So you think you can't run?
You absolutely can.
I spent 34 years believing I wasn't able to run and here I am training for a marathon.
If I can do it, anybody can.
Because after all, the body achieves what the mind believes.
And if you tell yourself you CAN do it, then trust me you WILL.
Running must be the most universally accessible sport you can do. Lace up your trainers, open your front door and just start putting one foot in front of the other. It doesn't cost anything, you can do it alone or as part of a group, you decide how far and how fast (or slow...!) you want to go and you get a nice blast of fresh air and some feel-good endorphins.
That makes it all sound very easy and when I read it back, I think "well, if it is *that* effortless and bloody convenient, why didn't I take it up years ago?"
Mind over matter, that's why. At school I was the geeky one, rather than the sporty one. At university I was focused on my studies and the craic (not necessarily in that order!) and by then I had pigeonholed myself into the "not sporty" bracket for life.
And so I spent the first three decades of my life being generally sedentary and inactive.
I wasn't setting a bad example to my children, but I wasn't exactly being a positive role model for them either when it came to fitness. I actively encouraged them to do all manner of sports and activities whilst I sat there and spectated, more often than not with a latte in my hand.
It was my eldest daughter who inspired me to run. She was on the school cross country team, competing against other local primary schools and invariably came last but she enjoyed herself, kept going and never ever gave up. I was, and still am, so proud of her tenacious spirit and determination.
Freya started struggling with her knee and ankle joints a couple of years ago and was eventually diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Being faced with what she couldn't do and her limitations made me revisit my own.
I was healthy and able. I had no excuses. And so I went for a 'light jog' one day and found it one of the most difficult things I'd ever had to do. A mile of puffing, panting, walking and swearing. This would put most people off, but I do love a good challenge!
So I went home and casually mentioned to James that I thought I might sign up for a local 10km race. He laughed. That might paint him unfavourably but he honestly thought I was joking. He'd tried to convince me years earlier to try running but gave up after realising I couldn't actually run and breathe at the same time.
That snub sparked something deep within and I thought to myself that I would show him! But rather than sign up for the 10km that he'd thought ambitious for me, or opt for a Couch to 5k plan like a normal person, I just went straight ahead and signed up to a half marathon. Always an extreme, me!
At that point, my mind was telling me "yeah Carly, you've got this! Move over Paula Radcliffe!" yet my body didn't get the memo and moved along about as fast as a sloth. But I believed I could, and I did. I completed my first half marathon in October 2016 with a time of 2:37. Not fast by any stretch of the imagination, but I bloody did it. And that feeling of achievement and success has become a little addictive since.
Doggedly determined to learn to run, I joined a gym to build some strength. That led to wanting to eat better to fuel this new training and before you know it, it had all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and I was DOING IT. LIVING IT. Being one of those mums that does the school run in Lycra. Leading a healthier lifestyle. Setting an example to my children. Not *just* physically, but also proving to them (and myself, for that matter!) that hard work pays off and that you reap far greater rewards from that than you ever could from instant gratification.
I've since completed a further three half marathons, including one in Sweden (which totally qualifies me to call myself an international endurance runner 😉), and I'm just beginning gruelling training through the winter months for my first full marathon in Paris in April.
I still run like a demented penguin, but hey - I'm working on it...
And so can you.