I came across the picture on the left recently, of me after I finished my first half marathon in October 2010. That look on my face is my ‘I can’t quite believe I just did that’ face. The pic on the right is from a shoot I did for Nike a couple of weeks ago. I put the two shots side by side and it was quite literally right there in front of me how far I’ve come. Running has been the propeller component that kick started this particular journey in my life, but it’s become about so much more than the running.
That girl on the left is not a natural runner by any means. I couldn’t run for 30 seconds when I started. When I finally did manage to get going more than a few yards, I could just about muster up 12 minute miles. I was the girl who got up at 5:30am and ran under the cover of darkness, in my big baggy sweatpants, before the rest of the world got up. I was changing, going through a transition, trying something I’d never done before – that’s scary enough without people actually seeing me do it.
Suddenly one day, I felt OK enough to ditch the big baggy sweatpants and don some Lycra. Then I felt OK about going for a run in the afternoon. People could see me. And I felt fine about it. Sometimes I had to stop and walk, sometimes it hurt, a lot of the time, I struggled, but I felt fantastic and suddenly, I thought it was important that people see me struggle and hurt and get a stitch, because this is what life is – we all struggle with things and we can’t always hide them and pretend they’re not happening. By me getting out there, being honest and letting people see my struggle, it lets them know that it’s OK for them to struggle too.
In the space of just over a year, I’ve completed five half marathons and a full one. The girl in the pic on the right has found an inner peace and confidence, a drive I didn’t know I had. Maybe it was always there, I just needed running to teach me how to use it. That girl on the right has Nike call her to ask her to be in a photo shoot and give them a few quotes on the role fitness plays in her life for their Facebook page (the girl on the left still can’t quite believe all this is happening).
Last night, as part of my training for the Berlin Half Marathon, I had a track session. As I ran the Paris Half at the weekend and haven’t run all week, I was going to do a slightly shorter session of just 4 x 400m (400m, for those who don’t know, is once round the track fast, taking one minute rest, then repeat). As soon as I got going, doing my first lap in 1 minute 30 seconds, my breathing heavy, the thought of three more made me wince. But I went again, and again. The fourth lap had me on my hands and knees gasping for breath at the end of it. Staring at the tarmac, willing myself to get up, I thought ‘I’ve got one more in me.’ I got up, dusted myself off and went off again for another lap. My legs hurt, my chest hurt, but I went again and did another lap. I did eight in total. Somewhere over this year and a half long journey, I have found the will to prove myself wrong, to push a little harder each time.
Those four extra laps were for the girl in the picture on the left. Because part of me will always be the 12 minute miler, getting up at 5:30am and running under the cover of darkness in my big baggy sweatpants. I need to show her and others like her that I can be better, that I should push more.
This isn’t a before and after – it’s a work in progress.