If you saw my social media accounts you would be forgiven for thinking I am some kind of fitness freak. Check-ins at the gym on a daily basis, posting upcoming 5k and 10k runs, photos of me finishing said 5k and 10k runs, check-ins at various sportswear stores, posts about being frustrated because it’s Sunday and the gym is closed…and so it goes on.
Actually I really only started this fitness lark about four years ago. Prior to that I have never even run for a bus. I hated physical education at school and towards the end of high school skipped it altogether and went to the mall instead.
Horse riding and ice skating were my only real form of exercise and I guess you can’t count splashing around in the pool or ocean to keep cool in the summer.
Luckily although I always want to shed a pound or two, I have never struggled with my weight so keeping fit was never a real focus in my life.
Then, around three years ago, over the Christmas season, my equally, non-fitness-freak friend suggested we sign up for a 9k run in our nearby main city of Almeria. After questioning her sanity and asking if she had started taking drugs, I shocked myself by agreeing.
Bearing in mind neither of us had ever run in any event before and we only had about five weeks to prepare, everyone thought we were crazy, but I think secretly they were a little envious of our new found focus!
We trained as much as possible, night and day, the night time sessions mostly a quick dash around the nearby running track (please don’t picture a nicely surfaced professional track with lanes and floodlights, our local track is a dirty, dusty, sandy oval next to the fire station, mainly frequented by old Spanish men off on their evening constitutional to get away from the wife). These evening sessions were followed up with hot chocolate and brandy…Don’t judge!! A friend who is a running coach told me chocolate milk is good for muscle repair!
The big day finally came and we drove an hour down the motorway with husbands and in-laws in tow for moral support. Never having done an official event before we were taken by surprise when the starter gun went off and therefore got off on a bit of a slow foot. It was early February and quite chilly so I set off with layers of sports bra, vest top and zip top. Around 20 minutes into the run I was peeling off layers which was kind of difficult as I had my bib pinned to my front and I nearly gave an old guy sat on a bench clapping on the runners a heart attack as I flashed him when peeling off the vest top and the sports bra was still pinned to it. His clapping certainly became more enthusiastic!
I am an antisocial runner, I like my music on, don’t like talking and want to run at my own pace so found myself a little ahead of my running buddy from early on. Keen to offer as much support as possible, my husband kept popping out from behind buildings cheering me on (either that or he had hired a whole bunch of looky-likeys.)
As I saw the football stadium (finish point) ahead I could have cried with relief not realising I was to be subjected to the shame of running the final 500 metres round the sports stadium running track in front of the whole crowd!
Anyway we finished it and in good old Spanish tradition were awarded with copious amounts of free beer, tortilla and in our goodie bags a box of local tomatoes! Oh and did I mention the free massage.
It was all in a good cause as I had extracted from everyone I knew, a good amount of sponsor money to raise funds for two local dog charities, the rule was, if I don’t die, you pay up!
I was by no means anywhere near the medal positions but thankfully wasn’t in last place and in a strange masochistic way enjoyed it!
Unfortunately for my friend, that was it, I was addicted to running events and spent the next two years bullying her and anyone else who mentioned the ‘R’ word into entering every event on the calendar. I even developed a spreadsheet of all results which I would email to everyone, I would write about the events for the paper I was working for and my friend and I appeared in dozens of editions until she moved back to the UK (was she trying to escape me I wonder?) and I became a sole competitor. Then early last year I found myself a new fitness buddy, more about that next time…