Only when chased. That has been my general attitude to running for most of my thirty-something years.
And in fairness, as a ten-season veteran of Newbridge RFC’s ladies rugby team, that ‘being chased’ generally involved scooting up a pitch, clutching a ball, with a herd of marauders at my heels.
Nothing like the threat of a thumping to inspire a record-breaking five-yard dash.
But as a prop forward – or one of the ‘fatties’ as our coach loves to call us – my skills lay in hitting and lifting rather than nimbleness of foot.
That changed last year when I got signed up for last July’s 5k Jog for Jockeys run at the Curragh Racecourse.
One of the hazards of this job is that you end up taking part in events you’re originally assigned to cover for the paper. And I’d never run more than a fifteen yards in anger before. Where to start?
I’d seen reviews of a new running book, and thought it was right up my street.
The wonderful ‘Run, Fat B!tch, Run’, by Englishwoman Ruth Field is a fantastic prod in the portly backside to get you running.
Field is not a fitness professional, but rather a font of old-fashioned common sense. Her book is a great starting point for anyone who is bamboozled by all the ‘faff’, as she calls it, that goes along with the modern cult of running.
Fancy shoes, apps, high-tech tee-shirts, personalised programmes and a bunch of friends and coaches encouraging and praising you? Rubbish, says Field. Get on your runners and get your fat ass moving.
You need a sense of humour to stick with her ‘zero to hero’ programme, but she calls you out on a lot of your exercise-dodging excuses.
For example, you don’t have time to run, you whinge. “How do you think President Obama finds the time to go on his daily run?” she asks. “I guarantee he has more to get done in any given day that you probably do in an entire week, and I mean a really busy week.”
What I liked is that Field acknowledges that, for mere mortals who spent their teenage years dodging their PE sessions, “the first ten minutes of each run is hellish every time”.
That’s still the case for me, even after a year’s running. I have been known to scrub my bathroom in order to avoid putting on the trainers. On bad days, I have to promise myself that once I get up to Monasterevin Woods, where I’ve worked out a few nice trails for myself, I can just go for a little walk. Needless to say, I’ve never just walked the track.
But running – outside! - hoovers up calories, tones your legs and backside, and gives you a nice rosy glow that no amount of Clarins Beauty Flash Balm can replicate. So you endure it.
And the boost of feel-good endorphins afterwards is undoubtedly cheaper than therapy, Prozac or a big bottle of wine a day to chase the recession blues away.
Some of my favourite tips for newbie runners? Go by yourself. Because even your slowest friend will probably be faster than you at the start. And who needs that kind of discouragement?
Think you’re not, ahem, built for running, ladies of a certain curvature? Wear two sports bras and that will sort you out. Penneys or the Nike shop in Kildare Village do great, cheap, pull-on tops that you can wear over your proper bra to stop that annoying extra jiggle.
Also, get yourself a decent running soundtrack. Never mind those peppy dance beats. I find a bit of Springsteen, the Pixies, AC/DC, David Bowie, Alanis Morrisette and any angsty 90s girl music gets me going.
So, by some miracle, I found myself on the starting line of the Jog for Jockeys event at the Curragh on July 29, my first organised run since the horrors of primary school sports days.
When I discovered, as I positioned myself towards the middle-to-back of the field, that I really, really, hate running in a group. Not for me the jostling of the lycra-clad herd, who hared off at what I thought was breakneck speed around the racecourse – emulating the former glories of Shergar and Vintage Crop.
I settled down towards the back with the elderly walkers and mothers with strollers.
And I realised that I hadn’t been kidding myself during my solo runs. I run slow. Really, really slow. I jogged home in around 36 minutes, delighted with myself that I’d finished.
So, if you don’t care about personal bests, or dressing up as a heart-monitored, over-apped running-bot, look out for me at Run Kildare. I’ll be the one looking at the scenery, taking pictures and having a few chats and laughs. But sure I’ll get to the finish line eventually!
- Laura Coates
A team of Leinster Leader journalists is gearing up for Run Kildare - follow their blood, sweat and tears here over the next few weeks...