Running Out of My Comfort Zone

I’d like to start this post by quoting myself from the article ‘Anyone can run…and here’s why‘ I wrote back in January:

“As a non-runner myself, I don’t really get the appeal of bunging on the Lycra, heading out in all weathers and subjecting the general public to my puffing, sweaty body and my rather comic running stance.”

Well, turns out if I’m pestered enough and if I’m asked at exactly the right moment, I’m not actually such a hard nut to crack after all!

Let me explain by taking us back to where it all began…

It’s January. Christmas has been and gone and most of us are feeling like stuffed turkeys and pretty miserable with the whole trying to stick to New Year resolutions thing. I’m invited along to a new beginners running course organised by the local running club, runnyhoneys. My intention is to pop along, see what they’re all about and write an article for them. Oh and it helped that the meeting was being held in the pub!

running groupOf the complete and somewhat stubborn opinion that I was not designed to be a runner myself, I declined signing up to anything, protesting I was merely attending for research purposes. Little did I realise that for run leader, Lizzie Mant, I was merely providing her with exactly the kind of challenge she loves and so started her campaign to try and get me to run.

When I have an idea about something in my head it takes a lot to convince me otherwise, so on the school run when Lizzie would cheekily ask if I would join one of the sessions it actually made me dig my heels in even further. Which is why when I got a text from her last week inviting me along for the last session of the term, to see how much the group had developed, to watch them graduate and to celebrate with a glass of wine down the pub, I can’t quite understand how she managed to persuade me to accept so easily!

Lizzie’s group started off as complete running novices and I remember their first meeting well. There was a mixture of emotions floating around the room – anxiety and a slight shell-shocked ‘what am I doing here?’ kind of vibe, but this was combined with a positive determination that has clearly helped push them through to graduation and has transformed them into runners. Over the past 12 weeks they have gone from walking with breaks all the way through to last night’s amazing feat of 15 minutes run – 1 minute walk – 15 minutes run.

So, as someone who has never run before the question that sprang into my mind was…

How on earth was I going to keep up with them for even 5 minutes let alone the whole 30?

To say I was scared is an understatement and that was before I had even had a chance to worry about the fact I would be going out in broad daylight in Lycra…Eek!

I may be stubborn, but I am also true to my word so I knew that once I’d said yes, there was no going back. Kitted out in the dreaded Lycra; black for optimum lump and wobble disguise, I put on my ancient trainers and headed out the door. Even on the walk down to the meeting point I felt incredibly self-conscious; tugging at my top to try and cover my bum and thighs, avoiding eye contact with every person I passed. But as soon as I saw Lizzie and the other runnyhoneys my anxieties melted away and my mind switched over to ‘I can do this’ mode.

petersfield lakeWe started off with a walk and then a few exercises; skipping, high knees, lunges etc. and it was at this point that I experienced my first ‘cringe’ moment, as mid-lunge someone I knew drove past waving frantically at me. Had I not been with other people I would have seriously died on the spot, but having the other runnyhoneys there for support I felt OK, I felt confident and I didn’t feel silly in the slightest and this for me is by far one of the biggest advantages to running with a group.

Warmed up and relatively raring to go, we set off at a reasonably paced jog. I made sure I hung at the back, conscious I shouldn’t peak too soon, but after a while I kind of found my natural rhythm; a pace that left me out of breath, but still able to just about hold a conversation. With two ladies positively steaming out in front, me in the middle and two of the most gritty and determined women I think I’ve met in a long time at the back, Lizzie ran between us all motivating us and driving us on.

And would you believe it…

I’d made it to the halfway point without stopping and, to blow my own trumpet, without even breaking into too much of a sweat. I was so, so shocked that I had managed to do it. Me, a non-runner, and I’d just managed to run for 15 minutes straight, what was going on?

After the 1 minute ‘rest’ walk, high on success, pumped with adrenaline and now even more eager to make it to the finish line than ever, I set off for the final 15 minutes. This was arguably harder than the first half, but not because I was out of breath, or in any particular pain, but more that I knew where the end point was and it still seemed so far away. However, a good old chinwag with some of the other ‘honeys’ and the promise of wine at the end, soon had me distracted and before I knew it Lizzie was shouting out that we had done it.

I DID IT!

Believe me when I say that no one was more shocked than me. I can honestly say that I haven’t been so proud of myself for achieving something that is so far out of my comfort zone and something which I never, ever thought I could do let alone enjoy as well!

They did it!

My journey with running has only just begun, but looking around at the newly graduated ‘honeys’ and seeing the tears of joy, relief, and immense sense of pride at having achieved something so far from where they had first started it became clear to me how fortunate we are to have such a great, supportive and welcoming running community, like runnyhoneys, and I’d be crazy not to grab the opportunity.

When I wrote ‘Anyone can run…and here’s why‘, I concluded that yes although this is true, there are some people, including myself, who simply don’t want to.

Turns out I was wrong.

Before last night I would never have wanted to call myself a runner, but you know what…having dared to take an enormous step out of my comfort zone, admittedly with a lot of gentle persuasion (thanks Lizzie!), I already feel as though I might have caught a tiny bit of the running bug and I am hungry for more!

Now, who’s up for a run?

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