By Beth May, Run Buddy
It’s Saturday March 31st 2018. I’m sitting in a SlimmingWorld group in the Rhondda. I’m 51 years old. Following a hysterectomy for very early uterine cancer in 2015, I’d gained a lot of weight. And although I’d lost most of it, the last half a stone or so was proving quite difficult to shift. I’d got into a bit of a rut with my gym routine, doing the same cardio programme a few times a week, and was aware that I wasn’t pushing myself as much as I could have.
Our regular SW Consultant was on holiday and Mel, who was covering, was more direct than we were used to. ‘So, Beth, what are you going to do to change things then?’ Feeling put on the spot, I responded ‘I’m going to start running’. I still don’t really know why I said it- but I had. It was out there and I knew that saying it out loud in group would make me accountable.
Someone in the group mentioned the NHS Couch25K app, and said that the first week involved only having to run for one minute at a time. This was music to my ears! I’d tried to become a runner twice before, and only lasted for one or two sessions. This was mainly down to my strategy of going off as fast as I could, getting out of breath, and then having to stop. Later on in my running journey, when I did my Leadership in Running Fitness course, our trainer told us about ‘Chatty’ versus ‘Sparkly’ running- ‘Chatty’ being a sustainable pace when you can still hold a conversation, and the ‘Sparkly’ bit being a short burst of speed that you can only manage for a short while- great for a sprint finish or for intervals, but not for the majority of your run. So my previous attempts had fallen down because I’d gone off at a Sparkly pace and then come to a grinding halt.
Back to March 2018. I went home from group, downloaded the app, chose Sarah Millican as my coach and headed for the gym. I can’t say that it was love at first run- I remember looking at my phone and willing the seconds to count down to the next walking break. But I did it! Sarah told me how well I’d done, and to go and have a banana (to which I mentally told her to bog off, I was having some chocolate). My daughter Zoe decided to join in with me, so I repeated Week 1 Run 1 and we went from there.
There were definitely times during the first few weeks where I’d have given up if Zoe hadn’t been following the plan too. The turning point, and the session where I fell in love with running, was a Sunday morning at the end of Week 3. Zoe and I turned up at the gym, and there were NO TREADMILLS FREE. I was all for going home, but Zoe insisted we were going to run around the park instead. Outside. Where people might see.
But I LOVED it! From that point, there was no stopping me. I was determined to complete the programme, and keep on running. I really enjoyed being outdoors, instead of in a sweaty gym. The transitions from running to walking were so much smoother than on the treadmill, and so much better for my joints, which had been quite sore. It didn’t help that I was wearing gym trainers rather than proper running shoes. Getting a gait analysis done and finding the right shoes was another game changer.
When an injury meant that my elder daughter Gemma couldn’t do her usual wrestling training, she started running too. And so running became a real family affair for us.The three of us completed the C25k plan, and then progressed to running 5k (the plan takes you to running for 30 minutes, which still isn’t 5k for me). We did our first parkrun together in Hackney Marshes in September 2018 and then completed the Cardiff 10k the same month. We ran that one together, with the girls pretty much dragging me around the final turn. But the finish line photo, of all of us crossing together, is probably my favourite running photo.
At that point, I had to concede that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with two women who were half my age. Ever since then, I’ve been happy running my own way at my own pace. Running has become a regular, and necessary, part of my routine. Much more than helping me maintain good physical heath, it supports my mental wellbeing. I now run 3-4 times a week, and feel really unsettled if I’m not able to.
So, what have I learned along the way? Firstly, it’s never too late to start running! Of course I wish I’d started years ago, but I didn’t so I’d just as well get on with it now. Secondly, it has to be your run at your pace – don’t bother comparing yourself to others, that produces a whole load of negative energy. And thirdly, the best way to keep going is to link your running to your ‘why’. For me, that’s about being the best version of myself that I can be; the fittest Nanny Beth for my family, the most resilient manager for my teams, the most encouraging voice that I can be for other women. Find your running ‘why’ and you’ll never look back.