Once upon a time there was a tubby little girl, let's call her Jenny, who hated sport. The annual athletics and swimming carnivals filled her with dread – she especially hated skipping! Her favourite thing to do was to sit in the library at lunchtime, by herself, with her nose stuck in a book (quite possibly researching innovative ways to get out of afore mentioned activities).
Fast forward now 40 years and our tubby little friend has spent most of those 40 years on every diet ever conceived while studiously evading the exercise she loathed. Then one fortuitous day she met a personal trainer. The personal trainer, let's call her Bonny, convinced our tubby little friend that she could train her in activities that not only would help her lose weight but that she would actually enjoy. Our friend Jenny was dubious but went along with the plan. No one was more surprised than Jenny when this plan started to work! Jenny began to lose weight, felt happier and more enthusiastic about life in general.
One fateful day Bonny asked Jenny if she would like to go for a run. Well Jenny fell about laughing. Suddenly she wasn't that 50 year old who had discovered joy in physical activity, she was again Jenny the tubby little girl hiding in the school library. She couldn't run. Wouldn't run. No way. Not ever. But Bonny's powers of persuasion knew no bounds and one Sunday morning, at the ungodly hour of 7am, Jenny ran 9km – without stopping! Jenny could not believe what she had done, nor could her long suffering husband who had driven their car to the halfway mark where he fully expected he would find our friend lying on the bitumen in a state of collapse.
The shock of the 9km run put Jenny into immediate retirement from running. With the comments of concerned friends and family members ringing in her ears "But what about your knees? Aren't you too old for something like running? You know how clumsy you are, what if you fall and break your hip?" Jenny hung up her joggers, determined never to run again. However, there was a little voice in the back of Jenny's head, a little niggling voice that kept saying, but what if?
With just a little encouragement, Jenny soon found herself running every Wednesday morning, slowly building up from 6km to 10 km. Wednesdays soon became known as "Old Girl Wednesday". It seemed appropriate given that average age of the girls who ran in the group was 56! The OGW girls ran in the dark, they ran in the frost, they ran in the rain. They were left in the slipstream of the younger and much faster girls, but they just kept running. Sunday runs were added to the mix and before she knew it Jenny was being called a runner! The natural progression was of course to register for a running event. No one was more surprised than Jenny when this happened, much less her family who gaffawwed loud and long when she announced registering for her first event.
And so along went our friend Jenny, always the last to finish, who broke all the rules in the running book. The first half marathon Jenny competed in was, four days after returning from an overseas trip. She hadn't run for a month. Those 21.1km felt like 212km and it was only sheer bloody mindedness that got her over the line at the end (Disappointingly the organisers pulled up the timing equipment just before Jenny crossed the line so no time was recorded) And her longest ever run (while training for her first and only marathon), was a solo 34 km after just four hours of sleep and too much champagne. Over the next four years Jenny would compete in 15 half marathons, innumerable 10km events and one marathon. Then all of a sudden, as quickly as it all began, Jenny just stopped running. At first there were plausible excuses like, injuries, colds, work commitments, sick family members, sick pets - anything at all that sounded acceptable. In the end Jenny stopped making excuses, stopped moving, started eating and became that tubby little bookworm again.
As the weight piled on again, the very thought of running again filled Jenny with terror. She was too fat to run now, even if she wanted to. She forgot all of her past achievements and only remembered that as the slowest runner, she had always been the last to finish. How embarrassing. Her family had been right. She wasn't a runner, no not at all.
Then as the new year dawned on January 1st 2017, with the last party goers straggling home, Jenny put on her joggers and with her friend Danielle (Bonny was on holidays) she set out on her first run in a very long time. It was tough and Jenny was slower than ever but Danielle was patient. Slowly Jenny remembered that feeling known only by people who run. The feeling, despite leaden legs and rasping breath, of absolute elation. Jenny is still a long way from where she was. She still struggles enormously getting out of bed and pulling on her joggers. The voice of the tubby little bookworm is still a little too loud however the voice of Jenny, the runner, is getting a little louder each day. Nursing fragile dreams of running half marathons again, it might take a year maybe two, but Jenny is determined.