Saturday, 5 February 2011

On your marks

I’ve never been particularly good at running. The mere mention of the words “cross country” can still set off a feeling of low level nausea in the pit of my stomach and send me looking for the nearest bush to hide in (anyone else do that during cross country at school?). When I first joined a gym back in June 2009, things weren’t much better. I was in terrible shape, had no stamina, and my tricksy knee would plague me if I managed to run for more than 10 minutes.

However since joining the new gym last year and becoming a proper “gym goer” (i.e. someone who actually turns up regularly to the gym, rather than someone who pays someone £20 a month for no reason) my stamina has slowly improved. And since losing the weight, my knee seems miraculously better – frightening proof of how much just a few extra stone can affect your joints.

And so came my decision that I would run a 5km race this year.

The reasons were few but nevertheless important;

1) Just something to do
2) Get over my fear of running – I am not still the same awkward teenager who would want to cry at the prospect of running the 1500m
3) Help maintain my weight loss

I am signed up to the Race for Life in Hull on Sunday 17th July. This is brilliant because not only does it give me something to aim for but it’s absolutely ages away so I have plenty of time to get training.

The only problem?

An all encompassing fear of running in public.

“Nobody’s looking at you!” I hear you say. But hear me. I know that I have seen people running on the streets and said to myself “My god they run weirdly.” Whilst I accept that people might not be as judgemental as me I know I’m not the only one who’s watched someone in lycra jog past and had a giggle to themselves.

I told myself that I would take it in stages. I would keep running on the treadmill until I knew that I could run 5km on that. At that point I would suck it up and take it to the streets because I would have the knowledge in my head that I could do this. And we all know the importance of that positive mental attitude.

I was quite pleased with myself, I had managed to legitimately put off something I was scared of doing. Until...

...This weekend I went to visit The Person (sorry, I just can’t think of a better name for him right now) and took advantage of a “Bring a friend for free” pass to get some running in. I gave him strict instructions to not communicate or even look in my direction whilst we were in there (there are certain times when it is ok for your boyfriend to see you red and sweaty. These times do not include the gym.) and I set myself up on the treadmill.

I started jogging away nicely and thought that I would push myself and aim for 3km, the furthest I would have ever run before.

I jogged and I jogged and I listened to tunes on my I-pod and watched the Coronation Street omnibus on the TV and realised that I was almost at 3km and wasn’t drop down dead tired yet. My problem tends to be that I stop well before I need to, mainly because I get incredibly bored and have to get off – my usual limit is 20 minutes on a treadmill before my brain implodes.

“See if you can make it to 30 minutes” I told myself.

I jogged and I jogged and I realised that I was almost at 30 minutes and that I was well into 4km.

“Might as well keep going then lady. Let’s see what you’ve got.” I told myself (in the style of a Bootcamp leader. A nice one though. Not one that makes you exercise until you vomit).

I jogged and I jogged...

And after 35 minutes and 27 seconds of jogging I ran for 5km. No stopping, no slowing down (and not speeding up either admittedly) just jog, jog, jog.

Cue tumultuous applause. Cue me almost hugging the stranger on the cross trainer next to me. Cue me stumbling across the gym to tell The Person that I’d completed a 5k and why hadn’t he looked at me so I could get his attention so he could come and witness it (contrary? Me?!). Cue a call to my Mum to tell her so she’d be proud of me (she didn’t get it). Cue a status update on Facebook in testament to my triumph. Cue general excitement and feelings of pride.

Until I realised that I don’t have any more excuses and have to go running in public.

Where’s the nearest bush?


  1. Oh how I went through this last year... A very close friend of mine as well as my father were diagnosed with Cancer last year so that was it - get of my (all be it FAT) arse and sign up for the Race For Life. Now I didn't do half as well as you and run the whole way but I did it - IN PUBLIC. I ran about half of it and fast walked the rest! I think I took about 37 mins. But you know what it wasn't so bad - people really where just cheering everyone on! and hey - if they laugh and giggle then shame on them - they aren't running for cancer are they?? GO FO IT! I have just signed up for this year too!

