An Unlikely Runner: My Journey from Side-line to Start Line

Feet of lone runner jogging on an athletics track
‘action-1867700_1920’ by Pexels on Pixabay

“The more I ran, the easier it became. A virtuous cycle began.”

Growing up, I thought some people were naturally sporty – and I wasn’t one of them. To me, fitness seemed like luck of the draw. Yet, in a single year I was transformed from exercise-refuser to endurance runner.

How did this happen? Well, it started with an unexpected offer and some ‘fighting talk.’

An Unexpected Offer

My running story starts like a bad joke.

A writer, a runner and a rugby-player walked into a bar.

As we settled down over our pints, the runner asked, “Would either of you be up for running a race with me?” The rugby-player declined. The writer was curious.

I was the writer. I had reached my mid-twenties and the combination of office work and socialising had affected my shape and weight. I wanted to do something about it. This offer sounded like my opportunity.  I’d never been athletic. However, I figured a long-term goal would motivate me to get out and exercise regularly.

It wasn’t long before I’d bought the essential running gear and signed-up for my first half-marathon. At the time I couldn’t run to the end of my road, let alone compete in a race. Maybe the joke really was on me.

However, I had nine months to go until race day. Surely that was long enough to get from side-line to start line?

Fighting Talk

My early training was haphazard. I had spotted a playing field nearby. On my initial runs, I’d go there and attempt a lap before heading home. The total distance was about a mile and a half. I walked more of it than I ran. I measured distances in lampposts, not mile-markers.

After I’d signed up for the race, I shared the news with friends and family, hoping they would hold me to account. They certainly did. Not long into my training, a highly-athletic friend asked me how I was getting on. With pride, I described my frequent stop-start lap around the green. His response came as a surprise.

“You’re young and fairly healthy. You should be able to run two miles, no problem.”*

It sounded like fighting talk. Fortunately, the olive branch followed.

“Let’s plan a route together. Then, you can give it a go.”

After twenty minutes on Mapometer, we’d plotted a two mile circuit. The single loop started and ended at my front door. The challenge was set. My short-term goal was to reduce the parts I walked until I could run the entire route – similar to the Couch to 5k training plan.

Towards the Start Line

My friend checked in on me frequently to ask how I was getting on. Soon, I was running more than I was walking. Then, I was barely walking at all.

The more I ran, the easier it became. The easier it became, the more I enjoyed it. The more I enjoyed it, the more I ran. A virtuous cycle began.  Finally, I ran the entire way round! I remember thinking, “That’s two miles in the bank.” I just had to find another 11.1.

I had seen how much I could improve just by sticking at it. After that, the race didn’t seem so impossible. I began expanding my circuit. I added extra loops. I repeated sections. The route grew and grew. Each new mile filled me with disbelief. Running?! Me?!

It felt like no time before I was lining up for my first half-marathon. In just nine months, I  made it from side-line to start line. And a love of running was born.


*In hindsight, these words sound a bit strong. Just lacing up and getting out was already a huge step for me. However, I’m grateful for the motivation they gave me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eight + 7 =