Horror...sheer abject horror was the word that came to mind when I thought about running. All of my early experiences of running had been those of humiliation, embarrassment and torture. You may be thinking extreme words or they may be words that resonate with you!
It started very early when I was at primary school and those days of sports days. I was the one who never got a sticker and used to cry before I had to do it. I never liked having people looking at me and I can recall one particular time where at primary school I had been given the role of the innkeepers wife in the nativity and I stood for the whole time with my arm across my face. I digress from the running but it gives my story additional context!!
Humiliation continued into secondary education where cross country running was compulsory event of Winter PE...again I came last and further compounded my hatred of running. I actually thought that it couldn't get any worse but oh I was wrong! Moving to a different school brought house athletics and everyone was obliged and expected to contribute to the event. On this particular occasion the 800m was chosen for me to represent the house in ... well if I said that it was traumatic that would be an understatement.
BANG...the race began...I started with everyone else but quickly the others pulled away from me and before I knew people had started to lap me...then as I was completing the first lap some of the other runners had finished!! Very quickly everyone had finished and I was still plodding on ...it felt as though I had been running for a lifetime. At this point I will mention that I was born with footballer's knees and tree trunks for legs- in other words I was not built for speed. I felt as though the torture would never end and then it became worse...cheering and jeering came from the entire school that was watching. I couldn't escape it - ironically I wanted to run away but my tree trunks for legs would't let me- I could't shift any quicker. It really seemed like I had been running forever when I finally crossed the finishing line the noise from the crowd continued ...in that moment I had visions that they would all remember my lack of sporting prowess forever!
Ultimately this was the event that saw me swear I would never run again...I had learnt that I couldn't do it and if I did try I was ridiculed by all.
27 years later I can't say what happened as I really don't know but something inside me decided to go for a run - at the age of 37 I ran again. I wonder whether it was that I was approaching 40 - which is where I am now - and I didn't want to be unfit or maybe it was time to chase some demons away.
The first time was hideous and to be honest I still feel like that but I now focus on how much better I will feel once I have done it. It wasn't until I had run about 5 times that I decided to purchase some purpose made running trainers rather than my trusty New Balance that I'd had for about 10 years. It took me about 8 months to commit and buy some running leggings. In the July of that first year I did the Race for Life in Scarborough - only 5K but at least I had done it - I felt fab!
I ran in the early mornings and I continue to do that, even on a weekend, as if I am up too late I miss my window of opportunity to go out when there is no-one else about. I still don't want people to see me. I have gradually become a bit quicker but not massively and there continues to be those days when I can't bare it and I want to turn back as soon as I have set off but I have to plough on even if I end up walking most of it!
Where I am now in my running is ok for me. I still run early mornings, the furthest I have done is 5K and my goal is to get my 5K below 30 minutes. I dream of doing a marathon or longer races but in reality I haven't got the time to dedicate as I run before work so limitations on time. Now I use running as a time to think and plan my printing work. I collect things on my run like leaves, twigs, flowers stones etc - basically what I can get in my running jacket pockets. Running is a main part of the inspiration for my work but not that actual running is the inspiration but that things I see when I am going round.
I think for me running or starting to run has been about getting rid of fears, challenging myself, increasing fitness but also about starting a new chapter for myself. Starting this means that I have allowed myself to let go of things from the past and forge a career as a lino artist and surface pattern designer.
What I held in fear has been the catalyst to starting something new.