  2. Wish I'd been stand in next to you, I've just started at the gym and it's not love at first jog let me tell you. Wellllllllll dooooone!

  3. Wow, well done you! Maybe you should sign up to a 10k run though, sounds like the 5k will be way too easy by the time July comes round!

    I've entered the ballot for the GNR this year, will have to do some serious learning how to run if I get a place! :S

  4. Well done, that's ever so brave of you and a great accomplishment. I did a 5k run back in 2008 but haven't done anything since. I keep thinking that I must. Maybe I should take a leaf out of your book. You go girl! x

  5. Try running in the dark first. Early evening at this time of year is safe enough.

  6. I think all runners are mad. I must be missing the gene that finds exercise appealing. I find swimming just about bearable but the very thought of running is dreadful. My brother runs marathons - I'm still not fully convinced I'm actually related to him.

    Anyway, running prejudice aside, woo hoo! I hope The Person was suitably proud and whooped a little bit.

  7. Woohooo brill! I did the Belfast Marathon relay a few years ago, my leg of the race was only 6miles but I had real trouble training for it. Like you, I was so self-conscious running on the streets. The day of the marathon was embarrassing too, as loads of people were standing on the side of the road clapping and cheering as I ran past crrrriiiinge!! Awww well, the feeling you get when you have completed it is worth it!! Good luck xx

  8. Well done! I'm one of the £20 a month for no reason girls! except its £50! Must cancel membership!
    I started running once (round field so no one saw me!) 3 weeks I lasted :)I think I'll just be realistic and walk Sophie in her pram!!!

  9. Wow that is so amazing. You are so eight to be proud of that. You know what you need to do - put on an audiobook and run and you won't notice if people are looking at you, you'll be wrapped up in the story. But I do know what you mean about running in public.

  10. Go Girl!!! That is fantastic.
    My body was not built for running, well not without medics on standby and a bra so supportive it would win an Oscar for it's role ;)

  11. I hated cross country at school too - it seemed to be raining everytime we went out (a deliberate ploy by the PE teacher if you ask me). But suddenly I 'got it' about 10 years ago when I was living in Newcastle and would run through the local park in the frost. It felt fantastic even thought I wasn't very good at it.

    I find running on a treadmill completely different to running outside so don't be surprised if you can't manage as far at the beginning. I start off with alternate running and walking, increasing the running and decreasing the walking as I get my stamina back. Trying to look like I'm on some kind of training regime (mostly checking my watch and wearing fancy running leggings) helps me feel like people aren't laughing at me. Just don't go out in a pink velour tracksuit!

  12. ps. There are some really great websites out there with good programmes for different abilities and goals (I can email you some if you're interested).

    Aso I'd recommend WalkJogRun ( where you can map out and measure your running routes. I find that pretty motivating.

  13. Wanna know something? People do look at you. But in a positive sense. When I've gone for a waddle, apart from one "run fatty run" 6 months ago, I've not received one bad "look". I get smiles from other joggers and passers-by steal glances and as far as I can tell, they're not thinking I shouldn't be running. And even if they would, I couldn't give a damn.

    But onto what I was supposed to say in the first place; congrats!!! Do you follow any routine to "prepare" or are you one of those "get on the treadmill and go" type of people?

  14. I HATE the gym - it always smells of sweaty mens bits!! - so I applaud you for just managing to keep going in the first place!! xxxx

  15. Hats off to you - I can't run/hate running. I am not sure if I could ever do what you did...I get dizzy and I don't like the feeling or people watching or the tredmill (I think i'll fall off it)...I've had people give me oscar winning speeches on why I'd love running and I've got all excited and then...given running a go and thought...nope. Nope. Nope. NOPE!

    Sorry...don't think it will happen for me! But impressed it has for you...maybe even jealous a bit! xxx


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