Is it just me or do you find that your running journey is a bit of a roller coaster? Exhilarating, unpredictable, fun and occasionally nauseating! I’ve been running now for eleven years and there have been many twists and turns, loops and ups and downs but I’m still on that rollercoaster and currently reflecting on my journey and keen to get others to board too.

I hopped into that rollercoaster carriage not long after the birth of my third child. I needed to make a journey, I wasn’t sure where to but plenty of other people were on board and seemed to be smiling and having a good time so I thought I’d give it a go. Thankfully my friend Nicky agreed to get on with me, its always easier with someone for support. I questioned many times during those first few months why on earth I had boarded. All the cart seemed to do was go up and up a really steep hill and make me feel sick, out of breath and uncomfortable. I really couldn’t see why everyone seemed to think this particular roller coaster was fun!

I changed my mind after a loop, a 10k loop. I was scared and I never intended to stay on any longer than that. I just wanted to do one loop but the pure joy of the ascent followed by a terrifying down hill, a loop the loop and very steep ascent to dizzy heights, left me wanting more. I’d had to be brave to do it. Everyone else in the cart told me I’d be fine, they seemed so experienced. Despite my worries, I didn’t fall out, vomit or even wet myself. I was OK. I loved it. I started to see why everyone else was staying on board and I wanted to see what was coming next.

I had a real ‘bring it on’ attitude after that 10k loop and was well prepared for the steep ascent to the half marathon loop. I learnt about what I could eat and drink whilst on this roller coaster and started to see that actually being on it was making me feel well – healthier and happier. The happiness side of it was a big, wonderful surprise to me. The half marathon loop was bigger and longer but that meant the high it climbed to afterwards was taller too. I was so proud when I did that loop, my Dad came to watch and cheer from the side-lines. It was a roller coaster he had no intention of getting on but he enjoyed watching it.

I started to believe that maybe I was fully entitled to be on this roller coaster after all. I hadn’t felt I fitted in, I didn’t look like all the others. I wasn’t wearing the right clothes and they all seemed to be talking about stuff I didn’t understand. Turns out they were a friendly bunch, so welcoming and before I knew it I was quite comfortable joining in the conversations and realised it didn’t matter in the slightest what I looked like or wore. In fact, the more I looked about, the more I discovered that there were all shapes, sizes, ages and types of people on board. More and more diversity was getting on this roller coaster and I found myself shouting out to onlookers telling them to get on too. I found I was particularly good at getting the women to hop on, being able to reassure them that they did belong and if they could just find the courage to jump on for a little bit and make it past the 5k or 10k loop, then they’d find they enjoyed it and wouldn’t want to get off.  I even wrote a book to try to help the overcome their reasons for not getting on. I didn’t want them to miss out!

The natural progression was to the marathon loop but in my mind that was just for serious roller coaster riders and not me. It took me a couple of years on the track to pluck up the courage to give it a go. I’d had a few ups and downs and smaller loops in the meantime and was feeling a bit more experienced. Nicky had stayed on the roller coaster too and together we decided that we’d be brave, hold hands if we needed to but just do it. Blimey, it was a bumpy old journey on the way to that marathon loop. So many bends in the track and unexpected break downs but I think that’s what made it so special. The hugest loop you’ve ever seen with a crazily high ascent afterwards. Everyone on the roller coaster at that time was crying, laughing and flinging their arms round each other. It was such an incredible experience.

virgin london marathon finish

That marathon loop however was followed by a really long, unexpected downhill. I questioned many times if I wanted to get off. Could it ever be as much fun again? I was reassured that the post marathon blues were normal and all I needed to do was choose another loop to aim for. The advice was sound and I was soon enjoying the ride again.

And so the roller coaster continues. Sometimes I love it, occasionally I hate it! Occasionally it’s cruised along without much excitement but I’ve stayed on. Thankfully I haven’t been forced off due to injury. Sometimes the ride is scary and difficult but the exhilarating downhill always makes the uphill grind worth it. I constantly wonder how best to get other people on board and spend a lot of my time trying to make this happen.

I’m so lucky that my roller coaster has taken me to different countries around the world which was something I didn’t realise was part of the deal! Different people have got on and off but mostly on. I’m so close to the people in my carriage, many of whom I hadn’t met before. Some of them are just as surprised as me to be on the ride too. We encourage each other, reassure each other, cry and laugh together as the cart goes up and down, twists and turns. We’re all still on though and I for one can’t ever imagine wanting to get off. I want to be one of those who’s still on this in her 90s, waving her arms, shouting for joy at the scariest bits and showing the young people how it’s done! The best thing is, you just never know exactly where the roller coaster is heading or what’s around the next big bend …

Are you on this crazy roller coaster too? Why did you get on? What’s your journey been like? Who else have you persuaded to get onboard? I’d love to hear in the comments below or on my social media.
Photo credits: Featured image – Star Knop via Pexels. Marathon photo – Eddie Macdonald

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  1. I love this so much! I’ve been on the roller coaster for a really long time, but I’ve been braving the bigger rides a lot more over the last couple of years. I started running just before my 21st birthday and, apart from pregancy and newborn days, I’ve never stopped. Admittedly there were times when the kids were tiny that I could only run a couple of miles once or twice a week, but I never gave up! Parkrun has been a huge thing for me and I can’t wait to run my first marathon at the weekend. You just know there will be many marathons to come after that! I want to be the 84 year old marathon runner and the parkrunner with a 500 T-shirt!

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