Olivia runs a mile

Recently a film has been released called ‘Brittany Runs A Marathon’, and I’ve heard it’s rather an emotional one for some of us runners. You see, not all who run are equal, not all who run did it at school, not all who run are fast.

I began running in April 2018 and was greatly enjoying it. My level of enjoyment took me completely by surprise (as it took everyone who knew me by surprise too!). I slogged away through the endless summer heatwave, into the autumn and winter. I went out in all weathers, including the pouring Lancashire rain and, when it was too hot that summer, at 10 o’clock at night. I was obsessed!

I loved the high I experienced after each run. I loved that I could see how I was getting better and fitter each week as my times came down or I could run for longer. I even ran an 11 mile fell run in the Yorkshire Dales. But then disaster struck…

In June 2019 I was playing netball and I landed badly on my ankle, tearing a ligament and putting myself out of action for months. After some serious rest and physio, I was given the all clear to run again (gently, slowly) at the end of September. This was a shock, as the initial examination with the physio in August had predicted October or November. I merrily skipped out of the physio, ran a handful of times, and then packed it all in.

You see, for once my mind wasn’t letting me down. My mind was telling me, yes, let’s go, you can do this. But my body was saying, nope, and prompting me to give up after just a few minutes. Suddenly, each run brought with it disappointment and demotivation, where it had previously brought elation and motivation. Instead, 3 weeks ago, I turned back to netball.

I took it very gently, no sprinting or jumping, but it was fine. My ankle felt good, and I enjoyed myself… except for the fact I was desperately unfit. I am desperately unfit. And so I told myself 3 weeks ago that I would start running tomorrow. The problem was, tomorrow never arrived. I always had an excuse.

Mainly, though, my biggest excuse was that I can remember the hard work I had to put in during those early months of beginning running back in April and May 2018. I can remember having to force myself out when I was shattered, when it was raining, early mornings or late at night. I can remember feeling ridiculous as I plodded along slower than walking pace as I ran up another Lancashire hill. I can remember all of the sore thighs and aching lungs. I can remember all of what it took to get myself to the place of being able to run 10.9 miles across fell land on my own. And I just didn’t think I could be bothered to put that work in again.

Last night though, I went to netball practice, and shared this with some of the team. Their response? Well, you’ll have to do it, if you want to get back to where you were. And, of course, they were right. What it comes down to is how much I want it. How much do I want to be able to run for miles and miles? How much do I want to feel that blood pumping runners high again?

Well, it turns out, I want it a lot, because this morning I went out and I did it. I put my trainers on and my headphones in, selected my music and ran 1.6 miles. Ok, so I ran for 8 minutes, walked for 5 minutes, and ran for 8 again, just as Jo Whiley told me to (I skipped to week 5 of Couch to 5K). But I moved forward for 1.6 miles. And it felt so good!

My lungs ached, my thighs burned (especially up that hill), but my blood pumped and my heart soared.

How much do you want what you want?

Don’t let anything stop you.

The Night Before

And so it’s finally here. The night before. In the morning I take on 10 miles of mud, rivers, hills and a bit of road too. Am I ready? Absolutely not. I’ve had cold after cold, shin splints and the sort of tooth ache that makes you want to cut your own jaw off. (Seriously, I was in A&E vomiting because the pain was so bad.) And so, I want to call it off. Part of me wants to wait until next year. There’s always a next year. But no. Tomorrow I will run.

Back in 2006 I chose not to run ‘The Wilson’: a gruelling 10 mile fell race for 6th formers at my old school. Why? Because I was fearful. Sure, I blamed it on my bad knees, my lack of training and my previous chest infection, but I was really just afraid. I was afraid I’d come last or, worse, not finish; that I would finish so late that there’d be no one there to cheer me on along the finishing strait; that I would be a bit of a laughing stock amongst my peers. I told myself I wasn’t fit enough, or strong enough; that sport wasn’t my thing, music was. I believed the lies in my own mind, and I let them win. But the truth was, I could have done it.

