I have this theory that running finds you when you need it most. Let’s face it, starting to run is really hard. Going from walking to constant running takes time and determination. Pushing your body feels unpleasant. The voices in your head tell you to stop. Feeling out of breath, sweating and a racing heart aren’t always nice sensations.

People often start and fail and start again and then every now and then someone keeps going, works through it and running becomes a regular and essential part of their lives. What is it that makes the difference?
Now I’m at a point when I know the power of running and how it helps me in my everyday life, ambitions and dreams, I can’t imagine my life without it. I’ve heard myself and others say, “I wish I’d started running years ago”. It’s easy to look back and think how running could have helped me in past years. How those years as a junior doctor might have been easier if I’d realised how a good run would help me after a hundred hour week to process the emotions, fear and vulnerability I felt.

How, despite the fatigue, a quick 15 minute run would have improved my mental wellbeing after the birth of my first baby who never slept and reduced me to a quivering mess. But despite this, I know that they weren’t the right times for ME to fall in love with running. Yes, there’s no doubt that running would have helped me but I wasn’t receptive or ready and it wasn’t my time.

I tried to run in the past. My friend and I decided we liked the idea of going for a jog when we were medical students in about 1992. We made the classic mistakes of going too fast and setting unrealistic expectations. We hated it and only went a handful of times before we reverted to the PopMobility class in the gym instead.

I tried again in 2000 when I was a junior doctor. As newlyweds, my husband and I decided to train for a half marathon. Again, I made classic errors, did too much too soon and got knee pain. I know now it was runner’s knee and probably ITB syndrome but the pain was pretty bad as soon as I started running. Every run was a struggle and I assumed it wasn’t doing me any good, so I stopped. I had enough challenges at work, I didn’t need a self-induced one.

All credit to my husband who did run the half marathon. He didn’t run after it for many many years but discovered it again, a few yers ago when, like me, he really needed it.

Running found me 11 years ago. My third child was a few months old, I was flabby and unfit and with three children under five I needed something that I could have control over. I needed time away from noise. I needed to find myself again, to rekindle my ambition and drive, to remember who I was. I was absolutely loving being a mother and thriving in that identity but I knew I’d lost something else along the way.

The time was right, the circumstances were right. Something at that point made it work when it hadn’t worked before. I had to take it slowly because I could only move slowly and I only had short periods of time that I could be out of the house. I had a friend in exactly the same boat. The joy of simply being in the fresh air, away from everyone, to have an uninterrupted conversation with my friend, or myself was immense. To see the effects it had on my child bearing body. Time to dream, to realise that I could take on a challenge.

I needed to be striving towards something and I badly needed the positive rewards that reaching your targets gives you. It was liberating and empowering.

My story is nothing special. I see, hear and read more dramatic examples in other’s stories. I read Bella Mackie’s piece in the Guardian about how running helped her when her marriage ended and she was overwhelmed with anxiety. I was struck by her words:

Throughout my life, if I couldn’t do something well on the first attempt, I was prone to quit. It was embarrassingly clear to me that I was not running well, or getting better at it. And yet, much to my own quiet disbelief, I carried on.

This is just one of many examples of how running often finds people in their darkest hours and at the time they need it most. Looking back at my failed attempts, I didn’t need running in the same way at those points of my life. Yes, the mistakes I made didn’t set me up for success but I still experienced the post run highs and personal achievements yet that wasn’t enough to keep me going. When I really needed it, when the benefits of running were exactly the things I required, when the power of running was my best medicine, it worked. I believe running found me when I needed it most and I’ll be forever grateful.

I’d love to hear how when and how running found you. If you’ve tried running in the past and thought it didn’t suit you, then don’t be put off, try again, you never know …

Similar Posts


  1. Love this! What great encouragement to people who have tried in the past to give it a go again. It was my husband’s idea to start running in 1994. He gave up pretty quickly (although came back to it a few times and is really into it now). In those days I ran a couple of miles a few times a week. I ran even less when my children were small, but I never stopped. In recent years, it is parkrun which has motivated me more than anything.

  2. I’m 59 now. I was an athletic teenager and through my 20’s when exercise was easy. Then i left it all behind until I was about 52. Did a bit of running . 10ks and Half Marathons. Then my knee gave up . Just before my 57th birthday I was watching my wife run a half marathon and I had a Cardiac Arrest at the finish line . I wasn’t running just went dizzy and keeled over.
    A GP was in the run and she felt my pulse go. But she kept up the CPR.
    We ( GP and I) are now the closest of friends despite our big age gap. We run together and i laugh and feel alive again . Knee is still shot though . But its a small price to pay for a good run.
    Never give up , keep running

  3. i had run while at uni and on and off after that. it became part of me when i was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. before diabetes, the possibility of running was always there. diabetes made me want to be SURE i could run….and bike and swim, without dying (haha). i have done mountain races and triathlon. i would have never done this without diabetes, because i would have seen no barriers except will power. now it is different. i am killing it with diabetes.

  4. I totally agree with you on this. I am 57 years old my man was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma August 2014 I nursed him until he passed away Dec 2016. I found running when he became terminal and his mental health was poor. I was struggling to keep everything going working full time nursing dave and 3 children . I started coach to 5k really struggled with it at the beginning but made wonderful friends which helped me mentally cope with my loss. I love running outside whatever the weather the sense of achievement and happiness it brings me is unmeasurable. my running buddies have been amazing we laugh and chat as we run it pure joy. I have since ran 2 half marathon many 10ks and park runs a triathlon the great south run and I am now training for the Athens half marathon in march. I think dave would be proud and amazed at my achievement . running has helped me cope with grief I would recommend it to anyone in similar situations.

    1. I think you’ve made a great point, that it’s often the wonderful people that you meet through running that keep you going with support – physically and mentally. I can’t begin to imagine how hard that must have been (and still is) for you. It sounds like running really helped. And so many congratulations on your running career! Athens will be fantastic! I’m sure Dave would be so proud!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *