From 0 miles to trail marathon in 2.5 years!

by guest author Kathy England

At 55 years old I worried I was too old to start running and it had never crossed my mind that I would enjoy it! – I hated cross country practice at school and come to think of it, all outdoor sports – I would hide in the hedgerows and bushes to skive a lap of the dreaded school cross country! Why would anyone would want to go out in rain and cold weather to run – where was the fun in that!

Now I am regularly doing half marathons for fun across Cannock chase and just entered my first trail marathon next summer – the Lady Bower in the Peak district – if of course it goes ahead!

Cannock chase Kathy England runners StEP Article

My husband, who is no longer able to run due to injury, cannot quite believe that I have got the running bug after all these years ! – I would look at him with disbelief and confusion when he used to go out running – now I know why running can be addictive.

I already attended the gym and loved step, dance and body pump classes and I guess I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could start running – so I built up to 10k on the treadmill – which is the most boring thing in the world – I would distract myself with sudoku games and music while pounding the mill – then shortly after that my friend Marie started running and encouraged me to enter a 10k race with her at Shugborough.

I wasn’t too sure about it but it was good fun to enter together. On her recommendation I then joined the Rugeley Runners and started building up my distance and met lots of lovely people, many of whom I now run with. The following spring I entered the Cannock Chase Trail Half Marathon, which is a very hilly course, and was over the moon to complete it.

I now have some great friends who I run regularly with and have completed several half marathons – my favourite distance is 10 miles/half marathon – and my initial goal of being able to run has now shifted to being able to run without injury for as many years as possible. I currently run 3 times a week, between 20 and 25 miles per week and am completely hooked ! I much prefer the trail runs to road runs, but use my occasional road runs to build up a faster pace. I am very fortunate as I live close to the canal and Cannock chase.

When lockdown was announced I ran solo for a short while and then paired up with my friend Karen, and as permitted by guidelines, we added more friends to our running pod. We have just gone back to running in pairs but have a lovely group to go back to when Boris says we can! We encourage and look after each other, and take it in turns to lead the runs. I am slowly building up my confidence to take the lead.

We all have slightly different goals and fitness levels but we support each other to achieve our personal goals. Last year I got up to 22 miles with my friend Karen on a section of her ultra – this then gave me the confidence to try for a marathon. I am really grateful for the friendships that I have made since I started to running – they are my running family now!

StEP article kathy enland leaping runners

Running puts you in a great mood and my Saturday morning runs set me up for the weekend and gives me the excuse to eat as much as I want! It’s such a great feeling to run in the countryside and achieve a slightly longer distance or improve your pace – I am sensible though and take supplements for my joints and bones, and have learnt through trial and error what to eat before, during and after a run.

A while back Marie mentioned Jeff Galloway to me, who has coached many people in the run-walk-run technique, and after suggesting it to my running pod as a good way to avoid injury, we tried it out and we now incorporate “jeffing (walking)” for about one minute each mile (sometimes we choose to “Jeff” the steep hills instead) and we run in all weathers. I have had minor injuries and aches and niggles which I am keeping on top of – I now schedule in a sports massage once a month. And yes, I am obsessed with buying running shoes and all the other kit!!!

So I am feeling both nervous and excited about my first marathon – it’s not the easiest one for a first, it’s the Lady Bower one in the Peak District – but I am just wanting to achieve the mileage – my biggest fear really is the hot weather – I have really surprised myself to find I prefer cold weather running.

For me the barriers to running were all in my head, and the fear of the unknown. I feel as though my confidence and self belief has increased since I took it up.
If I was to give anyone else advice on how to start running, I would definitely recommend join a running club or run with a friend who can support you – and don’t think you need to run fast (that was my first mistake which cost me some physio appointments!) – focus on enjoying it and don’t ever bow into pressure to run faster or further just because someone else says you can –

this is your run and your pace –

you’ll soon get to know your strengths, weaknesses and likes of running!

StEP Kathy Enland runners leaping

And age is just a number, it’s never too late!!