I’ve always envied the runner, breezing past me on a packed London pavement, their rucksack bouncing upon their back, breath heavy, lycra sweaty. What an exhilarating way to travel, to see the world and not to mention keep the heart healthy. In comparison I’ve always felt somewhat heavy like my legs don’t move in that way, my lungs burn after only the shortest of distance and I’m left gasping, cursing my long stubborn limbs, convinced I’m just not the body type to be a runner. Having tried and failed to take up running several times I often resort back to my age old excuse, that I must have exercise induced asthma, or perhaps I’m lacking those twitch fibres I’ve heard all the best athletes possess.
The harsh truth is I’m probably just unfit, I can lift weights and smash out a HIIT session or two a week but my stamina seems pretty much non-existant. I neglect cardio because I suck at it. I hate failing, and you can’t fail if you don’t try. Sadly you can’t succeed if you don’t try either.
So I’ve made it a goal of mine to get into running. Not the treadmill kind, or even the road kind but the over the fields, along the footpaths and through the woods kind. I want to feel the country air in my lungs, my feet pounding the grassy earth beneath me and I want to feel alive and explore.
My first run was the hardest, as soon as I was kitted out in all of my gear I felt unstoppable, but sadly my body was soon to remind me that I was very much not. Around the two-mile cross country circuit, I had to stop and walk quite a few times, if a section was particulalry hilly I’d be out of puff in only a few strides. It’s disheartening to feel so at odds with your body. This body of mine can do so many other amazing things but why can it not run? My boyfriend, a heavy smoker, who does less exercise and eats more junk was breezing around this circuit, I curse him under my heaving breath and mutter something about fast twitch fibres and his slender frame.
Despite feeling like I was trying to heave a sack of potatoes through the countryside I persisted, stopping when I felt I could go on no more, and taking a minute to look at the scenery, the bluebells just coming into bloom, the dandelions ready to seed. It’s at this moment that a most vital decision is made, to give up and walk or to carry on. I’m proud to say I persisted, again a short while later stopping, bent over and gasping. It wasn’t a pretty sight. By the end of the circuit my clothes stuck to my body, I felt absolutely exhausted and my chest felt like it was on fire, but with this came the most satisfying pleasure. I felt good. So good. I can see why people do this.
The next day I got up and did it all again, this time knowing the harder parts of the circuit and pushing slightly longer between breaks. I still walked. I still gasped. I still stood bent over and broken. But I finished and again felt that wave of utter satisfaction and bliss wash over me.
Running doesn’t need to be a marathon, it doesn’t need to be a mile, it doesn’t need to be anything. Running can be long or short, slow of fast, up or down, in sections or continuous. I may not get out and run every day, I may not run far or fast. But I ran, I felt my breath get heavy, my feet pound the earth, I explored a new part of my beautiful surroundings. For those two, hard miles, I was a runner, and you can be too.