Last week, I found a scrapbook I made of my very first marathon. I was greeted by a lot of happy memories and photos which inspired this post. I’ve touched about it briefly on my blog before, but I thought I’d give you the full background story on how I got first into running.
Everyone has a reason why they run their first marathon – here is mine.
You may want to make yourself a brew first, as this is like reading my autobiography!
It was New Years Eve 2012, I was home alone (imagine Bridget Jones) wondering how another year had gone so quickly. I worked long hours at the time and all I seemed to be doing with my life was getting up, going to work, getting home late and going to bed.
On my return to work after the Christmas break I announced to my colleagues; ‘I want to do something different this year’ I just didn’t know what. Various ideas were thrown around the office, then it was forgotten about. A few weeks later we received a press release about a new event coming to York in October – the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon. ‘You wanted to do something different’ a colleague reminded me, ‘why don’t you do that?’ they asked. ‘Because I can’t run’, was my reply – I didn’t even own a pair of trainers.
A couple of days later an article from the local newspaper had been cut out and left on my desk. A personal trainer, called Babs, was offering to train a group of novice female runners to run the Yorkshire Marathon. The progress would be filmed for BBC Look North as their presenter, Harry Gration, had signed up to run it too.
‘I’ll do it if you do it’, a colleague said, ‘A marathon has always been on my bucket list’
It had never been on mine, I wasn’t exactly the sporty type. I tapped ‘How far is a marathon?’ into google and gasped. I was expected to run the same distance as my commute to work – some mornings I found that a struggle in a car!
I emailed the Personal Trainer (praying she already had enough women) and got a really lovely message back, inviting me to a meeting, she promised it didn’t involve any running, so I went along. That day I met so many inspiring people. People had real reasons for wanting to run this marathon. Some were running in memory of loved ones or to raise money for charities close to them. Others had battled terrible illness, some had lost impressive amounts of weight and a marathon was their ultimate goal. I stood amongst these amazing ladies and felt a bit of a fraud, I had no real reason except to challenge myself because I was bored. I arrived at that initial meeting convinced it wouldn’t be for me – I left convinced, with these people around me, I could run a marathon and I signed up that evening.
My first run
Feeling inspired and motivated I was eager to get out on my first run. I’d seen runners out in their hi-vis gear and always thought they were crazy. ‘Why do they get up and run early on a morning, they could be having a lie in.’ Now I was about to become one… and go from non-runner to marathon runner in just 6 months.
I excitedly went into Sports Direct (I know, I wouldn’t shop there now) and picked the first pair of trainers I saw – because they were pink. I downloaded an app for my phone to track my distance and I headed out. I ran 0.41 miles before getting out of breath, I felt sick and walked home. This wasn’t going to be easy.
Starting from nothing
My fitness levels were assessed by taking part in a bleep test – it came as no surprise that I failed. My friends and family laughed. Determined to prove them wrong, I found a couch to 5k training plan online and I stuck with it. I still remember how proud I felt when I managed to run 3 miles without stopping.
My crazy decision had been featured in an article in the magazine I worked at. A reader wrote in and suggested we head to our local parkrun as it might help with our training. I went along and ran it in 39 mins 53 seconds. I came last second from last (the tail runner let me finish before her), but I didn’t care – I’d found it tough and I was just so happy I made it around the course without stopping. (For comparison, three years later, in 2016 I was the 4th female finisher (first in my age category) at my local parkrun!)
At our next meeting with Babs she suggested we all do a ‘little 5-mile run’ together. I panicked, I’d only just got to 3 miles, I hadn’t attempted 5 yet. We went out as a group along the river, it was lovely. Ladies of varying backgrounds, abilities and ages. It was the hardest 5 miles of my life but a great way of getting to know everyone. I still remember Carol running with me, and keeping me going on that last mile when I was struggling.
We were given a copy of our training plan, along with the loan of a heart rate monitor and information about nutrition and diet. We decided on a group name of The White Rose Runners and hoodies and t-shirts were ordered. I had never been part of a ‘sports team’ before and I quite liked it! The weeks progressed, the group lost and gained a few members and we were featured in the press and on TV.
In the know
Babs hosted an event where she invited motivational speakers, people from local running stores, nutrition experts and physios to come along and pass on their expertise. It was here I learnt there are different types of shoe, all about gait analysis, injury prevention and the importance of a good sports bra! I’d been wearing two regular bras up until this point.
No one thought I could do it.
Each week we slowly built up the miles. York 10k in August 2013 was my first ever race and I loved it. From then on, the mileage increased each week and our bond as a group got stronger. We chatted as we clocked up the miles, everyone feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement. The weeks flew by, as I started doing the longer runs peoples attitudes changed from ‘she won’t do it’ to ‘she’s actually going to do it’
I remember arriving, nervous, not quite knowing what to expect, yet as part of that group I felt I could take on anything. We had wristbands for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal area as we were raising funds / had worked closely with them in the build-up to the marathon, so we waited there together until nearer the start time.
My parents were at the Jane Tomlinson cheer point at mile 22. I remember thinking ‘If I have to walk, I have to walk, but I need to still be running as I pass them or I’ll never live it down’. As I approached, I could see them cheering excitedly. The pair of them had been stood there for hours, since before the race began, waiting for the 10 seconds or so that I passed.
I crossed the line in 4 hours 46 minutes. I felt a mix of astonishment and relief as I thanked the lady who handed me my medal. I’d done it. I’d achieved something I, or anyone else, didn’t think I could do.
Every single White Rose Runner crossed that line that day and I was so proud of them. Proud that they had achieved their goals, but even prouder to be able to call them my friends.