My old PE teacher, Mrs Mason, got it right all those years ago, ‘Stick to the books, Jane. Sport just isn’t for you.’ Who was I, at the tender age of 11, to argue with a woman who single-handedly could reduce even the most out of control 5th year with just one withering look? My Great Aunty Lillian also put it quite succinctly. When, after nearly 20 years since my last visit as a kid, she announced on seeing me, ‘Och, you’re built like a wee West Highland lassie!’, I knew what she really meant was that I had all the qualities of a Shetland pony.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been quite glad of my sturdiness. OK yes, I would have loved once in a while to just be like the cool, pretty girls at school but I was never short of boyfriends – a great rack and comic timing meant that I was usually busy on a Saturday night in my late teens. I am in extreme rude health (some might say I am just extremely rude but we’ll gloss over that) and the fact that I take after my Dad in shape, rather than my mum’s beautiful, petite elegance, has stood me in good stead, not least when my strength meant I didn’t have to subject Dad to a hoist when he was dying from a malignant brain tumour. I helped Mum nurse Dad through the very long/very short 8 months between the brutal diagnosis (literally the words were ‘malignant brain tumour, inoperable, 9 months’) and his death. I was strong enough to be able to manoeuver and lift my wonderful Dad myself. The hoist hurt him and it meant I was able to give him an extra cuddle too as I moved him from bed to chair after the steroids robbed him of the fantastic muscles he once had in his legs (my 11 year old son has inherited his legs – I pity the girls who will swoon after him!)
Anyway, to get to the point, last year I had reached that time in your life when the scales ask you to step on one at a time please. I had started up with a gentle fitness campaign, even paying a personal trainer to come and put me through hell twice a week at some ungodly hour. Every session we would work on strength and give a cursory nod to cardio. I had thighs of steel but couldn’t ride a bike for a mile without being out of breath. Then I saw an event that the wonderful team at Ashgate Hospice were holding – a Twilight 5K Run through the grounds of Chatsworth (one of my favourite places in the world). With Mrs Mason’s words in my ears I thought, what the hell, let’s see if I can do this and I quickly signed up. This met with much hilarity when I told friends and family along with the comment ‘what, you?’ Nothing is guaranteed to get me more motivated than being the butt of someone’s joke or being told that I can’t do something.
Metaphorically sticking two fingers up to the mockers, I started training. Let’s be straight about this, it was not a pretty sight to see an overweight 40 something pounding the streets of South Manchester, but pound them I did. I may have started just running four lamp posts and walking one but soon I could take on a good couple of miles. OK, so I’m no Paula Radcliffe but I found that I loved it. I found the best thing to clear my head and start my day other than a cup of tea and toast with peanut butter. I completed the 5k on that eventful night last September and raised nearly £500 to help patients and their families being cared for by Ashgate. It meant that I had helped a family who was maybe going through something like we did. I may not have been fast (mobility scooters passed me) and the stitching of my sports bra did need to work against industrial strength forces but I did it. Me. The person who never thought she could run.
The Twilight Run for Ashgate had changed my life. I had proved to myself and the doubters that I could do something that I had always been led to believe I couldn’t. Admittedly Christmas then happened and the training plan was replaced by mince pies and the small (large) glass (bottle) of gin. I wanted to get the buzz back; have my shot of adrenaline again and so I decided that I would take on challenges in 2014 to see how far I could push myself.
So far I’ve signed up a few to get the juices flowing. I hate heights so of course I need to do the longest Zip Wire in the UK. I’m heading to Snowdonia, where it’s based, not once this year, but twice. I’ll be gliding (stop laughing) through the Welsh air in May for Nightingale House Hospice and in July for Wakefield Hospice. But let’s not stop there. A Midnight 10k walk for Willow Wood Hospice also beckons in July. What about the Manchester 10K? What about it? Well I’m going to be running it and raising money for a fantastic children’s hospice, Derian House. This too is in May and the idea of 10k is slightly scary. However, it’s made less scary by the idea of what I’ll be doing the weekend before and the day after the first Zip Wire event. I will be undertaking the Ashbourne Mini Triathlon for Ashgate Hospice (who else?). A 400m swim, 10 mile bike ride and 3 mile run no longer fills me with fear ………… frankly, it terrifies me. But hey, I’m not facing a terminal illness. That’s the really scary challenge and if I can fundraise to help ease the fear of someone who is facing that fight, then that should be motivation alone to move my lardy bottom and don my trainers.
I’ll be blogging about my training over the next few weeks. I’ll also be setting up a Virgin Money giving page too. If you’d like to sponsor me then that would be wonderful. If you’d also like to get up off your backsides and undertake a challenge for charities that mean something to you and others, then think how fabulous you’d feel.
Equally, if you’re one of my clients (or not) and there’s a challenge you want me to undertake, then let me know and if I can, I will.
Am I mad? Probably. But life is so more interesting as a result.