Now, over a decade later and around 4 stone heavier, I am nowhere near physically ready for 10 miles on the vast and bleak moorland of the Yorkshire Dales. I am not ready for the hills; I am not ready for the mileage; I am not even ready for the 5k stretch on road at the end. I am not ready. Yet, mentally, I am. I’ve been telling myself that I will be doing ‘The Wilson’ since April last year; since I went on that first run and it felt like an impossible dream that I might get from running for 60 seconds to running the impossible 10 mile in just under a year. Yet here it is. The impossible will, tomorrow, be done.

It isn’t even the lack of physical readiness which puts me off tomorrow. It’s the emotional. I have built this up in my mind over the years. I’d run the whole thing, with the exception of Baugh Fell. I’d get round in a respectable time for a 30 something mum of 1. I’d have family at the end cheering me on. Tomorrow I won’t have any of that. I definitely won’t be able to run the whole thing – though I’ve made my peace with it. My time is irrelevant tomorrow, it’s about getting round in one piece. And everyone’s busy (as is the case when you go to run on a Tuesday morning), so I’ll finish that 10th mile in silence and alone. It will be my biggest physical achievement to date, but I will celebrate on my own, probably via social media. There’ll still be tears though.

And really, all of that is ok. There is still next year. This year I can get round, find my way, survive. Then next year, 2020, I can fly round, find my way, thrive.

Giving up would be easy

In April it will be a year since I started running. Following the NHS Couch to 5K program, I quickly began to see improvement. I was running faster, and further. I was feeling fitter, more determined. Each time I ran, I’d be sure I could beat myself in some way.

Since September, though, I have lost my mojo. I’ve been running, but I feel as though I’m really not getting anywhere. And with a pretty poor January record, I have come into February wondering whether I can keep going.

I mean, of course I can. But it all feels a bit rubbish right now. I’m thoroughly fed up of running at the same speed (or, indeed, getting slower) and it feeling hard. It feels harder now than it did when I started 10 months ago.

And so, giving up would be easy. Especially as I seem nowhere near ready for my upcoming 10 mile fell run in March. I ran 1 mile yesterday and it felt impossible. If 1 mile on a relatively flat road feels that way, how will I get through another 9, with mud and hills and, probably, rain?

I know I can’t give up. It’s just that it would be so easy to say, “I’m done.”

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

So said Norman Vincent Peale.

Back on 8th April 2018, I turned 30. Honestly, it wasn’t a great day and I spent the late afternoon in bed, crying. It was probably the hormones (I finished breastfeeding a week earlier), but I believed that nobody cared about my ‘big’ birthday. And so, at 7pm, when my daughter was in bed, I decided I would go for a run to clear my head. My previous run had been August 30 2017, when I attempted Week 4 of the Couch to 5K plan. I ran 1.6 miles in 22 minutes.

I’m not sure exactly why I decided to go for a run, or why I thought it would make me feel better… but it did. I remember it being hard: R3 minutes, W90 seconds, R5 minutes, W2.5 minutes x2. I really struggled to run those 2 sets of 5 minutes. I thought I might keel over at one point, but the day’s earlier drizzle had cleared, almost like nature’s birthday present to me. It was cool, there were birds singing and lambs bleating. And best of all, I neither saw nor heard any human disturbance. Bliss.

That was the beginning of this journey I am on, pushing my body physically and mentally. Every week (bar the 2 when I was poorly) since then I have pushed myself to get out of the house and run 3-4 times a week. Back in July, I finally managed to run 5k without stopping. Wow! What an achievement that was! I felt incredible. Even before that, though, I’d set a target in my mind of 10km.

