I have listened to people talk about their reasons for running and I find their varied responses interesting to talk about and reflect upon. Ranging from ‘It makes me feel fitter and stronger’ to ‘I can spend time alone with my thoughts’ or, perhaps, ‘It’s precious time when others aren’t making demands on me’. They all resonate with me in some form or another.
For me, the reason is a bit more complex. A year ago, in 2017, I was severely ill with Sepsis and I nearly died fighting it. When I was discharged from hospital, with residual effects after a post-op heart attack, I needed a wheelchair to get out and about. I had no energy and felt extremely breathless when I walked so I couldn’t get out in the sunshine. It was spring time and the daffodils were beginning to show their faces. It devastated me that I couldn’t take my little dog out for a walk in the sun.
My recovery was slow, but I had an idea of where I wanted to get to. I had run in the past and I knew the benefits and how strong it made me feel. Due to arthritis in my right hip I needed a hip replacement, so in 2016 I took a year off from running and worked on my mind-set instead. I was just getting back on my feet when I was knocked back with Sepsis. This didn’t stop me. I was going on another adventure and I didn’t know where it would lead me.
I have a developed a resilient personality with many knocks over the years and when I set my mind to things, I tend to reach my goal. I manage my expectations so that the things I strive for aren’t completely unachievable thereby putting me off from starting something new. I felt that running a 10K in the summer of 2018 would be ok for me.
I started going out for short, very slow runs and gradually lengthened the time I was out on my feet. It was tough. I wanted to go further but I was completely exhausted. Weekly parkruns with my family became my regular Saturday event and I had many conversations with myself about my timings and lack of speed. Yes, I was very slow and that didn’t make me feel good. However, I seemed to have the ability to keep going and that was my strength so half marathon and eventually marathon distance quickly became the new goal.
Over the next few months, I ran three times a week plus one coached session with a group of local women. I increased my mileage and decided to sign up for the Wimbledon Half Marathon which I did in April 2018. Since then I have run another two half marathons, a triathlon and the Yorkshire Marathon. It felt like an amazing achievement to train and then run 26.2 miles in the pouring wet! Another example of mind over matter. I could have easily given up, but I focused on happy things in my mind and talked myself around the course.
If I was to give beginner runners some advice it would be this. Take it very slowly. I know that jogging can make you feel a little self-conscious but one thing that parkrun has taught me is that runners come in all shapes, sizes, ages, nationalities and religions. It’s a great leveller.
Perhaps you don’t feel like an athlete or one of those beautiful, lithe runners who speed past you, but you are a runner and a mile is still a mile no matter how fast you run it. The confidence it gives you knowing that you can do it is life-changing and you can draw on those resources when it all turns a little dark. The feeling of sinking into a warm bath with lots of lovely bath salts and aromatherapy oils after a long run, is priceless. Knowing that others are thinking about putting their trainers on because you inspired them feels amazing. So give it a go. You won’t regret it.
It's been inspiring to read Elisabeth's journey on getting fit and healthy after her battles and a huge well done on completing the Yorkshire marathon!
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