Are you looking for an activity that can help increase your fitness?
Something that will enable you to feel stronger, both mentally and physically?
An activity that fits in around other commitments in life?

I am a Running Evangelist, and I would talk about the benefits of running until I am blue in the face. “Why?” I hear you say, “It’s painful, tiring and hard work!” Yes, it can be all of those things, and that’s precisely why I love it so much! I have been on a running journey; indeed, I am ON that running journey, and I’d love to share that passion with you.

 

My running journey feels like a Very Big Adventure and one that I am thoroughly enjoying. The key message that I’d like you to take from today’s sermon is that you can do it too – if you want to. “That’s a bold statement, Liz!” Indeed it is, so, why do I feel so confident? Because I started at zero and I am now doing things I never thought I’d do, and I believe you can too.

I started running in Autumn 2017 after a long period of ill health. Beginning with walking and adding small periods of gentle running in between, I found it very challenging.  I understood that pacing correctly was important if I wanted to go further, and going further was the one thing I felt that I could do. At that time, I couldn’t run any faster as I still had health challenges, so I decided that I would add a little bit of distance at a time. I started running slowly for 200 metres and gradually built it up. I walk/ran three times a week and included a parkrun into this routine. I walked for most of my parkrun’s but added a few little runs in between trees so that I could get around the course in 40 minutes. I was happy with that.

The routine was essential to me. I kept my commitment to three runs a week and gradually built up the distance. I started to see small gains in the distance and, although my pace remained at around the 17min mile mark, I decided that I would work on running for longer as my first goal.

Top Tip No. 1: Commit to it

Commit to your running and stick to that commitment. Three times a week is a manageable amount, in my opinion, and if you include a parkrun, you can be walk/running three times a week for 30 minutes at a time. If this is important to you, you will find that time. Find your “Why?” and remind yourself of those reasons when you are struggling.

I joined Run Harpenden in March 2018 after hearing stories about how good it was to have a coach and a group of people who share your passion. I was the slowest in the group, but, at that time, I was just happy to be doing what I do. I loved the weekly sessions, enjoyed seeing what I could achieve if I stuck at it and met a wonderful group of people who I love running with now.

Top Tip No. 2: Get a coach

I used to run in my 20’s/early 30’s so I knew that I could ‘do’ it but having a coach has made so much difference.  I feel like I’m achieving things I wouldn’t have done had I not joined the group. Although mentally, I felt strong and capable, my body firmly disagreed with me! My head said “Do it! Do it!” my body screamed “Noooo!”. There was always a disconnect between what I thought I could do and what I could manage. Having a coach has helped my body catch up with my head.

Top Tip no. 3: Find your Tribe

Running in a group is a very different experience to running alone. I had always been a solitary runner in the past, my run time was my headspace, and that time was precious, but I have found a joy in running together that I didn’t think was possible. The encouragement and support from others have been life-changing, and we all look out for each other. When I watch the other runners, it gives me a place to aim. Being part of something bigger than yourself always feels good, and I love to encourage others on their journey.

Top Tip no. 4: Aim High!

As mentioned, I have difficulty with my mind thinking that I can do anything, and my body struggling to catch up. There must be a name for it?  This year has been an example of this ‘disordered thinking’. I ran my first half marathon in April 2018, a very wet and muddy Wimbledon Common Half. Following this, another half in June, along the Thames Towpath. August 2018 saw me celebrating my 25th Wedding Anniversary with a Family Half Marathon (disappointing that they all came in 50 minutes before me despite very little training on their part!!). The St. Albans Stampede followed In September and, a couple of weeks later, the St. Albans Triathlon – LOVED IT! October 2018 saw me step up a gear and tackle the Yorkshire Marathon followed by an Ultra in December. 2018 had been a good year.

 

I started 2019 in the same vein, January 2019 I ran the Fred Hughes 10 mile followed by the Canterbury 10 mile the week after. In February, the Marriott Way Trail Marathon and, for my 50th birthday, I had the pleasure of running the London Marathon. Two weeks later, another triathlon, a 53 mile ultra in June, 40 mile ultra in August and my third triathlon last weekend. In September,  I passed a goal of running 1,000 miles this year. My long term goal is to run 100 marathons by the time I am 65.

When I read the list of runs I have completed over the past 24 months, I feel so proud of my journey. Not because I am good at what I do, I am frequently at the back of the pack smiling at the tiny handful of spectators who have hung around long enough to see the ‘fun-runners’ arrive home. Neither am I particularly stylish when I run, fellow runners have asked me if I am ok as I shuffle along at snail’s pace. I am proud because I have put myself out there month after month, frequently at the very, VERY edge of my comfort zone and when I do a race, I am so happy to have got around the course. I have had tearful moments when I don’t feel as if I am improving, and that is very demoralising. I have felt very wobbly when it physically hurts, and I feel like I’m going to die, but I haven’t. I’ve eaten a large slice of ‘Man-Up Pie’ and carried on. This leads me to tip no.5.

Top Tip no. 5: Running is a Mind Game

Talking about the mind game is why I love running so much. Yes, it is a physical activity, and you need to train to enjoy the benefits; that goes without saying. But running is more than the physical; it is about the conversations you have with yourself about what you can and can’t do. Where are your limits? How will you feel when you hit that limit and reach for the next? Nothing feels as good as seeing those small steps amount to something. Your ‘something’ is different from everyone else’s, and there is fun in discovering what that something is. It might be five or ten kilometres; it might be longer. It’s for you to decide and that’s very empowering.

So, what’s stopping you?

Make that commitment to yourself, enjoy the time outside and expand your comfort zone a little. Do something that scares you. Book that 10k race and train for it. Go to parkrun and see if you can knock 10 seconds off your time the previous week. Just keep moving forward. You won’t regret it.

Links:

Take a look at these other blogs featuring my story:)

A Bump in the Road – Runr blog

parkrun blog

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