In 2006 I had just come out of a really crappy relationship and I was 18 stone. Not only was I overweight, by a lot, I was on medication for my blood pressure and to control my cholesterol and if all that wasn’t bad enough I was smoking 20 fags a day.
I had been to the Doctor who said that if I didn’t drastically change something about my lifestyle I was heading for a Stroke. I thought he was being melodramatic. I was in denial. I was overweight and ill. I felt and looked like warmed up shit.
My friend’s told me that because I was tall I carried my weight well and that you would never be able to guess I was 18 stone. That carried me along in my denial for a while. The blood pressure medication was awful, I sweated like a racehorse constantly which, as a fat person, made me ten times more uncomfortable. I couldn’t wear less layers because I had to cover up the fat. So I was hot, sweaty fat and miserable. Until one day a friend told me I looked ill. She was brutally honest and said I looked heavy, uncomfortable and unwell. I was unwell. This was in March 2006. She suggested we sign up for the Cardiff Half Marathon in the October and although we wouldn’t be able to train together because she lived in London, we would run it together in October.
So, I quit the fags and I downloaded a beginner’s walk to run half marathon plan. This, I decided, was IT.
The first run was horrendous. It was daytime. I was huge and I was out of breath. I had to run for ten seconds and then walk for 90 and I had to do that 6 times. I ran around the lake in the local park in front of actual people. I thought I was going to die, either through lack of oxygen or of shame. I didn’t die though, I became obsessed. Obsessed with ticking the boxes off my training plan and obsessed with weighing my food and calculating every single calorie that passed my lips.
I signed up for a Race 4 Life. It was my first ever 5k but I knew there was no pressure as I knew some people would walk it. I was ecstatic at the end. My first ever medal. It was a huge moment. My next race was Swansea 10k. This race was a big deal, it was a proper race. There were people at this race wearing running club vests. Oh my god, would they find out I wasn’t a real runner, I was sure I was going to make a huge tit of myself. I ran that first 10K in 1:10 and in twelve years of running that remains my 10K PB. I didn’t die and no-one found out I was an amateur. There was no flashing sign above my head that said “newbie” and that’s when I found out that the running community is one of the most welcoming you will ever find.
By the time October came around I was 11 and a half stone. The Doctor had stopped my blood pressure medication as I no longer needed it and my cholesterol was normal. In 7 months I had lost 6 and a half stone and sorted my health out. My mental health was still not great but I had found a way to manage it, by running. My friend ran the half with me like she promised and we ran it in 2:24. That also remains by PB for that distance. 2006 was a year of transformation for me, the transformation was physical. I was still a fat person in my head and that’s still how I saw myself. Even though I’d gone from a size 20 to a size 12 I was still the same fat girl with low self esteem.
It was great losing all the weight and my health definitely benefitted from it. I kept the weight off for three years but now twelve years later I’m a size 20 again. But I still love running and I still love what running gives me. I’ve learnt loads about myself and about running over the last 12 years. I’ve done over 30 half marathons, countless 10 and 5ks, 4 full marathons and one Ultra Marathon. Out of those 50 odd races I only did 3 of them when I was skinny. You don’t have to be skinny to be a runner. You just have to put your trainers on and run.
For me, running is 5% physical ability and 95% what my brain believes I can do. I’m back to my heaviest and I will run the hardest marathon of my life in 6 weeks time. I’m not advocating being overweight and I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to be skinny again one day. What I am saying is that I won’t let my weight stand between me and running. Hopefully I can and will lose the weight and carrying all the weight definitely makes running harder. But, running is always teaching me new lessons and what running taught me this weekend is that running doesn’t care whether you are fat or thin or fast or slow. My trainers still fit whatever my weight. Running loves you if you love running.