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my 10 year love letter to running

10 years ago, much younger me decided in her infinite wisdom to start running.

It was March 2011, I was a baby 17 year old in her final year of college... and I was not feeling good about myself.

 

I have always done sport growing up. Not to any great level, but I dabbled in quite a few sports when I was younger. I did gymnastics and trampolining throughout school, I played tennis, liked dancing, swimming, sports day. I was never the kid who hated P.E and opted for the 'longer' distances in track. Our school also used to do this horrendous run in November which constituted laps of our muddy, hilly field in the freezing cold. It was blood-bath, carnage and everyone hated it, but I didn't really mind. I suppose you could say I've always been interested in running in some form but I never put any effort into it until I was 17. Running as a youngster was a breeze, granted the distances were probably not much more than 1500m - no lactic acid?! Dreamy.


So fast forward to 16 y/o me. A little bit lazier, left school and went to college. Suddenly found that going out drinking with mates was fun, nights got later and so too did the lie-ins. I enjoyed my teenage years very much and by no means regret the choices I made.

The best choice I ever made though, was to run.


So the sedentary lifestyle was fun while it lasted, but actually didn't feel much like me at all. I was uncomfortable with not doing. My self-esteem probably dropped to its lowest during this time and I found myself comparing myself to friends. I wanted a change, I wanted to lose some weight, I wanted to be fitter and healthier. I joined the gym slightly before I started running and realised that movement felt good, really really good.

 

A couple of years prior to this, my parents had started running and really enjoyed it. My mum was forever asking me to join her and run together. One day I went to bed and decided that the next day would be the day I had my first run. I remember this decision so clearly and visualised myself running around my local park, feeling good and getting healthier.

The reality was a little bit different - I told my mum I was going to run with her so we decided to take a fully downhill 4km route to the gym and treat ourselves with the sauna afterwards. This run had to be at night so I wouldn't bump into anyone I knew looking sweaty (I was very embarrassed initially). I got dressed in a thick cotton hoody and set off. Believe me when I say it was the hardest thing I ever did - I only made it 0.5km before I had to stop, wheezing away and rethinking my whole plan. How could I be so far from my lovely vision of skipping around the park. My first run involved about 10 stops in total and was not pretty, it was also a huge reality check for me about the state of my body at the time. The positive from this run was that I did it, survived and remember telling myself that even though it was the hardest thing ever, if I kept doing it, it would never be that hard again.

The early days of running were a lot like this first run on repeat. Stops and breathlessness. No fitness. Feeling badly about myself. Lots of swearing, sometimes crying. My mum stuck with me and kept encouraging me (despite the swearing/crying) and eventually we began building distance slowly. I hated running and used to say

"I'll do it but I'll never love it"

We ran consistently even though it hurt. To this day, I am so proud of my determination during this time of life. I don't know why I persisted so hard with running, but I did. 3 or 4 runs a week, every week on top of gym and zumba and being more conscious about what I was fuelling with.

One day, Mum sneakily suggested a new route that was "just over 5 km..." and I went with it, ending up running my first ever 10km.

We ran through the summer, into autumn and finally got to winter.

Cold, rain, wind, storms, snow - still lacing up and getting out there.

I ran for months without seeing any changes in my body but still motivated and then all of a sudden one day, woke up more capable, fitter, stronger, leaner.

My runs stopped feeling unbelievably hard and just felt like the good kind of hard. Still not easy, still requiring effort, but not something I dreaded doing.

The biggest change, I eventually realised, was in my mind.


I had no idea quite how cloudy my head had become until I cleared it.

Running helped me to grow in confidence, my self-esteem improved alongside my fitness. I could think better when running and used this time to solve problems, be creative and plan my life.

Running helped me shake off my bad days, improving my mood massively. It helped me manage anxiety that had previously overwhelmed me. After running for a few months, I felt like my aura became brighter somehow, and others noticed this too.

On those early days where I was considering starting running, I always thought about the physical changes it could lead to, being naively oblivious to what I would do for my mental health. Actually, I don't think I thought much at all about mental health at 17, it was running that opened my eyes and sparked my interest. By lifting the veil, I became more attuned to my thoughts, feelings and emotions.

I've used running as my crutch through the hardest times and the best times of my life.

Running has taken me to new places, allowed me to meet new people and introspect deeply, in a way that enriched my entire wellbeing.



With my new found fitness, I decided a challenge was on the cards. I entered the Sheffield Half Marathon for the first time in 2012.

My training through the winter consisted of wondering how anyone ever possibly ran 13 miles without dying. In January 2012, I ran 10 miles and honestly thought it was the most groundbreaking achievement but still so far from a half marathon.

Then the day came for my first race and I ran 13 miles without stopping.

Sheffield Half used to finish at the iconic Don Valley Stadium and the final few meters lapped the track. The atmosphere, the setting, the race in my home time, the achievement, the challenge. All memories I treasure.


I guess you could say that I was a runner now.

I entered the half marathon every year (barring injury) since then and have ran a few half marathon's a year ever since.

My fitness has built slowly and steadily to the point where I can now run a half marathon any weekend if i wish to. I've done a marathon, I've done triathlon. I'm confident in my cardiovascular ability.

It took work in the early days. It was so hard and tested my resilience. I did it because I wanted to do it.

I think within the first year of running, I changed my mind on never loving running.

 

My commitment to running is the longest, strongest and healthiest I have ever made to anything in my life.

I chose to invest in myself, my health and wellbeing. It has become my most reliable and effective form of self-care.

I'm definitely not the fastest runner or a natural born athlete. I'm breaking now records but I'm doing it.

My body changed in ways I liked but the most significant changes were most definitely in my head.

From the early days of running at nights, on routes where nobody will see me to quite frankly not giving a shit. Running has allowed me to become connected in mind and body, and connected to my environment. Living in the 'outdoor' city and so close to the Peak District is a privilege doesn't escape me, and so I relish the time I can spend running in such a beautiful part of the country.

Lately I have come to realise that my love of running has fed my passion for exercise psychology and has fuelled my desire to try and align my career with the things that I value the most.

A truly complete, holistic cycle of environment - mind - body that makes me feel whole.



Running is my alone time, my social time, i've met new friends and seen new places. I run for adventure and exploration, I run for familiarity. I run when i'm happy and when i'm sad, excited and anxious, feeling motivated and in a slump. I run through summer heat and winter chills, training for races or just because. To challenge myself or to care for myself. On local roads and new trails.

No longer a chore but part of my identity, I can't imagine a day when running is not lingering somewhere in my thoughts.


I run because I love it.

x



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