you should run too.
If you’ve ever met me – you’ve probably heard me make that joke.
And up until about a year ago, this was very much the case! The only other thing that MAY have made my pace quicken ever so slightly was the prospect of cake… or profiteroles… or chocolate – take your pick.
BUT – and I cannot BELIEVE I’m about to type this – I’m now a runner. And it’s absolutely changed my life.
It’s been a bit of a journey though. I first took to a treadmill in lockdown 2.0 (the November 2020 one). I was still living at home at this point, and my Mum had recently had a major op – a full hip replacement. After a fair bit of research, my parents decided to purchase a treadmill – it’s important after an operation like that to keep active and with winter closing in, it was something they decided to invest in.
Before I go any further – I’m aware that ‘buying a treadmill’ isn’t just something most people do on an afternoon, and you don’t need a treadmill to run – but it’s part of my running ‘journey’ (lol cringe) so bare with me…
In November, the world felt quite scary – and working in a newsroom meant I was listening to Covid death stats, interviews about temporary mortuaries, and hearing the words ‘hands-face-space’ more times a day than your average person. I was desperately looking for something to clear my head – in spring/summer I’d been going for lots of walks which had really helped, but the dark evenings and cold weather wasn’t particularly appealing. So I downloaded Couch to 5K (with some encouragement, and sports bra advice from an ANGEL friend of mine, big love Gem) – and got on that treadmill.
The first time I actually increased the speed, and started to run – it felt so unnatural, and I counted down the seconds until I was instructed to slow down, and walk for a little bit.
But I really enjoyed it. In just two short months, I went from never running before in my life – to being able to run for about 6 minutes. I was incredibly proud of my progress, I loved how it felt, the endorphins were real, and it worked an absolute treat in separating my work from the rest of my life.
But in December – a flat came up – I moved out – and bid farewell to the treadmill. Funnily enough most one-bed flats don’t come with built in treadmills. But I was determined to carry on running, and take my running journey outdoors.
The first time I tried to run locally, it ended in total disaster. I dug out my leggings and my baggy T-shirt, just as I had done on the treadmill at home, and prepared to go into the great outdoors (major ‘The Hobbit’ vibes – I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!)
But when I tried to leave my little flat, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror by the door, just as I stuck the key in. No make-up, hair (a little greasy) scraped back into a ponytail, leggings that clung to all of the bits I hated, my wobbly thighs, my soft bum (ft. VPL) & bloated tum. I imagined how much WORSE this would all look if I was all red and blotchy and sweaty too. I thought about the possibility of seeing someone I knew. I thought about running in PUBLIC. I thought about what they would think. I thought I thought, and I thought some more. I re-locked the door, went back inside, got changed, made a cup of tea and ate some mini-rolls whilst having a big cry (please stick with this – it gets less sad/Bridget Jones, I promise).
I stopped running. I’d got to week 4 of Couch to 5K but I just couldn’t face running in public (and also couldn’t be bothered to drive all the way to Grantham three times a week to use the treadmill). I went for lots of walks instead, but didn’t get that same sense of achievement, nor the endorphins.
In summer 2021, I met up with a few of my oldest friends (big love Rach & Em), and I chatted about how I was looking for something to increase my fitness, stop me spending my afternoons on the sofa with tea & biscuits (in April my hours had changed and I now worked 6am-2pm), and generally help me sleep, and feel better. Running was suggested by them both. I laughed. But I thought about it.
When I got home, I reopened the Couch to 5K app and had a look at the plan. I don’t know why, or where the push came from, but I was so cross with myself for letting those little body shaming gremlins (as I like to call them), stop me from doing something I’d really enjoyed.
So off I went. I restarted Couch to 5K. I walked to a relatively quiet area nearby, and then launched the podcast. I can’t find the words to describe how I felt when (the very lovely, it’s nothing personal) Jo Whiley said – ‘right, get ready to run!’ – I felt like I was going to be sick, but I knew how much better I’d feel once I’d done this. I knew I wanted to do this. So I just kind of went. And it was awkward, kind of clunky, I felt like a baby deer/giraffe (insert animal of choice) who was just learning how to move for the very first time.
I went way too hard for the first few minutes – I don’t know who I thought I was… for those of you who haven’t done Couch to 5K – each week comprises of 3 runs, and you slowly build up your ratio of running to walking – week one involves alternating 1 minute of running, and 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes. It wasn’t particularly easy, nor pretty – but I loved the fresh air, the wildlife, the sense of achievement, and the later benefits – feeling really hungry and looking forward to eating, better digestion (TMI I know), and sleeping much more deeply.
Now don’t get me wrong – the journey was NOT completely smooth sailing. I had to repeat several runs, as I physically couldn’t do the period of running I was being asked to complete. I also really started struggling with my knees about three weeks in. Following some advice from my brothers girlfriend (thanks Becky!) – I went to a specialist running shop and asked for some help.
