Thursday, 15 November 2012

This year, I have mostly been...

How running has changed for me this last summer... This post has been boiling away within and I'm still not sure this is the right time to write it, but here we are anyway.

So what changed?

Well, that course I did with UK Athletics in the spring was the foundation. I started a running group, and that's where it all changed. I thought a few people might come along, maybe people I knew - this is a small town after all. But quite a few people came, and I knew only one or two of them; the rest were strangers who had heard about this by word of mouth. The idea was to train a few people to run the race we were organising for late September, and that's pretty much what happened. But along the way, I think I changed a bit.

From that first group, I had maybe eight runners, two of which I knew. One group dropped out, which was a huge shame because the lady who had collared her family in to coming could have benefited hugely from running - she suffered with asthma. Two of her family had injuries (not running related) and one was advised not to carry on; her sister-in-law was just, I suspect, a bit lazy.

But some of the others persisted. One lady, who I'll call Gaynor, became something of a poster girl. From bitching and moaning for the first week or month, she now really has the bug in a big way. She now takes her husband out running on a Thursday; from not being able to run for 30 seconds, she now does 4-5 miles comfortably. When she's got a few more miles in her legs, I'm going to throw some speed work in there. She's so pig-headed, so stubborn that you can throw anything at her. She's learned that with hard work and persistence, she can conquer anything, and I think a lot of that has come from seeing how to overcome small obstacles in running. If she's tired and complains, we do a hill session. She used to worry about hills, now she eats them. She's so strong it's unreal, and she encourages the new runners that come out on a Wednesday; she supports, cajoles, and threatens them and she's a great advert too - she can say "three months ago I was where you are".

Who else? Well, the youngest in the group is Amy. If I thought Gaynor could moan, Amy took the crown from her (though Amy has never emailed to tell me I am a fucking twat, which Gaynor has). Amy wouldn't even do 30 seconds at first. I couldn't believe it when she turned up for the second week; not only that, but she had bought running shoes. Her recent birthday, her 21st, she got her mum to take her shopping for a new pair of running shoes. Again, she's got the bug. She had absolutely zero muscle in her legs, no tone whatsoever; ok, at 20, you can just about get away with that. She's about 5' 8", very girly, very pretty, slim build and a bit of a head-turner. But in five or ten years, she'd have got fat I suspect. Most of us do.

So now, she's at the front of almost every run. She loves it; she's recruiting her friends to come out and get started, she's got all the gear and has a love/hate relationship with her legs. She loves that she now has muscles and tone, and is getting a nice arse; she hates that she can't fit in her skinny jeans because her calves are too muscly! Another runner - and close friend of Amy's - is Donna. She can't get her wellies on because of her calves…!

There was a core group of perhaps eight, training toward running the race we organised locally in September. We wanted to do something to support our local hospice and also to get people off their arses and doing something positive. 227 runners turned out on the day, the race went pretty much without a hitch, and all of my runners finished.

The key moment for me was when Naomi finished. She's the same age as me, 38, married with two young children (who sometimes come running with us too), and remembers me from college when I was a hound dog at best. Drinking, smoking, womanising wherever possible.

Nice lady, farts a lot.

Anyway, Naomi woke up the day before the race with a temperature; she'd gotten a lot of sponsorship for the race and would have been gutted if she hadn't been able to run. She got a bit upset - then woke up on race day feeling absolutely fine. She came, she saw, she conquered a pretty tough, hilly course. When she crossed the line, she came over to me; I was snipping off chip timing tags. She collapsed, gave me a huge cuddle, burst into tears and said 'thank you'.

Seriously, I thought I would burst with pride and love right there and then. Moments like that make life absolutely worthwhile.

So, that's where I've been. You?