2008! Blimmey 4 years ago! That seems a good enough place to start my general rambling about why I run.
It is a good place to start but I think I might even go further back, back to when I lived on the island of Tiree. Tiree is in the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland. An amazing place to grow up but also a brilliant place to go and visit, highly recommend it to anyone, but go during the summer! The winter can be quite different! You have been warned.
When I lived on Tiree I would cycle, I would run between the hotel my grandparents owned and my house, which is only about 1/2 mile but I wouldn't think twice about heading out the front door, along the beach and in to the hotel or visa versa, walking or running the route a number of times a day.
If the weather was nice, which it is most of the time...honest! I would jump on my bike, say to my Mum and Dad that I will be back at some point and then cycle round the island, stopping off at beaches or heading up the couple of hills Tiree has to offer, alternatively I would pull on my wetsuit and go for a canoe in the bay where the hotel and our house was located. Looking back now, it was quite the life! Doing all this exercise without even realising it. Not giving it a second thought.
Once a year the school would have cross country running as part of the P.E. class and I would be not too bad at it - considering we were usually just chucked out the school mini bus and told to run back to the school. That was all the training we really did. Some days we would run across machair, beaches, a bit of road running and over some dunes, generally taking which ever route seemed the fastest to get back.
Skip a couple of years and I had become a student at Napier University and stopped cycling, running, canoeing, any form of exercise really. The weight was piling on but I didn't really notice. I was happy and in my mind I was still 16 stone which I was also happy with since I was, what my Nan used to always say, "Big boned". Now I realise that is a polite way of saying, you're overweight.
This image was taken probably at my heaviest and that was about 18.6 stone (260lbs), at the time I thought I was not too chubby, looking back I can see how wrong I was.
For a number of years after this photo I tried to get fit, when I say try, I mean, eat a bit less but have chocolate, fried food, go for a wee run and then give up because there wasn't any instant signs of loosing weight. Obviously if my diet isn't improving then the small amount of exercise I was doing isn't going to help but I wanted to loose weight over night!
Then in 2007, just after Christmas, I bought some scales to weigh myself, in my mind I was still 16 stone so to say I was shocked when the scales read "Get off me! You're hurting me!!" or should I say, 18.6 stone that was when reality hit and I had had enough. Within a couple of days I had signed up to Edinburgh Marathon and was going to run it in aid of the RNLI.
Yip, you read that correctly. I went from running very little to signing up to a marathon - would I recommend it to anyone, nope! It's a crazy thing to do but I needed something to motivate me. A 5k or 10k might have been a better, safer option but there was no going back now!
I downloaded a 'Get me round a marathon' training programme and it started from there. First outing I struggled to get half a mile without needing to stop but I made a mental note of where I had to stop and the next time I went out I made sure I got past that marker, then made another mental note of where I had to stop on the second attempt, this continued until I was plodding out miles rather than metres!
Then I started to notice my weight was also dropping, as it dropped my running also got a bit easier. I was also getting back to the office a little bit less pink in the face at lunch times.
Fast forward a bit and I ran the Edinburgh marathon in just under 5 hours and it was at that point I decided that I actually really enjoyed running and that I would run the marathon again the following year with an aim of getting faster. The weight continued to drop off and as they say, the rest is history.
Weight loss was the first reason for why I run but it's not the only reason, not now anyway.
Running gives me a way of getting away from it all, a chance to clear my head, get rid of any stress I might have. It takes a lot to get me stressed but when I do it really does clear the cobwebs out. If I've done something I'm not happy about or just need to blow off some steam I have been known to really push myself during an 'easy' run. It's my way of beating myself up and it works!
Running is also a fantastic way to see a place. I was down in London for a course a couple of years ago and I decided to take my running stuff with me, on the chance I might get out early one day for a run. It worked. I headed out in to the streets of London and just picked a direction and ran. I felt like forest gump. Just running and running and running until I realised I had no idea where I was. I thought I recognised the area but then realised there is a Costa and a Starbucks on every corner of London so they were useless markers! Luckily I had my Garmin on and I could use it to find my way back to the hotel. I've been known to just go out and explore and having to count on my Garmin to get me home again on a number of occasions, even going out for a lunch time run has turned in to an epic adventure - a lunch hour can turn in to 2 hours of lost running! I always come back with a smile on my face though and a new route mapped!
This post is now in day 3 of being written and its given me time to really think about the reasons that I run and another reason that I have found is that I enjoy pushing myself and seeing what I am capable of. I never used to see myself as competitive but looking back at the past 4 years, I have constantly been pushing myself, aiming for better times at races and in the end getting better positions within the races. I'm never racing against the other people though, it's always with myself. Can I push harder on a section, can I keep going over the distance at a set pace. Even on a training run I will be trying to improve different parts of the run.
I think the most important reason why I run, for me, is I enjoy it. I enjoy nothing more than going out with no real plan, either on my own or with others and just plodding out a route, whether it is to run X number of miles or it's to just go out for the day with my camera and run along taking photos as I go. Come rain, hail, sun or snow, (there is always wind!) the chances are I will be out in it and enjoying some part of it!