What made you get into running?
It’s really early days for me. I’m mean REALLY early – it’s only been a week or so since I set foot outside the door knowing that when I returned I would have been for a run. So don’t expect any wisdom here – I don’t know what I’m doing yet. I only know I want to run, I want to get better and I want to keep going, and going, and going. I’ve gradually let myself get out of shape over the past few years. Too much time spent sitting around drinking wine and eating my own (increasing) body weight in junk food. I felt a mess, I hated it, and I couldn’t motivate myself to do a thing about it. And then, a few weeks ago, something clicked. I stopped drinking. I won’t stop forever, but I won’t ever have such a close friendship with wine again. I walked. For miles and miles and miles. I moderated my diet and made it more nutritious. My friend, Stephanie, sent me a link to a personal trainer. And I was blown away that she thought I was capable of working with a PT. We talked about it and she clearly genuinely believed in me, and was convinced I was motivated to lose weight and become more healthy. So, thanks to Stephanie, I met a PT, and although I couldn’t afford to sign up, the knowledge that my friend thought I was ready stayed with me. I used to run at university, and I’ve retained happy memories of runs in the park at dawn, misty and idyllic, surrounded by deer as I glided through rays of early morning sunshine. Realistically, I know that I may possibly be viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses (I was probably a sweaty mess, and it’s likely the deer were, sensibly, terrified at the sight of me), but I’ve retained a memory of the sense of content and calm these early runs gave me. I want that back, and thanks to Stephanie, I’m going to get it!
What has been your proudest/best running moment?
It may sound like a cliché, but so far the proudest moment was returning from my first run, knowing that I hadn’t bottled it, or made excuses, but had actually managed to drag my reluctant feet from a walk into a jogtrot (not exactly a run but not exactly a walk either!). Additionally, when I took off my trainers, they were muddy, sandy and wet. The trainers in question have remained pristine and white since the moment I bought them (don’t ask, I’m not telling you how long ago, it’s too horrifying!). While they may have gone into shock at being used for something other than a occasional and sedate game of badminton, I was more excited than I can say at this evidence that I had done some Real Exercise, and had mud to prove it. I know, it probably sounds quite feeble. I hope that in a couple of months, my answer to this question will be completely different. It will involve distance, and increased resilience, and good, solid achievements. But if this experience is teaching me anything (and like so many other things I’m learning right now, it’s coming from the generosity of other runners in sharing their advice and knowledge), it’s that every small goal should be celebrated. We rarely applaud ourselves, and in so many areas of our lives we’re not encouraged to do so. Well, we should be proud and we shouldn’t be ashamed if that’s something that we think is a small step compared to the ones others have taken. Because (and again, this is what I’ve learned from the wonderful running communities on Twitter) everyone who can now run a marathon once ran for thirty seconds and struggled. And one day, someone else will start running. I can’t wait to encourage them to celebrate every small, but significant step with pride and a virtual highfive on their Twitter account.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
Oh, this is too easy. It’s pretty much everything. Getting out of the door, not just the first time, but every time. Dealing with people seeing me running (and not being at all good at it). My phone not logging my distance on the Couch to 5k app (thus provoking a toddler-style hissy-fit of epic proportions). The temptation to lie. The temptation to fail. The ease of slipping back into habits I haven’t unlearned yet. The fear that people I know will see me out and laugh at me. The knowledge I don’t look good. The biggest of these? Other people. I’m as ballsy as you like, if you talk to me face to face. If anyone thinks badly of me, about something as superficial as my looks, they can frankly poke it. Sadly, this defiance is lacking at 6am when I’m on my own, out of my comfort zone, and being not very good at something (another of my challenges – I want to be good NOW!). I’m learning to let these things be. Yes, it’s scary, it’s uncomfortable, I’m not good at it, I look daft and amateurish. Well, let’s leave that as it is, get on with it, grit my teeth and ignore it, and know, for absolute sure, that it WILL pass. Just need to get through this bit first…
Who is your inspiration, and why?
I feel as though there should be a runner who I am inspired by. Someone famous and who achieves great things. I know this will come, as I get better. But right now, I’m not very good, so the people who inspire me are the ones who keep me going at this early stage. My friends, Stephanie and Laura, and my boyfriend, who seem genuinely convinced that I can do this, despite my history of not doing it (or doing it for two days and quitting). The wonderful running community on Twitter. Seriously, look at my timeline (I’m @RunFloraRun). Those people you see on there, day after day, commenting on my posts and my blog? They’re good at this running thing. They run marathons and more. They’ve been doing it for years. Or they’ve lost weight and achieved fitness. Or they’ve turned their life around. But they take time out, every day, to encourage and support me and people like me. Look at their names. And if you’re new to this, or if you want to do it but daren’t start, follow them, listen to their stories and be inspired. Because as reticent as you might be about your potential, they won’t be. To them, you’re already a winner. And finally, my parents, who never had it easy but never gave up and maintained the standard of being the most amazing parents in the world regardless of circumstances. They haven’t ever been runners. But it’s the same skill set. Determination, pride, commitment, consistency. These things, with such wonderful parents, are in my blood. All I need to do is keep hold of it and keep going.
