Because I like to be about six years behind any trend, I have recently started running. As a very large woman, this was difficult for me for many reasons. First, it's physically hard to move when you're essentially carrying a particularly lazy full-grown adult around with you everywhere you go. Second, people can be very mean. Like others, I've been sneered at because of my weight for a very long time. You know, whatever. Alison Spittle covered this ground pretty well in a recent article for HeadStuff, so I won't go into much more detail than that.
So when I started running, I had to make sure that nobody, and I mean nobody, could see me making any kind of physical effort. I'm luckier than some in this regard. I live by the sea, next to a long, flat, hard-packed beach that's great for running on and is largely inaccessible to cars, which means you can run on it in the dark without worrying about people being able to see you. I also have dogs who need to be walked, so I have to go out every single day anyway, in all weathers. So I might as well be running as walking. I can also run without my glasses on, which, I understand, is a big deal. Best of all, though, it turns out I really enjoy running.
I accept that what I do can really only be called running in the strictly scientific sense: both my feet are off the ground at the same time at some point during my stride, and it's that, not speed, that marks the difference between running and walking. But look: I can do that for an hour. A whole hour.
And that's the real point of this post, and of the posts I will write about this in the future. I can run for an hour. And if I can get to that stage, almost anybody can.
It's a bit of a fudge to say that I started running "recently". I actually made my first attempt at a couch-to-5K programme in October 2011. Your first week is meant to go like this:
Run 1 minute.
Walk 1 minute.
Repeat x 8 (or something like that).
Mine was more like this:
Run 1 minute.
Walk 4 minutes.
Run 1 minute.
Walk 6 minutes.
Run 1 minute.
Realise that an ambulance can't reach you here, and just walk the rest of the way.
Lie down for three days.
Repeat x 8.
It took me two months to get to Week 5 of the programme, at which point I got a massive chest infection and had to stop.
The next winter, I tried again, and this time it only took me five weeks to get to Week 4 of the programme, but I still had to stop because of illness. I tried it a third time the following year with similar results. Then I just gave up, figuring I wasn't meant to run.
Then, in May last year, I met a man. I'd seen this man out running along the Golf Links Road quite a lot over the previous few years. In the beginning, he was a very big man, and he shuffle-ran like a big old man would. He just wore an ordinary jumper and trousers while running, but had a brand new pair of running shoes. I used to see him huffing up and down the road and I would think, there is a man who has been told by his doctor that he needs to lose weight and get fit. By May 2015, he had a proper tracksuit and was about half the size he had been previously. When I met him out with his dog for the first time, I told him that I'd seen his transformation over the years and I congratulated him on it. He told me that he'd been in a very bad car accident, which had put him in a coma for thirteen weeks. The doctors told his wife three times to turn off the life support, but she wouldn't agree to it, and eventually he woke up. When he woke up from the coma, he weighed 25 stone. He felt that after all his wife had done to make sure he didn't die after the accident, he needed to make sure he lived as long and as well as possible from then on, even though he had other illnesses. So he joined Slimming World, took up walking and running, and began walking or running 10K every day. He eventually lost 10 stone.
Sadly, he passed away a few months ago.
That man's story inspired me to give it another go, and now look what's happened. The other week I got my first ever race number for the Race for Life in Cambridge (perhaps you would like to sponsor me?) and now I sometimes even run in the daylight where people can see me (although I do still like running in the dark and the cold with just my head torch and the sight of my own breath for company).
If I can do this, there's a really good chance you can do this too.