Striders Story -Ruth

My evolving goals over 15 years of running

1.  Weight Management 

I loved running as a kid and never felt happier than when I was dashing about through freshly cut grass or sprinting around the sports field.  After the age of 17 I lost interest in sports and went through quite a bit of teenage confusion and angst, but started running again as a young mum to help with weight loss.  I’d gained a couple of stone during three pregnancies and several years of being a stay at home Mum.  I ate for comfort, to relieve boredom and to reward myself for the hours of cleaning, cooking, wiping up, tidying, entertaining, comforting, teaching and training.  When my youngest was 3 I went to university to do an English degree and after that, to become a teacher.  It was then that I lost weight, through healthy eating and exercise, and began a regular jogging practice.  My genuine love of the peace and quiet of a solitary run through fields and lanes developed during this time.  The calming sound of my own footsteps, the steady breathing pattern, the gentle sounds of wildlife and the rustling of grass became necessary me-time.  This really helped me to tone up and maintain the weight loss, and I built up to half marathon distance and ran my first Leicester half in 2 hours and 4 minutes (I think).  When we moved to a different part of Leicester I decided that some running buddies would be nice and joined a club: Leicester Roadhoggs. 

2.  Friendly Competition 

My first training run, on a Wednesday night, was with a lady called Jackie, who became a good friend.  She pushed me on, being slightly quicker and much more determined, and I came away feeling exhausted but happy.  Regular training runs with other people made me quicker. 

I began running league races and my first Glooston 10k I did in around 48 minutes.   I was very competitive with others of similar ability, and really enjoyed xc.  My fastest time was on the Boxing Day handicap at Barrow-upon-Soar, where I achieved a 46 minute 10k with a slight hangover.  I began to experience a runner’s high, which I only got when I pushed myself to the max.  Like a drug, it made me feel exhilarated and, when it happened, I felt as though I was floating around the course, all pain gone, no effort, totally in this wonderful, bubble-like zone.  I began to chase the high and relished it when it came. 

I started doing some speed work with Roadhoggs at Saffron Lane and built up to my first London marathon, which I ran for YMCA.  I trained up to 45 miles a week and achieved a sub 4 (just).  But a chest infection kicked in about a month before the marathon and my asthma flared up badly.  I had to take a couple of weeks off and began to consider that doing that mileage as well as being a full-time teacher was a bit much.  I know people who run 100 miles a week and can only admire their incredible stamina and commitment.  My problem might have stemmed from the sudden increase, due to following a training plan, and a more consistent pattern would have been better.   

Deep Connection 

Shortly after this, my daughter became ill with an eating disorder.  There were two awful years and I undertook the steepest learning curve of my life.  Supporting her through the ED was the most difficult thing for a parent to do, and I tried to do it well.  There were many failures and difficulties on my part but she persevered in her recovery and taught me how to help her.  During this time, albeit for negative reasons, she got very good at running and, as she recovered, she used this ability to set herself the goal of completing a half marathon.  Running over the finishing line with her was one of the proudest moments of my life.  She’d experienced rock bottom at such a young age, had achieved so much recovery, ran her half in just under 2 hours and, most importantly, raised several hundred pounds for BEAT, an eating disorders charity. 

During these difficult years, several good friends kept on at me to go out running, and it served as a kind of therapy.  But three years after the marathon, my marriage ended and I found myself a single parent on anti-depressants.  I completely lost the urge to run beyond a jog.  The pills made me calm, relaxed and clear-headed.  They were definitely worth it for the benefit to my mental health, and helped me to benefit from counselling, but I realised that my own relationship with food and exercise had become problematic and I had to take time out of running in order to address my own obsessive attitudes.  On the plus side, I went from crying for hours on the sofa every night to feeling normal. 

Part of a Balanced Lifestyle 

My full recovery to pill-free mental health took a year, and during that time I ran my second London marathon.  But it was a different experience this time.  My training consisted of one long run every Sunday, up to 20 miles, as I ambled through country lanes, thoroughly enjoying the views and the experience.   My weeks were too busy to run.  I struggled to find time between working full time, running around as chauffeur to my youngest, and conducting a long- distance relationship.  I ran the marathon in 4 hours and 16 minutes, with my partner cheering me on in his rugby coach voice that boomed out across the crowds and made me feel like a champion. 

Since then, I’ve maintained a commitment to running but it’s very different.  The competitive streak has massively reduced and I’m genuinely happy for other people to overtake me and improve beyond what I’m prepared to commit to.  I always aim to run for 3 hours a week and usually manage it.  I don’t remember what my last marathon or half-marathon time was and I don’t much care either!

Since moving to Newark, I’ve joined Striders, which is a much bigger club, as well as the Notts Vegan Runners (because of the vegan breakfast meet ups), where there really is something for everybody, from long run Sundays to bubble runs through the pandemic.  I’m not the most regular attendee in the world but I’ve found some truly lovely people to run with, and I love the support, friendliness and fun that Striders offers.  I’ve enjoyed the 10k improver’s sessions run by Graeme and Cate, the amazing mudfest that was the Belvoir Challenge 2021, the numerous park runs, a few cross-country races, the Doncaster 10k and the Turkey Trot where I saw several other Striders in their cheerful orange vests.  I’ve completed the virtual Great North Run with Steve, Jacqui, Nikita and Hannah, a half-marathon to support Nicole’s fundraiser (where Noel nearly finished me off), and the Gordon Whelbourn challenge, which was tough for somebody who likes days off! 

Over lockdown, it has been a pleasure and privilege to run with several wonderful people and get to know them more than is possible in a big group.  To those of you who have met up with me and gone for a plod, thanks so much!  It’s made a big difference to have buddies and to keep each other going through these difficult months.   I look forward to getting back to races and events and to continue with what has become the biggest constant in my life, running for health and for happiness.