Top tip (and you can have this for free) – don’t run in, what were essentially, plimsolls. Bad idea. But even this was a really tricky afternoon for me personally, and a big part of my ‘running journey’ (stick with me!). When I’d popped in asking for some advice, they’d told me to come back in my running stuff and with my shoes, and they’d do (for free) gait analysis – and have a look at the way I run, to guide what footwear I needed. This meant walking into town, in PUBLIC, in leggings, a hoody, no make-up, hair up – to run on a treadmill IN FRONT OF STRANGERS for an undisclosed amount of time. Stressful. But I did it! (and rewarded myself with some profiteroles on the way back from M&S, because life is all about ~balance~).
Funny story actually, we quickly established it was my flat plimsoll shoes that was causing the knee pain (shock!) so I tried on lots of different shoes – and ran for 20 seconds or so in each. After a lot of running, and a lot of shoes, we’d finally got it down to two pairs – with not much in between them, and I couldn’t decide what to go for.
So it was suggested I put one shoe from each pair on each foot (if that makes sense?), and run for a little while, to find out which felt better. But I think a mixture of exhaustion, relief that I’d actually nearly done this hugely terrifying thing, slight stress about how much I was about to spend (I justified it in my head as an investment) – all meant that when the lovely man said ‘run’ and pressed ‘go’ on the treadmill – I, unfortunately, and to his horror and great distress, did not ‘run’. But instead of apologising and asking him to stop, and restart the machine, I jumped to attention, with the full belief that I could catch up to the speed of the machine – after approximately an HOUR of running on-and-off.
I was wrong, and I went flying. I bounced off the treadmill, and had a bruise down the right hand side of my body for about a month. I was mortified. As many of my friends and family will know – I don’t embarrass easily, life is simply too short to spend it being embarrassed! But, I was embarrassed. I declared ‘I’ll take the blue and pink ones please’ and I think it was the fastest purchase and exit from a shop known to man/woman.
Anyway – we move. Quite literally. The next run was honestly, unbelievable. The DIFFERENCE in my knees, back, whole body – was quite incredible. And I haven’t looked back since.
I moved through the plan, and although it is only ‘supposed’ to take just over two and a half months – I’ve only just finished. I started (for the second time) in August. So it took roughly double what it ‘should have’ – due to various factors; weather, my time of the month, repeating runs, realising my sports bra was in the wash… I could go on – you get the picture.
As I’ve mentioned it also, those who menstruate – consider your cycle. I’ve found that trying to run just before, or whilst I’m on my period – is really difficult. Do not beat yourself up about it, and do what feels right for you. You are the best judge of your own body!
AND, even though I’ve finished the ‘Couch to 5K’ plan – I’m, quite hilariously, not able to run 5K yet! I can run just under 4K – which takes me about 30 minutes without stopping (on a good day). Let’s just say, Usain Bolt, your records are safe.
But I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m more than okay with that. I’m so bloody proud of myself. I’d like to get to being able to run 5K by the summer, and I’ve considered the idea of doing a 10K – but I’m not putting any unnecessary pressure on myself. I’m doing it because I enjoy it, it feels good, and it’s a massive part of building a better relationship with both my mental and physical health.
So if it’s something you’re thinking about, an idea you’ve always toyed with – give it a go. I wish I’d done it years ago. As my confidence has grown, my leggings have got brighter, hats more ridiculous, and I have been known to sing along to the songs on my running playlist (if you’re looking for something good, by the way, I would highly recommend Radio 1’s Workout Anthems – always an excellent selection of absolute BANGERS). Massive shoutout to everyone who has supported me – you know who you are. Thank you, I love you! Happy running!
One thought on “If you ever see me running…”
I was really interested in reading your blog Jess. As you know I too completed Couch to 5K last year and, I have to say, felt a great level of personal achievement. So I really understand where you’re coming from!
Given I’m old, wrinkly and been about for a while, and generally did my running out in the countryside, I really hadn’t appreciated the effect running in a heavily residential area could have on a person – other than the obvious one of road/pavement running on the old knees of course!
To be honest I did wonder what my neighbours might think if they saw me – but any that did were so positive and supportive I felt even more determined to carry on. Although when I met them I would usually start with a ‘my daughter’s now got me doing C25K!’ Almost as if I needed an excuse to be doing it – and now I think about it, it was nothing to do with what I looked like but more along the lines of ‘what on earth made me think I could do this!’
However, I did it!! With the support of not only the aforementioned daughter but also the dulcet tones of Sarah Millican. If any one wants to start running 5K, I cannot praise the NHS Couch to 5K App enough. Nor the support of a handful of family and friends who can make a huge difference in spurring you on.
So well done you Jess!! You should be proud of yourself!!