She Runs Cardiff book club with Lisa Jackson, author of Your Pace Or Mine?

by Cathryn Scott, @cardiffmummy

Author Lisa Jackson is a huge inspiration to many of us in She Runs Cardiff. Her book Your Pace Or Mine? What Running Taught Me About Life, Laughter and Coming Last is often mentioned by members of our Facebook group as one of the best running books they’ve read, helping them to change their mindset towards running and achieve more than they ever thought possible.

With so many fans of Lisa already in our group, we were keen to discuss Your Pace Or Mine in the She Runs Cardiff book club. Even better was the news that Lisa herself was able to join us via Zoom when we held our sixth online book club meeting earlier this month.

Your Pace Or Mine? was first published in 2016, the follow-up to Lisa’s best-selling book on running, Running Made Easy.

Written in a chatty and informal style, Lisa’s own running journey is interspersed with stories and anecdotes from people she has met along the way. Each chapter offers a different perspective on what Lisa has learned from running, such as what it’s taught her about taking the first step, never giving up, laughing, dreaming big, and even death.

What makes Lisa’s book so inspiring and uplifting is that she’s the first to admit she finds running hard. “It’s always been a bit of a struggle,” she writes in the book’s opening pages. “But it’s precisely because I’m the least likeliest runner you’ll ever meet that running gives me such a thrill.”

Lisa has run more than 100 marathons – and has proudly come last in 25 of them. Pace isn’t important to her; the experience you have while running is. “Running isn’t about the time you do, but the time you have while doing it,” she writes. 

The book is laugh-out-loud funny at times – one particular episode where she tries out a weeing-while-running technique and ends up with soggy trainers really made me chuckle, as did some of her fancy dress exploits. As she writes, “When I let go of my ego and instead hugged my inner comedian, it gave me the courage to do things I’d never have imagined being brave enough to try.”

It’s also filled with raw emotion as Lisa talks about how running has helped her and others work through difficult times in their life, including grief following bereavement. “Running really is a sacred, joyous way of remembering the dead,” she writes. 

An energetic and enthusiastic Lisa joins us over Zoom. She’s wearing the flamingo hat she talks about so much in the book, and is delighted to see three of our members wearing their own flamingo hats in tribute to her. “I love your running group!” she tells us. “If I lived in Cardiff I’d definitely join and come running with you.”

Those in attendance have given the book a resounding thumbs up and are keen to know more about Lisa’s running and writing journeys. She explains the two have become very intertwined. 

“Running isn’t just running,” she tells us. “The mental training makes you a strong person who can do anything. Running gives you super powers in your every day life. The stamina you build up you can apply to everything.”

“Just knowing that if you can run a 50 mile ultra you can certainly sit and write 50,000 words,” she laughs. 

She says that running helped her develop the resilience needed to keep on putting herself out there. “Running Made Easy was the best-selling beginners’ running book for a decade. However,” she says, “before that 40 publishers all said no or didn’t say anything.

“There are parallels between running and writing. The more you put into it the more you get out of it. 

“The more you push outside your comfort zone, the less scary everything becomes. And a good challenge needs to scare you.”

In the book, Lisa quotes Christopher McDougall, “The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other, but to be with each other.” She adds, “I truly believe that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. And that there’s great satisfaction to be gained by interacting with people, no matter how fleetingly.”

It’s unsurprising then that she tells us lockdown and social distancing has been tough for her. 

“I get so much energy from other people,” she tells us. “At races, it might be just a little smile, a thumbs up, a pat on the back, sometimes their whole life story. 

“People can touch your life. You may never see them again but kept in touch with lots and have become good friends. 

“Every runner has a story.”

Lisa has such a refreshing outlook on what success looks like for her. On paper, the London Marathon where she got a huge personal best time should have been a highlight for her. However, she tells us, “It was my least favourite race.”

She adds, “I didn’t talk to anyone. It was a wasted experience. I hadn’t had an experience. I don’t know if any of you run with headphones on but I hate people who run with headphones at races. Take them out and expose yourself to the possibilities of new friends and experiences.”

It’s hard to read Lisa’s book and not come away thinking “I could run a marathon” or “I could run an ultra” or “I could join the 100 Marathon Club” (made up of people who have run 100 marathons and of which Lisa is a member). Her enthusiasm is contagious and her experiences are a reminder that it really doesn’t matter if you finish last – or even if you don’t finish at all. “Running has given me the courage to fail,” she writes about the events she started but didn’t finish. “To begin the journey but to accept that it won’t always necessarily end in success.”

She tells us we need to own our own running journey and that’s why there’s a space at the end of the book for the reader to fill in their personal experiences. 

“You don’t need to sit around and wait for someone to tell you you’re a runner or to give you permission to run your first 10K, marathon or ultra,” she says. “You’ve got to give yourself permission. It should never be someone else.”

Although that said, one of our members, Beth, says it was Lisa’s book which helped give herself the confidence to call herself a runner. Beth’s now training for her first ultra-marathon. 

Lisa echoes our thoughts at She Runs Cardiff that the friendships made through running can be life-changing and adds that running is one of the few sports where amateurs can line up alongside world class professionals, and where you enter a race not knowing anyone but come away with a new best friend.

“No other sport gives normal people the chance to connect over the world in the same way as running,” she concludes. 

And tonight’s book club chat is proof of exactly that. We at She Runs Cardiff are very grateful to have connected with Lisa through our love of running and thank her giving her time to join us at our online She Runs Cardiff book club.

The She Runs Cardiff book club will be back in 2021. Keep an eye on our social media channels for more information.

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