This week, I will be tying my shoelaces and putting on my running gear to run a virtual half marathon for the second time this year. If someone would have told me three years ago that at the age of 22 I was capable of doing that, I probably would have laughed in their face!
Growing up, I definitely had a lack of confidence and self-esteem. Time and time again, I would go to parents evening with my Dad to have every single teacher tell him that whilst I was performing perfectly well, I barely spoke in the classroom and never had any belief in myself, even after achieving decent grades. This low self esteem wasn’t only prevalent in school though – even in extracurricular activities and various clubs I was a part of, the recurring theme was that I genuinely didn’t believe I was good at anything. I was a happy child and teenager, but for a reason I’m not quite sure of, I really struggled with my confidence.
Moving to a new city for university at the age of 18 was – unsurprisingly – a pretty big challenge for me. I had to handle making new friends, speaking to lecturers and university staff, living with strangers and looking after myself properly – all tasks which are especially difficult for someone with low self-esteem. Luckily, I was placed in a house with two amazing girls who are still my best friends to this day, and made my university experience so enjoyable!
Towards the end of first year one of my housemates Rachel (who deserves so much credit for being the best running partner I could ask for) suggested we go for a run together, since it was such a lovely day and we’d both been stuck indoors revising. Up until this point, I definitely wasn’t a physically ‘fit’ person – I enjoyed walking and went to the gym sometimes, but it was always a bit half-hearted and I hadn’t found one specific exercise which I really loved. The first run we did together was super difficult, and we only ran about a third of the distance, as we found ourselves having to take frequent walking breaks in order to regulate our breathing. However, a few days later we went on our second run together, and this time, we managed to run the tiniest bit further. It wasn’t much at all, but it shocked me – as someone who had spent so many years thinking I was naturally bad at everything, I’d already seen some improvement in just a few days!
At the start of our second year, myself and Rachel joined the university running club, and whilst I found the first 5km club run quite difficult, the club president Alannah made us feel really comfortable and made sure nobody was left behind. Being part of this running club was an incredible experience – over the next two years we participated in weekly club runs, completed our first park run, increased our distance and improved our pace, and in May 2019, did our first official 10km race!
All of these achievements – which may seem quite minor to some runners – were such a big deal to me, as I continued to prove the insecure voice in my head wrong. It was as if I’d had all of these mental hurdles in my mind for so long, and by running I was ploughing through them one by one, and the self-doubting voice was gradually being replaced by a much more positive and optimistic narrative. Not only was I gaining confidence in my running, but I found myself having a more positive mindset towards other aspects of my life too, reminding myself that if I could now run a 10km after once being so physically unfit, perhaps I was capable of achieving other big goals too.
I think it’s safe to say 2020 has been a crazy and unpredictable year for everyone, myself including. I had planned to run the Chester Half Marathon in March, and was doing well at sticking to a training plan, so when the event was suddenly cancelled due to COVID, I decided to give it my best shot anyway, and managed to run the full 13.1 mile distance by myself, with nothing but my own mind to cheer me on. This week, I will be attempting the distance for a second time in order to raise money for a local children’s hospice. I know it’s going to be tough – there’s no doubt about that – but I also know that I can do it!
‘You must do the thing you think you cannot do’. This is one of my favourite quotes, and I think it can definitely be applied to running. Even if you think something is impossible, have a go at it – you never know where it may lead you!