Monthly Archives: January 2014

Why I run…

The journey from saying I wanted to run a marathon to actually completing it was one of the most challenging and surprising I’ve ever undertaken. As I approached my 50th birthday my life was relatively comfortable, interesting and packed – my work was challenging, I regularly played tennis to a good club standard and was surrounded by good friends and a close-knit, loving family.  Yet, there was something indefinable missing. As my birthday approached I realised the thing I’d denied myself for decades was the inherent desire to run, not to just venture out for the odd jog but to actually focus on trying to be the best runner I could be, to see just how far and fast I could go.

Why I swim…

Swimming came first. I love being in water and, for as long as I can remember, I always have. On holidays, as a child, I would always manage to fall into any nearby lake or pond, just to be in the water. I dreamt of being a mermaid.

I can’t actually remember learning to swim, nor learning to read for that matter, I don’t think I found either particularly difficult. From my last year at junior school for a couple of years, I would get up very early on Saturday mornings and walk the couple of miles into town to the swimming pool for training sessions.

On completing my first mile I was awarded 40 free passes to the Olympic-sized pool in Coventry (about 12 miles away) and would go there on Saturday evenings for training sessions. I was not a particularly fast swimmer but I was very determined to improve. I joined the local swimming club and swam in club and school galas. I was good but not outstanding. If the excellent swimmers didn’t turn up I had a good chance of winning. But it wasn’t about the winning or the medals – it wasn’t then and it isn’t now – it was about seeing how far I could push myself, how much I could improve.

My brief swimming career came to an abrupt end when I picked up a cluster of verrucas. In those early days this meant I couldn’t swim until they’d gone – it took a year of painful treatment! The return to competitive swimming was a disaster for me – I had completely lost my nerve. I stopped half-way through a race, unable to breathe. Somehow I resumed and got to the end, last, and to a huge round of applause but that was it.  With no one to support or encourage me, I vowed I would never swim competitively again…

…I started swimming regularly again in my mid-30s and twice swam the Swimathon (5000m) before I was 40. Swimming became my regular exercise and at least 4 times a week (usually more) I swam before breakfast. I still had it in mind that I would not swim competitively but then with my running I discovered aquathons. Combining the old (swimming) and new (running) in a very low key way seemed like a fun thing to do – and it is! All my old fears and phobias disappeared with my first race. Of course I still get nervous but I feel safe in a swimming pool now, having swum probably thousands of lengths if not miles and in events that are run like time-trials, I don’t feel exposed.

Why I cycle…

Cycling was my transport as a child and my passport to freedom. I lived a couple of miles from a market town surrounded by villages, farms and today a network of motorways. My friends were scattered around so walking and cycling were common. Many summer days were spent out on long cycle rides and picnics. For a chunk of my London years too my bike was my transport so it feels natural. Increasing speed on my bike is a continuing learning curve, I just need to get my saddle comfort sorted out!

Why I compete…

In most races I am competing against myself, trying to improve or reach a specific time target and to achieve this I’ll use others around me to push or pull me. The most satisfaction I feel is not winning medals and prizes – although they are an added bonus – but in achieving personal best times and the sense that I have pushed myself as hard as I can. This, of course, becomes increasingly difficult as I get older and more experienced so improving my age-grading is becoming my new target. In December 2013 I achieved my first 90% age-grading – it happened to be in 3000m – and I would love to replicate that at other distances. In truth, the endorphin buzz from racing and particularly at shorter distances is probably my main driving force.