Have a think and ask yourself, how many times have you heard one of these phrases

“I’m not a real runner”, “I’m not as fast as them”, “I couldn’t run with them because I’m too slow”

It makes me feel really sad and something I have thought a lot about whilst embarking on my coaching journey. I want to be more than a runner and a coach. I want to truly inspire people to be the best that they can be. I want people to be confident and motivated by their own goals and achievements, not comparing themselves to others and worrying what others think. But it’s not that easy is it?

As a coach, I want to prove that you don’t have to desire to be the fastest or the fittest, the first to cross the line or always beating your personal bests. Everyone has a different reason for running and that is ok.

Now I know this is a huge personal challenge for me – I am competitive, I am passionately motivated and I am always striving for the next goal and quite honestly, that can be a turn off for so many people who just want to run to get fit and become healthier and happier soles.

They think I don’t understand….. but I promise you I do.

I know how hard it can be to start running and even harder to keep going.

So this blog is my thoughts about getting out there, creating a great habit which will ultimately make you a happier person whatever your goals.

I was asked to raise the subject of how to start out running, running solo, how to get yourself out of the door, how to keep the habit going and how to deal with the many obstacles that can get in the way – anxiety, being self conscious, facing the jeers and attacking the fears. Some may think that I could not possibly have experienced these worries, but trust me, my running journey didn’t start smoothly without going through some of these things.

When I first started running, I had heard about local clubs and loved the idea of joining like minded individuals a few times a week to run together, but there was no way I could turn up and join in. The thought terrified me. I felt I would look out of place and I wasn’t fast enough. I would be left at the back of the pack with my out of date trainers and non technical T-shirt. But the truth is runners love other runners and if you run, jog, walk or a combination of all 3 then guess what? You are a runner and you will be warmly welcomed.

I finally gathered the courage and persuaded a friend to come along with me that first night. Finch Coasters Thursday night winter route – Crowthorne lumps, it said. I had no idea what that meant but it sounded terrifying. It was winter, pitch black, I was unsure of the location, the route and the pace but what did I have to lose?

Honestly….. I have never looked back. That first night – the welcome, the chat, the absolute pleasure of running with others and feeling like I was part of something, was really amazing. The endorphins were well and truly flowing. I know I would never have done it on my own.

So that is my first couple of tips!

Running buddies are invaluable – they provide the comfort to try new things, they make the time fly by on runs together, they are supportive (sometimes with tough love when needed, as well as offering the words of encouragement!). Running buddies may be that one person that likes the same type of runs as you or that runs at your pace or they may be the person that you just feel comfortable with, you click with them. It may be your local run club members where there are different people to run with each week. Whatever it is for you, I can highly recommend you get a buddy!

Join your local club – I know all clubs will be slightly different but I am sure they all welcome new runners with open arms. Runners love seeing other runners and there is no bigger support than your club mates. Most clubs offer different sessions across the week so something to cater for different paces and distances – it truly is not a case of “fast runners only please”. This is the biggest myth surrounding clubs – Hand on heart Finch Coasters are the most welcoming, supportive bunch and are all about the “team” at the centre of what we do. Have a look around and see what your area has to offer and ask questions to find out how it could work for you.

So what else stops us getting laced up and giving this running lark a try?

Now this is a big topic and not something I claim to be an expert on but it comes in many guises that can debilitate people from even trying to run. We all know that running releases those amazing endorphins and is great for our mental health but if we suffer from any form of anxiety then none of that matters. If we can’t get out of the door or we are so worried about what happens when we do, then we are stuck.

So my biggest aspiration and something I am working hard to promote as a runner and coach is the inclusivity of running. I called this blog “if you run you are a runner” and I want to embrace that and shout about it to anyone that will listen. Whether you are taking your first steps or returning to running after time out. Whether you want to run 5k or ultra marathons, then you are a runner. There is no such thing as too slow, too fat, not the right shape and size, too old, no fancy kit. If you have a desire to run (however small and hidden away that desire may be!) then let’s do it.

The one thing that is probably more complex that I learned about through talking to a friend is anxiety. They told me their story about the thing that stops them being able to get out of the door and made me want to talk openly about this and if it helps just one person then that’s a great thing right?

My friend talked about their anxiety and feelings of self consciousness. People watching them, being alone, vulnerable, worried about facing abuse from car drivers, walkers or anyone they may come across. The judgement from others and what they think when they see them running. I was blown away with how debilitating this is for them and ultimately how it can be a show stopper from them gaining the massive positives to Mental health that running and being outside can provide. I learned how it meant that even walking outside their front door was a mountain to climb. This is far worse than what I had experienced just being a little nervous to turn up at my first club run.

I can’t say these things will work for everyone but I hope they provide some ideas that make you think or help in some small way because I am certain many more people will have experienced anxiety, self consciousness and a number of other worries.

First off has to be the amazing weekly event that is parkrun! I love parkrun. The feeling of being part of something fantastic. The support from fellow runners and volunteers and the absolute inclusive nature you feel every week. Whether you run it in 16 minutes or 116 doesn’t matter. Every run feels special.

I know for some that this won’t help with anxiety but I believe if you can get involved, you will be rewarded 10 fold. You can start with volunteering to suss out what all the fuss is about and see if it is something you could do. www.parkrun.org.uk

  • Link up with that running buddy – They can hold you accountable to help get you out of the door and gives you great support and company.

  • Join your local club – Grab your buddy and go together – you won’t be disappointed

  • Pick your time and your route – Work out what time works best for you. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Pick a quiet time for your runs if you are conscious of others but pick your routes carefully so you don’t feel vulnerable.

  • Join online forums to chat to people in a safe environment about running and your concerns as often what you are feeling will be common to others.

  • Distract yourself on your runs if you feel self conscious – Use a variety of techniques whether its what I do using mental math and counting or maybe planning your delicious dinner when you get home, reminding yourself why you are running at all, planning your day ahead or putting on your favourite tunes or podcast.

  • Break your run into bite size chunks and work through each part. Running to the next lamp post and rewarding yourself with a short walk or a change in pace. Whatever works for you will help distract you.

  • Get yourself some kit – this doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy at all. You don’t need the latest Nikes but just to feel like you are running safely in appropriate kit will help you “feel” right.

  • Look for role models who help drive and motivate you

  • Sometimes signing up to an event to motivate and push yourself can help – There are so many events and I appreciate this isn’t for everyone but can give you something to work towards or set your own targets.

  • Track your anxiety and write your feelings down. Think about what is making you feel that way, can you pinpoint why? Perhaps score each run with how you good you are feeling to see if patterns emerge that affect you – may be the route, the time of day or some other factor you can pinpoint?

And so my final thoughts and words of wisdom are :

Don’t let imposter syndrome win – if you run you are a runner and believe me when I say every time I turn up to the start line I feel like an imposter and I have run so many races but it still happens to me every single time. Have faith in yourself and your right to be there.

Mental Health and physical health benefits are a great reminder of why we do what we do

And remember people who really matter are supportive of you and what you are doing and they are cheering you on.

Thanks for reading and I hope you come back next time!