I’m not a runner.
I’ve said this more times in my life than I’d like to admit. Running has never been my thing, even though I’ve attempted to make it my thing various times. I used to run occasionally in sixth-form, then in uni, then again a few years ago, and once more during the first lockdown when the gym first closed.
Every time I start, I stop.
There has been various reasons for this, from shin splints to knee pain to simply not feeling fit enough to keep moving. Then a little while ago, I had this strange urge to dust off the running shoes and bumbag (lol) and give it another try.
I wasn’t sure what I expected, but it definitely wasn’t nearly 5k in under 30 minutes. I was shattered after, but realised that seizing that moment of motivation and giving it a go was all it took to prove myself wrong.
I don’t believe that running is for everyone, but in my own experience, saying ‘I’m not a runner’ was a way to protect myself from not failing. I’m not very good at not being very good at something. I had this perception that a runner was someone who does marathons, goes out for long runs every few days and doesn’t start to feel the burn a mile in.
But in reality, a runner is just anyone who runs. And we all have to start somewhere.
When I started up again properly, I used to take headphones and have music blaring out, which I ultimately found distracting and irritating. I also used to wear a sports bra with no sweatshirt even on cold days, but found that I’d run too fast because I was freezing and end up burning out early.
Then I started to wear a hoodie and run without music, and soon found that I could focus more on my breath and movement without the distractions of sound and coldness.
After a few runs, I also found ways to dispel the thoughts of ‘this is too hard’, ‘I can’t do it’, ‘I’ll never get better’ and ‘it hurts’! I learned to push the negativity out of my head and channel my focus into appreciating my surroundings.
A few weeks on from my first run, my boyfriend convinced me to go running with him. His fitness is a lot better than mine, and being tall, his stride is a lot longer. But I really enjoyed our runs together, and it was due to his motivation and pace-setting that I managed to run my first 5k in just over 30 minutes!
I’d been averaging two runs a week – some of which I felt really up for, others that I didn’t fancy at all – and managed to keep a pretty consistent pace and distance. One day after work, I was feeling keen to head out, and something felt different. My pace was steady, my breath was calm and controlled and my legs seemed to be working of their own accord.
Somehow, six weeks after starting, I managed to do my first 10k.
For many, that distance is nothing. For me, it honestly felt huge, and I remember the elation I felt that I’d not only done it, but managed to complete it in an hour and two minutes.
While I’m still really proud of myself for managing a 10, I must admit that I feel I’m losing the bug. The longest I’ve run since is just over 5, and I feel that perhaps I needed to prove to myself that I could do it, and that’s enough for me.
But the point is this.
The last few months have made me realise that whatever it is you want to try out, all you have to do is start. You might love it, you might get good at it, and it might turn into a permanent fixture of your life.
On the other hand, you might be unsure, you might not get beyond a certain point, and you might pick it up occasionally or never go near it again.
Whatever way it goes is fine. Life is all about trial and error, and if you don’t give it a go, how will you ever know?
For me, running might just be something that helped to keep me sane while my beloved gym was shut, or it might be something that I do every now and then when I fancy a change of scene.
It has taught me that you don’t have to be amazing at something to enjoy it, and you don’t have to keep it up if it stops serving you. It doesn’t make you a failure. It just means you’re being true to yourself.
True happiness lies in making time for the things we enjoy – and the only way to find things we enjoy is by giving new things a go.