I started running in January 2019 as part of a personal challenge to complete a year-long runstreak. My brother in law Steve had passed away just a few weeks earlier, very unexpectedly following surgery to remove a brain tumour, and I wanted a positive way to deal with my grief, as well as to fundraise for families with similar experiences to my own. I started with the Couch to 5k app, progressed onto 10k, then my first half marathon in the September and by the 31st December 2019, I had not only ran almost 800 miles but we had raised over £5500 for The Brain Tumour Charity, all in Steve's memory.
Those 12 months of running one mile every day gave me a window of time just to myself, to think and process, to mourn and grieve. It was time for me to switch off from being a mum of four children who had also lost their beloved uncle and to have the opportunity for my grief and mental wellbeing to take priority. On particularly tough days I ran harder or faster than normal if that's what my mind needed. On other days I would stop and admire the scenery, quietness, and calm, appreciating just how fortunate I was/am to be able to run.
Running throughout lockdown in 2020 continued to give me that positive outlet. The fresh air, reaching training goals and the sense of 'normal' gave me something to focus on while we all went through the unknown. Now, as lockdown restrictions are lifting, I have the chance to train with both my running and triathlon clubs, catching up with friends and teammates, learning new skills and continuing to challenge myself positively.
We're very fortunate to have so many beautiful country parks, bridleways and cycle routes in Northamptonshire where running is free and other activities are available, such as open water swimming, cycling, nature walks or forest school. If you're wanting to start running but are not sure how to get going, I cannot praise the free Couch to 5k app enough. The name is misleading - you're aiming to run continuously for 30 minutes by the end of the programme, so forget about the distance you've covered. I followed the programme on outdoor runs and on a treadmill, used it to get around my local parkrun on a Saturday morning and repeated weeks where I just felt I needed more time to build up. Look at what walk/run routes your local country park has to offer and go explore and if you need to stop to catch your breath or to walk up a hill, then do so - go at your pace and no one else's.
The minimum distance each day for my run streak was one mile, a distance which even at what some may say is a 'very slow pace' (it's not and it doesn't matter about how fast or slow you are, what you look like when running or what kit you're wearing), should take no more than 20 minutes. Make time in your day for just 20 minutes for yourself, for your mental health and wellbeing, and get out and run!