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Loner: Go for a run...

The first time I went for a run which wasn't round the school field and forced by my PE teacher was when I was about 15. I say 15 because I was at the age where I was old enough that my Mum would let me read Cosmopolitan magazine, but young enough that I could afford none of the clothes featured, it would have been illegal and impossible to attend any of the cocktail bars recommended, and all I could do with the sex position of the month was note it down in case when I lost my virginity I was up for "the octopus".

Anyhoo, I read an article in Cosmopolitan where the columnist had gone for a run every day for half an hour for like two weeks and "rediscovered the gap between her thighs". Having never had a gap between my thighs (honestly, even when I was a baby the nurse thought I must have one leg longer than the other because I had uneven rolls of fat on my thighs, which were preventing me from walking properly...turns out my thighs were just so damn fat) I decided this offer of a gap after running for a couple of weeks was too good to miss.

So I put on my ellessee trainers, and my adidas trousers, a reebok top and a la senza bra completely inappropriate for running (but la senza was all the rage in 2003) and attempted a run around my village. I didn't break out in a full sprint, but I did definitely run, lifting my legs and swinging my arms furiously for about 600m before I gave up having gone a tiny bit further than the bottom of my road. And hot, sweaty and panting so much I felt like my lungs might just fall out my mouth, I called it a day, and decided I was not a runner, and I would just have to accept my gapless legs.

And indeed I did not run for another 4 years, until after I arrived back home after my first year of university and overwhelmed by the beauty of the chiltern hills after being used to the dreary grey of Manchester, I decided the best way to appreciate the view would be to run in it. It was not. And what was worse this time I couldn't give up like I did before, because whilst I was running through a field I saw friends of my parents, not close enough for me to joke, "woopsy daisy I can't run can I" but close enough that they might say "gosh I saw your daughter Vicky very red in the face and looking a bit unwell whilst running across that field by Stony Lane" to my parents at the next dinner party, and embarrass my Mum and Dad horribly that they had such an endorphinless and unathletic daughter. So I kept on running. But here is not the point in my short(ish) running story where I had a running breakthrough, here is the point my story where after losing my parent's friend I had the realisation that even if someone tried to murder me, rape me, or mug me of my ipod I would just have to let them as I had less energy than I had ever had in my life. Less energy than when I had pulled all nighters to finish an essay, or stayed out til 5 to maximise my time in a club in a hope that the boy I fancied would kiss me. And I vowed once more not to try and run again.

But my breakthrough was when I started training for the London marathon. And no, your mind hasn't trailed off and you've missed a section (I mean that might have happened, but this would seem like a jump in the narrative either way) - 4 years after the harrowing parents friend field situation, I decided my third attempt at running in a span of 12 years should be one in training for a 26.2 mile one. Logical. I'd put "run a marathon" on my "20-25 list" alongside get a job (tick), get a tattoo (tick), move out of parents home into cool London flat (tick), write a book (cross), travel around India by myself (tick) and live abroad for a year (cross), do a masters degree (cross). And I figured out of living abroad, finding £10k for a masters and writing a book, running a marathon seemed like the simplest thing to do, no?

But actually, after huffing and puffing for a few weeks getting not much further than I had in my previous attempts, my Dad, who isn't a runner, gave me some pretty amazing advice. He told me to run as slowly as I possibly could. To see a walker on my run and try my best not to overtake them. And although I can now blame my Dad for the 11minute and 23 second mile I averaged on the half marathon I ran last weekend, I can credit him for getting me round a course in the first place. I am not - quite - slower than a walker, but after my Dad gave me this advice I stopped wasting my energy lifting my legs so high and flailing my arms so much, I stopped panting and started breathing, I started pacing myself and I actually started enjoying myself. I mean I look like I am doing something half way between a power walk and a waddling run, but at least I can do it for miles and miles and miles, so that is something.

And after actually completing the London marathon in 2011, I've kept on running. I am not saying running is all peaches and creams. Here is an extensive list of why I hate running and why it would be very easy to not run ever again:

1. Running in the heat. Heat is the time to be exercising only when submerged in water, not hobbling along a hot pavement across some park in London, sweaty in places you didn't even know you could sweat. The London marathon was horrible for me, after training in the coldest winter in 20 years, on the day that I actually ran the race it was 24 degrees at it's hottest and I lost so much salt and sugars in that my face became it's own salt scrub and my normally weirdly small hands swelled to the size of my face with dehydration, and my feet swelled so much I got blister big enough to actually see through. Eurg.
2. Other runners overtaking me when I am training, and wanting to yell "but I've been running for an hour so of course I can't go that fast..." and then even worse when I'm actually in a race, and I know everyone is running as far as me so yelling that would be embarrassing but also a big fat lie.
3. Runners going slower than me (/people walking, as I don't know if I've ever come across a slower runner) and I have to weave in and out, and no one has the energy for that. So basically I am not pleased by people going either quicker or slower than me, if everyone could just keep to an 11 minute 23 second mile that would be great, thanks.
4. That the second most expensive pair of shoes that I own (after my ludicrously expensive over the knee russell and bromley boots) are my disgusting red and grey running trainers which are a brand no one has heard of
5. The mental turmoil aka "the wall" when I want to give up but I know I am only 3/4 of the way (or 1/2 the way or bloominec 1/12 of the way) but you know if you stop and walk you will be overtaken by the bloke who is doing the race with a fridge on his back.
6. How bloody impossible it is to go even 1 minute per mile faster without feeling like your lungs have collapsed and you are never going to make it.
7. When the organisation who've sponsored your race send you photos they've taken of you whilst you've been running their race completely unsuspectingly, wondering whether you might want to buy a photo of yourself red faced scowling and jiggling in lycra for £29.99? Does anyone look good when they have been running a race for 72 minutes and are not even aware they are having their photo taken?

