My name ‘s Jo. I’m 46. I have been running for 4 years, and love it! Here’s my story!
I came late into running, and still feel like an amateur most days! Anyone else struggle with calling themselves a ‘proper’ runner? And when do you stop calling yourself an amateur?
November 2015, I decided it was now or never. Fed up of being obese, of dreading the next function where I’d have to pretend to be happy with my outfit. Fed up of feeling unhealthy and unfit. Enough was enough. I knew it as only me that could make the change and I knew it was only me that could keep that change.
January 1st 2016 I started following Slimming World and doing more exercise. My poor dog was as exhausted as me! I started walking as fast as I could every morning before work and I enjoyed seeing the time reduce on my daily two mile circuit. A few months into my new regime, and with the encouragement of friends and my husband, I decided I was going to attempt to jog. A jog! With everything strapped in and clothed in old saggy leggings, a VERY old sports bra, and a very obliging dog a jogging partner, we embarked on jogging between trees on our morning walk. The dog was most surprised, but eagerly excited all the same! The more I jogged the more I loved it! One of my closest friends had also caught the running bug and that summer we smashed one mile, then two miles and then our first parkrun! I was so grateful to my friend’s husband for completing his park run then doubling back to run me in to the finish!
Well, that proved to be the start of things to come. That feeling when you cross a finish line, hit a new PB or run a new route is the best feeling in the world and I wanted more. My friend and I were soon booked in to a 10k and by this time I was 4.5 stone lighter than at the start of the year! I found the jump from 5 to 10k so hard! I’m sure Shelley felt like she was running with a petulant toddler on our training runs ‘Don’t talk to me unless it is to tell me when I can stop!’ was a favorite phase! We smashed the 10ks and then booked on our first half marathon.
The day itself was perfect. Friends and family came to support us and we ran the whole thing with grit, and sheer determination. Floating on cloud 9 once we’d crossed that finish line! Such an amazing feeling! If you could bottle it, well, it would be revolutionary! This was IT. This was what I had been waiting for! Feeling like I could conquer the world! I finished in a respectable 2hrs 13 minutes with Shelley coming in just before me. What a day! This was when I decided a marathon could be within reach. A marathon!!!
In the months that followed, we did many more races, and then made the decision to complete a full marathon. I booked the Milton Keynes Marathon 2018. Then disaster struck. A nasty torn calf muscle. I was so upset and felt so lost not being able to keep training, however I dutifully adhered to the advice of my amazing physio. Three months later I returned to running 16 weeks before the marathon. Increasing mileage from zero to 18 miles in the weeks that followed. I was permanently tired and sore, but no way was I going to give up!
The marathon came around, the hottest day of the year so far and boy, it knocked me for 6. Mile 21 my family were cheering from the side, mile 22 I sat on a bench crying my eyes out. All on my own, no idea where I was and so hot! My bestie was amazing, firmly telling me I’d got to carry on otherwise I wouldn’t get home. It was the kick I needed to get it together and hobble to the finish line. I caught up with Katie, we stumbled into the stadium and ran around the bowl to the finish. Exhausted, sweaty, sore, but so SO relieved to have made it, and VERY proud! Let’s not mention we were last on the route that day, making it to the finish in just under 7 hours! The heat of the day meant I felt ill and slept all the way home. I was sick as soon as I got out the car and after a shower and fresh pajamas, and feeling much more human, I let the day sink in.
Was that the end? No way! I had a time to beat, a personal challenge to achieve. I had determination to channel, and I had to prove myself. Yorkshire Marathon 2019. This was the one. This was where I was going to work so hard and smash my last marathon time. I drew up my own training plan and extended my training to get me to 22 miles with one taper week before the big day. It was a freezing cold morning. I drank 3 cups of tea at the start just to keep my hands warm! This time, I asked my family not to meet me on the route, I couldn’t risk my emotions getting the better of me and I needed to get my head down and focus. Little did I know my bestie was secretly in the crowd at regular intervals and taking pictures! She really is the absolute best! It was an amazing route, great crowds and countryside. That is, until the last 4 miles where it absolutely chucked it down. I was cold, wet and sore, but at the point where it hurt more to walk. I felt my hopes at getting my goal of a sub 6hr time slipping away. I was ready to see that finish line. It took everything I’d got to keep going along that last leg. But go I did and hearing them shout my name over the tannoy as I ran downhill to the end, to finish in just under 5.5 hours, well, I was on cloud 9! My hubby, mum-in-law and her wife were cheering me over the finish and the banana in the finishers pack was very welcome! I burst into tears and made my husband promise I’d never have to do another one, while simultaneously wondering if I could do an ultra!
If you take one thing from reading this story, it is to know that you can do it. You don’t have to be fast, you don’t have to be thin or even fit, you just have to go. You never know where it will take you and what fun you’ll have, stick with it, push through the hard runs, and enjoy the great runs. I have such a great time with run friends and wouldn’t change it for the world. For me running is a dream, it’s freedom to explore the countryside and find new routes off and on road. In addition to this, I’ve done mud runs, trail runs, Great North, and beach runs. Running along the coast is my very favorite thing to do. Running with friends is great fun and we get to put the world to rights on the way round too!
My motivation? Well, that’s easy! Being able to do something I never thought in a million years I’d be able to do. I run 4 times a week, at 5.30am before getting home and mum life/work kicks in and I am aiming to complete my first 50 mile ultra in 2021. I’ve had torn muscles, plantar fasciitis and sore hips. There is nothing you can’t overcome as long as you have the mindset. My advice…lace up and just go!