The inconsistent runner
By Anne Rhodes, Tiny Tickers Head of Training
I’ve run on and off for most of my life… mostly off! I have been very inconsistent and have often gone years without running, only to begin all over again building up my fitness and distances.
I first started running in primary school. I had moved to a new school when I was eight years old and didn’t know any of the other children. I was quite shy and so, at lunchtime, I used to run across the school yard, from wall to wall, counting how many I could fit in . Each day, I would try to beat the previous day’s count!
When I got to secondary school, I joined the athletics team and also the Liverpool Harriers running club. I was a natural sprinter and ran the 100 metres. However, once I left school and started at university, I didn’t continue running.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I started to run again. I had lost my fitness at this point and starting again was really difficult. I would jog then walk and jog then walk and I started by going very short distances. I found it hard to breathe and was uncomfortable even in my throat. I would just listen to my body and slow down or walk for a bit.
I slowly increased the distance every couple of weeks and, eventually, I could jog the whole way. I took part in my first 5K ‘fun run’ which I found incredibly hard. Because I had heard it called a ‘fun run’ I actually thought it would be fun. I was surprised to see the amount of serious runners at the start line. Once I had completed it though, I felt a huge sense of achievement. I started to enter other organised runs like the Santa dash and even some 10K runs. I didn’t focus on how quickly I could finish, just that I did get over the finish line.
At 26 years of age I started a family with my husband and my running fell by the wayside. Once my youngest daughter was 12 months old, I started a post graduate university course in conjunction with my career. Life was extremely stressful at this point and so I started running again as an outlet. I had again lost my fitness and felt I was starting from the beginning.
Over the months I built up my distance. I wasn’t particularly interested in how fast I ran, but concentrated on the distance I covered. After six months of running three times a week, I felt comfortable to start entering more organised running events. This time, I kept up with my running and, a year later, I entered the Liverpool Half marathon. I couldn’t believe I had come this far. I still didn’t have any cares about how fast I ran, just that I completed the distance I had challenged myself to. I completed the half marathon without stopping and this spurred me on to enter a marathon.
I had already had rejections from ballots to enter the London Marathon yet I felt so ready to take on this challenge that I looked for another marathon. I didn’t have access to all the digital information we have now like GPS on a fitbit etc. and so I used to get in my car and work out a route. If I was doing a really long run, I would plan a route that went past a friend’s house and leave a bottle of water and some jelly babies behind the wall so I didn’t have to carry my water. I would run 3 times a week doing a short fast run over 2-3 miles, then a medium sized run 8-10 miles and then a long run of 15 miles.
I sustained a knee injury along the way, which put my training back, but I kept up the momentum of training 3 times a week. I didn’t follow any guidance on how to train properly for a marathon, I just did my own thing (which I would not recommend!) The week before my marathon, I ran my longest run of 20 miles which, looking back, was far too close to race day.
I entered the Shakespeare Rotary marathon on my 32nd birthday. This was the first time I wanted to get a good time in a run and I set myself the goal of under five hrs to complete it.
The marathon was a fantastic experience. The first five miles I flew along and felt absolutely fabulous. My knee injury reared its head and bothered me for the last ten miles, but I completed it in four hours and 57 minutes!
Then I did what I always do… I stopped running! I had another pregnancy and after my twins were born I had developed a heart arrhythmia. For the first few years after the twins were born I didn’t run at all. I would have occasional intentions of getting out there again, but as usual wasn’t consistent and lacked motivation.
I decided to join a running club to have the motivation of running with others, but found it very difficult to keep attending with four children at home. By this time, I was working full-time and divorced. This made it really difficult to find time for myself, and so I completely stopped running.
Roll on ten years (of very occasional running) and I joined the small but mighty charity, Tiny Tickers.
In 2019 aged 44 years, I suddenly decided to get out running again and encouraged my eldest daughter (who was then 17 years old) to join me in entering the Great North Run, while raising funds for Tiny Tickers.
We got out together on training runs and once again, I had to build my fitness up and start at the beginning with short jogs coupled with walking. It doesn’t get any easier and actually is quite frustrating to once have been able to run 10 miles to being back to doing a mile. I was weightier and really struggled to get round, but over time it did get easier. Surely by then my leg muscles had some memory of the miles I have clocked up!!
We completed the Great North Run and two years later my second daughter (who is now also 17 years old) and I entered the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Again this was to support Tiny Tickers.
Anne (second left) with her daughter (first left) and friends before running the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Tiny Tickers in 2021.
It was a fantastic experience and I feel encouraged to continue running at the moment.
It seems Tiny Tickers is my motivation. Although I wish to continue running, only time will tell if I will remain inconsistent!
The things I wish I did differently
- Kept motivated by running with a friend
- Combined my running with some strength and conditioning classes to have a more stable core
- Planned my marathon training better
- Rested when I was injured until fully healed
My top tips
- Having the correct footwear is essential. The right running shoe for whatever surface you need them for. Get your running gait checked and choose footwear that suits your running style. I overpronate, so I chose a shoe that suits my gait. Also good running socks will help prevent blisters.
- Don’t worry about how fast you are. If you run, you are a runner!
- Don’t have high expectations when you are starting out. I have had to start again over and over and it takes time to build up your mileage
- Have fun!
- Keep hydrated – water is an important nutrition for running successfully. The key to avoiding dehydration is to drink plenty the day before
- Ignore the idiots who beep and scream out of car windows.you are doing much better than they are
- Stay safe in the dark, invest in a good head or chest torch and reflective bands or go with a running partner or group
- Wear clothing you feel comfortable in
- Joining a group is motivating as you are less likely to drop out
- Keep a running journal. Document what the distance was and the time it took. Even what the weather was like and how you felt after each run. In a couple of months when you look back you will see how far you have come
Would you like to join Anne in running to make a big difference for tiny hearts? Find out how here.