I have not always been a runner, quite the opposite in fact! At primary school I was that kid who convinced myself of injuries and ailments so that my mum would write me a note excusing me from the Cross Country. I was not really an active kid. I did dancing and tried my hand at rowing and volleyball but that was my limit.
Running (or any consideration for health & fitness) did not occur to me until I was at university. While I dabbled a little bit with gym workouts during my first year of study, it wasn’t until the following summer break that I made a real effort. Living back home on my parents orchard I decided to give running a go (I can’t remember at all what motivated me – probably weight loss). Each evening I would do laps up and down one side of the orchard, each week going a little bit further. I doubt I ever accumulated any significant distances over that summer but I lost weight and found satisfaction in how I’d got my body in shape.
Following this epiphany, I continued to incorporate running with a mix of gym workouts, Les Mills’s fitness classes and Pilates DVDs throughout my university career and beyond. I finally made the connection between healthy eating, being active and how this affected my physical and mental health (and appearance of course!).
The real breakthrough in finding my love for running came in 2010 when I decided to book a trip to South America to tick number one off my bucket list: climb the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I wanted so badly to be in good shape for the trip so that I wouldn’t struggle with the four day hike and have people in my tour waiting on me. I achieved this by running daily (laps around the orchard) and adding in hill runs along the goat track at Te Mata Peak. Also, for the first time I was paying attention to my times and distances and working on improving these week to week. Despite a few setbacks such as getting sick with a bronchial infection which really affected my breathing while running, I completed my first 10km run a couple of weeks before heading to Peru. What a feeling!
On returning from my trip, I moved to Christchurch and I experienced peaks and troughs in my running routine. I managed many more 10km runs but never crossed over that mark. The cold winters specifically had an effect on my motivation.
It wasn’t until January 2012 that I decided I needed something to work towards if was ever going to truly be a runner and improve my distances. So, I signed up for the Wanaka Half Marathon to be held Easter weekend 2012. Best motivation ever!! I printed out a training plan and stuck to it absolutely religiously and loved it. However, this may have been my downfall.
About five weeks out from the race, I headed out for an easy half hour run. 15 minutes in I felt a twinge in the back of my leg. I should’ve stopped. However, being stubborn as I am, I did not want to pull out of a scheduled training run and I continued on. By the time I got home I was hobbling with a severe limp which stuck with me for quite some time. Even walking was painful. I had regretably strained my hamstring. Unfortunately, despite physio treatment and plenty of rest I was not able to run longer than 20 minutes for months to come without it hurting and so had to forfeit my entry for the half-marathon.
I was absolutely gutted. I cried and cried and felt sorry for myself for weeks on end due to the fact that I couldn’t get out and run. I cursed runners under my breath as I passed them in the street as I was so envious. My former child-self would not have believed it! It was at this point that I realised “I AM A RUNNER”. The fact that I was upset that I couldn’t run proved this to me and it was a small consolation during the long rehabilitation waiting game.
I still get twinges in my hamstring from time to time and sometimes on long runs I have to give up due to the pain it gives me. My biggest regret is not stopping when I felt that first twinge 20 minutes into that run as I wonder if it will ever heal 100%.
Take Two was set for the summer of 2013 and I signed up for a 10km at Easter weekend and the St Clair Vineyard Half Marathon for mid-may. I was in training mode again and loving it! I stuck to my training schedule but rested when my body dictated and I scheduled runs with friends. Again, I thought, I AM A RUNNER!!
Come 15th of March I traded in one of my weekly runs for a weekend tramping trip with the BF and a couple of friends. During the long climb up to the ridgeline I was feeling fantastic and really happy with how easy I was finding the climb with my heavy pack on. Hooray for running fitness!
The climb down however was much more difficult as I found my knees were not enjoying the descent and my toes were getting weary in my tramping boots. Unfortunately, my fatigued trudging through the muddy gully resulted in a sprained ankle. I had a wee meltdown right there in the middle of the track as I immediately suspected I had ruined my running career again. It is noted that I rightfully earned myself the nickname ‘meltdown Mindy‘ on that trip. Unfortunately, I was right about the running!
A couple of trips to the physio gave me hope as it was suggested that I would heal up nice and quick. However, after a weekend of walking around Wellington City I developed tendonitis in the opposite foot. How embarrassing showing up to work the next week limping on the opposite foot to what I had been the week before! At this point I gave up on the physio and decided to see a podiatrist who confirmed that I had developed tendonitis by compensating for the sprained ankle. The diagnosis wasn’t good and again I had to resign from my half-marathon dreams. The woe is me game commenced again as I settled in once again for ‘rest and rehabilitation’. Ugh!!
Eight weeks of no running passed and half-marathon day had arrived. I had travelled up to Blenheim with my friends who were competing despite not being able to participate myself. I was in good spirits as I had just completed my first two weeks of clean, green eating. Despite not being active, I was feeling good and healthy and during some spur of the moment optimism I decided to participate in the half-marathon anyway! I decided that I could just run for as long as I could manage and then walk the rest. I had the entry so why not enjoy the scenery and join in…not to mention there was a bottle of wine for crossing the finish line 😉.
It was great. The atmosphere and vibe of all these fit, happy people running around a stunning vineyard was fantastic. My stubbornness kicked in and despite the lack of training I managed to keep to a run until about the 12km mark. From here on out, I managed a walk/run approach but my body was becoming very fatigued and every joint I knew of was screaming. I was however adamant that I would be running when I crossed the finish line and so I managed a hobbled run for the last 1km. Yes, I said hobbled – hamstring fine, ankle fine, foot fine……knee = hurting!
My theory is that I pushed it too far and inevitably stressed a muscle that wasn’t strong enough but I loved the experience and have not given up on my dream to complete a half-marathon running.
I have just this last week started running again. After months out of the game, I was pleasantly surprised when I managed a 5km route in half an hour and am excited to have my “running mojo” back. I am reluctant to set a date for my next half-marathon just yet (I don’t want to jinx myself). But I believe that the fact that I want to run again after all these setbacks can be attributed to the fact that yes “I AM A RUNNER”.
I may not have a half-marathon under my belt yet but I love to run and I want to keep doing it. I love the way it makes me feel and the sense of purpose it gives me. If you are a runner you will understand this. It’s not about distance, time, records and races. It’s about the passion for running and the joy and satisfaction it brings – if you can relate to this I think you can proudly say “I AM A RUNNER”.
Watch this space to hear more about my running journey, fingers crossed for no more injuries. Third time lucky right?!?
I want to dedicate this blog post to the runners in my life who are a great source of inspiration: my big sister & running machine; Jayme, my unbelievably fit and motivated flatmate; Beth and my fantastic running buddy & expert; Heather. Thanks for the inspiration ladies, you are all incredible!