I was quite athletic when I was young, more sprinting and team sports but as an adult I never exercised at all and for many years, I felt I had no reason to. After my first two children were born, my weight didn’t change much, and my key health vital statistics were in the healthy range. Fast forward to two additional children later and my family’s slim genes refused to kick in. My weight gradually crept up and those previously good vital health statistics responded negatively. I found myself being diagnosed as hypertensive and on medication a few years before I turned the big 4-0. I had to do something, so I decided to take up running. I must admit that this this decision to get moving did not happen overnight. I had been trying to ‘jog’ since 2013, so my running app tells me. Excuse after excuse later, 4 years went by with no activity.
I’d like to tell you that I was inspired by my love for tasty Pinterest worthy salads and looking good in trendy running gear; but alas it was fear that motivated me. It was the fear of leaving my children motherless. What if I suffered a stroke, cardiac arrest and departed this dear earth because of a blinding migraine sooner than I was ready to? It was fear that motivated me to get up on that morning of Tuesday 25 April 2017 and walk 2.04km which I had initially planned to be a run, but my lungs protested breathlessly after only 150m, so much so that I resigned myself to my first walk.
Every Saturday thereafter, I began walking short distances 3, 4, 5km gradually progressing to long distances with my longest walk being 23 km, then moved to running short and gradually longer distances. I added mid-week sessions along the way and the more I walked and ran, the more my body asked for, so I kept moving, in whichever form it took, walking, trotting, running. The only thing I haven’t done yet is crawl and I just may need it do it one day, who knows. What I do know for sure is that I am now hooked.
It’s been just over a year since I started running and the results have been amazing:
Health and nutrition
My blood pressure is now in the normal range, though still monitored regularly. The terrible migraines I used to experience are now few and far between. My appetite has reduced and cravings for sweet foods and junk food have disappeared, but I do admit that I indulge occasionally. I have mostly cut starch out of my evening meals, increased vegetable intake and have lost 3 dress sizes.
Attitude and approach to life
My approach to life is upbeat and positive. I look for silver linings in every situation and make the most of what’s in front of me. Running has truly given me ‘me time’. It’s my thing that no one else in my home does. The 30min, hour, two hours or weekends spent away from home on some run somewhere allows me to think, re-energise, to dream, plan and to sometimes just block out reality for a moment.
A number of fellow running colleagues have shared with me how their running journey has inspired their friends and family to also become more health conscious. Passion is infectious and inspiring and makes those around you feel like they too can be do it. And this is applicable for anything that we love and enjoy. Love what you do and your family will love it too, join in and get involved. I have gone on runs and exercise sessions with my son, daughter, husband (he’s not as willing a participant as I’d like but I’ll take what I’m given), in laws, sisters, and exchange students. If you come to my home for a few days or more, rest assured, you will go for a short run with me at some point.
Friendships and connections
My running buddy, Tambu Mukunde, can attest that, if it hadn’t been for running, we probably would have lost out on a fabulous friendship and support pillars that we are to each other. We have travelled the country and beyond together and we plan to visit more places in the future together. Running has allowed me and other running colleagues to make connections, business and social.
The world around me
Running has allowed me to see the country through a different lens, think domestic tourism; Kariba, Vumba, Vic Falls, Bulawayo, Mutare, Nyanga. 2019 will be my second year running the ‘World’s Most Beautiful Marathon’, the Two Oceans Cape Town Half Marathon. My running buddy and I have plans afoot to run in Europe; we just need to train and save up for it of course, but it will happen.
Networking and skills development
Have you ever realised that as you go through life, you notice others in similar circumstances? This is the same with running. I have gotten to know neighbours from frequent meet ups early in the morning, runners from other organisations and event organisers amongst others. Your circle of contacts grows exponentially when you put yourself out there and get involved in something new and stick with it.
It’s easy to make excuses, ‘I’m too busy’, ‘I don’t have the time’ and ‘The children this and that’. What I have learnt is that if you love what you do, you will create time for it and other aspects of your life will often adjust.
