Is running in the mind or the legs?

Since I decided I wanted to start running and signed up to run the Great North Run for the Samaritans Charity (before I had even started any training!) people have told me many times that running is mostly in the mind! They said the biggest hurdle to overcome is mentally telling yourself you can do it. On hearing this I was very sceptical and thought it was utter rubbish! Obviously there is some physical ability there too in what they are saying, but these people say if you can run for a bus then you can run a marathon if you want, its all in the mindset! My opinion was very much that 99% of running is physically being able to and the remaining 1% is the mental side of having that urge to run.


People talked about the running bug, they said I would soon love running and “get the bug”, wanting to do it more and more, again I was very sceptical. I desperately wanted to be able to run for charity, a lot of my wish to do this was because I wanted to think I could do anything I put my mind to. I set out to do this as an accomplishment, rather like losing weight, something that will be an achievement in my life. Whilst with losing weight there is the maintaining and not putting it on again, with running I saw it as being able to tick that off the bucket list so to speak and then move on to another challenge. I expected I would probably not run again or certainly only if I got a place for the London marathon until I completed that goal. To me this was a goal to achieve rather than something I wanted to start doing as a long term hobby!
As I have said, I have had bursts before where I wanted to run. Each time I started on a whim, determined to do a marathon or half marathon and so went out and run/walked alternately for as far as I could possibly manage and was very proud of myself. The following day I would be shattered and achy but determined to reach my goal I would go out again, if this didn’t put me off I might do this a third time the following day or within a few days. Each of these times I started with no plan and a huge goal expecting it to happen overnight so each time I failed and gave up within about a week!


So far, what has made this time different was partly the mindset but this time I have signed up to races, I needed to plan and not quit! This time I started slowly with the determination that I wouldn’t rush things and do too much and quit. I cant quit, I have signed up for the Mansfield 10K and the Great North Run!
So far my main struggles have been mentally, other than the few health issues I have had with a knee injury and my asthma playing up! As much as I want to be able to run, I struggle a lot with my confidence, I am very self conscious. I know I have lost a lot of weight and I am now considered “skinny” to most people, but I still see myself with all the flaws. I see big thighs, chunky knees, wobbly arms and I absolutely hate my feet! As a new runner I am very conscious that I am slow and stop to walk a lot so I worry about what people think about my speed. Despite telling myself so many times that other peoples views don’t matter, in my head they still are saying “look at that girl wobble”, “look at her, she’s walking again” or “look how sweaty she is!”.


Strangers seeing me running is by far preferable to people I know seeing me. I didn’t tell anyone when I was going for my first run. I didn’t even tell my boyfriend Stuart until afterwards! I chose the place to start running as a local reservoir, there is a path all the way around and although you see people there it isn’t too busy. I also liked the reservoir because I knew that if anyone saw me there I know as I’ve seen them too! I know this sounds silly but one of my worries is that someone will tell me they saw me running! I dreaded this and not knowing when they saw me! Was I really sweaty? Was I walking in between running at that point? Was I running slowly? Was I looking wobbly? This probably sounds crazy as you are reading this but to me this was very real and a worry I had. This all lead to me starting out going on my own without telling anyone the first few times.
When I first told everyone that I had signed up to do the Great North Run and started running I had incredible support from running friends saying that they would run with me. Stuart said he would come out with me as I train and get better, and Stuarts sister Clare said we could run together which was lovely. A few friends who wanted to start running also said they would be keen on running with me and building up together. All of these offers were lovely, but also terrifying at the same time. I would love to be able to run with someone but also know that I get so anxious that I just couldn’t face running with anyone. I carried on still running without telling anyone that I was going at that moment to avoid bumping into anyone who thought that was a good time to take the dog for a walk at my running spot! (Don’t start me on dogs that try to trip you up when running!!) I was fully aware I would have to build my confidence as there’s a lot of people doing the Great North Run and it is even televised!
I have enjoyed gradually building up my running over the last few weeks on my own but would definitely say that the running is a lot easier than the anxiety about what I look like and my speed! It turns out I am starting to enjoy running. I am sticking to my idea of only running alternate days so I don’t do too much to soon or injure myself by over-training. I am even starting to get frustrated on my days off that I can’t go for a run!
This week I have reached a few personal victories in my running. I wore my running clothes in front of friends at my Slimming World group and I actually felt comfortable with that. This was however prior to the run not when I was all sweaty and knackered! On the same day I went into two supermarkets in my running clothes after my run to get a few bits of shopping to save myself going back out later! Laziness it turns out was a push to overcome another of my anxieties! I didn’t feel like everyone was staring at me and as far as I am aware no one pointed at the “sweaty knackered lady”! I also braved a run with someone I know, not just anyone, my boyfriend Stuart, who recently completed the London Marathon! I have run with Stuart before and each time he was supportive and went at my pace but each time I found the idea of him watching me made me so anxious I ended up in tears! This time it was different, I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel like I was holding him back, and I actually felt like a real runner! There were a few anxious tears before but Stuart was so supportive as usual and we both enjoyed it, afterwards I was all smiles! Now I feel I am able to consider a run in a slightly more open area that people may see me or maybe running with someone else.
Me and Stuart after our run
So, is running in the legs or in the mind? I would have to say that although obviously it is a bit of both, for me I have been surprised to find that the things people told me when I first started are true, a lot of it is in the mind! I know I will never be the fastest or prettiest runner out there, I know I definitely don’t have the most toned body, but I am me and I am doing the best I can. I will complete both the races I have entered so far and I am actually now looking for more I can do! I am really hoping I can get a place for the London Marathon 2017. When I have achieved all of this, contrary to what I imagined when I set this challenge for myself, I think I will continue running as I am actually quite enjoying it! That is something I never thought I would say, especially when I was avoiding PE lessons at school.
Now that I enjoy running, can I actually call myself a runner? Can I list running as a hobby? Wow, I guess I can, strange world isn’t it! Two and a half years ago I was a size 30 and struggled to walk far and even climbing the stairs made me breathless, I never thought I could ever be a runner! Do you want to run? Check out the Couch to 5K programme.
I am determined to do the best I can for the Samaritans and raise as much as I can. If you are able to sponsor me please visit my Just Giving page which can be found here.


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