I was never a sporty child. My leisure time was split fairly evenly between reading books and watching television – my Mother would go so far as to say I was a tv addict. Captain Caveman, Hong Kong Phooey, Atom Ant, The Mickey Mouse Club and Scooby Doo were all a huge part of my early years. I balanced all those American cartoon shows with a good helping of those great quality children’s shows that they just don’t seem to make any more – The Pheonix and the Carpet, Ballet Shoes and New Zealand’s own unsurpassed children’s series, Under The Mountain. ( I still can’t hear the name Wilberforce without shuddering!)
When we moved from Wellington to Hastings in the early 1980’s, I was appalled to discover that at school in the provinces one was required to partake in an alarming amount of cross country running. Every afternoon we’d be ushered out onto the not insubstantial field and made to run three to four circuits. The teacher would stand out in the middle of the field and shout at those who walked – me – or those who dared to cut corners. There was never any actual teaching about how to run, how to get started if you’ve never done it before or how to combine running and walking to build up your endurance. I hated it. Those daily sessions left me feeling useless and like there was something wrong with me. My worst moment was in Form Two – that would be year 8 in modern school lingo – when my teacher used to write the fastest time on the chalkboard and underneath it the slowest time. No surprises who was the owner of the slowest time in the class 😦 I’ll never forgive Miss Hamilton for that.
As I grew I began to get much more interested in physical activity and by the time I left university I was a regular gym goer. Step classes, Body Pump, Body Combat and Body Balance all became activities that I regularly enjoyed and yet, I often looked wistfully at people running and thought “if only I could do that”.
My enjoyment and interest in exercise and fitness continued to grow when I met and married Action Man. One of the things we loved to do was go for big walks all over Wellington’s hills and when we moved to Wadestown we had the very hilly town belt right on our back doorstep. When Olive came along she’d join us on our ramblings – tucked snugly into the front pack or surveying the scene from on high in the backpack once she got a bit older.
One of our routes used to end in a short but very steep climb. As we tackled this climb one afternoon, a runner bounded passed us, seeming to float all the way to the top. I turned to Richard and said, “I could never do that” to which he replied, with a smile, “yes you could”.
And with those three words so began my running renaissance. Miss Hamilton be damned – I was going to run! Slowly but surely I progressed from tiny amounts of running interspersed with big amounts of walking, to being able to jog up that infamous hill. I was never very fast but I got to the point where I could run ten kilometres. I’d signed up to do a 10k race – my first official running race – and promptly fell victim to the overuse injury achilles tendinitis. I dutifully took myself to see a physiotherapist and one of the first things she said to me was “I hate running. Have you noticed that runners never have a smile on their face?” I think she was Miss Hamilton reincarnated.
I laid off the running until we moved to Belgium and it was there, on the incredibly flat streets of Antwerp, that – shock, horror – I discovered that I actually prefer a more hilly terrain to the not-a-hint-of-a-gradient-anywhere that one finds in the lowlands. It was relief to see a nice amount of undulating terrain in and around our new neighbourhood when we moved to the US. One of the reasons that I like to run is that it definitely helps me to handle whatever life is throwing my way, and when we arrived in Winchester last October, life was pelting me with a whole lot of stress. So I dug out my MP3 player, dusted off my sneakers and downloaded the wonderful First Day to 5k programme. And this time, I was determined to take part in a race at the end of it.
So fast forward to last Saturday morning and there I was lined up at the start of the Girls on the Run 5k. Girls on the Run is a nationwide organisation that runs after school training programmes for girls which culminate in a 5k event. The idea is that hopefully the girls will develop lifelong habits around health and fitness, build their confidence, make friends and achieve a challenging goal. It is exactly the sort of programme that would have done wonders for the fatigued and despondent ten year old me, and so I thought it an excellent choice for my first event.
It was hard but it was great. Watching all those young girls running with their dads or mums or a buddy who signed up to run with them, was lovely. Each girl’s bib bore the number 1 and there was huge vocal support for every one of them – even me – when they made it across the line. As it was an event aimed at encouragement and participation, no official times were measured – which means I am going to have to do another 5k event so I can have an official time.
Here’s to all those amazing girls who took part on Saturday, and to all their supporters. Thanks for letting this old girl join you.
PS I can’t claim all the Croad family running glory. That afternoon we got in the car and drove to Fredericksburg, where action man ran the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon. Thanks to him for saying ,”you could do that”.
Take care everyone. Missing you and sending all our love xxx