Writer and former journalist Donna-Louise Bishop, founder and lead tutor of Write Norfolk, explains why this year has been one for realising her dreams – and how running helped along the way.
I can still hear Miss Baker’s* voice shouting at us all through the trees during our weekly cross-country sessions during the winter term in high school.
The wind from Norfolk’s breezy coast would twist itself around my frail teenage legs. I could almost hear it laughing as it made the difficult task of wading through the mud virtually impossible. Always at the back, always with the same handful of girls from my PE class, I would barely manage a walk on the squishy terrain let alone a jog. As for running, well that was just unheard of.
Even as a young child I remember being overweight. My Nan would fatten me up at the weekends with homemade deep-fried chips. Mixed with little physically activity I soon became one of the whingy kids who didn’t like walking.
It’s strange because I actually enjoyed sports at high school, especially hockey. Being one of the chubby kids though I wasn’t taken seriously and in some ways it was easier to be stereotyped as one of those pupils who just hated PE.
That trend continued for many years.
Then in 2013, at the age of 28, it all changed. After having my first baby I managed to lose more than three stone and made friends with a group of runners. As a result I decided to join them on one of their weekly training sessions and within a few months I was just about managing 5k without feeling like I was going to die.
Then I had an unexpected set back.
The leader of the group made some flippant comment about me needing to ‘up’ my training routine from two days a week to ‘at least’ three.
It’s amazing how a simple comment can crush you in seconds. I could almost hear the distant echo of Miss Baker.
Soon after that I gave up running. I started eating again instead. Then I fell pregnant with my second child and as anyone pregnant woman will confirm, people do view you like a turkey that needs to be fattened up before Christmas.
So with two boys – a newborn and a nearly two-year-old – I was zapped of energy, enthusiasm and everyday enjoyment.
Every morning started to feel like the start of a never-ending day where I just wanted to sleep.
The guilt of housework piling up rested on my shoulders and mixed in with the lack of get-go to play with my children.
* * *
About twelve weeks ago I started suffering from a mild outbreak of my Crohn’s disease. I hadn’t felt that ill since 2006 when I was first diagnosed. This was the final straw and I knew it was time to take action.
So I downloaded a couch to 5k app.
There are plenty of C25K apps out there but I decided on the one supported by BBC Get Inspired. Armed with nothing but my phone, earphones, baggy clothes and old trainers, I forced myself out of the door and just ran.
The soothing sounds of Jo Whiley’s delicious voice guided me through the workout. It was a massive help and I soon found I had completed a 30-minute workout – and was still alive to tell the tale!
I’ve since improved my footwear and downloaded some motivational tunes to listen to while I run. And instead of trying the impossible task of committing to weekly training sessions with others, I’m now grabbing my trainers and going out three times a week whenever it fits around the family.
And I finally feel like I have something worth writing about.
This week I have started week seven of the C25K and I am finally feeling like I am returning to the runner I was starting to become nearly two years ago.
At the moment I am confident in finishing the nine-week programme and hopefully Shaun at runnorfolk will allow me to make a return visit to update you all on how it’s gone.
I’ve even signed up for my first race to keep me motivated – Suffolk Boss Hog here I come! I’m also planning on attending my very first Park Run too.
Thank you taking the time to read a little about my running journey. I hope it inspires you to make a start on your own positive journey – whatever that may be.
*I bumped into Miss Baker a little while back. She’s actually great and I remember how happy she was that I’d taken up running. She’s not the scary PE teacher I remembered from school, that’s for sure!
A few months ago my former work colleague Shaun Lowthorpe, started this running blog.
I jumped at the chance to be part of it and offered to write something, not wanting to admit to myself that I’d left my failed attempts to get fit far, far behind me.
At the time I honestly believed I had something worth writing about but as I sat down at the computer to type I despaired and convinced myself I had nothing to say.
With a disgustingly run-down, post-baby body, and a failed dream of running a marathon, the truth is I was too embarrassed to write anything.
I knew it was time to turn things around.
Interested in being a writer? Then why not sign up to one of Donna-Louise’s courses and start your writing journey.
You can also find out more about Donna-Louise Bishop over at her blog Newshound to Novelist