I did something almost unthinkable today. I woke up at 5:50am, and by 6:30am I had shuffled out of the door, still bleary, powered by a banana, while even my infant child still slept soundly. And I did a five minute warm-up, then jogged for twenty minutes without stopping.
There are so many inspirational posts about marathon runners and this that and the other about, that that probably doesn’t sound very impressive. I mean, I was jogging, not running, and it was only twenty minutes, not five hours. But I’m not here to impress fit people. I’m here to tell myself, primarily, but then people like me, that this is something almost anyone can do.
Here are all the reasons why I thought I couldn’t ever do this:
I’ve been overweight since I was 9. Seriously, as a teenager (like 16 stone at 14 years old seriously) then less so. For a brief period in my late twenties I was within a half stone of a healthy weight for my height, and now I’m rather more and a size 14-16.
I’ve never enjoyed exercise. I quite like swimming, but it can be a bit of a hassle, and I’m not terribly good at it. School PE lessons were a nightmare and I spent a lot of time getting out of them with spurious injuries. Also:
I hate being coached, and I thought people should have ‘running buddies’. I don’t find it motivating. I also realised I don’t like training with other people because I can get discouraged if they do better than me and resentment is not a good motivator. More about this later.
I’ve had a slipped disc, and spinal surgery to correct it. Also, I have really awkward feet, with inherited b-words. (You know what I mean. The bumpy bone thing. I don’t like to say the word. It’s ugly.) So I could use all sorts of physical excuses not to try.
I had a baby last year. I was never fit before and then I shared my body with another human being. And as if that wasn’t enough, I then shoved that human being through a rather delicate anatomical area! And although she’s slept through the night from three months – thank God! – she doesn’t always sleep peacefully and she’s a thoroughly energetic and exhausting individual. So I spend most of my time being Extremely. Freaking. Tired.
And yet… there I was, pounding the pavements and pathways of London at arse o’clock. I punched the sky at the end, Judd Nelson style. And a man walking his dog saw me. And I didn’t care.
I could put it down to a lot of things, like doing it ‘for Ramona’ or ‘to lose weight’ but in the end I think the reason that this attempt to do something and stick to it, for two months so far, is currently working is because I’m not actually doing it for anyone else. Or for any other reason than just because it’s good for me, and I want to push myself.
I’ve always been perfectly motivated at work, not so motivated to do things for myself. Some of it is pure idleness, some of it a lack of self-confidence. The shuffling, weird fat kid who liked the odd music and books and had a small band of equally odd-bod friends is still with me in some ways (actually the friends are still with me too, which should tell you something about the loyalty of freaks and geeks). But now I see more and more good in her.
I find myself being able to accept a compliment with a simple ‘thank you’. I still qualify some of my statements – “I ran! But I was slow…” – but I’m consciously trying to do that less. Even though my tummy is bigger than ever post-baby and I needed to go up a size in swimwear, I have bought only two-piece bathing stuff for my holiday – I only managed to wear those for the first time at my thinnest but I refuse to go backwards in confidence. I feel the pressure to be a good role model for Ramona by at the very least convincingly faking happiness in my own skin, and you know, as a wise woman once said, if you keep pretending eventually you find that it’s real.
I’ve finally begun the process of accepting that the only person I need to be in competition with is myself. When I started running two months ago I couldn’t complete the exercise (which involved eight one-minute intervals). I couldn’t complete it the first two times. I had to do week one of the programme for two and a half weeks. And there were times when I followed people calling a four mile run ‘easy’ or transforming themselves in just a month of exercise and I wanted to quit and cried. But I kept putting myself through it, until I could achieve something I was proud of.
Today was that day. Now comes the hardest bit – pushing on to the next stage. There’s a balance between celebrating each achievement and getting complacent, between setting the next goal and never accepting a stage as good enough (for now). I didn’t dare to think about a 5k in real terms before now, but I sort of am now.
I don’t want to give up this time. I hope blogging about it will be another reason to have to continue, so I don’t have to write a sheepish “remember that? Yeah, then I quit” post.
And if you’re like me, now you know. If I can do it, anyone can. Well, okay, there are probably some people who have a killer excuse, like a particular disability (although I do know two runners with arthritic / orthopaedic conditions. Ask a doctor, it might not be impossible!) or they work three jobs and have fourteen kids. But most of us are just stopped by our own mental demons.
If I can help you out of the door, to puff alongside me in spirit, and go all red-faced and sweaty but accomplished, then so much the better for us both.