I didn’t know I couldn’t run until I triumphantly finished the 400m circuit of my school’s running track to discover Mrs Hodgkinson and the rest of the girls in my year laughing at me! “You might be quite fast if you had any technique at all!” she managed, between snorts.
This was the eighties, before ridicule and bullying by teachers was anything to report, so I just avoided sports in favour of reading and made sure that my own children found a sport that made them feel physically confident.
I haven’t ‘not run’, I mean, I’ve done a couple of 5k charity runs, by which I mean jogging slowly at the start, finish and when anyone I knew could see me, and walking the rest of the time; but I dressed up and raised money and so that’s ok – right?
Over the years all sorts of people have suggested that I take up running, I explain that I can’t run, and they tell me I just need to practice and that they’ll wait for me. All of these encounters have ended the same, either with me purple-faced and alone as the rest of the runners get fed up with waiting and peel away to ‘stretch’ or ‘get home’. After lapping me not once, but twice, my son dutifully jogged across the finish line of a park run with me; while my husband stayed with me until, ten minutes in, declaring that he was cold and needed to warm up before leaving me in his dust!
Lockdown made many of us think and I really tried to master the Couch to 5K but never got beyond week six because running for twenty minutes straight was simply too much – I don’t experience a runner’s high, I don’t feel energised afterwards – I feel like death, and no amount of Sweaty Betty kit could tempt me out alone, even if I drown out my wheezes with nineties dance vibes.
However, I’d just finished writing ZERO TO HERO for the Child Brain Injury Trust; a story about how, with the right kind of help from the right kind of people, a family learn to adapt to life with a child with ABI. In the story, as in real life, the child must learn to walk again, with all the patience and focus that entails. So, it occurred to me, that perhaps I just needed the right kind of help from the right kind of person?
My friend of sixteen years – Emma, is a marathon runner and a ‘challenge junkie’, facing down life’s obstacles (and there have been many), always managing to come through with a huge smile. I sent her a text: Will you be my running coach? Currently, butterflies overtake me!
We’ve been ‘running’ together a couple of times a week since March, she’s made sure I have the right shoes, the right bra, and given me loads of suggestions for yummy recipes to fuel my body correctly. She doesn’t judge or complain, she simply gossips and giggles with me, checking her Garmin every so often, providing encouragement while finding something to celebrate every time we go out!
So, when a couple of weeks ago I saw a shout out from the Child Brain Injury Trust for runners to raise money in the Asics London 10k it felt like fate. Emma and I are all signed up and ‘in training’ just to finish before the cut-off time (1hr 45 mins), every step reminding me how lucky I am to be able to run, and how special those people who have the patience and the skills to support families who are going through the gruelling process of rehabilitation really are.
It’s been a tough year for all charities, but small charities who work on the front line alongside the NHS have been particularly affected, so please help me reach my target of £500 by donating whatever you can afford via my JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sarah-mackie-cbit