I’ve never been a fan of running and vividly recall soul-destroying experiences of it at school some 25 years ago. To be honest, I’ve never run since unless it was a necessity and certainly not out of choice. Exercise has generally been something I’ve done on a bit of an ad hoc basis, as with young children and a business to run (excuse the pun) it’s not really been a priority, but I was keen to do more in order to get fitter. So when a former colleague and friend mentioned a beginners running group being introduced by Weston Athletics Club, I was keen to find out more. She pitched it to me so well, that I had nothing to lose – minimal commitment of my time; experienced coaches who would help and advise me on everything I would need; aimed at non-runners; and a £3 donation from me each week to charity in return.
So, a few weeks later on a late September evening, donned with some new running attire, I arrived on day one of the 12-week ‘Santas in Training’ (SiT) running programme – aimed at getting me and about 40 other individuals prepped for running the Christmas Cracker 10k in Weston-super-Mare in early December 2014. Oh, and you have to run this wearing fancy dress or at least a piece of tinsel, hence the Santas in Training title.
Aside from feeling physically sick at the prospect of running and nervous about making a fool of myself, I sucked it up and got on with it. The leaders, all 12 of them who gave their time freely to help me and my soon to be ‘running buddies’ gave us lots of information, before we headed outside in the cold, dark and damp, to do a warm up and our first run. OK, I was never going to be impressive with my first outing, but I just about made it round the course and I had loads of encouragement and support along the way from the leaders and other runners.
Over the coming weeks I had lots of niggling injuries and annoyances along the way, but gradually as I overcame them, my technique, pace and confidence grew and I tackled longer distances all in preparation for the big race in December. Come rain, shine, or dare I say hangover on occasions, I consistently went out training with my group two to three times a week. Completing a couple of 5k races on the promenade in Weston-super-Mare helped, as did running them non-stop, proving that with a bit of determination and focus, anything’s possible and the human body is an amazing thing.
With my work colleagues hearing my running tales as the weeks went on, and my colleague David already booked on to the December race, my other colleague (Ange) thought it would be a good idea if we tried to raise some money for Plum’s charity of the year, Broadway Lodge, a local treatment centre for addition.
With an added incentive of doing well on race day, our somewhat last-minute fundraising efforts began and before we knew it, race day (Sunday 8th December 2014) had arrived. After a quick team talk between David and I amongst the 2,000 runners, I joined my fellow Santas in Training on the beach for the start of the race. The gun went, the chip activated in my race number as I crossed the start line and I was off; no going back now.
With amazing support from marshals, fellow runners, friends, family and spectators along the way, I was helped on my way. It took me 1 hour and 25 minutes to pound the wet sand and hard tarmac to make my way around the course, but despite the effort involved, I absolutely loved it and was so thrilled to cross the finish line!
Throughout the race, I had the delight and wonder of running with giant Christmas crackers, Santa and his reindeer, shepherds, sheep, life size Christmas presents and more, plus the absolute privilege of running amongst many of my Santas in Training. I think David must have been going so fast, I didn’t notice him overtaking me and needless to say after previously completing many running races and a marathon, he beat me round in 58 minutes.
We’ve just handed over £235 to Broadway Lodge thanks to the kind generosity of friends, family and Plum clients. Furthermore, the Santas in Training group handed over a cheque on race day for £1,000 to Weston Hospicecare – a fantastic sum that accumulated over our 12 week programme from our £3 per week donations for training.
I’m not sure what’s next in terms of a target, but I’ve joined Weston AC and I’ll keep on running. I really enjoy it and over the last few months, there have been so many great things that have come from it; improved fitness, new friendships and fantastic sums of money raised for charity. I’ve discovered that PR can also mean personal records as well as public relations and above all, I’m rather proud to call myself a runner.
Karen has over 12 years’ experience of marketing and communications gained within both the public and private sectors. Read more.