In the summer of 2010 I completed a Race for Life 10km, in memory of my granddad. I ran, with zero training and a very unhealthy lifestyle, and finished in 1 hour 3 minutes. 2 years later, again with no training, I completed the Great Manchester Run (another 10km) in 1 hour 7 minutes. I only realise now what a feat that was. And it makes me cross with myself too.

How could I let myself believe that I was physically ok, just because I was slim? How could I do that then, with no training, and yet now I have to really work hard for it? How could I allow myself to become so unfit?

At the same time though, it makes my current achievements feel even grander. 5 weeks ago, I began training at a gym. To look at from the outside, it’s nothing special. There’s no jazzy machines, no water fountain or air con. There’s not even a sniff of Zumba. And yet, I can tell you that it is so much more than all of the gyms which have those things. And it’s special. Oh, is it special.

Over the last 5 weeks, I have done things I never thought possible. I have hurt and ached in places which have never ached (including my incredibly weak abdomen). I have felt scared, and I have felt joy. I have felt nervous, and within an hour felt such pride in what I’ve just achieved. And I’ve met great people. Really great people. All working towards their own goals in their own time. Incredible.

And so, here we are… or rather here I am. It’s 18th August 2018. It’s been 132 days since that first run back in April. This morning I met up with one of the great people from the gym and went for a run. She is training for the Great North Run (half marathon), her own goal, and yet she took the time to run with me. She pushed me. She cheered me on. And she ran at my pace.

Back in April I aimed to get to 10km. It seemed ridiculous. Today, I did it. I’m not sure if hitting 10km is the moon or the stars, but I haven’t landed yet. I’m just resetting my goals.

“I hate running.”

Or so I used to say. Now I’m one of those people who will say, “Ooh! I love running!”

Do not misunderstand me. When I rave positively about running, it isn’t because I’m good at it. Nor am I fit, or fast. I’m not even slim and toned, as I still very much enjoy membership in the Mummy Tummy Club. I look red and weary when I run, and there are points when I could walk more quickly than I currently run.

And yet… I love it.

Not because I find it easy – I don’t.

Not because I am losing weight – I’m not.

Not because I used to run – I didn’t.

I love it because I feel strong.

I love it because it makes me feel good.

I love it because it makes me feel determined.

When I started running back in March, I was running at a pace of 9:30/KM. Now I am running regularly at a pace of 8:05/KM. Yesterday, I ran another PB of 40 minutes 25 seconds for a 5K, AND a PB of 25 minutes 42 seconds for 2 miles.

I am still quite slow, but I am determined to get fitter and stronger. I know the speed will come in time. And those who know me well, well they know I am never in a hurry.

Race for Life

I have never been a runner, ever. In fact, I’m quite certain I wasn’t even one of those children who just ran and ran and ran. Maybe my memories hazy, though. Since having my daughter, I’ve wanted to get fit. Mainly so I can have a healthy future with her, but also so I set a good example to her as she grows up in this world obsessed with looks and beauty. I want her to know that we exercise to keep our bodies strong, not necessarily to keep them slim.

Anyway, I digress. Last year, I started running but soon found my knees aching and so I stopped and recovered. It turns out it was a mixture of lingering hormones from pregnancy and the introduction of hills too soon into my runs. So I have rested, recovered and yesterday I went for a run. I did the Week 2, Run 1 of Couch to 5K from the NHS. How was it?


I really enjoyed it, even though it was hard. And that brings me to the title of this post: Race for Life.

Each year, across the UK, Cancer Research UK put on various running events for all women. You can walk, jog or run your way round, all in the name of beating cancer. I did one in 2010, a 10K. I was slightly 10kg lighter then and managed it in 1 hour and 3 minutes, with minimal training. This time, I’d like to complete the 5K in under 45 minutes. 

I know, I know. There’s only 18 minutes between those two times, but I’ve had a baby and grown a stomach, so getting round will be harder. Between the race and now I have 7 training runs, as well as weekly netball. I should be ok, right?

If you’re feeling generous, here’s a link to my fundraising page.