A journey of 13.1 miles starts with just one step…

It’s hard for me to write this as I still really can’t believe that I, Laura (who couldn’t run to the end of Westercroft Lane in mid- April this year without being out of breath and praying for the breather to be elongated due to the main road being busier than m62 at rush hour) completed the Manchester Half Marathon on 16th October, just seven months after joining the Pumas.

On January 1st 2016 I had embarked on a New Years resolution-cum-Yorkshire Air Ambulance fundraiser in memory of my cousin Georgina Lockey; For every pound in weight I lost, I would put a pound coin in a piggy bank for YAA. My start weight was 18 ½ stone and I had a goal in mind to lose 8 stone of that by the end of the year using Paul McKenna ‘I can make you thin’ and Joe Wicks ‘Lean in 15’ recipes. I began walking to improve my fitness, alongside a kettlebell class and although I had kind of reached a plateau I was reluctant to step it up any more at this stage for fear of doing too much too soon and putting myself off exercise all together.

 May 2015 Training for Yorkshire 3 Peak

May 2015 Training for Yorkshire 3 Peak

Joining a running club

I came to my first beginner’s session in April this year following much persuasion from Holly Parry who convinced me to give it a go, despite my reassurances of ‘I can’t run!!’ she talked me round by saying that the beginners sessions were perfect for people like me; an introduction to running with other people of similar ability and no pressure. It would help to keep me losing weight and putting money in the piggy bank so I caved and said I’d come along- after all every one of us has to start somewhere!
Well, we were both right; I couldn’t run very far, but the session was perfect. Ian has this knack of making me continue running when I don’t want to! He was so encouraging without being pushy which is what someone with my mentality needed.
I would never have thought despite enjoying the session that on 16th October in the same year I would run a half marathon in under 2 and a half hours- I don’t think I thought I could ever achieve that in my lifetime.

Through attending the beginners sessions and running with Holly, Ian and Alison I began to see the improvements over time, granted some runs were harder than others, but every week got a little easier plus I had targets to aim for which kept me focussed. I signed up with Holly and Caroline for the Solstice Saunter at Bolton Abbey on 20th June, a five mile run which was anything but flat and the furthest I’d run prior was 3 ½ miles, but it was something to aim for and I’d promised myself that if I did it under an hour I’d reward myself with a fitbit Blaze. I walked a third of the course in and amongst, but managed to just sneak in under an hour.

Solstice Saunter at Bolton Abbey with Holly and Caroline
Solstice Saunter at Bolton Abbey with Holly and Caroline

Manchester Half Marathon

Shortly after this there was talk on the Pumas facebook page of the Manchester Half Marathon, and spaces on the bus were limited… I must have had a serious case of fear of missing out and booked my seat. Panic ensued. What have I done! I can’t run 6 miles?! Let alone 13.1!! I’d better get training…

I downloaded a beginners 12 week training programme from Runnersworld which the facebook group helped me with some of the terminology (apparently HMP is half marathon pace, not Her Majestys Prison, and LSD is Long Slow Distance not drugs).
I did additional runs alone which were sometimes enjoyable and sometimes hard work but each one was essential, I also ran with a couple of friends who are Sowerby Bridge Snails members who run at a similar pace to me. I had some tough weeks where things didn’t go to plan… you find things out about your bodies tolerances and more so your mental state over physical, but the important thing was to keep chipping away at the end goal, not give up and if I’d had a bad day write it off and start again the day after.

Alison and I working the camera at the Manchester Half
Alison and I working the camera at the Manchester Half

I’d been ticking off the sessions on the plan on my fridge and before I knew it the day was here- I was petrified. We got on the coach at 6 45am and off we went to Manchester. The atmosphere on the bus was as to be expected; friendly and supportive.
I was telling anyone who would listen how worried I was and then Alison Shooter offered to drop back a pen and run with me. I felt better immediately. Alison was a tremendous support for me, she gave me a foil blanket for the starting pen as I was freezing, gave me energy gel and kept reassuring me. Basically she was my Run Mum! Without Alison the run may well have been different for me; she made me smile when I felt like crying, ensured I took advantage of the photo opportunities and selflessly kept checking in on me at every single mile- I am truly grateful. Alison helped out another lady at 12 miles who was breaking down, and pulled her through to the finish line. Real Puma spirit!

There was a great inclusive and social feel about the whole day with so many people taking part in their first half marathon and exceeding their own expectations. The reward for this was drinking and eating whatever I wanted following the race… Cakes, Chinese and gin!

Glow in the Park

On 28th October I ran in a 5K at Heaton Park, Manchester called ‘Glow in the Park’- it was more of a fun run than a race, where participants put as much light up/glow in the dark on as possible and ran through disco zones. Great for beginners; no pressure for times etc and plenty of distractions to take your mind off the running.

Glow in the Park with some friends from Sowerby Bridge Snails
Glow in the Park with some friends from Sowerby Bridge Snails
Glow in the Park
Glow in the Park

Then on 6th November I’ve registered for the Abbey Dash 10K where I’m aiming to finish under 1 hour- something which I’ve not managed to do throughout my training. If I achieve this? Brilliant! If I don’t? Nevermind, there’ll be another run to aim for.

Following on from that I’m aiming to hit my weight loss target by losing my last 2 pounds to take me to 8 stone (112lbs/ £112) in total, and hopefully raise just under £1000 for YAA as a number of very kind people offered to match what I put in the piggy bank also.

September 2015
September 2015

I would encourage any beginner to set a short term, realistic and achievable goal with a small reward in mind, whatever that may be; Sign up to a 5K, attend a Pumas session every week, run one extra lamp post than the week- before it really does help. And once you’ve achieved that- set your next goal and reward. All the guys at the club are welcoming and approachable; don’t be afraid to ask for advice. It’s also really important to be kind to yourself and remind yourself how far you’ve come so far- getting kitted up to come to that very first session instead of sitting and watching TV is a huge but important step!