Hi, I’m the barefoot sub, and I love to run.
There, I said it. I hold my hands up.
It hasn’t always been the case. I can still feel my first memory of running as clearly as if it was yesterday. I was 14, and I wasn’t athletic. We had cross country and of all the girls in my year I came fourth. Ahead of the county representative runners. And how did I celebrate? By crying in the changing rooms for half an hour after everyone else had gone home for the day. My teacher couldn’t understand why I was so upset, having done so well. I wasn’t upset. Not at all. I was proud of myself, for completing something I never believed possible, and in a way I never believed possible.
But I didn’t enjoy running at that point.
I was into mountain biking and rugby, netball and hockey. Muddy things. Gritty things. Competitive team work. Tactics. Problem solving. But not running. My brother and I would watch the local running club trot past us on their weekly jaunt while we sped home on our bikes, covered in mud.
It didn’t hold any appeal… at all!
And so I continued with my life, grew up, danced, partied and got married. Soon after I married I had my head buried in a Times newspaper, flicking through I found myself reading about a run that made me stop and take notice. The Spartathlon became a source of interest, and I started to hunt out books and articles on it. I couldn’t explain this fascination, but it was there.
And it was growing.
Which was obviously complete madness, because I had no love of running. I hadn’t run since school, and had no desire to.
Until I got bitten by the Race For Life bug. I started to train, followed the plan religiously. Raised money in memory of my dad. Even wiggled my scantily clad bottom at the van drivers who wolf whistled me as I ran past them in my shorts. But when it came to the event I was overwhelmed by the occasion. All those people, celebrating their recovered family members or grieving those lost. It took me an hour to walk around that crowded 5k route, trying desperately not to cry. Failing miserably and utterly inconsolable.
That was it. No more running for me!
Well, you’d think wouldn’t you? Two runs, both ending in tears. Or maybe not.
My marriage, even at this early stage, was… tricky. My social nights on the boat with my friends (the boat boys) had been replaced by nights on the playstation, smoking and drinking with his friends. My new, permitted friends. One of these was a lady, runnerS. She was talking about running and the club that she was a part of. After a couple of beers and some smokes I had decided that I could beat her at running. So she said she would head to mine the following morning and we would run to hers for breakfast. Well, obviously, I didn’t beat her. After that we ran together regularly until I realised I was pregnant with my first son. She took me to my first 10k race, it was amazing. I came home fifth from last, but this time I had a smile on my face. We had stones thrown at us by youths on the local sea front, our running route.
We laughed, had fun, became good friends.
I gained a lot of weight with my first son, and in the aftermath of the emergency caesarean and subsequent post-natal depression. What I know now is that running would have helped both of these things, but at the time I didn’t know. One thing that helped get me through was planning. I decided that I wanted to run a marathon by the time I was 35, and would be running the Spartathlon by the time I turned 50.
Complete daydreams at that point, no real drive to do it, but the seed was there.
Through courses I was able to gain confidence and understanding. I started to lose weight and tentatively started running again. This time it was different. This time I used it as a means of escape. To get away from the child that I didn’t believe I could care for. To get away from the man who thought I was such a terrible mum. To get out of the house that became like a prison. The daydreams were there, but I wasn’t ready to start working towards them. I was too busy running away from my responsibilities to think about where I was going. There were races, more fundraising, PBs, reaching my goal weight.
But that was all.
No spark, no love. Just going through the motions. I kept at it though. Until getting out of the house became such a battle. When I wasn’t at work I was needed to cook, clean, care for my son and husband. Nope, I wasn’t allowed out. They couldn’t manage without me. My depression took hold again, and I sought talking therapies. Then number two came along. I used the skills I had learnt in my counselling and started to train again. This time fighting for my time, I would put my boys to bed, make him a smoke, put dinner on and run. The come back flushed before gritting my teeth through the physical checks he would put me through on my return. But I stuck with it. And when number 2 was a year old I had my first race, an obstacle course run. It was hard work, but great fun.
Completely different to the road runs I had done previously.
It was here that I met Sir. There was some common ground with my chosen sport, and he was always pleased to hear about my runs. I kept going during my separation, joined a rowing club and found it a huge benefit to my running. But then I hurt my back, aggravated an old injury, and everything stopped. I got to a point where I could run again, and then moved house. No support left me with no time to run. No running and freedom from the pressure of those who knew me led to my brain letting go and the long process of rebuilding began. Unfortunately I turned to food while I was unwell and by t he time I was ready to run it wouldn’t have been safe. So I waited. And then Sir came back and held my hand again. Knowing my long term goals, and my fighting spirit, he set me on a path to achieving those goals. But for every single thing I tick off of my running bucket list there is another goal that gets tagged on to the bottom. In the process of achieving these targets I have discovered a love of running. A pure, unadulterated joy and appreciation of the world around me and the body that I live in.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that I found myself on the trails.
I started running head first into the world that I have created for myself. In the last year I have spoken to strangers at races, randomly they open up to me about their kinks. I know not why, but I have added some wonderful mischief makers to my contacts list. I have helped to get some of my favourite people out on the trails. And I have spoken to a group of 8-11 year olds about running, and what it means to me. It is as much a part of me as my kinks (perhaps my sport of choice is even a kink of mine?) and when I can’t run I can find it very challenging. The thought of a world without the freedom to just head out under the big sky makes me sad, and as long as I feel this way I shall continue. When I think about that first running goal I feel a little overwhelmed, but I have plans and they will get me there. Just like, over the years, I have achieved my drunken claim to being able to beat runnerS.
But what then?
Sometimes, when I have a new set of tasks from Sir I can feel a little bit sick, my heart can catch in my throat. Not because I don’t want to complete them (I always have the right to say no) but because they challenge and stretch me. A documentary popped up on my facebook timeline some months ago and as I watched it I felt that familiar sense of formidable determination. I hope I never outrun my joy of running.
I have too many goals to achieve.