Age 17: Why I Ran

I’m not really sure where my love for running came from. It certainly didn’t start out as a love, it was more of an escapism, a way to expel stress and anxiety.

Aged 17, first year of college, and the first time I think I was ever aware of my new womanly curves; my slightly ‘fuller’ figure, a bottom that was never a standard dress size, making buying jeans a nightmare. Clothes shopping became something of a dread and I began comparing myself to everyone around me. I feel I should say say, there was never any negativity in my house growing up about body image or food. We’re a healthy (enough) household. I was just young, naive and finding it hard to adjust to the new ‘woman’ staring back at me in the mirror.

Growing up I regularly participated in sports: cricket, football, rounders, gymnastics. Then moved on to musical theatre, where I would dance at least one to two times a week. All this exercise meant diet was never really an issue. At college, slowly all of these things stopped as I struggled to juggle college, a job and Saturday drama school. I didn’t drink much, I didn’t like the taste. But I also didn’t move so much. And suddenly, I found myself becoming conscious of how I looked and what I ate.

So, I began running – probably 3-4k. It felt good, I felt I had achieved something. I remember coming home and telling my mum I had ‘run all the way to the pond and back.’ At first, everyone thought it was great that I was exercising more but then they saw it was becoming slightly obsessive.

I began going to the gym too; god, the cross-trainer is a boring piece of apparatus isn’t it? But that didn’t stop me from spending an hour or so at a time on it. This routine continued much throughout college.

Towards the end of my second year of college, I began developing stomach problems. This meant I had to really pay close attention to what I was eating and when – I also felt quite nauseous a lot of the time.

With college work, my lack of self-confidence and now the stomach problems, this was when the real anxiety hit. I won’t go too deep into it but it wasn’t fun. Mood swings, constant crying, OCD in the most oddest of forms. But this time, I spoke to my mum about it and we went to see someone. I continued to run, little and often, as this helped.

Fast forward to university, I was feeling a little better in myself, though my stomach was still a big issue I was downing Gaviscon by the litre. I continued to go to the gym regularly. In fact, most days. Spending the majority of my time on the wonderful cross-trainer and the running machine. I cooked a lot – I had to. I was still finding out what worked for my stomach and, I liked it. I lived with seven others and took pride in cooking us supper! But I also began to drink alcohol (which isn’t good for my stomach).

I went to university in Roehampton. While not the nicest of places, I had Richmond Park on my doorstep. I would run all the way to Robin Hood Gate and back to my little flat. I think it must have been 5k-8k. It’s fun to think I would now go to that very same park and run laps around the perimeter.

Safe to say, running continued to be something I delved in and out of throughout university – and sport came back into my life too, I played rugby! But it wasn’t until I moved back to London, following a year at home, age 25, that running became something more than a means of escape.

For all the negativity that it sounds like running was, actually, it gave my dad and I something to do together. On holidays, with my new found passion for running, we’d go out together first thing. We still do now, though the roles have changed a little, with me running laps around him rather than complaining that he’s going too fast.

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