“This year, I’m going to run.”
I’ve always been sporty, I’ve always been adventurous, but not once did I think I’d become a ‘runner’ – and enjoy it. I used to think 5k was far, commending myself on running from one gate to another in Richmond Park. I’ve been going to the gym five times a week for the last seven years, but running is a totally different type of fitness. Two years ago I found myself without a gym at weekends and so I began running instead; from my house, along the river, over Hammersmith Bridge and back was a 12k route. Slowly, I found my pace improving and running became easier, so I started tackling this route once or twice a week.
Then in July last year, I found a social running club called Never Stop London – part of The North Face. Once a month they head out on a trail run – anything from 15k to 20k – so I decided to join them, never having experienced ‘trail running’ before. After one run, I was hooked. Jumping over puddles, climbing over fences, wading through thick mud; the hills are exhausting but the view’s always worth the climb. After one run with the group, I found out that there was a lot more to running than I had realised. These people ran 30k, 40k, 50k, even 100k in one go, and they also trained multiple times a week but somehow I managed to keep up with them.
I must have asked so many questions that day; how do you run 100k without eating? What do you eat if you do? How do you go to the toilet? Isn’t it uncomfortable running with a rucksack? Apparently, you eat the food that works for you, gels, energy bars – some people even eat baby food as it’s easy to digest. And on long runs there are check points with toilets, food, water stations etc. You can also arrange to have your own ‘drop bag’ left here. One day I thought, one day I’ll run 100k.
Safe to say I had the running bug. I began running a lot more and increased my distance to 15-20k. I went on every trail run I could and started changing my fitness regimes in the gym, to incorporate speed work and hill training.
My friend then got me a space in an Endurance Life 10k trail run in Dorset at the end of last year. It was level 5 terrain, which is so steep you have to hike the hills – fast. I remember feeling like my heart was going to come out of my chest, my breathing was so erratic and I was only 3k in – I could have slowed down but I’m far too competitive for that. Once I was back on the flat, my breathing evened out and I gave it all I could for the final 5k. On running/falling down the final slope (which was so steep I got a black toe nail, it’s just about grown back) I realised there really weren’t that many people around me – was I in the leading group? It turns out I was. I walked away from my first trail race with a medal around my neck and a huge smile on my face; I placed 2nd lady and 11th overall.
The endorphins you feel after racing aren’t like anything else, so I decided that 2018 was the year I was going to run. This year I’ve tried to run at least 15k once a week (on top of going to the gym four/five times a week). I’ve headed out on trail runs up to 30k (with baby food in my running vest) and I’ve competed in two Endurance Life half marathons. In Devon I placed 8th female and came 45th out of 316 runners. In Wales, I placed 4th female and came 15th out of 264 runners. I don’t run every day and I don’t let my social life suffer in order to train, but I do want to get faster and I do want place podium again, so maybe it’s time to up my running? (Though this is easier said than done with a nine to five job and 90mile round commute..)
My next race is taking me to Cortina in June; it’s a 20k sky race in the Dolomites. It’s going to be beautiful and it’s going be tough, but I can’t wait!