But for me, none of these reasons are dealbreakers and for all the cons of running, the pros are so so much more and I am so glad that like an idiot with no training and no experience I signed up to a marathon and discovered a love of running. A very stupid thing to do which has led me to something that will forever make my life a little bit better.

For some very shallow, but still important reasons like:

1. As a rule people pretty much can or can't run. Either they are like me as a teenager, perfectly fit at other things but for some reason unable to run a mile (probably because they have yet to develop pacing and staminar) or they can run and get it and can probably run further or faster than me. But a lot of people fall into the former category, and it really impresses them when you say you went for a casual 2 hour run after work last night. 
2. When that drop dead gorgeous skinny and toned person running alongside you in the park, stops after a couple of laps out of breathe and you feel like you've only just started.
3. It basically stops you from becoming morbidly obese, and totally gives you an excuse to put that fourth heaped spoon of parmesan on your pasta.

But as great as running is for boasting and for keeping you in shape, for me the biggest benefit of the running is the one to your mental health. It is amazing how strong your own mind becomes when you spend some time just with it, running alone for an hour or so a few times a week.

4. When you notice the sunsetting and the leaves turning brown and how beautiful the world looks because your mind has the time and energy to wake up and notice it, and it doesn't have much else to do but take in the world around it.
5. That weirdly you feel like you have more energy after running for an hour or so than before it, and you can actually be bothered to de-clutter your wardrobe/set up that direct debit/write that blog post.
6. That you feel so blooming proud of yourself all the time. Sure you can compete in races sometimes, but the biggest competition you will be in is with yourself and you will always win. Even now, I can't run as far as I could when I was training for the marathon, but when I was training for my half I still came back feeling proud of myself if I could keep running for another 10 minutes, or I managed to do a run a little faster than normal. It really makes me feel connected to my body, and I feel so proud of it and how far it can take me.
7. That however you are feeling, whether pretty chirpy already or beside yourself with sadness and anxiety or f-ing angry you will come back from running feeling so much better. Even when I am happy and go for a run, I come back feeling like I am top of the world, and my boyfriend is like "sheez can you run every day please?" When I am angry I come back having worked out the tension, and able to address the situation in a much more rational way. And when I am anxious, and I suffer from anxiety quite a bit it is my number one amazing thing. I just can't feel anxious when I run, firstly it is hard to have panic attack or cry when you are running along, I think your body just can't physically do it. But also it distracts you because you'll always hit points where you'll have to concentrate on keeping on running, and you can't be thinking about whatever you are worried about. But it just sorts everything out in a way that walking just can't. I feel like running is like a facial for my brain, cleaning out all the pores and it feel so much brighter and refreshed and the black cloud has been lifted once I've stopped.

So there you go, 7 reasons to not go for a run, 7 reasons to strap on your trainers and some gear and head out right now. I hope you agree with me that the 7 reasons to go for a run, definitely outweigh the ones not to. Autumn as well is an absolutely perfect time to start running, because it is not too hot and it is not too cold either, and you have enough light in the days to go for a run first thing in the morning or early evening. So if you have a spare 60 minutes, give it a whirl.

Cannot believe I have shared this photo with the internet. This is one my Dad took last weekend at the 12 mile mark of the Royal Parks half, the one the Royal Parks Foundation took are not being published anywhere ever, please God.

If you fancy signing up for a race, these are some 10ks and half marathons coming up, which I think look really good and am definitely signing up to. For me I don't love racing, but I sort of need it to motivate me for training otherwise I focuse way too much on those 7 reasons not to run rather than the 7 reasons to do it. So ironically, I have to sign up to do something I don't really like to make me do something I love. Silly brain.

1. Cancer Research 10k "Winter London Run" on 1st February 2015. You get to play in a snowstorm and a hug from polar bear afterwards. Excellent. Book on here.
2. The Hampton Court half marathon on March 29th 2015. It is going to be the first half marathon ever run in the palace's grounds, the website is all Henry VIII themed and afterwards you get to chill out in the maze. Plus it is only £33, which for a half where you don't need to fundraise if you don't want to, in such an amazing setting is a bit of a bargain. Book here.
3. Nike's We own the night London, date yet tbc but probably sometime in May like last year. I blooming loved this 10k when I took part last year. It has a feminist edge (women running together in protest of how terrible it is that it is not safe for women to walk at night because of male violence against women) and you pay 20 something pounds and they just give you fabulous things. A lovely canvas tote and nike dry fit top designed by a London designer (last year was Holly Fulton, and was brightly coloured with "Kiss my race" across the front, the year before was House of Holland), a glass of prosecco when you pass the finish line and instead of a medal a cute little necklace last year designed by Alex Munroe for liberty and looking like this:

Cannot believe how many unflattering photos I am putting up today. Gees louise. 

Keep an eye on where you can sign up here...

So how much will running cost you? If you like it, it is probably worth investing in a good pair of running trainers (most specialist running shops will do all these clever stuff like filming you running on treadmills so that you get ones that fit you perfectly even if they are not the pink and purple nikes you spotted on the way in), and some good running leggings. But starting out, just pop on your trainers and whatever you normally wear to work out and just try and run for a mile or 2. So that means it is...

Do you like exercising by yourself in the fresh outdoors? Then maybe check out this post "Loner: Go Swimming in a pond" if it is not too nippy...

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