You know, I wasn’t one of those really sporty kids – at the age of two I was diagnosed with asthma when my left lung collapsed. What I learnt through being an asthmatic is that as soon as breathing gets hard, best stop.
This didn’t necessarily stop me from playing sports, but it did stop me from being good at sports. I played hockey, softball, cricket and enjoyed cross country running at school (couldn’t have been more than 5km). I certainly wasn’t a fast runner, but at the age of 15 I think I just had more interest in it then some of my cooler friends.
As a teenager I joined the local lifesaving club. Please don’t be imagining some bronzed Aussie on a surf beach! I joined the local bay beach club. We spent our weekends driving around in the boat and practicing to rescue people because we didn’t get any real emergencies other than kids who had cut themselves when hunting around the rock pools. It was a lot of fun for a teenager – running, swimming, sun tans and did I mention driving the boat?!
I guess I got quite fit during that part of my life, but then I finished school, got a job and become relatively sedentary (other than the nights out at clubs where we danced until 6am). I played cricket with one of my sisters only because she guilted me into it and continued being a wicket keeper (best position on the field!) until I was pregnant with my first child.
Then it happened. Things had already been getting a little less taught and terrific and a lot more blurred by the beautiful life I had. Pregnancy was fine the first time around – didn’t put much weight on and slimmed down within weeks of the birth through no real effort. Then I started EATING! The breast feeding made me hungry and I had to fill this insatiable need to feed my face. Yada yada yada. Cutting a long story short, two kids and five years later I was a good 15kg over what I had been BC (Before Children).
I had tried going to the gym (hate it), and made some pathetic attempts at running with the dogs instead of walking them, but none of it really worked and I didn’t want to give up my food and alcohol. Then I had an epiphany.
I was chatting to a mum at swimming lessons, as you do, and she was busy showing me her feet that were absolutely wrecked because the week before she had run the Half Marathon at the Melbourne Marathon Event. And I thought, bloody hell, if she can do it, so can I! She talked about the late Kerryn McCann’s training plan and the group she had been involved in for training. I thought long and hard about it and realized that my brother had been doing a lot of running as well, so I spoke to him about it.
I figured that my brother and I have the same genes and if he can run a marathon (or three), then I can! OK – let’s clarify, he is 6ft 4 and strong….. Don’t let little details get in the way of your aspirations I say.
So, December 2008, I started talking big in the playground. I told my husband and extended family that I was going to run the half marathon in October 2009. I could only run for 12 minutes at a time and I have no idea how slow I was, other than, very.
My brother was amazing. He bought me a subscription to Runners World magazine and told me to text him my progress. This was sensational considering my own husband was rather doubtful of my ability to commit and follow through on my claims.
It is not that I am one to give up, but more that I am REALLY others focused. I always put others’ needs in front of my own. I don’t know why, I always have, and on some level I believe that it is a nice attribute to have to care about others more than myself. What this means though, is I haven’t always done exactly what I wanted to do and that I haven’t always been able to follow through on my desires. I think many mums are in this position.
This is why I love running.
Once I decided to train for the half marathon, I had to change the way I operate. And about time too as potentially I could have started to raise a couple of brats. I started to put my needs and wants at the same level as others and start working on how I could get them. I have to say, my husband was very supportive of my training plan even though he was doubtful of my ability to follow through.
My first event was the Mothers Day Classic in May 09. An easy 8km event. My brother agreed to run it with me which was really touching considering that it was a very short run for him comparatively and I ran VERY slowly. I told him to run his own race, it was just good to have him at the start line with me for my first ever race. He didn’t. He stayed with me the whole way and ran the same incredibly slow time that I ran. He encouraged me, provided support and I just loved having that quality time with my baby-brother. I felt connected to him again.
Then the hard work began. I had to start running harder, faster and longer distances. I kept at it and began to realize that I actually could run and feel puffed and that was ok. I learnt that I could ask my husband to sacrifice his gym time in order for me to meet my training plan. I learnt about fuelling, stretching, rest days and all the different leg muscles.
I think the fact that I had a training plan and it was clearly visible on the fridge, really helped me to get the support and motivation I needed to stick to it. I also could stick to my change in behaviour of putting my needs as far forward as everybody else’s.
There were a couple of hiccups on the way. An injury eight weeks out (ankle and knee), but get this, I learnt how to run with pain – a first for me. Of course I had it all checked out and the long and the short is that it was soft tissue damage so therefore I wouldn’t be creating any long term issues for myself. I just had to warm up before I went out and ice it when I got back after stretching. I got tonsillitis the week before the big race and was in tears thinking that I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Of course, the kids were up half the night before the big race – you have to expect that kind of thing. But I DID IT! I RAN a half marathon. Within ten months I had gone from running 12 minutes to running for 2 hours 25 minutes (I told you I was slow). What an achievement. My hubbie was so excited and proud, and it was amazing having the kids at the finish line to watch. And not only that, but I have developed the following attributes:
• The ability to push through pain and discomfort
• The knowledge that with time and effort you can significantly improve your performance – just stick at it
• Mental toughness that has spread across all parts of my life
• The understanding that everything changes. One bad run doesn’t mean the next one won’t be amazing
• Knowing that running isn’t in your legs, it is in your head
• I love the mantra “go hard or go home” – which surprises me still as it is so harsh
And I have discovered the amazing meditative ability of running. Being able to put everything in perspective and to truly believe that we ARE all enlightened beings as espoused by Buddha, and that we just have to stop blocking.
Running gives me time to reflect on the tasks I have to get done, to day dream about the beautiful beach house I would like one day, to consider my relationships and what I can do to improve them. I also take that time to clear out my frustrations and get a better perspective on life so that I am calmer and more relaxed with my children. Just the fact that I am ALONE for half an hour is amazing. I feel so free and unfettered when I run. It is magic.
So what now? Well, I am planning on doing three half marathons this year – yes, you read correctly, three. And my goal is to do one of them under 2 hours. I find having a race goal gives my running a focus that ensures I fit it into my family’s plans. Now if I can muster up the stamina to do three half marathons and achieve my sub-two hours goal, I am looking to treat myself to a trip to the U.S. to run in the Disney Princess Half Marathon in March 2012…. and perhaps meet some of my new Twitter #momsrunning friends. Who’s in?
Oh, and in my dreams, I am a Kenyan.