“Lola rennt” (Run Lola run, 1998) is one of my favourite films; if you haven’t seen it you should give it a go as long as you can withstand German subtitles. However, I think I liked it because it made speaking German cool, not because of the huge amount of running Franka Potente does in it. Her running style was smooth and fast and she made it look cool, the exact opposite of how I felt in 2007 when I first attempted to run.
I had just moved to Perth, Australia with my now husband and was surprised and intrigued by just how many people ‘ran’ all the time. Thankfully, as those couch to 5km programs suggest you can get better quite quickly with running as long as you persevere. Within 6 months I completed my first race, the Perth City to Surf which was 12kms. I was happy plodding along at 5-10kms for the next couple of years but never pushed more than that.
Jump forward to 2015; one wedding, two kids and a knee injury later and I hadn’t run for over a year and wasn’t sure how to get back into it or if I could be bothered; newborns, breastfeeding and sleepless nights are not conducive to running. Then two things happened, I discovered ‘Running mummies – Portishead’ and Baby Bank Network on Facebook. Two volunteer based community groups, one helping mums to get running and bringing together people with similar interests and the other supporting babies and families in Bristol.
After a month or so of involvement with each group I decided to put the two together and enter a race whilst fundraising for the Baby Bank. At 12 weeks postpartum the next race that was close enough in time for me not to lose momentum was Bristol Half Marathon. A half marathon just under 6 months after having a baby – challenging or just ridiculous? I set myself a couple of distance targets, 5 miles end of June, 8 miles end of July, 11 miles end of August, and stuck to this gradual increase to try and avoid injuries etc. I did nearly all of my training runs with either the ‘running mummies’ group, a group of people who are now my friends and make running much more social. It’s another great example of communities spirit, exercise has a hugely positive impact on my mood and so a special mention to Michelle Moss, Rachel Pyke, Katie Collins, Kate Bragg and Abbie Wilford, who ran with me over those weeks. If I wasn’t running with the ‘mummies’ then I was running with my own mum Carol, who at 56 was running her first half marathon and quite the motivator – it must be the competitive spirit between us!
So next step fundraising! As the Baby Bank Network was still so new the best fundraising option was a Just Giving Crowd funding page, perfect for charitable organisations and community groups alike. The crowd funding was only available for a period of 30 days, and I decided to ask people to sponsor me the price of a coffee. I didn’t want friends and family to feel pressured into donating huge sums. Luckily in that time I managed to exceed my target or £360 and raise a total of £431. It was a real motivator to maintain my training, each time someone donated it pushed me that extra mile, even in the rain sometimes!
Training done! Fundraising done! All that was left was to actually run the race. On race day I felt pretty excited to get to it, despite a shocking night’s sleep and a screaming baby between 10pm and 2am – not ideal conditions in the slightest. So 9.30am rolls around and we’re off. My husband ran with me, keeping track of the time, hydration and energy supplies and there is no way I could have done it without him. Even though I had recently run 10-12 miles in training by mile four I had already hit my first brick wall. I don’t know if it was the sleep deprivation, the monotonous Portway, the fact that I needed a wee, or the ‘responsibility’ of running a race for an organisation that I felt so strongly about – but I was overrun with emotion and was having a real mental struggle, not even a third of the way through. At mile 6 I honestly thought there was no way I would finish and really wanted to stop, but the nagging voice in my head (and coming out of my husband’s mouth) was saying,
“think of all the people who sponsored you,”
“think of all the great things the BBN can do with that money,”
“think of all those newborn babies who need a cot, a pram, some clothes, some toys,”
“imagine how the mothers of these babies will feel to have some of the financial burden lifted.”
So I plodded on, still emotional and crying a bit from time to time but finally the 13-mile sign pops up and there is only 100m to go. At this point I started my ‘sprint’ finish, the slowest, most grueling sprint I’ve ever managed, followed by some more tears as I crossed the line and a vow to never ever EVER do this again.
(Two weeks on and I’m thinking about doing another but not until next year at the earliest)
I finished the half marathon in 2hrs and 11minutes. 12 minutes slower than my previous one, 12 minutes for every month that I didn’t run, 12 minutes for every week post partum that I couldn’t exercise due to a slow C-section recovery, 12 minutes for all those sleepless nights. Twelve minutes that do NOT matter at all because I finished it and can support the Baby Bank Network to support those babies and families in Bristol who really need it!
So are you up for the challenge? Could you run, walk, swim, cycle or dance to raise funds for the Baby Bank Network too? Challenge yourself, challenge your friends and see what you can achieve, Bristol babies will thank you for it!