I’ve tried to get into running so many times. When I first moved to Fulham I used to watch all the keen runners at weekends jogging off towards the Kings Road or crossing Parson’s Green and I wanted in. It all looked so healthy and so very west London as I looked out of my window wearing my owl pyjamas and eating Biscoff with a spoon.
I used to go out every so often, with no route mapped, no distance to aim for and the wrong kind of trainers. Needless to say, my running career didn’t go so well and I swapped it for the gym.Until quite recently I never bothered trying again, partly because I was much more interested in gym classes for the structure, partly because of my painful joints and partly because I couldn’t be bothered. Then I got an email inviting me to join the Vitality 10k in London and I must have been feeling brave or recently consumed a coffee because I said yes.
The first run I went for after signing up was a fail, and I struggled to go further than a mile without needing to stop and catch my breath. In my second attempt I went a tiny bit further, but pulled my hamstring really badly and ended up nursing a painful limp for two weeks. The thought back then of even running 3k without stopping seemed impossible to me, and not even because of lack of fitness, just because it always felt like such an effort to get it done.
Now though, nearly 6 weeks on from that, things have gotten a lot better. After spending a lot of time on Runner’s World, buying a foam roller, seeking some advice from one of my gym instructors and using an app that tracks my progress, I’m comfortably running 6k in 36 minutes. I might not be the fastest, but this feels like a massive achievement. I also feel like I can go further, and my fitness levels have never been so good. I’ve lost weight, my legs are firmer, my back feels stronger and for the first time ever I can see my abs, which is nice as I’ve been looking for them for about 10 years. Nice of them to show up.
The one thing that made the biggest difference to get from failing jogger to actual runner, was mindset. I stopped counting down how long I had left, feeling put off and cutting my target short, and started strategically planning how far and where I needed to run to. Planning. I am a planner, and even in free-running, this is what gets me through.
If you want to get into running but feel like you can’t, aren’t fit enough, like it’s too much effort or you just lack the motivation to leave the house and do it, focus on how good it’ll feel when you collapse through the door after you’ve finished. I literally do collapse through it most time, because it’s not easy. It’s not meant to be a breeze. It’s sweat, gritted teeth, determination and sore limbs, but I’ve honestly never felt better, stronger or fitter.
Starting small was also a good decision. Trying to be a hero and running 5k off the mark isn’t likely to bring great results. I started just running 2k, sometimes stopping for a quick walk and slowly built it up. I use Run Keeper to look after my distance, pace and save routes for me. It also lets you rate how you felt while running. The pace part is a big deal, and would never have occurred to me, but if you finish a run comfortably look at your pace and try to stick to it next time. I’m only attempting to quicken mine after nearly 2 months of practice.
I don’t know how much longer my dodgy hips and hypermobile joints will keep up this good phase they’re having and let me carry on, but right now I feel better and more like I’m taking care of my body than ever. I never considered running and getting sweaty and gross and turning the shade of beetroot would make me feel good, but runners high might just be a real thing.
So basically, if you want to do it, chances are YOU CAN. Just don’t go in blind and make a mess of it- plan, stretch, warm up, warm down, start small, breathe and get an app and a bloody good playlist.