I’ve been meaning to write something about why I started running for a while.
It’s not an unusual story at all. (In fact, if you’ve read Alexandra Heminsley’s Running Like a Girl, parts of the rest of this post will probably feel familiar.) But I still want to write it down, because running has slowly become a significant part of my life over the last two years.
I started running at the tail end of a pretty rough patch of my life; I’d had a break up, I’d been ill, the black dog had been nipping at my heels for over a year. Oh, and I was really, really fat and really, really unfit.
But I was finally getting back on my feet and getting well again, physically and mentally. A big part of that was exercise. I was doing yoga and going for loads of really long walks; 10, 15 miles up on the Downs, or down on the coast.
On one of my walks, I was in Stanmer Park Great Wood and saw a woman running between the trees, leaping over fallen branches, smiling and making it look effortless, and – most importantly – fun.
I’d never been interested in running in my life, but all of a sudden, I wanted to be the sort of woman who did shit like that.
I waited until she’d gone, checked no one else was around, and then I ran until I was totally out of breath.
It was probably about 300m, but it was enough to make we want another go.
I treated my first forays into running like a covert operation – I didn’t want anyone to know I was doing this, because the idea of me running felt utterly laughable. I’d get up early, disguised myself as best I could (a baseball cap and dark glasses – seriously) and head for the deepest, darkest bit of the wood and run. I’d run and bit, then walk a bit, then run a bit and walk a bit.
It was exhausting and it hurt, and two years on it’s still exhausting and it still hurts. However, it has also got me off my arse, got me fit and given me some faith in myself and my ability to do things that are hard and unfamiliar. I’ve become the kind of woman who does shit like running in the woods and leaping over fallen branches, and I like it.*
*For full disclosure, I have to add that the last time I went running in the woods, I lept over a fallen branch, got my foot caught in it, fell over, messed my knee up and had to call my boyfriend to come and rescue me.