Everyone has a story to tell about their journey into running and this is mine.
Roll back the clock to December 2009 when I had the call that changed my life. My cousin Simon was diagnosed with terminal cancer just before his 30th birthday and was given six months to live. He put up a good fight through multiple surgeries and treatments and finally passed away one year and nine months later on 12 September 2011. During this time he ran the Plymouth half marathon twice. The second year he was very poorly and at times had to use his hand to lift his leg because of the pressure of a tumour on his brain which caused physical dysfunction. Here’s a photo of him about 12 1/2 miles in, he’s been to a fancy dress party the night before and dyed his hair to be a punk! This man enjoyed his life to the full for as long as he could – I love him so much, he’s my inspiration.
Going back to the day I got the call, I was totally unhappy with my life. Amongst other things I was in an unhealthy relationship, overweight, and seriously lacked the confidence to believe I deserved anything more. I was waiting for my ‘one day’ to come when things would change. But my cousins news made me rethink life and realise how precious it is. I used the quote if you change nothing, nothing will change’. So I admitted to my parents I needed help, moved into a shared house where I met some great new friends and started again. In 2012 my cousins friends and family ran the Plymouth half in his memory and I remember thinking I could never do that. But perhaps I could attempt a 5k Race for life and raise some money for Cancer research?
So after carrying out some research on what I’d need to start running (just a good pair of trainers and motivation apparently), and learning about good form, I had a few practice runs on the treadmill. I found a good run/walk program, downloaded the Nike running app and I was off – to the local park.
I wasn’t brave enough to run on the streets at first but it was a start. But then I was going around the park and onto the streets and I thought yes, I’m doing this! Three months of training took me up to June 2013 where I ran my first race!
The training was tough but by thinking of my inspiration and raising money, I stuck with it. When my legs hurt and I was tired I thought how tough it must have been for Simon, and I kept going. Through training I felt physically better, was losing weight and what a confidence boost! So immediately after the 5k I registered for my first 10k and continued the training. By now my lifestyle was starting to change. I was eating more healthily and drinking less alcohol at the weekends. I looked better and clothes fitted so well! I loved training and ticking each session off, but I found 10k a lot more difficult than 5k and really struggled on race day. But even so – I did it!
It look another year of 5k and 10k races before I finally felt ready for a half marathon. By this time I’d lost three stone and applied for a place on a nursing degree – something I’d wanted to do for a long time – and was given a place to start in the September. I’d realised that even if you don’t think you can do something, by working hard and having confidence in yourself you can achieve anything (well within reason). So there was no reason I couldn’t meet my ultimate running goal of a half marathon! Unfortunately I was injured just before the race, and I thought I’d recovered enough in time to run it. But by mile 8 I was in pain and limped/ran the last couple of miles. However getting to the finish line was an amazing experience, the crowds were cheering me on and I couldn’t believe it – I’d actually just ran a half marathon! I was crying with pain and feeling overwhelmed. My mum said she’d meet me at the finish line but she was no where to be seen. I was walking around the finishing area still crying, marshals kept stopping me and asking if I was ok and I replied “I can’t find my mum!”
Since this I’ve gone on to run three more half marathons and other shorter distance races. With a nursing degree completed and wedding over I thought I needed a new challenge. Now that I have free time I’ve joined the Plymouth Harriers and from talking about their experiences I felt inspired to run a marathon and then an ultra marathon.
This journey has had its ups and downs. There’s been times when I’ve stopped running, piled weight back on, and struggled to get started again. But I’ve been running consistently for two years now. Running regularly with races booked in really is the best way to stay motivated. And having a husband with a worse addiction than me makes things so much simpler. We even took our Brooks with us and ran all over the USA on our honeymoon.
I’m enjoying running more regularly than I ever have done, including more miles and much longer runs. Running is 50% physical and 50% mental, your brain stops before your body. But I have no doubt in my ability to run this ultra marathon. I can’t wait to get to the start line now. To be continued…..
Thanks to Claire for sharing her blog and hope it will inspire others to do the same. You can follow more of Claire's blogs here.