If I were to be writng a review of this year and looked at what was my big feature of 2016 – it would without doubt be that I conquered my fear of running and learned to like and stick at it. I can’t even begin to express how big a deal it is to me – but I am going to try, because it might help you to give it a go too.
There are 3 elements in there that are important – conquered my fear; liked and committed
As I have got older I have found that the things I really genuinely like has become a small select list. There are many things I have tried in my lifetime, but really really liked? and then stuck to? Umm very select!!!
In 2015 I would NEVER have believed this of myself. Not in a million years actually.
So what changed?
4 things. 1) I started to feel older, more feeble you might say. 2) I knew I was badly out of shape – not just on the outside, but inside too , I started to fear for my health. 3) I was over weight and typical of your everyday menopausal woman. 4) I started to not believe in myself anymore.
The change in myself was gradual over time, there were overlapping themes – the weight, the self hating, personal negativity (god that hateful inner voice!!!!), bouts of ill health and vague niggles and various aches and pains.
On Facebook I was ‘friended’ by a distant female relative – not one I was close to particularly, she was just there. She was a nice enough person, she had always been a bit squishy around the middle and no one’s idea of a bikini pin up – I had a better figure than her, always had.
About 5 years ago she sent around a ‘just giving’ page – she was going to ‘run’ the London marathon for charity. Much hilarity around the family ensued – even more so when tales came back of how she had walked not ran, and had nipped in to a shop for food half way round – oh how we laughed.
But the next thing I saw was photos of her – dressed in lycra, out on the road in the dark cold mornings, her family had bought her a heart monitor, she was going to do another marathon she said, to raise money for more charities. And she did. Only this time she did run – slow, yes. But she ran nonetheless, and although there were isolated giggles, no one was really laughing any more and I certainly wasn’t – in fact I sat up and thought – slow though she might be by running standards, I am mega impressed with her fortitude and yes, ability to even contemplate doing it.
A few years on and this woman was barely recognisable – she had dropped whole dress sizes, she had toned legs and arms, she was running regularly and looked about 10 years younger for having done it – there was nothing squishy or middle aged and frail about this one now -and I knew I felt just a tiny bit jealous.
So I thought, maybe this was something I could have a go at. I had always HATED running, even just the idea of running and so it took me over a year, maybe more for this idea to percolate, germinate in to a tiny little seed that said – could I?
I read a number of blogs and sites about people taking up running in middle age and I imagined that in a few short months I would be like them, striking out across the miles and I would be half the size I started out.
Sadly – I’m not.
Running, never ever easy for me – even in my hay day; it was difficult – but perversely, the more difficult it proved, the more I wanted to meet my own challenge.
I had to battle with my own disappointment at how poor at running I was and at how slowly I progressed, snail like and wheezing for weeks on end – I knew after my first ever run before Christmas 2015, that I had a north face of Everest climb to fitness on my hands – but I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.
I’m not that far from my first full year of calling myself a ‘runner’ – I can run 4k none stop as I type. I can actually run 5.5k with a small breather after the first 4k – and that is my work in progress for next year. I have lost some weight, and kept it off. I feel stronger inside, I have lost that ballooning middle aged look around my midriff, and I have some real toning going on in my calves and thighs, and my knees have lost about 2 inches of fat from around them.
I had been warned of the potential terrible damage I could be doing to knees and hips – but brilliantly, I can report my joints have never felt stronger – in fact at 54 I run better than ever I could at 24 (albeit I never actually tried at 24 to be fair!!)
In running I have learned to enjoy a summer breeze, and stopped feeling stupid in shorts and vest, I actually learned to care less about what anybody else thought about me – I gained something I thought lost forever, my self esteem. When running, I didn’t allow that crappy negative voice any room to squeak – and I feel a better, happier person for it.
All this – because I ran, and then ran again, and then again – even when I didn’t feel up to it, I did it again.
In learning to run, I started to learn to care about myself, what I ate and what things might be missing in my diet. I took some supplements and overall I have become more at ease with the older person I am becoming – I realise she still has something valuable to contribute and I want to hear what she has to say.
I don’t feel old anymore.
If you haven’t got an inspirational relative to spark your interest – I hope I can be the person who managed to reach even one other person, and persuade them in to taking their fear of running, and smash it in to the ground, step by step.