Running for me has moved beyond getting my health in check. It has become a hobby and below are some of the key lessons I have leant along the way:
Put you first
Very few people will put you first, so you have to make that conscious decision to go out there yourself and do you. Find an activity or hobby that allows you to focus on you, on your hopes and dreams. Invest time and energy in yourself and your growth, be it career, health, spiritual, social or side hustle.
Set targets small and grand
My set target for total running distance for 2018 is 750km. Broken down into weekly targets it translates to 15km per week which is a much more digestible figure. On the grand scale, I’m thinking big and plan to run an international marathon in two years, think Boston, New York, Berlin, London, Tokyo type of run. Each run over the next two years will be a build up to that.
Acknowledge the difficult days
I had set a target of running 750km this year but winter is not a running friendly season so I fell behind. The tummy is stubborn, it’s flatter, much much flatter, than it was 12 months ago but there’s still a muffintop that needs to go, so for both challenges I have taken up high intensity fitness classes that run 3 time a week for an hour each session to make up for the shortfall.
Recruit a buddy
Identify and on-board someone that will go on your journey with you either as an active participant, a supporter from the side-lines or a mentor. This buddy will help to keep your spirits up, make you accountable when you fall behind and to filter the negative noise that you will face.
Filter the noise
Make no mistake about this, you will be discouraged along the way. It can be the little voice inside your head telling you that you can’t do it, a very loud voice of loved one or colleague or the sheer difficulty of the activity. Filter the negativity. Learn to compartmentalise and place that noise in a mental box in your mind and lock it. Block it out and focus on the end goal one step at a time. Use this negative noise as a motivator to overcome.
Surround yourself with like-minded people
In running circles, runners support each other, build each other up, are willing to stop and help you should you get injured, offer you transport to a running event, donate old pairs of running shoes to less fortunate runners and many other acts of goodwill.
This kind of support is unfortunately rare in our daily lives. To fully transform your mind-set from negative and derogatory thoughts about yourself and others, surround yourself with positive, supportive people that are able and willing to support you as much as you are willing to support them. This creates a sense of family and camaraderie.
Celebrate the small victories
I remember when I completed my first 3km non-stop run (slow but non-stop). I was on cloud nine the whole day and looking back, I don’t think I got much done on that day because I was so in awe of myself. These small victories/milestones provide you with the energy and focus to keep going and set higher goals. A few months later, on Sunday 19 November, I completed my first half marathon, 21km.
Don’t compare yourself to others
There will always be someone better than you, someone faster, and someone reaching their milestones sooner. But remember as with anything in life, your journey is not their journey and their journey is not yours. Do you. My pace/speed is not the best, I know I can never compete with elite runners and that’s not my aim. My aim is to simply be better than I was yesterday, to push my boundaries. I set myself small goals and challenges to keep me going. I am a work in progress.
Support your family in the change that you go through
Any new long term activity will create shifts in the home that some families may not be able to handle well. Get them involved either actively or as cheerleaders so that they understand your motives and experience. Many, once they can see things from your perspective, will provide you with necessary support.
End each year on a big note
2017 ended on a good note as I had /progressed from being sedentary in April to bagging my first half marathon mid-November. This year I aim to complete the 20miler (32 km) in early December. The festive season can hit me with whatever drama it wants after that because nothing can spoil the high of a major accomplishment as the year draws to a close.
It has been tough and I have often thought of giving up but looking back now, it’s been worth every 430am alarm ring, every drop of sweat, every aching muscle and every dollar spent on registration fees, travel and expensive good quality running shoes. This year I turned 40 and for the first time in a long time I truly feel alive and in control of my life. I’m just a regular mum and wife with a full time job who just happened to have taken up running to be healthier and found a hobby she’s passionate (some say obsessed) about.
While my story relates to running, the lessons I have learnt along the way are applicable to anything that you set out to do; be it a career change, learning a new hobby, getting more involved in the church structures, starting and growing your side hustle, developing a new skill, studying as a mature student or whatever it may be. 2019 is going to see me taking on new challenges outside my comfort zone in areas that have nothing to do with running…..watch this space.
Go out there and conquer….