Running Can Seriously Change Your Life. It Transformed Mine. Here’s How.

Extremely romanticised view of running that in no way reflects my personal experience

Imagine you loved cooking. You took some serious pleasure conjuring up new dishes, experimenting with flavour and technique. Now imagine you were told to put down the food mixer, you’re no Egon Ronay so what’s the point in trying? You’d laugh right? You know full well that just because you’re a no-pro it takes nothing away from the joy you get from your hobby.

And yet, that’s the message so many young people receive about sport. Let’s be honest it’s a message girls in particular receive loud and clear. I’m talking specifically about running. And I’m focusing on this sport for good reason. Over the last year, downloads of the NHS Couch to 5k app have shot up. At the beginning of lockdown almost 100% more than the previous year. In part this was probably because the gyms were closed but for many others, I suspect it was a constructive way of using that limited time we were allowed outdoors. And for a lot of people, it seems to have stuck. Research suggests new runners have stayed the course and made running part of their life rhythm.

A quick word for C25k-ers. The app works towards getting you running for 30 straight minutes. For a lot of runners, that won’t necessarily mean 5k. The idea is that if you can run for half an hour, you can probably run longer and hit the magic 3.1 mile mark. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get there within this arbitrary time frame.

Too many of us have this belief in the backs of our minds that because we’re not fast, the door to running is closed. Closed, locked and barred. Running is for that elite, lycra-clad, ponytail swishing gazelle. Well it is. Running is for her but it’s also for you, and him and them. It’s for everyone who loves the feeling of losing yourself in the rhythm of your body’s movement. Who finds it bloody hard but knows the sense of post run euphoria makes it all worthwhile.

I’m writing this today because next month I’ll have been running for eight years. And it’s been a game changer. Rather predictably I was the kid at school who HATED running, hated PE. Games were ok because there was a reason: to annihilate the competiton (too much?). But running across the South Downs in inadequate kit? I’d rather sell a kidney.

Incidentally, nowadays I pay good money to run competitively across the South Downs and my PE kit is on point.

Baby Steps

My running journey began after the birth of my small and extremely bald second baby. We’d just moved to Geneva, I knew no one and had a touch of Postnatal Depression. I knew very quickly that unless I took action to help myself, this PND was going to get the better of me. With no friends or family around to ask for advice, the C25K found its way onto my phone.

Let me tell you this. I hated it.

It was really hard. I’m not a fan of sweating and I’m not a fan of pushing through boundaries or any of that kind of personal development. I’ll generally opt for the path of least resistance. But push through I did. My breathing was hard and laboured, my shoulders hunched and head down. Looking back now with slightly better form, it’s no wonder it was such a challenge.

There was no lightning bolt that made me love running. It just slowly worked its magic on me. I made friends through running, ran through all types of weather and personal circumstances. Entered my first race. Went from 5k to 10k, half to marathon. Not fast, just determined and consistent. Incorporating wine and takeaways throughout.

The Only Kit You Need

Over lockdown my times have improved. Simply because I’ve done it more. I love it more eight years on then I ever have in my life. I’m part of running communities, online and in real life. And I’ve also run all over the world.

Chucking your trainers in the suitcase and running through the streets of Paris and Toronto in the early hours of the morning are memories that will stay with me forever (also getting stuck in concrete in Boston — see running friends).

And honestly, I’m still not great at it (or cooking either for that matter). But that’s the point, I don’t have to be and nor do you. The only thing you need is to give it a go. Run a bit, walk a bit, stop and take a photo of a dog you met on the way or a view. Do it your way.

Running has given me back far more than the effort I’ve put in.

But also treat yourself to a decent sports bra and get yourself a pair of decent trainers. Running in your Converse will make your feet look like they’ve been in a dumpster fire. Avoid.

And that’s it. I’m not a running evangelist (revangelist?) but I do want to encourage you to start your running journey today. If you need some encouragement or ideas on how to get started, drop me a line. I’ll cheer you all the way.

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Caroline Kelly

Caroline Kelly

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Freelance writer, runner, crochet wannabe and good egg. Writes about running, embarrassing expat moments and family life