As a baby, your parents wait with anticipation for your first steps and from that moment, you’re off. Children are encouraged to run around as much as possible when they’re little. In primary school, we had three breaktimes a day which were spent darting around the playground. If you asked a five-year-old whether they ever felt embarrassed whilst running, you would most likely be dismissed. However, if you asked a twelve-year-old girl, I am sure it would be a different story.
The start of secondary school can be rather unpleasant. For some, this big leap in education coincides with puberty, where they become more self-conscious and aware. When I started secondary school, I was full of enthusiasm for sport and committed myself to hockey and netball, but after a while, I became demotivated. I can’t speak for every girl or school, but in my experience, the PE teachers latch onto those who perform well at the start of year 7 and that’s that. You aren’t encouraged to train for fun or because you enjoy it. If you are not good enough to make the team, you will not be the focus, which leaves young girls feeling unsupported.
Unfortunately, I spent most of my teenage years thinking I was rubbish at sport and exercise, which continued throughout my first year at University. I enjoyed going to exercise classes every now and again, but that was pretty much it.
At the beginning of 2019, I read Bella Mackie’s book Jog On: How Running Saved My Life and I was completely inspired. However, no matter how much I tried to run, I was hesitant and never really got into it. I always felt like I looked stupid or I found my feet hurt, which looking back was just an excuse.
That all changed in August 2020, when my friend and I decided to start Couch to 5K at the same time, so we could finish it together when we got back to Exeter. Initially, I never thought I’d get to the end, but with every run, it got a bit easier and I started to feel freer and a little less self-conscious. After about twelve weeks, I was running thirty minutes without stopping and I haven’t looked back. I am fully converted and last week, I managed my first 7K. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that she’d fall in love with running; she’d never believe it.
Everyone knows that exercise is good for your health, but what is often overlooked is that it’s equally as good for your mind. I’ve got so much more from running than fitness. Starting my day with a run helps me gain some clarity and perspective when I’m overwhelmed. It gives me such a good mindset and it makes me feel like I’ve achieved something. I’ve always struggled with body confidence but now I feel much more confident and happier, and I’m certain that I have running to thank for that (you can’t fault those endorphins). I’m not really interested in how fast or how far I run, I just enjoy it. Even when I have a bad run, I still feel good for going and my head feels a bit clearer.
If you have any sort of desire to run – GO! You won’t regret it. Just turn your music up and move your feet. I wish I could go back in time and start Couch to 5K sooner, but as the saying goes, better late than never.
– Maggie John
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