I’ve always been a pretty active person. Growing up, I was a competitive swimmer which meant training several times a week, and I was also a dancer, studying ballet, tap and jazz right up until I was 18. I went through a phase as a teenager where I hated PE and was a right lazy sod, but I joined my local leisure centre gym in sixth form and never looked back. Long distance running though, was something that I never really got on board with.
Fast forward to a Sunday morning in 2017. I’d been out the night before and was feeling really worse for wear after a few too many jager bombs. Hangover anxiety had kicked in, I felt bloody awful and I was sat sloth-like on the sofa, watching the BBC Wales coverage of the Cardiff Half Marathon.
It was a strange time in my life. I was loving my first ever graduate job which I had started a few months before, I really loved the freedom of having my own little flat in Cardiff, and I had such a fun group of friends so life was never boring. They were arguably some of the best times I’ve had, but seeing these people running and giving their all made me realise that I had started living for the weekends and was being too easily influenced. I missed my old self and my appreciation for the little things. In hindsight, I guess I was figuring life out and finding myself, as most people do in their early twenties, but I wanted things to change.
As I was watching these amazing people taking on the Cardiff Half, with crowds of people cheering them on their way, I knew this was something I wanted to achieve. I felt such a buzz and could just imagine the feeling of crossing the finish line and achieving this goal after months of dedicated time and energy. I signed up to the Cardiff Half Marathon 2018 shortly afterwards, and that was that.
My first few runs were slow and steady. I’d go on the treadmill at my local gym and would challenge myself to running further and further each time. I eventually started venturing outdoors and signed myself up to a 10km race, with my goal being to run the whole way, no matter how slowly, without stopping.
As my speed and stamina improved, I ran further and more frequently, and after months of training, I achieved my goal of completing the Cardiff Half at the end of the year. The feeling afterwards was immense. I actually felt quite emotional on the last leg of the race, seeing people cheering on the roadside with flags and banners really spurred me on. It was such an incredible feeling and I realised right then that I loved running!
Since then I have run a few more races (many were postponed thanks to Covid) and even joined a running club (something else that was short-lived thanks to Covid). I now run 2-3 times a week and I absolutely love it. It has completely changed my life and, as far as I’m concerned, all for the better.
Running has made me more focused. It’s a relief. It’s a hobby that has made me appreciate being outdoors and it has allowed me to embrace everything that is around me, no matter what the weather. It may be a beautifully warm July evening, with a gentle breeze blowing through the branches and leaves of trees above my head as a I pound the park path below. Or it could be bloody freezing, with a biting wind and pouring rain on a dark January night, and I’d still feel great afterwards.
Running makes me less cranky. It helps to ease my anxiety and nervous energy. In lockdown it has been an absolute godsend and has enabled me to get out and reach places further from home as I clock up the miles. It has been an escapism and I loved those long runs after work in the summer, letting me be free from my flat for a little while. It was also really helpful to me in those bleak January days. Lockdown 3.0 hit hard and with nothing to do after work, I would force myself out into the darkness. It was tough but it really helped.
I went from loathing running, to now almost craving it. I still enjoy other forms of exercise including walking and hiking, gym classes and yoga, but I just love the feeling of being out in the open and breathing in the fresh air. In short, running makes me feel alive.
Run Wales are currently encouraging everyone to get out and enjoy running with their #FromMyDoor campaign. They want to encourage a new movement of runners in 2021, and you can get involved. Over 350,000 people took themselves out of their four walls to run during the 2020 lockdown, so let’s try and get even more people out this coming year! Lockdown is unbelievably difficult, but running has provided me with freedom and I’d encourage everyone to get involved if you can. You don’t have to run far or fast, you can even walk, and you can find more information about the campaign here.