My first memories of running are those long cross country runs around the fields surrounding my school. Since then I can’t think of a time when running has not been a part of my life. Running has kept me sane. Sometimes it’s slow, sometimes fast, both at sunrise and sunset. Sometimes I jog, sometimes intervals of running and brisk walks. The one consistency is its always in all weathers, in all parts of the world.
Running is my mindful partner. It’s definitely been there through life’s tough dramas like teenage angst, divorcing parents going to university, managing eating disorders, recovering from childbirth, divorce and menopause.
My weight, fitness and stress levels have fluctuated over the years from a fit horsey teenager to studious geek to stressed corporate executive and now a free-spirited entrepreneur.
Running Through Teenage Angst
I loved the freedom of running, being outside and escaping when I thought my head was going to explode in my bedroom. The power in my legs I think first came from horse riding. I used to dread netball or hockey, all that waiting around, catching or hitting a small ball. Running suited my free spirit and I loved racing on sports day.
Running Made My Student Days Happier
Going to university was traumatic. I turned up on my own and felt alone. Combine that with my parents’ divorce and the fact I was sharing a room with two others, it was a real low point. Running used to give me space and a ‘runners high’. I needed it to survive. It was unstructured and spontaneous, often going for short 20-30 min runs. That rush of feel good hormones became my support, which I guess is better than spending every moment in the students union.
My Competitive Spirit Kicked In
In the mid-’90s, a colleague at work asked me to join him on a Triathlon. I turned up with a Halfords style bike with mudguards on. Although I had no idea what was going on, I loved it I started to plan other races and joined triathlon clubs. I followed a tight training plan, doing 10k runs after the swim and bike. Through running and triathlons, I tapped into a sporty competitive streak I did not know I had. I became obsessive about beating my personal records and started to appreciate that a careful regime really increased your potential. Training became a way of life before and after work.
Running Off My Corporate Stress
I remember getting off an 11-hour flight to San Francisco and going straight out for a run across The Golden Gate Bridge. I ran hard and fast where ever I was in the world. Running seemed to fuel the adrenalin high I was on for work and made me more resistant to stress. For over 10 years I was jet setting and avoiding depressing hotel gyms that often had no windows by running outside and seeing more of where I was. Sometimes I took risks like running in South Africa on my own, but it evened out the jet lag and my emotions.
Burning Off My Baby Weight
I seemed to put weight on everywhere when I got pregnant. Soon after I had my Megs I would go out running with her in a running buggy or go across the fields on my own. It was a great way to burn calories after I had my two girls and would help me burn 600-1000 calories an hour.
My passion for running increased and I did my first and only London marathon when Megs was 3 in 2004. After an intense 6 weeks training, I did it in 3 hours 29 minutes which I am sure I could never do again!
Running Is My Miracle Drug
When I have been at my lowest running in the Surrey hills have lifted my mood and my self-confidence, which I had lost during the divorce and the menopause. I have found that whatever I am going through running has given me a boost.
Off-Road Runs Clear The Menopause fFg
If ever I feel anxiety building or my mind is all foggy, I put on my trainers and head for the country trails. I am so lucky to live in the Surrey hills! Often I run to box hill and back which is 15k (and indulge in a piece of cake at the top). Instead of competing with myself now on the runs, it’s more of a mindful journey as I clear my thoughts and breathe deeply. I listen to my body more and vary the pace, making me feel more balanced and calmer – I think being in nature helps this.
Both mentally and physically, running keeps me sane. It reduces my anxiety, burns lots of calories and makes me feel toned and healthy. Best of all it is easy and I can do it any time, any place. All I need is my trainers!
I really think everyone’s mental and physical health can benefit from running in the broadest sense. That includes everything from brisk walking, jogging, slow runs or power runs. Scientists like Daniel Lieberman believe we are evolved to run, by the way, our legs, hips and feet are shaped. Running is a high impact on your body and joints, so you need you to listen to your body and not overdo it.
So, from teenager to midlife and beyond the benefits of running are awesome!