I was recently asked to write a post for Run Through for their Runner Feature blog, all about how I got in to running and coaching and what motivates me to continue..
I never thought of myself as much of a runner when I was younger. I was never a particularly athletic person growing up, wasn’t really into team sports at school and was often the last to be picked for the netball team. Badminton became my thing, as I much preferred a solo sport. One early memory I do have of running though was me winning a race at the age of 5!
My first ever race (and only win!) at the age of 5
I can’t even say my introduction to a gym in my teenage years was a very pleasant experience, having to go outside to throw up after overdoing it on the step machine! As I became more comfortable and confident exercising, I decided to try running to the gym one day, but was so exhausted by the time I got there, that I turned around and went back home. But I stuck with it and sure enough as my fitness improved, so did my running!
Running soon then became part of my life and something I could do just for me. I would enjoy the freedom it gave me, the head space, and the opportunity to explore new places (even now I won’t go away anywhere without my trainers) but not anything I ever took too seriously. After starting a family I ran as a way to lose weight, but even then I was more of a gym person. I started to see a few of my friends enter races and I’d be perfectly happy to go along and support them but the idea of entering one quite frankly petrified me! Then my partner at the time got a place in London marathon and watching his journey inspired me to challenge myself.. nothing like a bit of healthy competition in a relationship to give you the kick up the backside you never realised you needed!
In 2016 I decided to enter a 10K race and remember feeling so out of my comfort zone at the start line. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and I had no race strategy apart from that I knew I wanted to finish in under an hour. I can’t even remember what my training looked like but I’m sure there was no real structure to it! I was delighted with a finish time of 0:52:01, I loved the feeling of pushing myself and the sense of accomplishment and from then on, I was hooked!
Old Deer Park, Richmond 10k November 2016
Since then, I’ve competed in many races from 5km to marathon distance (several of them being Run Through events!).
Looking back now, it’s very apparent to me that signing up for that first race coincided with a time when I was really struggling with my personal life. My relationship was not in a good place which in turn put pressure on my own mental wellbeing. And it was also around this time that my brother-in-law was signed off work with depression and put on medication to try and help. Running not only gave me an escape from everything that was going on, but also a focus and a way to help others, and so in 2019 I started fundraising for Mind, the mental health charity, something I still do to this day. It was also in this year that I started working with my first running coach as I knew that what I wanted to achieve, I couldn’t do alone.
My first event for Mind charity, London marathon 2019
Running became a way for me to not only challenge myself physically, but also gave me the chance to raise awareness and funds for a cause that is so important to me. Through Mind I now have the most supportive network of running buddies – friends for life; we talk together, run together and cheer for each other whenever we can! Tragically, earlier this year one of our Mind family (as I like to call them), Jess Riley, lost the battle with her own mental health and took her own life and as a community we continue to take part in a variety of events in her honour.
When my kids were old enough and it was time to venture back to work, I had absolutely no desire to go back to what I did pre children, even the thought of it bored the hell out of me. Fitness played a huge role in my life and was something that I was passionate about, so much so that it made total sense to pursue a career in which I could provide an opportunity for other people to fall in love with it too.
Once again stepping out of my comfort zone, I trained to be a PT, studying at St Mary’s Uni in Twickenham for the ActiveIQ Level 2 Gym instructor and level 3 Personal Trainer qualifications. Remember at school when you were lucky enough to have an incredible teacher - how it just made you enjoy a subject even more? Well, that’s the experience I had when I did my PT training. My course tutor was incredibly engaging and his values and athlete centred approach to teaching and training clients was truly inspirational. Knowing that I wanted to work with women, he also encouraged me to do the Level 3 Award in Supporting Pre and Post Natal Clients with Exercise and Nutrition, qualifying in March 2020.
