How I learnt to run and why I love running

Around the time of my youngest daughter’s first birthday I decided, almost on a whim, to become a runner. I had happened upon an article in a women’s magazine, just a short segment, in which the author extolled the virtues of running as a hobby and it appealed to me immediately.

I was already a member of a gym, and I throbbed weekly through a spinning class and a Body Pump workout, but nothing ever sang to me and all the exercise I did felt like a slog. Then I read about being a runner and I couldn’t see a downside, so that became my new plan.

There was no such thing, in 2007, as a running app or a podcast or usable GPS on a phone, so I printed the NHS’ “Couch to 5k” guide and folded it into the pocket of my hoodie, for reference. I didn’t have a stopwatch, so I estimated the running and walking intervals by guessing at the approximate length of the songs on my iPod Shuffle playlist.

I borrowed running leggings from my sister and wore an old T-shirt. I did buy trainers, though, feeling like a fraud in the shop and spending a lot more than I would learn I needed to.

Within a comparatively short space of time – maybe 3 months? – the guide proved that it worked. I was able to run decent distances without huge effort. Running is definitely my jam, and my body recognised this straight away. The new hobby transformed me, physically but predominantly mentally.

I learned the meditative, therapeutic comfort of thinking through all of my deepest thoughts on one level of my brain, whilst pushing through the burn of an uphill slog on another. I watched my body begin to look something like the body I vaguely remembered once having. I enjoyed the daily side benefits of being strong and never being out of breath any more.

And I acquired precious slices of time out of the house, on my own, which was vanishingly rare at that point of my life. I started to come back to myself.

Running has never not been a part of my life since that time. In the past 12 years I haven’t gone for more than a fortnight without running at least once. I take my trainers and a sports bra on most of our holidays. There’s no better way to discover a new town than by running through it in the early, weak sun, scoping out the best beaches and the prettiest piazzas, ready to revisit later with the rest of the family.

There’s no peace like the peace I feel in the deepest countryside when I stop running, take out my earbuds and let the day and the light wash over me. It is transcendent.

Running has also led, indirectly, to some of my biggest mistakes and worst decisions.

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