Thursday, 7 July 2011

My Fitness Story... - Sharon

It's Thursday and there's a post so it must mean I have got myself some more contributors to My Fitness Story... Thanks for everyone who read my post last week and offered to help. I always need new contributions so please don't think your story is not worth telling - be brave! 

Anyway, my willing volunteer this week is Sharon, who blogs at My lot. Sharon always seems to be out running - but it wasn't always the case. Here she shares her story of how and why she came to start running and complete her first marathon, the first being the hardest of course. 

So, without further ado, here's Sharon's story. 

OK, so it's not really a drastic fitness story, I haven't lost half my own bodyweight, or gone from being a couch potato to Olympic athlete, but it's my story.

Like a lot of girls, once I left school and its enforced hockey in the freezing cold, swimming in the unheated outdoor pool and embarrassing communal showers, I was put off exercise for life, or so I thought.  I had enjoyed horse riding when I was younger, but couldn't afford it on the meagre wages my first job paid.  So the next few years were just about work and then saving up to get married at 20.  Children followed soon after and years of sleep deprivation meant that exercise was the last thing on my mind, I was too exhausted.

Then my father died suddenly at the age of 48, it was heart failure, his heart weakened by having rheumatic fever as a child and an aortic valve replaced at 46.  He never really recovered from that procedure and had to have it repeated and was further weakened by that.  He was also a smoker, though had given up cigarettes, but was still having the occasional small cigar.  The rest of us all smoked too - everyone did then - and when he died, we all lived on cigarettes, tea and a bedtime whisky - and I went down to 8 stone. Although I'd always wanted to be slimmer, this was not a healthy way to live.

I gave up smoking, I bought two big bags of pick 'n' mix from Woolworth's and every time I craved a cigarette, I had a sweet.  Not the healthiest way to do it, but it worked for me! I then had two more children, which resulted in my weight going back up to about 10 stone 5lbs,  while not exactly enormous, was more than ideal for my height of 5' 5". By this time I was approaching 39 and made a list of things I wanted to do before I was 40, one of them was running the London marathon. I was unaware of how difficult it was to get in through the ballot and blithely sent off my application. I got a place first time - now I was going to have to do some training! The next day, I decided to try and run to playgroup when it was time to pick my youngest up. It was only across the park, about 800 metres, I got halfway before I got out of breath and had to walk, how was I ever going to run 26.2 miles?

The answer was by building up both speed and distance gradually and including some speed sessions too.  I found a friend who had been a football coach and he agreed to help train me.  He cycled beside me on long runs, telling me fascinating stories about his life. At first I could only listen, as I didn't have the breath to talk too. Eventually I could join in and tell him tales about my life too and began to look forward to those long runs where we were out for hours chatting and running through the ever changing countryside.

In preparation for the marathon, I took part in a 10k run and also did both the Bath and Reading half marathons and when the day arrived to do the London marathon, I felt prepared and excited!  I completed it in 5 hours 42 minutes, hardly record breaking,sense the sense of achievement compared with giving birth.  In fact, like giving birth, I said 'never again', but was back again the following year and the next and the next...  Since then I have completed the Great North Run, a couple more half marathons, race for life events, two Moonwalks, the Norwich 50 mile cycle ride, cycled India - which was a 240k women only event - and a super sprint triathlon, which I spectacularly finished last!  Next year, I am doing my 10th London marathon and doing another 240k women only cycle event in Kenya.  I think it's important to have a target and now my four children have grown up and left home, I have more time to exercise. I am fitter now than I was in my twenties and thirties and have much more energy, I just wish I'd started sooner!

For anyone who may be interested, here's a shameless plug for sponsorship on my Just Giving page

As always, I'm grateful to Sharon for taking the time to write her story. Who could have known that deciding to run a marathon could lead to that huge list of achievements? It just goes to show that pretty much anyone can run a marathon - lack of running experience is not a barrier if you do enough training. 

Feel free to share experiences, as always, in the comments below. My guest posters really do appreciate the messages of support they get from readers.

If you would like to share your fitness story, then please contact me on Twitter or email me on the address on the About Me page. All contributions are really appreciated so do get in touch, even if you feel yours is not a worthwhile story. If it's a personal experience, it is.  Do please join in - or ask your friends if you know someone has a story to tell, even if they don't blog.

Thanks for supporting My Fitness Story... and do come back for another guest post next week.
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