From the word go, I knew that not only did I want to work with women, but I wanted to work with women who ran! I was all set to start my own PT business, helping female athletes with running specific strength training, when the first Covid lockdown happened! I didn’t feel ready to throw myself in at the deep end and coach online, but what it did lead me to do was start an amazing online community, and one that is still going strong now. I created a Facebook group called the Lockdown Locker room. It was originally a space for people with similar interests to connect, at a time when we were unable to have contact with anyone, and at a time when lots of people were experiencing a decline in their mental health. It soon became a thriving community where we would share the things that were motivating us, keeping us sane and keeping us fit in what were very challenging times! I’d share things training tips, wellness activities, recipes, and create fun challenges. I did several live workout sessions each week within the group, ranging from S&C, HIIT and stretch & mobility classes - not only to help motivate others and keep them active, but also to motivate and keep myself moving!
During this time, before I’d even started my new fitness career, I discovered that actually, I no longer wanted to go down the PT route! Having been working with my own running coach, I knew how beneficial this was and I wanted to be that person for others. I wanted to be a running coach too, so I tested out an 8 week program I’d written for any runners in my Facebook group who were looking to improve their 5km time, with some great successes from those who joined in. And that’s how my coaching journey began and what lead me to become UK Athletics qualified (CiRF).
Today I have my own successful Run Coaching business, RunningRewire. I work with athletes both in person and online - the majority of whom are now women of a similar age to myself, and who are going through menopause. Menopause often presents several barriers for women when it comes to fitness and running and is something that I have experienced myself, having been recently diagnosed with Osteopenia (low bone density). Helping female athletes to navigate this period in their lives and adapt their approach to training is something I find incredibly rewarding and have total empathy with.
As well as my own company, I work as an online running coach at Move Better Run Better. Not only do I coach FOR them but I am coached BY them - yes even coaches need coaches! And when I’m not coaching you will find me working or indeed running at some of the RunThrough race events in London!
I’m often asked what I love about running. I think the thing I love most is the running community. Social media provides a great place to connect with other runners and feel part of something special. I’ve made so many incredible friends through platforms like Instagram and Facebook and it’s even more special when you then get to meet them in the flesh participating in a race, cheering from the side lines or at somewhere like the National Running Show!
Selfie with Sir Mo! National Running Show South 2022
I got to meet even more of our amazing running community when I became an Ambassador for the National Running Show and when I became involved in the national Runsome campaign and was chosen as the Running Mayor of Clapham! This active travel campaign was started by Runners World magazine and Active Things, and as a Running Mayor it’s my role to encourage and inspire people in my local community to run more of their short journeys and errands instead of jumping in the car; not only making a positive impact on our environment but promoting better physical health and better mental health.
At The Big Half, promoting the Runsome Campaign, September 2022
Another exciting opportunity that arose from being part of the running community was the recent invitation to work with singer, actress and wellness advocate Suzi Shaw (ex Hear Say band member) on her recent ultra running challenge ‘Run in Four’ in May with Mike Seaman (National Running Show). I was asked to be in charge of route planning & logistics and to be head crew for the four day event; an offer I couldn’t refuse especially as it was to raise money for Mind, my chosen charity! It was such an awesome project to be involved in, something I’m very grateful for and something I’ll never forget… watch out for the documentary later this year!
The Run in Four team with Suzi Shaw, May 2023
Through running, I have discovered a passion for helping others. Coaching and fundraising have become such an important part of my running journey. I never thought that signing up for that first 10K race would lead me to where I am now, but I am truly grateful for all of the opportunities that it has given me.
My own running has continued to improve and in Spring of this year, at the age of 48, I ran my Parkrun pb of 0:22:27, my 5k pb of 0:21:23 and my 10k pb of 0:45:43, both at Run Through events in Battersea Park! I also have a few more marathons in the pipeline; Berlin in September and Tokyo next March (getting me closer to that 6 star medal).
Ringing the pb bell, Run Through Battersea Park 5km 15th April 2023
The road is never a straight one and believe me I’ve had my fair share of injuries along the way. But it just goes to show that age is just a number and if we surround ourselves with inspirational people, if we continue to challenge ourselves, step out of our comfort zones and set ourselves goals, and if we continue to manage our training well, we can in turn continue to learn, grow, progress and most importantly continue to enjoy our running well into our later years!