What are your future goals?
I want to be healthy, and fit. I want to enjoy running, to be excited and find it fun. I can’t wait to run 5k. Then 10. Then more, and more, and more. I want to run the route I used to ride when I went pony trekking in my home town – by Christmas, I want to pound over those hills, covered in mud, and loving every second. I want to be good at this!
What would be your one piece of essential advice to someone looking to start up running?
Do it now. Right now. I don’t care if you’re about to leave for work, or eat dinner, or go to bed. Honestly, if you’re reading this and thinking that if I can do it, you can too (and you can) – do it now! Don’t wait until morning. You’ll have forgotten how this feels by then. Get your trainers, grab your door key, and go run. It doesn’t need to be for long. Go do a jogtrot up the street and walk every other ten steps if you need to, that’s ok – it’s more than you did yesterday. But go now – don’t wait! And when you’ve done it, get yourself online and find a supportive community to back you up. Because they will, they really will. It doesn’t matter how poorly you think of yourself – they will think you’re amazing. And they’ll tell you so. And you are. So go now.
What is your favourite piece of running kit?
At the moment, it’s my phone. That’s what keeps me connected to the running communities that keep me going. But I dream of the time I’m going to be able to invest in a proper tracker, and some trainers that fit the way I run (I don’t have a style yet, it’s too early). It probably sounds shallow, but I long to have all the kit I hear experienced runners discussing – because I will have earned it, and it will be physical proof that I’ve stuck to my guns and achieved my goals. In the meantime, my old netball trainers will do me nicely, but heaven help me if I lose my phone, because I need that support!
What’s your favourite thing about running?
It’s what will come. I know that it will, once I get past this early stage, give me so much. A sense of achievement, time to switch off, a healthy body and mind, a will to break through barriers and keep going. Right now, it’s given me a sense of membership in a community that accepts me even though I fall over my own feet, can’t run for much more than a minute at a time, and am blogging with a lack of knowledge that must drive people mad!
As it’s Women in Sport Week: What do you think is the biggest challenge for women runners, & how do you overcome them?
This is a really difficult question. Not only because I’m so new to running that it’s hard to know whether the challenges I face are because I’m a woman, or because I’m me (such as my insecurity about how I’m viewed by strangers), but also because I’m pretty sure that a lot of challenges are faced by both women and men. All I can do is speak from my own brief experience of being a runner and my extensive knowledge of being a woman. There was an article this week, doing the rounds on Twitter. It was from a women’s magazine, and it was advising its readers on how to apply make up for the gym. It was pretty detailed, and even gave tips on how to use blusher to hint at a delicate flush (I really don’t need that in a gym, but that’s not the point). It was really clear that this was a real issue for a lot of people. Some were outraged. Why should a woman even contemplate wearing make up for the gym? A man wouldn’t, would he? Well, no, but nor would many men wear make up for a night out, and we don’t have issues with articles on how to apply make up for a night out, do we? I think as soon as we start bringing comparisons in, the issue gets complicated for me. This isn’t a battle between men and women. Both have been hugely supportive to me, and each other, since I took my first tentative steps into this scary new world. It’s about perception, I guess. A magazine with a huge readership perceives its readers (mostly female) as being in need of guidance as to how to make themselves…what? Attractive to men? Acceptable to society? Compliant to the demands placed on modern youth? I must admit, I immediately responded by saying I wanted to hit my head repeatedly against a wall. But then I got to thinking. Yes, I spent my youth covered in mud and riding ponies. Yes, I loathe the pressure on women, or on anyone, to comply with the expectations of others. But this applies every way round, not just to the expectations I don’t agree with, but to the ones I, often subconscious, impose myself. There was a girl, when I was a kid, who used to ride with me and my friends. She would turn up with a full face of makeup and giggled every time we passed a group of boys. We despised her. But here’s the grown up truth. She was a better rider than any of us. She was daring and skilled and gutsy. She could ride any horse you put her on. The fact that she looked good doing it was a matter of personal preference. And who looked down on her? Who reduced her to the sum total of the gunk she plastered onto her face (and she really did)? It wasn’t boys. It wasn’t society. It was us. Her peers. Her achievements meant nothing because all we saw was the superficial. And so, this is what I think… There are enough challenges facing women today, of any age. But let’s remember what’s important. I love the This Girl Can campaign. But if I’m saying that of myself, that THIS Girl Can, then I will do it as I choose. Covered in mud, plastered in make up, or in pantomime horse outfit if I wish. And those are the operative words. If I wish. Not because of a magazine, not because of society’s expectations, whatever they are now. Not because of men and not because of women. But because of me. Because This Girl Can. And she’ll do it in whatever manner she chooses. And you should too