There are two questions I am asked almost once a week – why do I run and how did I start?
My story starts about three years ago. I decided to give running a crack and ran my first-ever 5km fun run. My training plan was as follows – just run.
I’ve always been an avid Les Mills participant – Step, Pump and Attack are my three favourites. It’s fair to say I was fairly fit when my foray into running first began, however sporty is definitely not a word you’d ever have used to describe me. I despised sport and thought the same about running. I was the girl at school who’d wag phys ed and sit out sports carnivals. I’d rather watch grass grow.
I have however always enjoyed walking which is how the running started. There is a path down the end of my street which runs along a creek and this is where I would often start my walks. One day I decided to try to run to the very end – about 1.5km. Another day I decided to try to run to the end and back. No run/walk intervals, no method to the madness. I just ran, and each time I’d just extend the distance a little bit further.
The best piece of advice I ever got was don’t stop until you reach the end. Again – just run. Even if it was more of a shuffle than a run – I’d push on until I’d reached my goal.
Feeling confident and a tad crazy, I signed up to the annual women’s 5km fun run event.
I roped a friend into doing it with me and once a week for about five weeks we would attempt to run the 5km course after work. One memorable run saw us drenched by the rain and up to our ankles in puddles. It was awesome.
On the day of the event I was feeling nervous having never ran the full 5km non-stop before, however I was fairly confident. Even though my running training was minimal, I knew I was quite fit.
Both my friend and I ran the whole 5km and it has been my proudest achievement to date. I will never forget how I felt when I saw my husband on the sideline waiting for me to run past. Even now when I’m running, I smile to myself once I get past the 5km mark. If I didn’t have the courage to run that first 5km I wouldn’t be running today.
New runners, never under value your first 5km – be proud and embrace just how awesome an achievement it is!
The first 5km is always the hardest – if you can run 5km, you can run 10km. That has always been my thinking, so less than a year later and after barely any running I signed up for the City 2 Surf 12km.
I was still doing my Les Mills classes but very little running. In fact in the lead up to City 2 Surf I ran about three times in four weeks with the longest being 8km just a few days before. As was to be expected, I was feeling apprehensive on the day, however my husband and his BFF had signed up to do the 12km too. With zero training.
I ran the entire 12km except for one hill and finished in about 1 hour 20 minutes. I crossed the line 40 minutes before the boys who decided to pop into Hungry Jacks mid-race to grab a burger to take away!
After that I ran every now and then but not very often. Fast forward almost a year later and I was forced to quit my gym membership and take up running more regularly. I’d lost my license due to drink driving – not something I am proud to admit.
It’s probably here that I should mention I was not just an habitual binge drinker but also a smoker. I’ve always been a person of extremes – when it comes to alcohol I either drink to the point of drunkeness or not at all. Why have one glass of wine when you can drink two bottles. Why stay up until midnight when you can stay up all night.
This carries over to almost all aspects of my life. I’m not one to do things by halves and I am very stubborn. This is what I think makes running the perfect sport for me. It’s either go hard or go home. It is why training for a marathon isn’t crazy at all to me either. If I’m going to run I’m going to give it my all – I’m already thinking about an ultra marathon.
I’d also like to point out I no longer drink or smoke. Running has become my new habit.
But I digress. I started to run a few times a week and was also doing Bikram yoga three times per week. Then I found out I was pregnant.
No more Bikram but I still continued to shuffle along for a few more months. I also rejoined the gym and welcomed Les Mills back into my life. I started swimming in the last two months of my pregnancy, and when I say swimming I mean I’d grab a kick board and kick up and down the lane. I can’t recommend the pool enough for exercising when pregnant. It was bliss.
After my son was born I was super keen to get running again so less than four weeks after I jumped on the treadmill and got going. It was tough but not too tough as I’d kept my fitness up during the pregnancy, however on my second treadmill attempt the damn thing blew up!
It was time to hit the streets. I would walk every day but wasn’t able to run until my husband got home from work and then I had to time it in between breast feeds, dinner and bedtime. It was challenging but I made it work and I even managed to train for my first-ever half marathon.
I ended up running the Three Waters half marathon less than nine months after my son was born. It was a tough slog but I crossed that line and was over the moon. My goal was to finish in under 2:10:00 which I did.
Since then I have run three more half-marathons all sub 2 hours, and I am now training for my first full marathon which takes place in six and a half weeks.
I firmly believe that it is because of running that I survived my first year of motherhood.
There was a period of time where I was on the brink of post-natal depression. I was not coping. I was crying every day and refused to ask for help. I didn’t want anyone to know because I was warned by doctors that I was at high risk of having it. I was even subscribed anti-depressants while in labour. My stubbornness to not admit I was struggling pushed me out the door and onto the road instead. Pounding the pavement was my saviour.
When I would head out the door each evening I got to spend time with me. All of my anxieties would disappear out there on the road and I’d reconnect with who I was. Running every night would clear my head and once I’d finished the world seemed less fuzzy. I felt I could cope.
I don’t have depression but I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks since about the age of 16. I’ve been prescribed anti-depressants many times however I’ve refused to take them. It’s a very personal choice, but I prefer to deal with it my own way. There HAVE been a couple of times when it has been really bad and I have taken the medication, however I’ve personally not needed to since I became a runner.
This is the first time I have been open about this. I’ve always kept my anxiety very quiet and only about a handful of people know. I like to project an image of being quite strong and have always felt admitting to having anxiety makes me seem weak. Silly I know.
Running has literally saved my sanity.
I’m so fortunate to be married to an amazing man who understands how my head works. He knows that if I don’t run, my thoughts start to run instead.
So this is why I run. It helps to quiet the noise inside my head. Plus I absolutely LOVE it.