I know how it feels to be terrified of going for a run. That was how I felt one sunny morning last June when I went to meet Paddy for his running club. For the first time it was just me! Paddy saw the opportunity to see what kind of runner I was, the runner I could be and how he could help me rediscover my confidence. I really wish I had a photograph from that morning.
We headed along the Monsal Trail, a lovely flat place to run and it was perfect. I could run and chat, I can nearly always chat, words rarely fail me. This was fine! I can do this! The gear change came when we started back towards the studio, I'm not brilliant at guessing the passage of time, but even I knew we hadn't been out for an hour. We started up a hill, Paddy explained how we would run intervals to get to the top. He commented on my natural bounce, which is funny, because within twenty minutes he already knew the essence of my personality. Running with someone definitely fast tracks the rate at which you get to know each other!
Paddy then said that we were going to carry on up the hill and see how far we got, my confidence abandoned me. The hill is a mile long and gradually gets steeper the further up you go. It is intimidating! It was literally as if a switch had flipped and turned off the power. This was the first time Paddy had seen this happen to me, but it would not be the last.
I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that there was literally no way I could run up that hill.
Paddy was interested to see how I would react to the challenge. How hard would I push myself? I started to struggle almost immediately so he set me challenges as we ran. They didn't help, I had to stop despite Paddy’s encouragements. If I had known him then as I know him now, I would have burst into tears. I was so unfit. I felt like a fool. The hill represented the challenge that becoming fit again would be, and I wasn't sure I was able to take it on. Confidence in my strength and ability was at an all time low. I was looking to Paddy for the answers to those questions bombarding my thoughts, and he would help me find them for myself.
Of course, I stopped. I stopped several times. We walked a bit. We set off again and almost immediately I had to stop again. It wasn't my legs, it wasn't only my breathing, it was my mind screaming at me that I couldn't do this! I just couldn't do this. Perhaps I would never be able to. We really hadn't gone that far, but I was already at my limit.
My lack of confidence was the problem. I vocalised ‘I’m not as fit as I used to be’. This was the beginning of our journey together, where his courage and his confidence would be lent to me until I found my own. Someone believed in me, believed in me more than I believed in myself.
At this point, after stopping so much and faced with the fact that I was one step away from sobbing at the side of the road, a friend would probably have suggested that we go back down the hill, applaud today’s effort and try again another day. Instead, Paddy knew that we had to get to the top, that somehow it would unlock the running road ahead. He wasn't going to let me give in, however we got there, and however long it took.
We did get to the top, I was shattered and so relieved it was over. I didn’t feel very proud of what I had achieved. I actually felt as if I had failed somehow, but Paddy would hear nothing of it. He would not allow me to be negative about the effort that took me to the top, whether it was at a walk or a run was completely irrelevant to him. He encouraged me to see the victory in it. To look forward and not back.
When I left Paddy that day, I was thoughtful. I looked at my trainers, they were the shoes that previous runs and races had been run in and decided that I needed new ones. It would take time and effort, there would be triumphs and disappointments, but I had to find the runner in me again and I knew that Paddy could help me find her. He wanted me to excel and be the best runner I could be, a better runner than I ever had been. He would inspire me to be braver, more confident, more determined than I could ever have been without him. The road ahead would be run together. What I didn't know then was that over time the balance would shift from a trainer and runner relationship, to friend and friend, runner and runner. That our running revolution had begun.
You might be interested to know that I can run up that hill now, in fact, I can run up that hill quite happily! I chat all the way up! How annoying I must be! The running road ahead is full of hills on the road and on the fells. I actually like running up them! Do you know why? Because at the top of a hill there is a view. You get to stand at the top, look out and feel on top of the world. Every single time I run up a hill my confidence grows. I still struggle with ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘You should be better’, but I'm learning to replace fear with confidence all the time, to be braver.
Sometimes all you need is someone to say ‘You can do it!’ and if you can’t, to run alongside you until you can.
On Top Of The World