Running has never been my forte.
At school, miserable cross country runs were enough to put me off long distance running for life. I hated running around the drizzly field near Port Talbot steelworks, always one of the slowest runners. Sprinting was fun, thrilling; long distance running was not for me.
It was only as I neared the end of university that I started trying to run again. I did a few charity 5K runs and worked my way up to taking on two 10K runs for charity.
In 2010, I earned myself the dubious title of one of the slowest finishers in the Cardiff 10K.
I remember vividly being heckled by a male running club member who taunted me and a runner I’d befriended for being so slow. “You should be ashamed ladies,” he sneered, medal around his neck, taking no heed that we were running for good causes. Our only goal was getting over the finish line but that wasn’t good enough for him.
And that was one of the last times in recent years that I’d attempted running outside. Two children in less than three years and working full time meant I focused on gym classes when I could, my running days behind me.
In January, I decided to do the new year, new me, challenge and signed up for the Swansea Bay 10K, which I last did in 2009. It would be a motivator to improve my fitness and to get running again.
My plan to train alone faltered after a nasty chest infection in April/May. So after making a slow recovery, in mid June I went along to my first Pencoed Panthers training session feeling nervous as anything.
I wasn’t the only newbie that night and our lovely run leaders started us off with gentle walk runs using lampposts as our markers. I could barely run for two lampposts without stopping but their encouragement made all the difference.
At our second session, we covered 5K in walk running. And I really struggled. But when we got back to our meeting point, I felt jubilant.
And with each session since, I’ve felt my stamina and fitness improve. Some days are more difficult than others and some days are slower, but nothing beats that feeling of making yourself go a little bit further, a little bit faster.
And the encouragement of the fellow members makes all the difference. They are there to tell you to keep going, that you can do it, that you don’t need to stop.
On Wednesday, two months after joining the Panthers, I ran for four miles without stopping. Yes, I was slow. Yes, it was hard. But I did it. Those efforts sessions in the rain, those runs I thought I would never do all helped me to run the furthest I’ve run since the Cardiff 10K seven years ago.
So with five weeks to go, I feel the Swansea Bay 10K is doable. And it’s all thanks to my squad, the brilliant Pencoed Panthers, who have helped me cover more ground that I thought possible in two months.
I won’t be anywhere near the fastest runner in the Swansea Bay 10K. That’s not what it’s about. For me, it’s about getting over that finish line and raising money for the charity that made me feel less alone at the toughest time.
This post was inspired by the Sport Wales #OurSquad campaign to get more women active in Wales.
Find out more about the Pencoed Panthers here.
If you have a pound or two to spare for my Mind challenge, you can sponsor me here.