I’ve been running now for 12 years. And it’s been hugely important to me. It’s so run of the mill now, I forget what a profound effect it’s had on my life.
At school I was about as unsporty as you can get – chubby, physically unconfident and clumsy, I was never picked for teams. I was vaguely good at defending in hockey, but catching balls? Forget it!
Fast forward to my late twenties, not a brilliant period of my life. In debt, a bit overweight, a smoker and not really living the life I wanted to. I miraculously and thankfully discovered running.
My friend Regina wanted to run a Nike 10k race in Hyde Park. I wasn’t in any way fit, but I liked the idea of a challenge. We started training on Saturday mornings in the local park. We’d usually both rock up hungover, and I’d often have a fag on the way. A significant part of our training was actually ‘speed walking’ round the park and gossiping, and then reluctantly running a lap. However we committed to the process and gradually improved.
On the day of the 10k, I absolutely loved the buzz of the event and the thrill of finishing a 10k. It felt like a huge acheivement, especially at a time in my life when not a lot was going in my favour.
Next up was a half marathon, we’d enjoyed the 10k, so why not double the distance? And 5 months later we found ourselves running the Reading Half Marathon. What strikes me as hilarious now is the stuff I used to run in. I literally wore the thickest track suit trousers and just a normal cotton t-shirt to run the half marathon. I just hadn’t got my head around how hot I would get running 13 miles. But I did it!
Regina and I were now hooked on this running thing. So a year later we signed up to the London Marathon and another friend joined our running crew. I became nicknamed the ‘running Nazi’ because despite my extra pounds, fag habit and tendency to enjoy a bit too much booze, I was actually very diligent in following a strict running programme. My favourite memory is one Sunday when we planned to do our final long run before the Marathon. We were aiming to get to 16 miles. I arrived at Regina’s place to discover that she and our other pal had been clubbing for most of the night, but were in their running gear and ready to go. Miraculously, we completed the run (with a mid-run stop off at KFC).
The day of the Marathon arrived, and despite being bored out of my mind and wanting to give up for many miles of the running, it really was a glorious day. The crowd support was like nothing I’d ever experienced in my life, I had loads of friends who came down to watch and the sense of achievement was just immense.
Ten years on from that Marathon, running is just a habitual part of my life. It’s keeps me trim, sane and happy. I may not love every run I do, sometimes it’s sheer endurance getting out there in the the cold and the rain, but it’s always worth it. I view it a bit like putting money in a bank, it’s not always loads of fun, but I’m investing in me. And I think the journey from chubby, unsporty, not doing very well in life Katya, to slimmer, fitter and generally happier and more confident me, is all entwined with my running journey. The running made me feel good about myself and more confident in my life, and as I became more confident in life, I became even more confident about running. A virtous circle.
If you fancy getting into running, my top tips would be – find a running buddy at a similar level of fitness, get a pair of running trainers and a good running bra, try the coach to 5k app and when you feel ready do a local 5k park run – there’ll be one near you and they are free.