It happens in most schools, and it happened in mine. As soon as you get to senior school or sixth form it becomes uncool to spend your lunch break running around the school football pitches, or your weekend in a muddy field somewhere for a cross country race or training. Your friends all start going out and spending their time doing other things, and continuing to run and race means missing out on weekend plans, or sometimes getting teased for what you choose to spend your time doing. As a result, a lot of people, both boys and girls, but I can only convey the experience of a teenage girl fro my own experience, give up running when they reach senior school. It can be sad to see, as some very talented people waste their potential because they don’t want to be seen as ‘uncool’. I had times growing up where I was called weird for going on runs or people would think you odd for spending your spare time training, but I wouldn’t have changed anything and I am so glad I never gave the sport up at school.
I think a lot of young people would be proud they never gave the sport up further down the line, but it’s keeping them in the sport when it is seen to be ‘uncool’ that is the difficult part. So, how can we help keep people in the sport during senior school?
Join an athletics club.
One way we are made to feel that running isn’t cool, is because it can feel as though we are the only one who likes running. Something I didn’t experience until coming to university, was going to an athletics club (where I was introduced to the amazing Gees). If children are encouraged to attend out of school athletics clubs, they soon see that there are a lot of other children with the same interest. Suddenly running because exciting again and new friendship groups can be developed with people who have the same interests. Athletics clubs encourage and facilitate the development of a child’s running in an environment where it is seen to be the norm.
Invite people in to talk.
When heading into senior school, being a runner can make you feel slightly isolated. You see all your friends around you doing other things and you can begin to feel as though you are missing out spending time with them when running. It can be easy to lose sight of where persistence and consistency can lead you. If children are exposed to people who have continued running through school and have gone on to be successful, they may feel inspired to do the same. Inviting international runners into schools to talk can show children that you can be an exciting individual and still run! If they are able to talk to and listen to people who didn’t give up on running and have succeeded in the sport as a result, it may inspire them to do the same. This may help make them feel as though they aren’t the only ones who have struggled to keep doing a sport they love because they are worried of what their friends may think of them.
The more running related events and races schools take their pupils to, the more children are able to develop a team bond and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with the sport. Going to races more regularly and making the experience an enjoyable one, allows children to see that running isn’t all that bad. Ultimately, the main reason for children running through school and into their teenage years is because they enjoy it. If we can help make running exciting, enjoyable, and appealing, less children will drop out when they reach senior school.
We need to do our best to show kids in school that running isn’t ‘uncool’ or silly, it is in fact a sport that should be supported throughout a child’s school life.
Last weekend I took to Seville to take part in my first senior cross country race for England, and it was an experience I will never forget. It taught me so many lessons and gave me an insight into the competitive world I want to be in. It was for sure the hardest race I’ve ever done in terms of the quality of the field I was up against.
When you turn up to a race and the likes of Hellen Obiri and Rose Chelimo are there, you know it’s going to be a case of finishing the race and not caring about your position. Once I became aware of those I would be competing against, I only had two aims: to enjoy the race and get to the end. Fortunately, I managed to achieve both of these. I can openly say before the weekend I had never been in a race with recent world and Olympic champions, but now I have. It isn’t everyday you get to say you’ve raced against such people, so I took the experience in and used it to learn lessons to help me as I get older and progress.
We arrived in Seville Friday evening and the race wasn’t until Sunday, so we got to use Saturday morning to explore the course and assess the conditions we would be racing in. The forecast said Sunday was meant to be warm and sunny, but the weather for walking the course was quite the opposite. The good old home comfort, rain! The course itself wasn’t particularly muddy but was soft enough for spikes to dig in. It had no massive hills, but it was also not flat at all. You were either going up or down, and the majority of the time you seemed to be running up hill. It was also quite twisty with lots of bends. After we walked the course I felt excited for the race ahead, it was a testing but good course.
The race itself.
As I said earlier, it was quite daunting to be lining up on the start line of a race next to Obiri and Chelimo. However, for what was such a rapid field, it went out quite conservatively. For the first few laps the pace felt good and comfortable the field stayed relatively close together, but then it began to spread out. As it came to the final two of the five laps, my legs were feeling the undulating nature of the course, but I kept pushing. In all honesty, my legs were feeling quite heavy and I felt as though I was almost running backwards at some points. I always run with my watch, but I never look at it. When I crossed the line and looked at my watch, I was surprised by the pace I ran at for that course! This made me feel relieved as I was worried I may have let the team down, but I know I gave my all on the day and that’s all that matters. I was proud to have earned my place in that race and no one could take that away from me.
The best part of the whole experience was the team I was lucky enough to be a part of. They made the entire weekend amazing, and I laughed so much, and enjoyed every minute with them. I met some people I had so much in common with and people I could have a joke around with whilst taking the race itself seriously. It is making new friends along the way that makes this journey all the more exciting!
Not every day can be a good day.
As a runner, it can be difficult to accept that not every day can be a good day. We may want it to be and we may have the intention for it to be, but it’s just part of the running package, it can’t all be straight forward and plain sailing. Plus, would we really want it to be easy?
We are only human, therefore it is unavoidable that with tough training and pushing ourselves to the limit, our bodies will get tired and our legs will feel heavy. Yes, some sessions won’t be as good as others, but that’s ok. If every session was amazing, no session would ever seem particularly good because we wouldn’t have anything to compare to. We need the tough, heavy-legged sessions for the good ones to be noticed. It’s the tougher training days when it feels harder than usual that mean the most. It is these days that motivate us to keep working hard. We long for the days it all just slots into place. These only happen a few times a year, but when they come, it is worth all the hard work. There is nothing else that compares to the feeling of a session or race that goes exactly as, if not better than, you want it to. However, these just don’t happen without extremely tough, difficult days.
