"Oh. YOU'RE a runner".
This is the most common, and one of my favourite responses from people when I tell them that I run.
See, I don't look like what society (and some running magazines!) thinks a runner should look like. I'm a touch bigger, a touch more ungainly and a heck of a lot more uncoordinated than what people think a runner should look like or be. I'm not fast, I don't have a natural talent for any kind of sport, and when I've been running you most definitely can tell with one glance. I don't always feel like a runner.
I fell into running by accident, when my Grandad was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. Like a lot of people when a loved one receives such a diagnosis, I wanted to do *something* but I knew that there wasn't a great deal I could actually do. So I decided to enter a race to raise money for The Alzheimer's Society. The Great Yorkshire Run in Sheffield in September 2013. I'd never run before. I was a quite heavy smoker who did no exercise. I loved (and still love) pizza. If I could run this 10k, then surely people would sponsor me! And sponsor me they did.
I entered in December 2012, and decided in February 2013 (after finally stopping smoking in January 2013) that I was going to start training. My first run was a grand total of 47 seconds long. It took longer to put on the 3 layers of clothing I was wearing. I got to the garden gate, set off at an ungodly pace, died a death at the end of the street and trudged back home crying.
It was another month before I decided to try again, and this time I followed the Couch to 5K which helped, but running on my own wasn't really working. People shouted at me from their cars when I was walking (not everyone, but it felt like it at the time), I didn't follow the 'run' part religiously because once I started walking it was hard to start running again. I was starting to feel like I'd never be able to run 6.2 miles, I could barely manage 1 mile.
It wasn't until June 2013 that I found a small, new running group to train with. Now, it turns out that group wasn't for me, but at the time they got me to the 10k start line, and I did my first race. Afterwards, I said never again. Then I started to think...maybe I could try another one. It was around this time that I also found Twitter, and discovered the unbelievable support you could get on there. Granted, I have also found the 'bad' side of Twitter, having been unfollowed by a number of fellow runners for not being fast enough, not improving enough, not 'taking running seriously' but overall the support I have found has been immeasurable.
After carrying on running with friends and on my own for the next couple of years, I finally found my tribe in June 2015. I'd seen and heard of Team Manvers, a local running club, but my husband and a friend who I'd met through the ill-fated first running group convinced me to give them a try.
I've never looked back.
Since joining them, I've ran two marathons, two ultra marathons, 2 overnight endurance runs and countless half marathons. I've laughed, cried, screamed, shouted and swore my way through runs with them. I've been dragged to the end of races by them when I didn't think I could take another step, and I've returned the favour whenever one of my teammates has been struggling. They have made me a better runner and a better teammate. In April, I'm lucky enough to be running the London Marathon with 2 of my teammates and I cannot wait. I'll be running for the Rosie May Foundation and I'm looking forward to doing them proud the same as I did my Grandad. I would recommend to anyone that is struggling with the decision to try a running club to just do it. Go for it. You may find that the first or second club you try isn't for you, but don't give up. You'll find your squad - the people who support you, are your biggest cheerleaders, and have your back during every single run. You won't regret it, you may only regret not trying it.
I'll never be the fastest runner. I'll never win a race (I'm more likely to be bringing up the rear). I'll never put the hunt for PB's above the enjoyment of running. I'll never stop eating pizza.
But, if I can do it then anyone can. And when people say to me "Oh. YOU'RE a runner" my answer is always "Hell YES I'm a runner".
Huge thanks to Kelly for sharing her blog with us. It's amazing how falling into running by accident can start you on an incredible journey. Follow Kelly's running in 2018 and beyond on twitter (@KellyRo81).
If you'd like to write a blog for us then get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be up next.
Happy running and be proud to be a runr!