Hello! I can honestly say that running changed my life. I always wanted to run, but didn't really know how to get started. I kind of wanted to lose weight, but I wanted to run more. Before I even started trying to lose weight I signed up for a 1 mile charity run in my local park, and tried to start running. At first it was very much a run/walk for a mile down to the park followed by a walk back, and on the day of the run I ran bits and walked bits. Something clicked at that point though, and I decided to join a gym to build up my fitness so that I could start to run properly (I think it was the shame of being overtaken by an OAP pushing a pram, although I didn't realise at the time that my time of about 11:30 wasn't actually horribly bad considering I was 100lb overweight).
I joined a gym and once I'd got a bit of fitness I started a run/walk programme on the treadmill to prepare me for a 5k charity race. I couldn't believe it the first time I managed to run 5k straight! Because the 5k itself involved hills (how dare it?!) I walked part of it and ran a bigger part, but finished in about 28:30. This was about a year after the 1 mile race by this point I'd lost 40lb or so. I then decided to sign up for a 10k, which was three or four months later.
Again, I trained mainly on the treadmill, and ran two 10ks that autumn. I got under 60 minutes in the second, which was also the first time I managed to run all the way in a race. From there things started to snowball. I discovered that running outside wasn't as horrific as I'd imagined and way less boring than the treadmill, and I started to think of things that I'd never even considered when I started out.
In the February (about 6 months after the first 10k) I ran my first half marathon in 1:55ish, and decided to run a marathon. By this point I was a normal weight according to my BMI, although a little heavier than I am now. I aimed to do a marathon in September that year, and built up my distances over that summer. It says a lot about how far I'd come that I was disappointed to finish in 4:52, as I felt I was capable of much faster. That spurred me on to run another, and I managed to take an hour off my time last May and got down to 3:52. I then ran another in 3:50 in October. Add in one I did for charity with a team of other runners (6:48), and somehow I've managed to run 4 marathons, and I'm currently training for my 5th.
That would be good on its own, but running has also transformed the way I live my life. I care about what I eat because it will give me the energy to run better, and I am far more motivated not to drink on a night out if I know it will make a race or training session harder if I'm hungover during it. My social life revolves very much around running, which means I'm with people who understand the importance of healthy eating and exercise, so I don't get funny looks if I say I'm staying off the booze because I have a race. It's amazing the number of times I go out for a run and bump into someone I know, and I know my local area far better because of the places I've discovered when I'm out running. I turn up for club runs because I fancy a chat sometimes, rather than because I feel like actually running, but once I get out there I enjoy it.
I've joined a running club, and was quite surprised when I discovered I was one of their faster women. Because none of them ever knew me when I was fat, they don't treat me any differently to how they treat anyone else (I know they wouldn't, but I still sometimes wonder whether people can tell, and whether they'd treat me like some kind of charity case if they did - oh, be gentle on her, she used to be fat). I do sometimes laugh when people assume I used to be good at running when I was at school. Erm, no...
I'm sure there are other ways I could have lost the weight, and I sometimes wonder whether running the mileage I do at the moment is a sustainable way to keep it off, but what I think makes the difference is that running gives me a structure, and a reason to stay fit and healthy that's more powerful (for me) than just what I look like. If I have a target marathon, then that's 16 weeks or so where I have a training plan, and a focus, and a reason to keep on doing it.
Sorry this is a bit of an essay, but I really can't say enough about what a positive thing running has been for me.
SW - 260, Original GW - 160 - achieved 21 March 2006, CW erm... I'll get back to you on that
4 sub-4 hour marathons! (PB 3:44:05)!