What I Learned From Running

Dec 16 / Jude Schweppe
So, here’s the thing – I was one of those kids at school who ALWAYS ended up walking instead of running, literally five minutes after P.E class had started. We’d usually start off with laps of the hockey pitch to get the blood pumping, and while the super-fit and super-sporty guys and gals loped gracefully around the pitch, hardly breaking a a sweat, I found running painful in the extreme. It just wasn’t my bag. I wasn’t a natural runner. I had no runner’s rhythm. My lungs just weren’t cut out for it, and a whole bunch of other excuses I came up with every time to explain why I ran like a zombie. Oh I tried a few times to get into running when I was on one of my many many many teenage diets, because I’d heard that like, running was, like, THE best way to burn calories. So I would half heartedly run ’round the block’ after school and on weekends, never managing more than five or six minutes (at an absolute push) at a time. Same deal when I joined my local gym. I’d see people pounding away on the treadmill for 30, 40, 50 minutes while I invariably ended up walking. I had resigned myself to the fact that running just wasn’t for me. And I was OK with that. Kind of…

And then my little brother joined The Royal Marines. And my little brother had to run – A LOT. For his final Commando test he ran 30 miles with a weapon, a full kit weighing 50lbs and hideous blisters across the Devonshire moors and countryside in the freezing cold – and he had a time limit in which to complete this run in order to earn his green beret.

And he did it.

And the day my little brother passed out as a Royal Marine was a very proud day. And it got me thinking about mindset, and about how absolutely determined, single minded and 100% focused he had been on achieving his goals. And I realised that me not being a ‘natural runner’ was, quite frankly, a load of old bullshit. And I also realised that if I was giving myself excuses not to tackle my fear of running, what else was I giving myself excuses about? Probably, quite a few things that I wasn’t even conscious of. So, I decided, I was going to become a runner.

I bought the trainers, I bought the running tights, I downloaded the 0-5km App for my iPhone and in January 2013 on a very very cold Monday afternoon I set out for my first run in a very very long time. Now, for those of you who are not familiar with the 0-5km training App, it basically does exactly what it says on the tin, takes you from a standing start up to a 5km run one step at a time. So, whereas in the past, I had been disheartened by the fact that I could only run for a few minutes at a time, which must mean I was a totally crap runner, initially, the App only wanted me to run for a few minutes at a time, with walking breaks in between. And all of a sudden I found myself in a whole new mindset – because the first goals were absolutely achievable and I felt really good when I hit them. And each time I pushed myself a little bit further, and then just a little bit more, and a little bit more again until finally I was running a whole 5km without stopping at all. And it felt bloody amazing. 5km – that’s like a whole 3 miles. Never in a million years as a decidedly chunky and ungainly teenager would I have imagined that I could run a whole three miles without stopping. I was on top of the world. Woo! And then I decided – hey if I can run 5km I wonder can I run 10km? 10km – now that was serious running to me, that was what ‘proper runners’ ran. Was I now in the league of the ‘proper runners’?

So I began to increase the length of my runs again. 5-7km was tough – man was it tough. My body had to step up a gear and get used to the idea of pain – because let me tell you it hurt. At no point did I ever think, you know what I’m just cruisin’ on down the tow path here, enjoying my lovely run. I enjoyed it but I really did not enjoy it at the same time, and some days I downright hated it. But I kept going, one step at a time. And then I started equating each km with a life goal. If I can just run one more km then I am definitely going to get the money I need to bring this show to Dublin. If I can just run one more km then we will definitely get full houses and make our money back etc etc. And something pretty amazing started to happen. I realised that though it might hurt like hell at times and there might be a little voice in my head screaming at me to stop, give my body a rest, just give up, 10km wasn’t going to happen today, there was also a little voice that I could choose to listen to that said ‘just keep going, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t worry about the hill that’s coming up in a few hundred metres, just focus on right now when the going is good.’ And I did that. I just. kept. going. And after another month of regularly running three times a week I hit the 10km mark and began to make it part of my weekly running routine. 5km on Monday, 7km on Wednesday, 10km on Sunday. I even managed to keep on running until about 5 months into my pregnancy before severe back pain forced me to slow it to a brisk walk. And I was proud of myself. Really proud.

Now, when I feel overwhelmed by challenges, when that little voice in my head says ‘there’s too much to do, you’ll never get it all done, your goals are a million miles away, just stay in your comfort zone, I remind myself that my comfort zone is not the place where dreams come true. My comfort zone is not where I find a real sense of fulfilment or achievement, and my comfort zone sure as hell won’t keep me fit! I listen to the voice that says ‘just keep going.’ Because every single step brings me closer to that 10km – both real and metaphorical.
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