To run or not to run that is the question?
So how did we all end up finding this wonderful Happy Feet group? I found them by accident in November 2015 via a lovely friend and her daughter (Nicola and Alice) and I went along to C25K at the Lyppard Hub, on week 5 of C25K. I think this was the 2nd ever couch that they had run? But Marie can verify this. I turned up with my friend and said something like “Hi can I join the C25K?” I remember Marie asking how long I could run for as they were on week 5, but I said” its ok I go to the gym a lot and do classes and have used the tread mill a bit “. Okkkkkkk, we all know that joining at week 5 is quite a challenge, but I did it and enjoyed it from week 1 (well 5) as I just had a good feel about the group and loved the chatting and met some lovely people.
I went between the Wed group and the Sunday morning group at the Grange where we ran around this area around the changing rooms and had to run past men doing football training, which was quite embarrassing. I became known for running in my Gillet as it was the winter, and for lots of chatting.
The rest is history, I have had many niggles over the years, most from over running in the early days and from not listening to my body. I had to have 5 months off running as I continued to run and train for a 5km race with a team at work. This was my first official 5km race and it was part of the Para Triathlon event at Dorney Lake in Windsor, one team member is either in a wheelchair or uses a Prosthetic limb. As I am an Occupational therapist, this was a special day for me. I ended up with bursitis and having steroid injections in my hip (it was worth it though) so then I had to start couch again, this time from week 1! I went on to do the same event the following year, when I was healed and stronger.
The groups got bigger and I met more and more lovely people and I loved being able to go to any run and feel welcome and could always find someone to run at my pace, I learnt what mustering was and I soon became stronger and more confident and enjoyed the measured runs around the river and some park runs and entered the 2017 Worcs 10k, but had to pull out due to another injury ! but then went on to do the 2018 and 2019 10km runs and these were really high points for me.
I also enjoyed the monthly longer runs. I never set out to be a distance or an elite runner, but I did get a buzz from trying to improve my time on Strava and increasing my distance per month etc. The downside of Aps like Strava is it can sometimes take away the joy of just running, as we constantly compare ourselves to not just our last run, but to other runners. I look back at some of my faster runs now and think blimey I am miles off that pace and I will never get under 30 min for a 5km, but again that was never my motivation to start.
We can look at someone else and think that everyone around me is getting better and I am getting worse, this can therefore be demotivating and daunting. This isn’t true for everyone I realise but maybe some of you relate to this? so sometimes it would be good to have a tech free run and at the end just think, that was a great run, I really enjoyed that run…
So, lets go back in history a bit, this year I am 50, the big one some of us dread a bit, and I feel fitter and more important, I feel healthier in my mental health than I have been for many years. Happier with my body shape, let me explain why.
I used to really love running at high school and I was not a bad runner, I was in the school cross country team and at sports day I did the 1500m and 800m events and loved it .I loved running and training for the running with the school team until I felt too self-conscious to continue. I have been cursed (or blessed?) with rather ample boobs! this is not great for running, it is painful and sweaty and many other things. I remember running around the track at school and loads of lads shouting “jugsy jugsy, you don’t get many of them to the pound” etc . So, I stopped, and I never ran again at school.
I loved Cross country running as I lived in Wales by the sea and cross country running was across the fields, down to the beach and then we ran for miles along the sea front along the prom and onto the hard sand on the beach, it was an amazing feeling and It made me feel so great.
I didn’t want my body shape and the opinions of stupid hormonal teenage lads stop me from running, so I joined the surf life saving club. I haven’t mentioned that I was a very keen swimmer, I was in the swimming club and trained six times a week and competed in many swimming galas, I also felt self-conscious of my body shape in the pool , but I was very successful and won many medals and titles , so people soon stopped teasing me. I joined the lifesaving club and competed at lifesaving competitions across Wales and it was at one of these events I learnt about the open water lifesaving competitions, so that’s how I joined the surf life saving club.
We met weekly at the beach( the same beach I had enjoyed running along at school) and we practiced the reel and line rescue techniques and trained in the sea , the training included lots of running and so I was able to run again without feeling I would be teased. The life saving club was a very social place we had bonfires on the beach after training and enjoyed many happy times and I ran happily without feeling judged or body conscious.
I worked as a lifeguard on the beach for two summers while I was studying A levels and saved quite a few people in that time, usually just over ambitious people who thought they could swim better than they could. I also worked as a lifeguard when I was at Uni and even when I finished Uni, I worked at Sansome Walk pool as a lifeguard at weekends to pay off my student debts. (that’s one story I haven’t shared as we ran past the pool on our runs)
Fitting running into my hectic life and getting a good running bra.
The reason for the history bit is to just say that maybe I was a runner deep down, and I just had to find that inner runner again. I didn’t succeed in finding that runner again until I met Happy Feet and for that I will always be grateful. Whatever size, shape or speed you are at Happy Feet is irrelevant, that’s what I love like many other members.
I invested in a very good running bra and wear another crop top bra over the top of it. I have not let my body shape stop me from running now, but I had let it stop me for decades and the memories of the shouting as I ran past those boys, rested in a sad place in my school days memories. The running by the sea at school and the surf lifesaving club memories are important too as I love to run by the sea and if not by water, so my favourite run is round the river or along the canal. I so can’t want to get back to that run! One day maybe this year I want to do the Severn Bridge Park run in Bristol.
With my job I travel a lot, I have a global role (in normal times). I have been lucky enough this year to run in New Zealand and it was great to do that in my Happy feet top. I have run often in Sweden and Denmark too; I didn’t quite manage a run in Tokyo, but I did some long walks instead. My Strava history has some great locations rather than fast times. I remind myself that I never started running to be the fastest runner or to run marathons ( although I would like to do a half one day… maybe) The best thing with running is that you can do it anywhere, I always take my running shoes and some kit I can throw on and get out for a run, after a busy day of work and travel. I love running along the many rivers in Stockholm, a beautiful city. I travel in my running shoes as I often have to run to catch a connection across the massive Amsterdam airport.
Lockdown has taught me lots of things , as I am sure it has all of us, it has taught me that running is a slog on my own ; it has taught me that walking can be great too and I have walked almost every day with my daughter, or the dog, occasionally with Iain and often alone. It has made me appreciate sunsets, empty fields and that we live in a beautiful part of the country. The biggest thing it has taught me is that I miss people not things and that life is very fragile.
On May 16th I was due to do the Moon walk in London with my daughter for our 70th birthday( 20+50) this was a marathon walk through London at night in our bras to raise money for breast cancer. Sadly, it did not go ahead, like many other events. It was one of my big goals for my 50th year as I wanted to do a big challenge and to do it with my daughter too. It was also about letting go of that bad memory from school and just saying, yes this is me and I have big boobs. Hopefully it will happen later in year or in 2021.
I look forward to running around the river and chatting to Happy Feet runners again. I know it is important now more than ever to not take anything for granted as life can change so quickly.
Thanks for reading and don’t let your shape stop you from doing what you want to do, we have just one life, this is not the dress rehearsal.