Philippa, from Hampshire England, is a longtime Dietgirl reader. She's just finished the Up & Running 5K Course and inspired my socks off with the amazing changes she made over the eight weeks, inside and out.
I asked if she'd write about her running experience for you guys and she kindly obliged!
Running was for fit people. Cool, confident people with bouncy ponytails who never broke a sweat. Not people who once ate a whole takeout pizza, plus side dish, plus dessert for dinner, nor people who got breathless walking up stairs. Running was for other people.
So how did I end up in the park on my day off, wearing trainers and a sports watch!?
A year ago I'd been in much the same position. I'd downloaded the Couch to 5K programme and gave it a go… for a whole 10 days. I turned purple, almost hacked up a lung and proved all the things I thought I knew about running, including the fact that I couldn't do it. I went back to the couch and the calorie counting. This had worked for the last few years, taking me from 220lb to 162lb. There was never much exercise involved; I didn't stick with anything for long.
So why would running be different this year? I was still a bit overweight, I still hated public exercise and I had already established that I just couldn't do it. I wrote to Shauna about Up & Running and she assured me that being a bit overweight and unfit wasn't a problem. My negative little brain insisted, C'mon, she doesn't mean you, you're a whole new level of couch potato! But Shauna gave me a firm nudge, saying that if I really wanted to do it, it was possible.
I really really wanted to. I signed up for Up & Running and for the next eight weeks I walked, skipped and stretched. I did arm swings, side-stepped and skipped some more.
And I started to run. Slowly.
It was so slow that I could probably have walked faster! But the first time I ran I laughed out loud, right there in the park. I was like a kid in the playground going down a slide, that feeling that makes you want to shout, Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, look at what I can do! That first 10 seconds of running was amazing. That was what got me out there for the next session – I wanted more of that feeling.
Occasionally the training messed with my head. I had to push Little Miss Grumpy out the door when she didn’t want to go. I'd doubt my abilities as I read the training plan, “They want me to do what?". If I had a 'bad' workout I'd be convinced the magic was gone and everything was about to come crashing down. Years of negativity about my abilities weren't going to disappear in a few weeks. But it wasn't magic that had got me running – that wasn't going to disappear either! It was simply an off-day and with the support and advice from Coach Julia and the other ladies, I got back out there and kept going.
Along the way I've learned so much more than just how to run. The person who started the Course didn’t know what she was capable of. She was scared of so many things, with failure being top of the list. She hated what she looked like and she sure as hell didn’t want to draw attention to herself either.
But now? Looking in the mirror I can still see the stretch marks and a belly roll and thighs, but when I run it doesn't matter. My thighs aren't monsters any more, they're strong and powerful. And they work! I've never treated my body very kindly, damaging it and filling it with substandard fuel, but it's mine and despite what I've put it through it still works. Whenever I run it does what I ask it to do, rewarding me for treating it more kindly.
The Course finished with us completing a 5K race. Each training session had covered a maximum distance of 4km, so I wondered if I had it in me. As I started my stopwatch I was terrified. The old feelings of self-doubt were there until I ran past a little old lady. She asked me how many miles I was running.
"Three miles!" I said.
And just like that the fear was gone. She saw a chick in running clothes, running. She saw a runner. So of course a runner would be running a few miles on a lovely sunny morning! God bless that lady.
I finished my run in 37 minutes 8 seconds feeling good. Not anything amazing, just good. I came home and it all felt like a bit of an anti-climax.
But then the tears came. Wonderful tears, as another Up and Runner called it, "talking with water". Thirty years of fearing failure poured out out with the realisation I’d accomplished something I'd never thought possible.
I'm planning my running future now. I did a 5k local parkrun this past weekend, then in mid June I'm going to Scotland to run with some of the other Up & Running ladies. I'll meet Shauna and thank her in person for being a huge part of my journey (and to apologise for using that cheesy word!).
I still have some weight to lose but it's not the only goal now. I want to run well and I know that being a little lighter will help, but I want to achieve things with this body of mine. I want to run 5km FAST! I want to do the Up & Running 10K course in September and I want to run a marathon some day!
I don't know how yet or what else will happen along the way, but I do know my body can do amazing things now. And I won’t let fear stop me any more.