Why running for me is a team sport…

by Cat Fenton, Run Buddy

Ever since I was young I have been very into sports; Be it gymnastics from an early age, tennis in primary school, being obsessed with football in my teens and then to my main passion now of hockey. 

Where does running come into all of this? Back then it didn’t. It wasn’t really a big part of my early sporting days. Yes, there is a lot of running in hockey, but I never took it seriously. I could run up to 5 miles in a game but would never think of going on a 5-mile run. I was regularly picked to run 800m for the school in athletics meets, but I hated every minute of it and always wanted it to end. I was never a runner!! 

Playing hockey at a high-level means that I need to be able to play at a fast pace, up to 70 minutes. I need power to accelerate and change speed, agility to change direction and endurance to keep going. Coupled with the skills training that we have twice a week the club expects you to also have a high level of fitness that you manage in your own time. 

I started adding “proper” running to the training/fitness regime about 2 years ago following the birth of my youngest son. Before that, I dabbled in running. Doing a 5k here and there (if that), but I struggled with it and found it boring. But hockey had to wait until I developed the base fitness I needed to compete, so running was the appropriate choice at the time. Turns out the reason I struggled was linked to my competitive nature; I wanted to do everything as fast as I possibly could, which would then result in burnout, me not enjoying it, and then giving up. 

While on maternity leave I joined the SRC group back before they were even “official” and this changed my whole perspective on running. It taught me that it’s ok to slow down (I WAS going too fast), enjoy the surroundings, the headspace and have fun while getting to know others. I never thought of running being a team sport or a group activity, but it truly is! I now consider the buddies and the lovely community members to be my ever-expanding teammates. The support and feedback from the group is phenomenal and I get just as much buzz in chatting to people, and in soaking up the atmosphere in races (what are they nowadays??) than I do in hockey matches! I’ve now done trail runs, 10Ks, half marathons, met some wonderful new friends and I am now even considering doing an ultra!!

Running is more ingrained in my weekly life, especially with working from home. I need to leave the house daily! Before lockdown I would say that it did significantly improve my hockey. I represented Wales at the European Masters Championships in Rotterdam with the O35s squad a year after  my son Ifan was born, playing against former Olympic players. I was selected again in 2020 for the World Cup squad but the virus has put that ambition on hold!! 

Now team sports have been cancelled indefinitely running is now my team sport! There is evidence to suggest that group exercises or team sports might be more beneficial for mental health than exercising alone, but the reason a person is exercising, or the environment they’re exercising in is just as important. I can’t currently play the sport that I love, but being part of this community and the supportive environment SRC provides gives me the boost that I need, and I am very grateful for that.

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