The Story of an Unlikely Runner: The Contrast


I’ve often thought that my life feels to have been a book filled with many (too many) juxtaposed chapters, or a play whose creator couldn’t quite decide on the lead role, so threw in various options just to cover all bases and keep the audience on their toes. I’ve played a different character in each one: no two parts have been the same. Who knows how many more there will be.

I’ve lived and breathed each one.

I know how it feels to be unfit – to feel trapped in a not-fit-for-purpose, defunct body which doesn’t work or look like it ‘should’; I know how it feels to be ashamed of my size and shape, even (and especially) in the ‘prime’ of my youth (no, they really weren’t the Wonder Years); of being unable to jog on a treadmill for ten minutes without feeling like my lungs will burst or my legs collapse beneath me.

I know how it feels to be called FAT – for peers (and partners) to mock and make comments about my appearance (‘Honey Monster’ was one such stinging jibe. I’ve not touched a Sugar Puff since…), and to wish the ground would silently open up and swallow me whole.


Aged 16 actually squatting in an attempt to literally shrink. You see, it wasn’t just a metaphor.

I know how it feels to be desperate for approval – at any price: to be in a cruel, bullying relationship where an already fragile sense of self-worth was even further trampled on and eroded, and yet to still feel as though I should be grateful enough to settle for even that.

I know how it feels to want to shrink – to simply be smaller, neater…

…to be invisible.

I know how hard it feels to begin to run and to push through the mental and physical blocks which tell you “You can’t do this – you’re making a complete fool of yourself!“: to repeatedly come second-to-last in cross country at school, to be jeered – laughed at.

I know how it feels to hate putting those damn trainers on – especially in the early days when jog/walking was so ridiculously hard and monotonous that I loathed every miserable step.

In fact, I know how it feels to pray every single night to be someone else – anyone else – other than my own pitiful self.

BUT… I now know how it feels to have run over 50 half marathons, 7 full marathons and probably well over 500 races over all distances and terrains. I have an ever-expanding chapter of amazing running adventures: they are some of the most incredible experiences and memories of my life.


I’ve run, trained and raced on-road, off-road; flat and fast; hilly and muddy; short and sharp, long and arduous; right on our doorstep, in random far-flung never-heard-of-before places (Garstang…who knew; South Africa – slightly more exotic.), high-profile vs obscure events; amidst crowds of thousands and alongside a small handful of randoms. Hell, I’ve even raced where there was no way-marked, marshalled route (we were simply handed a map and told “Follow this, make sure you stop at all the checkpoints, and we’ll see you in 17 miles” – that was a tough one). I’ve raced in city centres (many), up and down the contours of countless hillsides, across fields – even over sand.

I’ve seen things I have never seen before, and will never see again.

I know how it feels to have taken my running fitness to a level I never believed possible.

I know how it feels to have run a marathon in 4h25 and also in 3h16; a half marathon in 2h25 and also in 90 minutes.

I know how it feels to have won countless prizes in my age category, to have had my name and mug shot in the local paper for my own mini-victory, small-fry race results… I even know what it feels like to win a race, having only last year experienced being first lady across the finishing line, and a couple of second and third place positions. Me! First female in a race! At 37 years old. If I were telling my teenage self that this would occur in her future, she would quite understandably laugh me out of town (as opposed to run me out of town: she couldn’t have done that.)


I know how it feels to have a body my 17 year old self used to pray for (let’s keep it real – she would have been easily pleased); to look better in jeans now than I did as a teenager (without an elasticated waist); I know how it feels to be so proud of my achievements that I can look my daughter in the eye and know that she sees a Mum who has some degree of self-worth.

My hope is that she sees what I never did – what is possible, instead of what is pitiful.


So, it’s time to unveil the next character in the stage play of my life, which some would describe as a tragicomedy, or – even more aptly – a farce.

Enter Stage Left… Oh no. Anything but the pantomime horse. (Give me the front end, at least).


4 thoughts on “The Story of an Unlikely Runner: The Contrast

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