I run like a girl…try to keep up

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In June 2011 I took part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life 5km event with my mum. As we wandered round the beautiful course we talked about entering the event in 2012 and perhaps upping the distance to 10km. I had a more ambitious target, I wanted to run a half marathon. Not just any half marathon, I wanted to take part in the Great North Run. For years I had watched the event on TV and been inspired by the runners and their stories. I turned 30 at the beginning of 2012 and it seemed like an excellent goal to kick off a new decade. Despite not being a runner my mum was sure I would be able to complete the course and told me she would be there cheering me on.

I entered the GNR ballot in 2012 and was unsuccessful. I wasn’t too disappointed, I had entered the Race for Life again and with a group of work colleagues trained to run the whole 5km course. Mum had decided that running might be a bit too ambitious for her so was going to be there as a cheerleader.

On 5th June 2012 life changed forever. A simple diagnostic test revealed my mum had an oesophageal tumour. On 15th June we were told the diagnosis was terminal and any treatment would be palliative. Despite the dire prognosis my mum came to cheer me on at the Race for Life just 48 hours later. On an exceptionally emotional and rainy day my team of six completed the race in good time and raised over £1000 for Cancer Research.

In February 2013 I entered the GNR public ballot again and was delighted (and terrified) to find out I had secured a place. An information junkie, I wanted to know as much about running as possible. I read articles about gait, training plans, technique and hydration. I swapped my cheap Asda leggings for running tights and got fitted for my first pair of proper running trainers. I had everything expect the motivation to go outside and actually run. It was alright when I was training with colleagues, who had given up running altogether after the 5km, going it alone horrified me. People would be able to tell I wasn’t a “real” runner, I would get heckled by the teenagers that would frequent my route or I might bump into someone I know whilst beetroot faced and drenched in sweat. I was filled with sickening anxiety every time I stepped foot outside and started training on the treadmill at my local gym, until even the sight of my wobbly body in the gym mirrors was too much for me.

In May 2013 I went on a family holiday and downloaded Running Like a Girl for my Kindle. I had followed Alexandra Heminsley on Twitter for a while and was keen to read about running from a novice’s perspective. How does a non-runner train to marathon distance? How do you cope with the emotional fallout on the day? How can you run with a decent sized pair of knockers? Luckily, all these questions (and more) were answered. Whilst reading the book I experienced tears, goosebumps, grinning and moments I almost cheered out loud. My family found it odd that I was engrossed in a tale of an “unknown” runner for inspiration rather than some Olympian but that was the whole point, I was never going to be an elite athlete but hopefully one day I would see myself as a runner.

Time flew by and before I knew it the race day was imminent. Mum had taken a turn for the worse in September and we were told by doctors that life would now be measured in days or weeks rather than months. She was unfalteringly supportive of my running, even when my training ground to a halt. I went to bed on the eve of the race scared but determined to finish and make mum proud. Sadly mum passed away in the early hours of race day, Sunday 15th September 2103.

The following year I watched the race on TV tearful but certain that one day I would run over the Tyne Bridge with 57,000 others. In 2015 I decided it was now or never. I entered the public ballot but was unsuccessful so applied for a charity place with Cancer Research. Despite my mum’s poor prognosis, I firmly believe that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence. The medical advancements made through research mean that 50% of people diagnosed with cancer will now survive at least 10 years. In my lifetime that figure could reach 75%.

With a little over three months to go I am optimistic that I can conquer my fear of pounding the pavements and am considering joining a local beginners running group for company on my training runs. As corny as it sounds, once you’ve watched a loved one die in front of your eyes, the fear of exercising in front of strangers feels a little silly.

I am motivated and passionate about my cause. I want to raise as much money as possible to help fund the future of cancer research. I want my niece and nephew to grow up in a world where cancer is a treatable and preventable disease. So I am running for everyone who can’t, and especially my much missed mum, who was always my biggest supporter.

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