Whilst on some days it is our legs that don’t cooperate, other days it’s our heads that make training hard. At times, we feel tired and heavy headed, and this is normal and ok to happen! Some sessions pose more of a mental than physical challenge, therefore we have to train our minds as well as our bodies. Running is as much mental as it is physical. We wouldn’t let our bodies get the better of us, so we have to work not let our heads beat us. It isn’t spoken about often enough, but quite often the tough sessions are due to our minds being tired rather than our legs. If we have struggled to sleep, have other stresses in our lives, such as work, exams, or family, or are just feeling down, sessions and races can feel a lot tougher than usual. As athletes we have to understand this is all part of the journey and the roller-coaster of sport and life.
It can sometimes be difficult to believe, but everyone has bad days at the office. Social media may make it look as though people have their lives together and every day is full of motivation and success, but this isn’t the case. Social media has an amazing ability to sugar coat people’s lives. Life is much more complex and challenging than social media shows it to be. You may think you are the only person who goes into some sessions feeling heavy legged from the buildup of the previous weeks training, but you aren’t. It happens to others, it happens to me, and it happens to you! It even happens to professional athletes!
We have to accept it, not every day can be a good day.
When the start of a New Year arrives, many people look to take up new sports, especially running. Running doesn't have to be labelled as a serious sport seen to be dull and boring. There are so many easy to enter events out there for people new to running, or even experienced runners looking to add a bit more enjoyment to their training. So, what can you do to make running more enticing in the new year and what events are out there that anyone, no matter your ability, can enter?
Parkrun has now been going for just over 15 years and offers people the opportunity the run a timed 5k over a measured course. The event occurs every Saturday at 9am in local parks all over the country and now the world. The great thing about the weekly occurrence of Parkrun means you can do them as often or as rarely as you like. It provides you with a fantastic opportunity to track your progress. The Parkrun event is incredibly inclusive as it is open to all ages and abilities. Whether you are intending on walking it or going as fast as you can to log a PB time, Parkrun is the perfect event for you! It’s not a race, but can be used as a time trial.
It is even now a form of tourism!! Parkruns are all over the country and even the world. If you are going away for the weekend, there is no excuse not to still do a parkrun! It’s a great way to see your local area and get some miles logged whilst on holiday. It also allows you to meet like minded people, as not everyone likes to kickstart their weekend with a run around the park.
Tough mudder/ Obstacle 5k style events
If you are more of the adventurous type and a crazy, but fun, challenge is something that appeals to you, the Tough Mudder or Obstacle 5k event may be worth entering. There are lots of races, which can be competitive or for a laugh, out there to try. Running doesn’t have to be solitary and dull, and these events certainly ensure it isn’t. It gives you something other than the running itself to focus on, making a challenging concept, seem less serious and scary!! Although, if you ask any cross country runner, they will tell you there are plenty of races that can feel like a tough mudder event!
Couch to 5k programmes
For the true beginner, the introduction of couch to 5k programmes (or similar, maybe couch to half marathon!) offer the perfect opportunity for you to kickstart your running journey, even if you have never set foot in a pair of trainers before. There is no need to fear the concept of running a 5k, as the programmes start you off very gently and build you up minutes at a time. It is highly likely that you may be able to encourage a friend to embark on the couch to 5k challenge alongside you too, so you’ll have company. This will also help keep your motivation high as you won’t want to let your fellow running friend down.
Running doesn’t have to be serious, and it isn’t only for ‘fast’ people. Running can be done by anyone, anywhere, and for any reason. Whether you just want some time in the outdoors or are looking to improve your 5k or 10k time, give it a go. 2020 may be the year you come to wish you’d taken up running sooner.
Stepping into 2020...
New year, new me? I don’t think so. As much as I love a reason to celebrate with my friends and family and enjoy heading into a new year with a fresh slate, I always ask myself, is it really the start of a new me? And would I really want it to be?
I have had years where I start the new year hoping for big changes to occur and to feel happier, but this has never been healthy, and this want for change has never been a sign of my own personal happiness. It has always shown that I am not content with the individual I am at the end of the year. Instead, this year I am making a conscious effort to head into 2020 with happiness and confidence. I’m not asking for any great changes to occur, I just want to focus on consistency, happiness, and health. I want to continue to develop the individual I was in 2019, not change myself.
I see the new year as a prospect to look forward to and welcome into my life. Many people set resolutions with the intention to give up something or change an aspect of themselves, but I personally like to set myself something proactive to do, something that will help develop the individual I am. Last year my New Years resolution was to read the news every day (I didn’t even know what Brexit was!), and I really enjoyed doing it and am going continue to read the news! This year my resolution is to be able to bake a tasty loaf of bread by the end of the year! Emphasis on the tasty as I actually want it to be edible. It’s not your standard fitness goal, but it’s a goal I will enjoy working towards.
I enjoy setting myself non-running related resolutions as it gives me a different challenge to tackle. I don’t want to punish myself by giving up something and I don’t feel I need to, so instead I look at resolutions as a chance to do something new and see the new year as a chance to develop the person I am rather than make changes.
So, rather than looking for the new me in the new year that awaits, I am instead looking ahead at the new year as a chance to continue on the journey I am currently on. Rather than a fresh start, I want to see where the journey I am on now will continue to go. I don’t want to make any drastic changes heading into the new year, instead I want to continue to do the things I am doing now and hope the hard work all starts to pay off.
So, what are my goals for 2020?
I want to stay healthy and happy. Whilst I do have more specific time and event-based goals, to remain healthy and to be happy are my overarching goals for the whole year. Ultimately, without these two goals, any running related aims would not be achievable, because I am the best runner I can be when I am happy and healthy.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!