Run, Rachel Run: One woman’s pledge to step away from the spreadsheet

28 Jun 2017

I’ve just seen my running nemesis. I didn’t know that was ‘a thing’ until about 6 months ago. But it is. And, she’s very real. Nemesis is probably the wrong word. Because she looks lovely, always says hello and I’m sure she’s the sort of person that if we met in different circumstances we’d end up being friends. I guess she’s more of an ideal that I’m aiming for – but hey, that sounds far less dramatic and its harder to describe. Anyway, she looks very professional in her running gear, never looks hot and bothered, goes out in all weathers - and still looks composed! She makes me feel guilty every time I see her out pounding the pavements (and I’m in the car) and on the odd occasion I do pass her when I’m out running I have to readjust my posture and dig deep (without the gurning) in order to save face. Pathetic behaviour for a grown woman, huh? Well, I never said I was perfect.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have never been any good at sport. I’m not sure whether it was a result of nature, nurture or attending a school that incorporated hill runs up Latrigg (in driving Lake District rain clad in maroon knickers) within their compulsory curriculum. My games teacher wrote on my report one year that I had made a very good start to ‘gentle cross-country jogging’ and in hockey matches I was always told to ‘go out wide’ and wait at the edges… I would do anything I could to get out of PE and throughout the years I have continued my aversion to team sports and exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not been a couch potato. I have walked for miles to and from work whilst living in Newcastle and London, have traversed many thousands of miles exploring cities across the world (hello NYC street grids!) and have danced the equivalent lifespan of several small children. When my daughter was a baby I used to push that pram for miles but an everyday exercise routine? No sir-ee. The closest I got was going to the gym for a few weeks but that was cut short when an encounter with kettle bells left me unable to change gear for several days.

As my lifestyle has changed I have had to find other ways to keep active and healthy. Moving back to Cumbria meant less walking within my working day thanks to commuting around the county and school runs. Launching my own business and working from home has meant even more hours spent in front of a desk and less flexibility to fit in classes or go back to the dreaded gym.

And then I had an archetypal lightbulb moment. I discovered running…

I can’t even remember what made me take it up. I had spent my whole life not understanding people who loved exercise and who waxed lyrical about the benefits and all of a sudden, I realised that they had been right, and I had been wrong (a very bitter pill to swallow!).

I’m under no illusion. I’m actually quite rubbish at running. Unlike my nemesis, I do not look good in running gear. In fact, my gear can barely be described as gear. It’s all very low key, very un-sporty, inexpensive but absolutely does the job. The only thing I’ve splashed out on is a decent pair of running shoes to reduce the risk of injury. No-one likes running in uncomfortable shoes. I don’t run for hours at a time, I generally look hot and bothered (in all weathers) and my style and grace leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, let’s be honest, there is no style and grace. I use a free running app and listen to a variety of music. Maybe if I focused more on the running and less on the singing I might make more progress but if I’m honest, I’m all about the enjoyment.

I’m lucky to live where I live. Even out of my window I can see the fells and my running route takes me past farmer’s fields and sunshine soaked, or snow topped peaks, depending on the season. I try and run every other day, although at times that can be hard. My partner works away during the week so in the evenings I’m at home with my daughter and I have to work around school hours. But depending on what meetings I have I try and cram a run in during the day, first thing in the morning after school run, just before school pick up or sometimes in the window between dropping my daughter off at an activity and picking her up again. At weekends and on holiday I try and get up and go in the mornings. Obviously, this doesn’t always happen (but in mornings of doubt I can sometimes motivate myself by asking ‘What would my running nemesis do?’)

Since I started running, quite a few friends have asked me if I want to join them and I’ve politely, but firmly, turned them down. I use my running time as an escape. In a busy life, it is a short period of time that is just for me. Sometimes I work through problems, sometimes I play around with copy and wording for an article I’m writing, sometimes I add up hours and work out availability. Other days I simply clear my mind and think about nothing.

Whatever it is I’m thinking about, the end result is the same. I have more energy, I feel motivated and I can focus on whatever it is that needs to be done. My back doesn’t hurt as much and I just feel generally more alert and in a better position to deal with what life throws at me. I will never be sporty or make waves in the running world but I love it and although I’m not one for clichés, I can honestly say, it makes me a better person. I don’t for one minute think my way is the right way for everyone and I wouldn’t push my habits on anyone else. I have friends who regularly go to the gym and swear by their spinning class, friends who do fell running, friends who do yoga and Pilates. There’ll be plenty of people reading this who think that badly dressed, gentle, part-time joggers who listen to Phil Collins are in fact pretty lame (I know, it’s hard to believe, right!?) So, whatever way you choose to stay active, it must be the right thing for you. You may already do it, it may take years to find it, but I’m sure it will have positive effects on you, your capacity to deliver, your business and your overall well-being.

And if you see me out running, please give me a wave. I may have just come up with a fantastic new strapline, be in the throes of sorting out a complex spreadsheet problem or having an epiphany about a social media campaign. Of course, I may also just be enjoying an atmospheric 80s drumming intro…

Looking for ways to stay active? In Cumbria, there is plenty to choose from. Walking, running, mountain biking, canoeing, ghyll scrambling, horse riding, paragliding, cheerleading – the opportunities are endless. There’s a myriad of clubs, associations and groups to join across the county and there are many outdoor centres, companies and organisations offering activities, classes and experiences. Groups and clubs range in price and standards across the county. There are opportunities to progress through stages and improve your abilities and performance. Many schools offer excellent sporting programmes and opportunities and there are lots of amateur, professional and volunteer-led organisations.

(and of course, lone, badly dressed runners are spoilt for choice in terms of scenic routes, both landlocked and coastal).

You can also read this blog on the fantastic Choose Cumbria website.