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Why I Run – By Rich Potter (Volunteer)

On Sunday 12 th March, Myself and my friend, George, will be running the Bath Half Marathon. We have been using this opportunity to fundraise money for two charities: MacMillan Cancer Support & The Project. On the fundraising page (link below) you can find our reasons for choosing these two great charities; what you won’t find is why we have chosen to do a half marathon. Now I cannot speak for George, but I am taking this blog entry as a chance to explain my reasons for wanting to do a half marathon and, more importantly, why I run at all.

I had no problem with running when I was in primary and secondary school so long as it was for a sport (mainly rugby and football). However, when the P.E. teacher decided that for this sessionwe would be something that was 100% running, I racked my brain for the best way of getting out ofit. A good example was in yr. 9 when we were told to partake in the (evil!) bleep test; I started it and did the first few rounds but then I noticed that it seemed to be becoming a lot harder for me to keep up with everyone else in the class. I thought that I was breathing heavier than everyone, I was going slower than everyone, I was going to perform the worst. I had a slight metallic taste in my mouth after completing the first few rounds (a common side effect of intense exercise) and I decided that I was going to greatly exaggerate this and use it as my reason for dropping out of the test. The actual reason was that I was afraid of failing horribly in front of everyone else in the class. The thoughts that I mentioned above were also exaggerations. Before I came up with my flawless escape route, a couple other people had already dropped out so how could I have performed the worst?

I spent a lot of my younger years being mocked by my peers. Looking back now, I can say that I was a big kid, often one of the smartest in the class, loyal, humble and likeable. When I was living those times though, I thought I was fat, never good enough, pathetic, socially-stupid and dislikeable… I thought this to be true because that’s what I was usually hearing people tell me.

Things did get better towards the end of secondary school and when I started college. I met some great people whose opinions I valued a lot more than the rest and whom I felt a lot more comfortable to be myself when I was around them. The words (and sometimes the actions bullies like to use alongside those words) that made me feel as if I was worthless and disgusting stuck with me for a long time however before I became more accepting of who I was and who I wanted to be.

What does this have to do with running? Running was one of those things that I was never good at. Yes, those horrible people made fun of me when I ran. But there was some truth to it. I was pretty fast for my weight, but that was about the only strong point to my running. I got out of breath very easily and was prone to injury (to this day I am vulnerable to Achilles tendonitis and pay great attention and care to any hints of pain in that area). I was not a runner. A couple of years ago, I started to take my fitness a lot more seriously. I had already began cycling and walking more but I wanted to become stronger and significantly improve my cardio. When researching ways to do this, one recommendation that kept popping up was to take up running.

I spoke about this with George and it turned out that he had also decided to take up running and agreed to come with me on my first run. Thank goodness he did as I was terrified about going outside and running in public! To begin with, we were terrible… as in 400m and I had to stop for a couple of minutes! But we went out for a couple more runs and then, one day, we decided to try running for a mile straight. We did it and George and I high-fived each other out of pure joy.

Running for a mile was never something that I thought I would end up doing and yet I was able to do it in a pretty respectable time for a first effort (I believe it was just over 10 minutes?). So we stuck at it until eventually we were run/walking 1.5 miles, and then 2 miles. We were following a plan and reached the point where we were to run/walk 5k. George did it in a respectable 28 mins for his first effort and only stopped on a couple of occasions… I did not do so well. I took more than 30 minutes, stopped at least 5x, and worse of all my heels were in serious pain. With this setback, the thoughts returned: I’m slow, I can’t breathe properly, I can’t run, those kids were right. Because of George and my brother though, I didn’t spend as long finding excuses to not run. We stepped back a bit on the distance, focussed a bit more on breathing, recovery and pacing, and kept at it. A couple of months later, I was able to run a 5k in just over 28 minutes with only one break.

Running was never going to be easy. Genetically I don’t have a body best suited to endurance running, but I chose to not let that be an excuse for why I should not do endurance running, especially as running was working for me. My cardio improved but additionally, my confidence in myself and my abilities was improving. I believed more and more that if I wanted to achieve something, I had to be prepared to work hard for it. Running became an integral part of my life. At times it became my way of meditating. When I was completing my Masters degree, I had to abandon a lot of my free time to my studies. Spending most of my waking time thinking only about my essays and research was stressful. The one thing that I always made time for was running. Even if I ran for only 20-30 minutes, that was 20-30 minutes of me time. My thoughts took a step away from everything else that I had to deal with for a short while and had me concentrate on my breathing, my pacing and my posture. I felt relaxed.

Running is one form of therapy for me that I practice. It helps me, hence why I do it. So why the half marathon? Embracing the “work hard to achieve” mentality, I wanted to physically challenge myself. I had often thought about how great it would be one day to do the London Marathon. But 26.2 miles is a lot longer than my previous best of 5 miles! Perhaps I should start with something smaller… a half marathon would be good; it’s a long distance yes but not the same as a full marathon… but it’s still more than double my best… a 10k would be even closer… This was what Iwas thinking. I kept questioning myself and putting it off. I kept lowering my bar more and more until it was low enough that I didn’t have to work hard to reach it. Safe to say that I did not feel like I had accomplished anything this way. Then, one night writing in my journal in Wetherspoons about whether or not I could do a half marathon, I decided to repeat what started this whole running shebang to begin with… I messaged George.

I asked him if he fancied running a half marathon with me and he agreed. Since then, we have been supporting each other to prepare for the Bath Half and have successfully managed to fundraise (at the time of writing this) our target goal of £700.


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