'I realised I'm not too big to run' - Women's Running

‘I realised, I’m not too big to run’

Author: Chris Macdonald

Read Time:   |  May 21, 2014

'I realised, I'm not too big to run'

‘I realised, I’m not too big to run’

Up until a year ago, running was something I never enjoyed, something I did because I had to, or something I did for someone else.

My first experience of running was PE classes in high school: it was a compulsory subject and endurance running is what we did. We were stuck on a running track and told to run for 30 minutes. I hated it. I grew up in southern France and running outside not only meant baking in 30 degrees but worst of all for me, it meant wearing shorts. I was a self-loathing teenager who always felt too tall, too big, too pale compared to her classmates. But I ran because I had too, because my angry teacher was shouting in my face that if I did not, I would get a fail grade. I just repeated to myself that it didn’t matter: I was good with books and essays, sports were just not for me – especially running.

I turned 18, packed my suitcase and got a one-way ticket to London to do my undergraduate degree. New life, new friends, new start! Or so I thought. That dark feeling of always being too big kept haunting me. One day, I saw an advert for Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life series. I signed up immediately: my grandfather died of cancer, and my mother was diagnosed twice with early stages of it. I chose the race in Hampstead, my mum’s favourite place in London, and did my best to run all the way, panting and puffing my way through these 5K. When I crossed the finish line, I was proud of the pink race number on my chest. I had made it because every second, I had been running for them.

After my degree, I finally moved to Dublin where I still live. No Race for Life here, no more reason to run. Or so I thought. I met my boyfriend here and he’s a keen runner with a taste for adventure races. His enthusiasm made me want to try again, to kick away that old feeling that ‘these sporty things’ were not made for me.

I picked up my shoes and went running on the beach with him, for him. With old shoes and bad technique, I ended up injuring my right knee and had to walk in pain for several weeks. I cursed myself for this and wanted to give up, but something stopped me: I did not have to be that self-hating high-school girl for the rest of my life. So I swallowed my pride and sought advice about the correct technique, trained on the treadmill again and again, trying to keep my knees in line.

My boyfriend and I both signed up for a 10K race at the end of April and I was determined to complete it. Training for that race made me realise how I could enjoy it, how I could push myself to do things I never thought I could achieve. My boyfriend’s constant support kept me going through the highs and lows, but I was no longer running for him: I was running for myself, I was running to beat the bullied schoolgirl out of me.

I finished my 10K race in 58:28 min, without walking a single time. As I crossed that finish line, I felt free and powerful like never before: I did it all for myself, and it freed me. It showed me what I was capable of and it gave me strength. Today, I pick up my running shoes with excitement and anticipation: where shall they take me thistime?

Alexandra Guglielmi is 25 and lives in Dublin. She is an archaeology PhD student and can be found tweeting @TheCelticFrog

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Chris Macdonald

Editor-at-Large, Women's Running

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