In early 2010, overcome by optimism and a certain amount of team spirit, I entered the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge (JPMCC) as part of my employer's team. By the time the race rolled round in July, I'd been cycling to and from work a few times a week (~16 miles) and thought that would translate to being able to run, so didn't bother doing any actual running training. It was horrible. I couldn't run for any length of time at all and if it hadn't have been for colleagues Georgia and Marie, and particularly Marie's gentle but firm encouragement, I would have bailed. As it was, the three of us crossed the line in just under the hour.
Three years and a baby later, I signed up again, having had running (and particularly the C25K programme) enter my consciousness a lot more in the intervening years, as friends took up running. I'd also been particularly inspired by Muireann Carey-Campbell (aka @bangsandabun) and her #prettyonrestdays campaign and had decided that if I was going to do it, that I would post unretouched, unfiltered selfies for every run I did.
A few weeks before the 2013 JPMCC race, I finally stopped making excuses, got into my running gear, downloaded a C25K app and discovered that I couldn't run for a minute without feeling like I was about to vomit/pass out.
I honestly can't say what got me out of the door again after that first run, but something did. Seven more times before the race.
I still ran/walked lots of the race, but I did it in a couple of minutes less than I'd done it the first time, so was pretty pleased with that.
I almost gave up at that point, but everyone had been so supportive on twitter and instagram, and I'd actually, weirdly, kinda sorta started to enjoy it. I'd got into a wee routine. On the days I worked from home I'd get dressed in my running gear, take my son to his childminder on the bus and then run back. The (roughly) half hour it took was perfect and running through Dulwich Park wasn't exactly a hardship in the scenery stakes.
Then on my birthday, while on holiday in the Scottish Borders, I did my first "long" run. I ran for 20 minutes without stopping. A feat that had seemed absolutely impossible on that first session, where I nearly threw up trying to run for a minute without stopping.
I managed four more runs after that, before life took over and a fairly significant move left no room for running. BUT, a business trip to New York and the resultant jetlag meant that I got to run in Central Park! Which was amazing, even if it was a fairly grey, drizzly day. For a few minutes, I actually got to live inside my TV. I loved it.
Next thing I knew, it was 2014. So with a new job on the horizon, I laced up my trainers and slowly made my way out the door to investigate the unfamiliar scenery of the place I was now calling home.
Then I didn't run again until February, when I went away for a week to Sitges, in Spain.
Then I came down with a horrendous cold and couldn't run for the rest of the week I was away. And didn't run at all for another month when I got home. But slowly, over the next couple of months, I managed a few runs before the stress of completing the purchase of our first (brand new) house, and moving into it put paid to any thoughts of running.
But gradually, I made it back out the door, trainers on. And for five months, started to build up a nice wee habit of going for a run on Wednesday mornings, my Work From Home day. I'd get up, get into my running gear, take my son to Nursery and go for a run before going home and starting work for the day. And I started to enjoy it. To look forward to it. To miss it on days when I couldn't, for whatever reason. I think this was somewhere in here I really became a runner. Some switched flipped in my head and it just became part of who I am. And the mountain that had seemed so far, so high, so unattainable, got closer, seemed manageable, became something I could maybe actually do.
And then I got ill again. For several weeks.
And I missed running so much.
Another fit of optimism had overcome me and I'd entered the London Winter Run 10K, because it looked like fun, and it was a closed-road course along the Thames and it was on the 1st of February so loads of time and then OMG… I'm never going to be able to do this.
But I really wanted to. So having got through Christmas, got rid of the worst of the illness, I took the opportunity of a few days of work, laced up my trainers and got back out there.
It was cold, a lot. But, other than the day when I had to abort a run because I wasn't feeling quite right (see if you can figure out which day that was, from the pics above), I absolutely loved it, and was getting ever closer to my goal of running 5K without stopping.
Then, one night, while I was on my way home from work, something happened. It was fairly stupid, but it really bothered me. I was a bit angry and frustrated, and so rather than rant at my husband and be, in all likelihood, impatient with my son, I went out for a run. In the dark. Which I'd never done before. And I wasn't planning on actually running the 5K that night, I was just going to run for a bit, but I just kept going and kept going and somewhere between 47 and 50 minutes, I crossed the 5K mark, and I'd done it.
I ran 5K without stopping. I ran for 50 minutes without stopping. I ran.
And two days later, I got up at stupid o'clock on Saturday to go to Dartford parkrun and did it all over again, in 45 minutes 10 seconds. I wasn't last. Everyone was lovely and I honestly had the best day I've had in years after that. Not entirely sure I can say it was <em>because</em> of the parkrun, but it was the first day in a long time when I didn't feel worried, stressed, shit, ill, sad, grumpy, frustrated, anything negative. I was happy. The whole day. It was brilliant.
Since then, I've officially finished the C25K program.
I did the London Winter Run 10K in 1 hour, 32 minutes, 25 seconds (with a lot of walking, because I was ill again. I did manage to raise £377.25 for Cancer Research UK though. And if you want to donate and haven't, you can do that on my justgiving page.
I've also run 5K twice more, bringing my time down from around 47 minutes to 41 minutes 17 seconds.
It took me more than 18 months of setbacks and stress to finally compete the program, and I'm nowhere near being able to run 5K in 30 minutes like they reckon you can. But I've done it. I started over three times, but I got there.
I've run from home. I've run on holiday. I've run on business trips. I've run.
I am a runner.