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On self image

September 3, 2009

I started running in February 2009 with the fairly short-term goal of completing the Oxford Town and Gown in under 45 minutes. I’d always thought of myself as naturally athletic; as a teenage runner I’d competed at county and national level over the 400, 800 and 1500 metres. It came as something of a surprise that dull and fateful February weekend when I discovered I couldn’t run 4km without stopping.

A couple of months before this, I’d been sitting in a pub with some of my oldest friends. I don’t know how we’d got on to the subject, but some disparaging comment was made about how I used to be able to move pretty fast. ‘Hold on,’ I said, ‘I recently ran a 10km in 47 minutes.’ (Recently, in this context, was two years ago in the 2007 Town and Gown, and 47 minutes was my chip time… probably… my actual finishing time was 49:10.) This was then followed by some comments about that not being very fast, really.

So, slowly but surely I started building up my distance and the frequency of my runs. I started swimming to improve my breathing (part of the reason I’d stopped on my first run was wheezing), and then weaned myself on to more running in place of swimming. After a while, I fell into a routine where my long run was an 11.5km lap of Abingdon, and as I started recording my times, I could see I was getting faster.

In the meantime, people had started to notice that I had been losing weight. In January I had weighed myself and found that I was tipping it at close to 170lb. In the same way my ego had convinced myself I was still fit, I’d also kidded myself into thinking I was probably around 11 stone. Now, writing this in early September, I’ve been consistently weighing in at 140lb for over a month.

The reactions of friends has been illuminating. Having moved around quite a bit, few people have known me through the period where I was running as a teen. So while I’d always maintained that mental image of myself as an athlete, few others had been presented with a cause to share this view – including my partner. In reality, I’d come across as lacking any kind of sporting ability or interest and rather keen on my food.

As the Town and Gown approached, and as more people became aware of my target, I was beginning to feel some pressure. I’d always associated running with high expectations – and that feeling still prevails for me – so I was nervous about missing my goal. However, as it happened, despite torrential downpours during the race, I clocked in at 44:59 (1 second under my target) with a chip time of 43:55.

Since then, I’ve run more 10km races, and I’ve run faster times. And, perhaps most importantly, I feel I’ve got further to go in terms of building speed and improving my performance. I met up with the same friends last weekend and we got back on to the topic of running. I’m pleased to say that they were impressed with the amount of weight I’d lost, my new 10km PB (43:46 Chiltern Chase race time – sadly the chip timing was off the gun, so the real time was probably about 20 seconds quicker) and my half marathon time of 1:35:10 was deemed ‘amazing’.

So, while people might not yet really get how running fits into the me they know, it’s giving me more confidence and making me feel a greater sense of belonging. And I’m proud of what I’ve achieved – not to mention excited about what I think I can do at next year’s Town and Gown!

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 4, 2009 1:46 am

    I saw your posts and I thought I would share with you our site Fifty States HALF Marathon Club . Help us get the word out! Come join our club! We will give nice awards for reaching your goal. We have a 50 STATE CHALLENGE and a 100 HALF ANYWHERE CHALLENGE.

    The 100 HALF ANYWHERE CHALLENGE is exclusive to half marathons and half ironmans, but can be completed in ANY state.

    BUT our 50 STATE CHALLENGE accepts marathons, half marathons, half ironmans, and full ironmans ALL TO COUNT TOWARD YOUR 50 STATE GOAL (any of those events can count toward a state)!

    We are having a member event for members to meet other members from all over the US on January 30th down in Florida at the weekend event of ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon for those club members that can make it. And then we will be holding an annual event and give out awards annually in a different state every year.

    Check the site out and hope too have you as a new member soon!

    Nicole Blomgren
    Founder & CEO
    Fifty States HALF Marathon Club

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