Fitness and Lifestyle

How Running Changed My Life


I'm not one to be over dramatic (actually, I totally am), but taking up running in 2014 completely changed my life. My boyfriend, my dog, my house, my job. The fact that I spend 99.9% of my time doing something triathlon related. It all comes back to running. Which kind of freaked me out when I had a bit of a 'sliding doors' moment the other day, wondering what I'd be doing if I'd taken up some other slightly less sweaty hobby.

Time to jump back into my pink glittery time machine and time travel back to September 2014... I'd recently graduated from the University of Leeds and moved back into my childhood bedroom, armed with an English Lit degree certificate and a tower of books and anthologies. Life consisted of an endless, dreary cycle of graduate job applications and I found myself having to revise GCSE maths for marketing graduate schemes. The horror. Having moved away from all my uni friends, gone through a break up and realised that my visions of strutting straight out of my graduation ceremony into a swanky job (sporting Jimmy Choos and a Prada bag, naturally) had been over optimistic, I was a bit of a miserable little creature.

Thankfully, spotting my downward spiral into Netflix zombiehood, my Mum dragged me out of my bedroom and got me to join the Hitchin Hares running club with her. I'd done the odd bit of running before and had completed the Cambridge Race for Life 5km in just under half an hour earlier in the summer. But this was a whole new ball game. Running with other people, having to - god forbid - talk whilst running!? I was bloody terrified and I'm pretty sure my Mum was too. But we went, and we did it anyway. And it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. We kept going back each week, graduating up from the beginners group up into the big kids 1 hour run group. My fitness improved and so did my confidence - I don't think it's a coincidence that soon after joining I was able to land my first graduate PR internship. There were some rather speedy types at the running club, most of whom I only knew by the backs of their heads as they galloped off into the distance. Until one week when the speedy guy with the Very Blue Eyes decided to come and start talking to me as we made our way up one of Hitchin's pointier inclines. I don't know if you've ever tried to act cool, hold a conversation and pretend that your lungs aren't on fire at the same time, but if you have you'll understand my difficulty! Spotting that I was struggling, Mr Very Blue Eyes promised that this would be the last hill on that evening's run. This was a lie as we rounded the corner only to be faced with another incline, but that small indiscretion aside, I decided he seemed like a pretty good guy.

A few days later we met up for a drink, and Mr VBE - otherwise known as Graham - told me that he was planning to do 2 Ironman races the next year. "What's an Ironman?" I asked, envisaging him gallivanting around in some sort of Marvel costume. It turned out he was actually talking about a long distance triathlon event, comprising a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a marathon. Really, I should have realised he was an absolute loon then and turned on my heel - but instead I was kind of intrigued. Fast forward a few months and we'd bought a house, moved in, decided on a name for the metaphorical dog we didn't yet own (he's called Rizzo, he arrived in January 2016 and completely rules the roost) and I'd entered my first ever half marathon. I was really starting to enjoy this running malarkey. Fast forward another couple of months and there I was, standing by a lake in Bolton at the crack of dawn, soaked through to my undies thanks to the Great British weather, watching Graham as he made his way through the swim section of Ironman UK. Earlier in the year, I'd stood by the lake at the Bedford Middle Distance Tri and adamantly declared that I would "never be caught dead doing a triathlon". I hated cycling, and - "have you seen how disgusting that water looks?" Nope, no, not happening. Ironman UK changed all of that. I didn't want to be spectating. I wanted to be out there, Lycra-clad and kicking some arse.

The rest, as they say, is history. Later that year I did an aquathlon. The following year I did a few sprint races. I left the PR job that was slowly grinding me down and re-trained as a Personal Trainer. This gave me the flexibility I needed to really be able to commit to training. Last year I completed my first half Ironman and now I'm all set to race at the European standard distance championships and Ironman Copenhagen. That sad, shy girl with no self-belief from 2014? She's gone. I'm stronger physically and mentally than I ever have been, with a renewed sense of purpose and this determined little fire in my belly. If I'm not triathlon training, I'm triathlon daydreaming. I dream of Kona, of one day being able to call this swim-bike-run thing my job. Far-fetched and wildly unrealistic? Probably. But you've got to aim high. Triathlon has become a huge part of my life, a huge part of me and I wouldn't want it any other way. I bloody love this sport.

And really, I've got running to thank for all of this. It was the spark that lit the flame, the small change that lead to some pretty huge leaps. So - thanks Mum, for dragging me out to that first Hitchin Hares session. I may still space out in front of Netflix, but at least now it's while I'm on the turbo trainer! Thanks to the Hitchin Hares for pushing me out of my comfort zone and introducing me to my now-boyfriend and sausage dog co-parent. And thank you running, for helping me to start believing in myself and being the catalyst that would completely overhaul my life in the best kind of way.

The point of this autobiographical, self-indulgent ramble? I guess it's that I've been there on the other side of things - watching the London marathon on TV and wondering if I could ever run further than the end of the road... and taking the leap to find out has been the best thing that could ever have happened to me. So if that's you, if you've ever wondered if you could run, or take on a triathlon, or get out on a bike - you should just go for it. I can't promise that it'll bring you a boyfriend, a new house, a new job and a naughty sausage dog - but it will bring you joy, fitness and self-belief. And who knows? It could be the start of a journey you don't even know exists.

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