23 Jan 2017
Guest Blog - I am a Runner!
I’m very excited to have been asked to write this blog. It’s the first one I have written since 2012, which was also the year I started out on my running journey. By way of introduction, I’m Natalie, a part time working mum to 2 year old Jack, wife to Kieran, and (when I get the opportunity!) a runner.
It’s taken a while for me to feel comfortable using the word runner to describe myself. I’ve had comments that I don’t have a ‘typical runners’ physique – and it’s true I don’t. I’m not, nor have I ever been particularly athletic, I’m not a member of a running club and it’s not uncommon for me to be overtaken by children on scooters when I’m out running. But I am a runner.
I’ll start at the beginning. It was a book. A controversial choice, ‘Run Fat B*tch Run’ was top of the non-fiction chart in April 2012 and I was on my way home from a particularly boozy week in Ireland when I clocked it in the WHSmith in the airport. Enthralled by the rebellious, tongue-in-cheek title, I began reading it on the airplane and devoured it in 3 days. Totally inspired, the very next day after finishing it I laced up my trainers and headed out and just ran. I remember it vividly. It wasn’t pretty! I hated everything about the run – except for the end. That feeling of accomplishment and pride and rushing endorphins was sooooo satisfying.
I built up my base slowly, moving from 5Ks to 10Ks and then one warm Saturday morning in September I ran 10 miles for the first time. Hitting double figures felt incredible and I continued to build up the mileage. Weight fell off me, I felt body confident for the first time in years. I had put my name in the ballot for the 2013 London Marathon back in the April and to my delight I was granted a place. That then became my target. My training got more intense, I focused myself and ran the marathon in a time I was proud of. It’s one of my greatest achievements and always will be.
After the marathon, I lost focus somewhat and my running became a lot more haphazard and my discipline waned. I fell pregnant in January 2014 and although I tried hard to stay fit and active throughout, I suffered a nasty urine infection and then I discovered that my baby had serious heart condition at just under 24 weeks pregnant. I began to comfort-eat and stayed in and on the couch a lot more, my weight ballooning and not just because I was expecting.
I kept telling myself I’d do a Beyonce and lose 4 stone when my baby came. I lied to myself after every unhealthy meal and snack that it was okay as I’d work it all off after the baby was born. I’d done it once and I would do it again. Only I didn’t. Becoming a mum knocked me for six. I was constantly shattered, eating for convenience and neglecting myself. Jack needed open heart surgery in June 2015 when he was only 8 months old and looking back for about a year after I went into some sort of shock. I wasn’t myself. I struggled with going back to work. My job is responsibility-heavy and I felt guilty being part time, leaving my assistant to deal with the things I wasn’t there to deal with. I also felt guilty being away from Jack. It was a tough time.
In September 2016, the day after Jack turned 2, we moved into a lovely little house. A far cry from the 1 bed town centre flat we all shared. We now have a garden, separate bedrooms and so much more space. The physical space has somehow given me more mental space, more room to breathe. I’m more organised, calmer, settled and have relaxed more into my part time hours. It’s no coincidence that I’ve also started running regularly again. I’m currently undertaking a ‘Run 1000 km in 2017’ challenge and I’m signed up for a 5K in March and a 10K in May. I’ve even persuaded my mum to join me on these runs – she hasn’t run for years – and all for charity – specifically the charity that supported us and the hospital that Jack had his surgery in.
As I write this blog, it’s snowing where I live and I’ve been unable to get out running even though I so want to. Winter is tough. The darkness and plummeting temperatures aren’t exactly inviting. To keep myself motivated, in winter in particular, I like to use a variety of methods. I love a target with small and regular milestones set to meet the target. A main aim supported by a number of objectives. For now, this is the 5K I have planned for March. I have a training plan that I’m working towards and while it’s always hard to initially get in a routine, especially if you haven’t been out for a while, but once I’m a few runs in to the plan I find that my pride and competitive edge takes over and I don’t want to ruin a unblemished run of training runs. It gives me a great feeling to see how many training runs I’ve ticked off my plan. That being said though, there are always times when I really, really don’t want to go. You know the feeling – where you would rather do anything – and I mean ANYTHING – other than go out running. In these instances I make a little deal with myself. I tell myself that I’ll run for 10 minutes and 10 minutes only. Nice and Easy! Only then once I’m out I tell myself that I’m out now and I might as well do 5 more minutes and after that I might as well do another 5 minutes, and before I know it, I’ve a pretty decent workout in the bag.
Even on those days when I really don’t feel like it, I try to visualise how I will feel during and after the run. Running is my me-time; it clears my head, helps me to sleep better and makes me feel less guilty about my penchant for Rose wine!
My words of wisdom to those of you looking to start running – just do it. You don’t need any fancy equipment or gear, just your trainers and determination. Start slowly, listen to your body and don’t worry too much about your pace to begin with. In just getting out you are lapping everyone on the couch!
By Natalie McGourty