I have met some phenomenal people since I started running. Inspiring people who have helped me believe I can achieve my next goal when I’ve doubted myself.
When I signed up for my first 10k it was others, not me, who believed I could do it and they were right. Then my first 15k event and then a half marathon. If you’d told me back at my first 5k timed run that I’d be doing half marathons, let alone entering the 2014 London Marathon I’d have never believed you.
I love the running community. For a sport where unless you are an elite athlete you are pretty much running against yourself, it’s still a tight-knit community where everyone is welcome. Running doesn’t discriminate against age or gender and some of the best runners I’ve met are women in their 60’s.
Take for instance ParkRun. It has only recently started to gain momentum in Australia but in the UK where it originated there are now ParkRuns at almost 200 locations in the UK each week. What’s staggering is that it relies on volunteers and it’s free. How cool is that? My first timed run was the ParkRun in Richmond Park and it ignited my passion for racing.
I love that during a ParkRun I can be surrounded by men and women in their 70’s and 80’s, children, parents pushing babies in running prams, people who want to walk rather than run and also athletes trying to run it in under 15 minutes – it doesn’t matter and everyone supports each other. It’s fantastic.
Yesterday at the Richmond ParkRun I met an amazing lady called Jacquie who is 60 years old and has just run her first 54 mile ultra marathon in South Africa. She only took up running three years ago and has since run 18 marathons. Not only that, half way through the ultra marathon she fell and broke her arm and she got up and finished the race. I am completely in awe of her and she has topped up my mental ‘you can do it’ London Marathon bank account! – (you can find her on twitter @jacquiemillett).
I know someone else who took up running a couple of years ago and ran the London Marathon this year in a very impressive three and a half hours. Her charity of choice was Trinity Hospice in Clapham, where the lovely husband of a very good mutual friend died two years ago after a terrible battle with cancer. She told me seeing our friend cheering her on at several points along the course gave her the encouragement to finish the marathon. I get goosebumps typing that.
I hear encouraging stories about running all the time and I am so captivated by other people’s successes – not in an envious sort of way but in awe of just how strong the human spirit is. Running is a very mentally focused sport. It’s not just about putting one foot in front of the other. A bad mindset has the potential to ruin any race – or any run for that matter, especially self-doubt. The best way to defeat self-doubt is perseverance and for me inspirational stories help me to keep going when my legs tell me they want to give up.
I ran the Bupa 10k recently and Mo Farrah was there. He ran straight past me when I was at 3km and he’d already been around the circuit and was in the home stretch at 7km. Totally inspiring. Seeing him run through my own eyes was amazing and something I’ll never forget. He’s like a gazelle, on speed! I love athletes like Mo – who has no doubt encouraged thousands of British kids to take up athletics. What a mentor!
I belong to two online running groups. The wonderful Kate Says Stuff started OperationMOVE which is a Facebook group designed to get you up and moving – There are runners of all levels and I absolutely love this group. It’s mostly made up of Australians and the amount of confidence and love I get from this group is wonderful – hi guys!
I also belong to another Facebook group I would run 500 miles - A US-based group where we’re all trying to run 500 miles in a year. We have people from all over the globe logging their miles with all sorts of conversations about running shoes, running techniques, injury woes and general encouragement.
The amount of information and support you can find on the web for running is staggering. Another person who has been amazing and totally inspirational, plus who offers BRILLIANT online advice and happens to have penned a few 10k, half marathon and marathon training guides is Graeme Hilditch, you can find him at FitFaq’s. He always answers my questions, no matter how ridiculous .. and even gets on my back when I tweet about my (now ex) Nutella and diet coke addictions!
As you all know, I’m desperately sad about leaving London in a few short weeks time and nervous and unsure about our decision to move back to Sydney. Having said that I have lots to look forward to. The amazing men and women I’ve met through OperationMOVE have inspired me to run the Sydney Blackmores half marathon in September and the Melbourne half marathon three weeks later. I love that I’m going to be meeting so many of them in the flesh and getting to run with them too.
Who knows, my love of long distance running might help re-ignite my love for Sydney. Running in the sunshine .. what a luxury!