My first memory of running was doing the 12 minute run at school and I hated it. As a slightly overweight, very unfit teenager the idea of running continuously for 12 minutes was my worst nightmare, yet these days I can quite easily run 12 miles which is something I never thought possible.
If you’d have asked me a year ago what an ultra marathon was I probably would have guessed it was watching a series of Always adverts continuously on a Sunday afternoon. However in about a month I’ll be completing my first ever ultra, running 31 miles on a canal from Manchester to Yorkshire.
I never in a million years thought I’d be doing this. Fitness was always a means to an end (the end being eating as much as I can) and Ali and I used to meet in our local gym in Nottingham (once in identical outfits which was quite embarrassing at the time but Sandy would’ve loved it), stroll along the treadmill for 15 minutes then get the bus home to eat our ‘well deserved’ takeaways.
One summer when we were both home from uni we decided to give running a go. Our mum had lost quite a bit of weight thanks to it, and the first run she took us on was up Manchester road to the local McDonald’s (ironic) then home, which placated us with the thought that if it got too hard we could always stop for a Big Mac. We definitely weren’t lovin’ it and that run was probably the hardest one I’ve ever done. Ali and mum fell out on average three times per mile (which is actually good going for them) and I just didn’t even have the energy to converse with anyone, let alone argue. We came home out of breath, annoyed at how rubbish we were at it and vowing to never do it again.
Never having been very overweight, I’d always told myself that I was naturally curvy and being slim just wasn’t something that my body could ever be but in the back of my mind I knew it wasn’t true and more importantly I knew I could look and feel better. A year or so after the first attempt I gave running another go. I can’t say it ever ‘clicked’ or I came back deciding I wanted to become an ultra marathon runner in my spare time, but I had to give it a fair shot. Nothing else had worked so it was worth a go.
They say it takes 12 times to try something before it becomes a habit (it definitely isn’t 12 minutes of doing it I know that for sure). I don’t know how many it took me with running but gradually it became a habit, making sure I ran before my morning lectures (usually 3 miles) and pushing myself to go a bit further (5-6) at the weekend. Once I saw the weight dropping off that was enough motivation to keep going and really pushed me to try longer runs. Remember though, this was in the weight watchers soup for lunch and 5 white Russians at The Peacock for my tea days, so the miles weren’t as easily totted up as they could have been.
The Manchester 10k was the first official race I did and I only reluctantly signed up for that. Ali had been roped into it through work and if you know us, you’ll know it’s impossible for one of us to do something without the other tagging along. When we were younger Ali used to have to take me to birthday parties at her friends houses because she was scared of big brothers (not in some government controlled, they’re all spying on us kind of way, just actual big brothers) so maybe someone threatened to bring one of theirs to the Manchester 10k so she had to have me by her side just in case. She couldn’t even start a blog without me through fear of big brothers trolling her.
Having enjoyed (yes, actually! It surprised me too) the Manchester 10k (it’s a great one to start with if you’re thinking of giving one a go, the atmosphere is amazing!) I’d been (quite literally) plodding along with running for the next couple of years until I entered the Accrington Ron Hill 10k in March 2014 with my friends Rosie and Sarah. Consequently I also got a part time job at the finish line interviewing some of the competitors.
Ali and Jak had already completed their first half marathon a year before and Sarah and I decided to train for one ourselves. We created our own training schedule, usually doing 5/6 mile runs about 3 times during the week and 9-11 at the weekend. In May 2014 we ran 13.1 miles in the Leeds half marathon and raised a few hundred pounds for charity. Having trained regularly for it I didn’t actually find it that bad so the next (il)logical step was a marathon.
I imagine I will not be saying this come 22nd March this year, but the marathon in Nottingham last September was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Despite running side by side with Ali (lots of big brothers there you see) I found it quite mentally challenging rather than physically and I really struggled at miles 17 and 21. The sun was beating down and I felt like I couldn’t continue at some parts. This time I did find the energy to argue though (it was important for Ali to know that the sun was beating down harder on me than it was on her as we ran around the Holme Pierrepont lake at mile 21-22. Looking back I don’t know how she didn’t push me into it). At this stage we had raised around £500 for Alzheimer’s and this genuinely gave me a push through the last few miles (as well as the energy gels, lucozade and motivation from Ali). I did utter the famous “I’m never doing this again” on occasion yet here I am 32 days away from a 31 mile challenge. I’ll let you know if I get pushed in the canal this time or if any big brothers scare Ali away.
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