I’ve been running for years – on and off. It was only ever short runs by myself, and usually when the weather was decent; I would always give up when it came to winter. In between these times, I would start other exercises, such as HIIT, swimming, step aerobics, tennis… but ultimately, I always found myself running again.
I was fortunate that in my job, my then-manager set up a workplace running group. We would head out on weekly runs after work together, with colleagues and students at the college where I worked.
We decided to embark on the Couch to 5K running programme, which was great for keeping us to a routine and giving us a goal.
We would then all aim to run during the rest of the week at home. This group really motivated me to keep up my running, even through winter, as we would run together on an evening in the dark and the cold and the rain but running in a small group made it more fun! I fell pregnant at the end of 2018 and kept running for almost half of my pregnancy, joining the workplace running group on our weekly runs. Eventually I went on my maternity leave and running became a distant memory for a while…
It wasn’t until a chance meeting with a now-close friend in 2019 that my love of running really came to light! We met at a pregnancy yoga class and discovered that we both enjoyed running, and in that moment, we agreed that once we had given birth and felt ready to put on our running trainers again, we would head out together. It was one of those “promises” you make with someone that you feel won’t ever happen, but how I’m glad we kept it!
We started out by walking the hills with our babies strapped to us in slings and carriers, dogs at our sides. Once we felt fit enough, we left the babies with their dads, and headed out with the dogs for a short jog on fairly flat tracks in the hills. We slowly built this up and progressed to the big hills and the moors where we live. It gave us such a sense of achievement being able to run these hills, even after the endless night feeds and mountains of baby washing! It became our “thing” – Sunday mornings were ours to run and have a break from babies, to remember who we were before becoming mums, and a chance to enjoy the quiet and beauty of the moors. We would run 2-3 times a week, even through winter we would pop on our head torches and light-up collars for the dogs so that we could continue to run in the dark. There’s something so magical about running in the hills in the dark, especially on a clear night when the stars are so bright.
Hill and trail running gives me an incredible sense of freedom. Being on the moors with my dog is my happy place.
So much so, that I used visualisation of my favourite place on the moors during the birth of my second child – it really worked! – it kept me calm and focussed, to listen to the midwife and control my breathing.
I’ve struggled with mild anxiety since just before I fell pregnant with my first child, but running makes me feel safe, it makes me feel like ‘me’ again; it clears my mind and keeps me calm, it’s as though it re-centres me. Running makes my body and my mind feel stronger and healthier, everything feels reassured somehow after a run, like I know that everything will be okay. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I don’t have the motivation to run, especially if my friends can’t run with me and I run alone. Those days, the runs are harder, but the feeling afterwards is worth it. There are days when I don’t want to go at all and I listen to my body on those days and either walk or don’t do anything – those days are rare, but they do happen, and there’s nothing wrong with skipping a run. I know when I’ll feel better for a run and I know when my body and my mind really can’t face it, and that’s okay.
People always say, “oh wow, I wish I could run trails and hills like you do!”, but anyone can. Me and my running friends, we walk up the big hills – we walk up the smaller hills too if we can’t face pushing too hard to run. We walk when we’re tired. We slow the pace if we’re struggling. We change the route to make it smaller if we just don’t have the energy.
We turn up and we do what we can.
It’s not about being the fastest runner. We always say that we run for enjoyment first and foremost. The second reason we run is to keep a healthy body and a healthy mind. The third reason is where our competitive side likes to pop up every now and then, and that’s to cover some good distance when we can get out on a long run – but that’s because it makes us feel amazing!