How I started running

I always used to think of running as some kind of bizarre self-torture. I think it's because I hated every flavour of P.E. at school. I've always been quite clumsy as far as sports go, and my ineptitude at catching and hitting balls always got me picked last (genuinely) for P.E. teams. That sort of thing can put you off sports for life.

The idea of going to a gym makes me feel sick. I tried a Pilates class a few years ago and it had the same P.E. effect on me; I felt that I didn't fit in and that I shouldn't be there. Plus the Pilates room was really cramped and when I was lying on my back and stretching my arm up for some particular exercise, I kept making hand-to-foot contact with the long toenails of the man in the the row behind me. Also, the instructor made us do Pilates to the music of Simply Red. As soon as I heard Hucknall's first "love the thought" that marks the start of FairgroundI knew I would never be attending that Pilates class ever again.

I walk everywhere because I don't drive, and last year my Converse were starting to give me ankle issues; I think they're just too flat and un-bouncy for walking long distances, so I bought myself some Skechers walking trainers. I wore them on a walk for the first time in July 2017. It was a sunny day and there were wildflowers everywhere and poppies in the fields.

So lovely it made me want to run

I also had my earphones in and when OK Go's The One Moment came on I broke into an uncontrollable, spontaneous run. I still don't know why I felt I had to suddenly run - I just did. I ran for a short while in the sunshine and I bloody loved it. I walked the rest of the way home and for the next couple of days I couldn't shift the thought of that feeling of pure loveliness which that little run had given me.

I Googled "how to start running" and found the NHS Couch to 5K website. I'd heard of C25K before but my anti-sports filter had always done a great job of blocking it out, pretty much in the same way I'd always scrolled on by people's social media posts about running. I got reading, searched a few hashtags on Instagram and Twitter and immediately ordered a pair of running leggings and a running belt (to hold my phone and keys) from Amazon. I already had a couple of sports bra top things that I'd bought for the godawful Pilates class. I decided I would start the plan the following Monday and set about making a running playlist on Spotify.

The first run was a five minute brisk warm-up walk, followed by one minute of running and then ninety seconds of walking for a total of eight running segments, then a five minute warm-down walk and then some warm-down exercises. I honestly didn't think I'd be able to complete the whole run and I had visions of collapsing and my husband having to come and fish me out of a hedge somewhere. But I did it! I was very red and very sweaty by the end but I absolutely loved it. I carried on with the runs and I was loving it. It made me do arm-dancing to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry as I ran, and it also made me forget everything else but the running moment I was in. How la-la does that sound? Very. But it's true.

After run number 2: no make-up, no filter, no shits given

It was all going really well. I did my fifth run in Abingdon whilst visiting my dad. I ran through a woodland path, over the lock and along by the river. I felt a couple of knee niggles but got back to Dad's, did my warm-down, necked a couple of Ibuprofen and thought nothing more about my knees. My third week two run was running for ninety seconds and walking for two minutes, for six run segments. Two thirds of the way through that run I felt a twinge, not actual stabby pain, about two inches under the knee on the insides of both legs, but I carried on. 

Well, that was a terrible error.

My five minute walk home afterwards took me three times that long and there were many tears and swears as I hobbled home, the pain worsening all the while. I did my warm-down exercises (which I probably shouldn't have done) and then put some ice packs on my legs. There was no swelling and only a tiny bit of pain when I touched the affected leg bits. I assumed it was some form of ligament sprain or something so I did the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and no HARM (no heat, alcohol, running or massage) shenanigans all weekend. However, there wasn't a lot of improvement. Basically, when I put weight on them, the tops of my tibiae felt like they were being stabbed with red hot daggers and it made me feel like my legs were about to go full Shakin' Stevens. The sofa and I became one. I couldn't walk around the house without holding onto things for support, and I had to go up our spiral staircase like a sad old cat, which my actual cat Nigel thought was some kind of hilarious funtime game.

My knees went through a Zorro cosplay phase

I spoke to the doctor and he diagnosed it as pes anserine bursitis in both knees, probably because my quads were weak. I'd gone from zero running to doing some actual running but my legs were not used to it. The doctor was fully aware of C25K and he gave me some really good advice. He said that I mustn't let it put me off and that bursitis is quite common in new runners, especially not-really-very-fit-and-active-40-ish women. His advice was to get my legs totally better and pain free, then do leg strengthening exercises—quaddy ones like squats and lunges—then make sure I have the correct footwear, and then restart the plan, doing each of the first few weeks twice, to really get my legs and body used to this running thing.

So that is what I did.

It was terribly unfun and I didn't leave the house for three weeks because walking caused me so much pain. I was on crutches for two of those three weeks but I was absolutely determined to get back to C25K. I was frustrated and angry with myself for not having the correct running shoes and I was missing the whole running-while-grinning-and-arm-dancing-without-a-care-in-the-world thing.

By mid-September the pain in my knees had gone. I'd worked my way up to doing 100 squats a day, as well as doing the other knee-strengthening exercises the doctor recommended. On my 40th birthday I went to Up & Running and had a gait analysis done and I spent my birthday money on a pair of beautiful Brooks Ghost 10 running shoes.

My first ever running shoes: Brooks Ghost 10 LE

That same afternoon I put them on and headed out to do week one run one of C25K again. It was absolutely pissing it down with rain and I got drenched, but it felt so good to be running again. I followed the C25K programme religiously, running on alternate days and taking all of the advice that the amazing folk on the Health Unlocked C25K forum had to offer about it, and I completed my final run on 9th November 2017.

Straight after my Couch to 5K graduation run

Since then I've been running about three times a week. I cannot believe how utterly in love I am with it. I still have no idea why I burst into that run near the fields last summer but I guess it sparked something in me. I go to parkrun, I've got myself a Garmin watch, I'm using Strava, I have a running account on Instagram so I don't bore my non-running followers to death, I'm reading all the running magazines and books, I'm cycling on non-running days and I do daily exercises at home to strengthen my muscles and core. I've utterly surprised myself and basically, I don't know who I am anymore but I do know one thing...

I can run.