day I decided to ‘go for it’ I was expecting to be able to run slightly more than 30 seconds without feeling like I was close to death!

I came home & – whilst recovering – realised that perhaps I needed to re-think my plan! I downloaded an app called the ‘Couch to 5k’ & it was a great help. The idea is that you run a little, walk a little, run a little, walk a little etc. Eventually, you run a bit more & walk a bit less & as it’s all set to music, by the time you’ve realised how hard you’ve worked, it’s time to finish!

It took around a month to get up to 5k, at which time a friend mentioned that he ran in the Parkrun race every weekend. Parkruns are free, timed events that run throughout the country & the organisers & fellow runners are really friendly & welcoming. In my first race, I came last (being beaten by a 70 year old lady, which was a low point). Still, it gave me a starting point & I could work on getting quicker from there.

It was about this time that I got the email to say I hadn’t been accepted into the Great North Run & I surprised myself with how disappointed I was – I had a long way to go both in distance & fitness terms, but I had started to enjoy running & knew that I wanted to go for the Great North Run as my goal. As soon as I’d set my mind on entering, there was only one charity I wanted to represent. My grandma had MS & I had seen how it had impacted her life, so wanted to help to fund the research into what is still a little understood disease. I had to raise £300 to race for them & hoped that I could reach it. Initially, I think people sponsored me out of disbelief (they probably thought they were guaranteed to get their money back when I didn’t do the race!).

After building up my confidence & wearing down my time a little, I entered my first 10k race in June. After taking advice from a few friends who were proper runners, I decided that my training regime would be to try one quicker run & one longer run in a week to get me fitter, quicker & running further.

The 10k was bloody hard work! I found it quite difficult to pace myself & ended up running a lot of the way with another runner, who was wearing a watch to track her speed. With about 2k to go, she started to flag & I was left with the quandary of staying with her – as we’d chatted at the start & agreed to stick together as we were both beginners – or going off, as I still felt fine. Luckily, this is just one example of how friendly & encouraging the running community is & she urged me to go on ahead. I found that I actually had some more energy in my tank & managed to overtake a few people on the way to the finish line, which felt like a massive achievement!

Over the next couple of months, I stuck with the theory of one quicker run & one longer run, but also downloaded an training plan from the Asics website, which was really useful as it is specific to the individual & their goal, so told me exactly what to do.

I actually found I looked forward to going out of an evening. I found running a really good stress reliever after a bad day, or on a good day, I had more energy & enthusiasm. It became my ‘me time’; I’d put on my music (see my blog on my running top 10) & had a few minutes of not thinking about work, nursery, shopping lists or anything other than putting one foot in front of the other. Every now & then, I’d get into what runners called ‘the zone’, which was wonderful; my legs were going & I was breathing without really thinking about it – just going! By the end of August, I’d got up to about 10 miles & all was going well. I still wasn’t very fast, but I could do it & that was the main thing.

When I first started & people were sponsoring me, I said I just wanted to finish (which seemed like an impossibility way back in January), then – as I improved – I set my target to under 3 hours. With a few weeks to go, I was hoping to complete it in under 2 hours 45 minutes – I had been running at around 12 minute miles & that time seemed attainable. One friend said that for every minute under that I finished, he’d sponsor me £5. He knows me very well & that was the extra push I needed. I just didn’t want to walk, as I felt I’d really regret getting to the end if I did, after all of the hard work I’d put in.

Embedded image permalinkThe weekend of the Great North Run arrived & we enjoyed a wonderful day at the Great City Games, watching many of the athletes, including Mo Farah, who had enjoyed being part of Team GB at the London Olympics just a few weeks earlier. It seemed so special to be taking part in this iconic event in such a significant year.


On the morning of the race, we made our way to the start & Mr T carried Little T in a backpack off to find a viewing point. It’s tradition for the organisers to play ‘Abide With Me’ at the start of the race to remember why we were racing & those we were raising money for. It’s fair to say that this was incredibly emotional & I stood taking in the scene with the tears streaming as I thought about my grandma & how far I’d come since thet dark, miserable January day.

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That’s me in the orange, in the centre. Mile 1 done.

I got chatting with a chap who was running to raise money for some hospices in the North East. He was aiming for around 2 hours 30 & said to stick with him. After the start gun went, it was still about an hour before I actually crossed the start line, due to the enormous number of runners. I even got a high-five from Greg Rutherford as I went through the start. I managed to run at 10 minute miles – faster than I had ever run in training – for the first 8 miles, before realising that I couldn’t carry on at that pace.  I spotted Mr T, Little T & my best friend at about a mile in, but didn’t see them again. At around mile 9, I did a double-take, as I got given a drink by Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson! Unfortunately, as I’d downed an energy drink before the start gun went, waited an hour & then had a couple of drinks en route, I needed a wee by about mile 10 – waiting in the queue for a portaloo in the middle of the Great North Run was a surreal experience, to say the least!

The atmosphere of the whole day was incredible, with people lining the streets along the whole route. I had my name on my orange MS Society vest & the lift when hearing someone shout you on by name is brilliant. The other racers were so supportive of each other – offering Jelly Babies to those who looked like they were flagging & offering words of support when needed. At around 11.5 miles, I was so close to walking, but knew I’d regret it & a lovely lady saw I needed a bit of a boost & suggested I run with her for a while, which was just what I needed. Once she’d got me back up to speed, she carried on at her pace, but she’d got me past the wall & I am eternally grateful to this stranger for her help.

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I finished in a time of 2hours 40 minutes (including a wee stop!) & was over the moon! The last mile, with people cheering on every step is something that I will remember forever & the total I raised for the MS Society was an incredible £2896, as people were so generous. I was proud as punch of my achievement & on the way home, we visited the Angel of the North to show off my medal.

I have kept up the running, although I’m looking out for my next challenge, as I need the push to get me out of the door of an evening once the nights draw in. I often disappear off when I get in from work & I never thought when I started that I’d ever be nipping out for a quick 5 miles before tea. I still wouldn’t say I’m a proper runner if anyone asked though!

8 thoughts on “I go running, but I’m not ‘a runner’

  1. This is truly awesome, couch to 5k and Park run are the 2 things I suggest every new runner does. They’re great motivators and best of all are free!
    Love that you now have the running bug and what an achievement to do the GNR and raise all that money.

    • Thanks for reading & glad you liked it! I also recommend couch to 5k & Parkruns, should people ask. I’m trying to find a new challenge, but I think your ‘Race to the Stones’ is far too ambitious for me!

    • I don’t think I’ve ever been called inspirational before. You’ve made my night! I think cycling inside is a very wise thing to do, moving in to winter – it’s flippin’ freezing here this evening! I’ve considered getting a bike or a cross-trainer inside for winter. Your determination is clear & once you’ve made the decision that the time is right & you’ve found your motivation, you WILL do this! If I can be of assistance, I’d be happy to help! Thanks for reading & your comment.

    • Thanks! You are lovely to say that. I don’t feel very inspirational at the moment – need to get back out there & start again.

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