|Below is the story of Deirdre, one of our students.
At 16 Stone, Deirdre decided to give our Learn-to-Run programme a try.
It is hard not to be inspired and motivated by her story, her attitude and her success.
So, sitting on my couch one night, surfing the net I saw an offer for a “learn to run” class. Weighing in at nearly 16 stone, the most exercise I got was typing, I was reluctant but knew something had to change. I checked out the offer and the website for the group – forgetthegym.ie – that’s a cool name I thought. I saw the classes were women only and there seemed to be really honest information about how nervous everyone is starting and the hardest thing you have to do is turn up. Between that and the recommendation of my sister’s friend, Norma, I thought, what the hell?!
I turned up in July 2011 for an 8 week couch to 5k course. I didn’t even own a track suit. My first class was done in a massive T shirt and pj bottoms!! There is no doubt that the class was tough – the first day, a light jog of one minute left me absolutely breathless. I was sore the next day and even more sore the following day!! But there was such a good atmosphere in the class, we’d be comparing levels of soreness and when you would be running for 7 minutes thinking I cant do another minute, someone would start chatting to you and take your mind off it. And the setting, Sandymount beach, just beautiful.
The forgetthegym team were second to none. After 8 weeks, I could hardly believe it, but I was running for 30 minutes!! The first time we completed the 30 minute run, Mary turned to us and said, “You see, you can do anything if you put your mind to it”. It was beyond a doubt, the most powerful and scary thing I have ever heard. I realised that what ever I wanted to do was absolutely achieveable if I put my mind to it.
I signed up straight away for the 5k to 10k course and ran my first 10k in the week leading up to Christmas. I texted Mary who rang back sounding as excited as if I’d just won the lottery! But to be honest it was great to talk to someone who was as excited as I was about running 10k. I slowly started realising that running was changing my life in every way. I became more organised in work, I was thinking better, clearer almost and physically I had albeit with the help of a very strict diet, dropped five stone. People didn’t recognise me. I didn’t recognise me! And the only exercise I was doing was the plan with forgetthegym.ie.
With all that going on, I decided to commit to running my first half marathon in my home town Limerick in May 2012. I kept up strength and speed class with forgetthegym and followed a 10k to half marathon plan that Mary gave me. Two weeks before the event, disaster struck and my right foot become swollen and tender. A vist to the GP and an X ray later, I had a suspected stress fracture. I could not believe it! I had to go in for a repeat X ray a couple of days before the half marathon to get the all clear to run and would only be able to run if it was not a stress fracture. I was gutted. I couldn’t not run my first half marathon. I rang Mary and she gave me loads of advice, resting up, compression bandage etc. I was in a heap going into the second X ray but when the doctor said, it’s not a stress fracture – you’re clear to run I got an awful shock. Suddenly I realised I was going to have to run a half marathon. What was I doing? Am I mad? How am I going to do this? And I remembered everything Mary had said, one step at a time. That’s how you run. You, as Nike says, just do it. Don’t think about it, don’t argue with yourself about it, just do it. On the morning of the half, my sister drove me into town. I was desperately nervous and was on my own in the warm up area. But eventually the time came, Celia Holman Lee kicked us off, and we were on our way. My friends and family were all out along the route and had put up some amazing signage on the way. I hit a wall at around 17k and thought I can’t do this but in my head I heard “Up tall Deirdre, one foot in front of the other and SMILE!!”.
I completed my first half marathon in 2 hours and 11 minutes. That was just 11 months after starting the couch to 5k course with the forget the gym lads. I’ve a second half marathon done, a third coming up and have decided to register to run my first marathon in Paris in April 2013.
Paris may seem like a strange choice but it’s not. Running has changed my life quite literally. I got promoted in work, and I put this partly down to running, as my performance in work improved massively. Following that, I got an opportunity to take up a job in Paris for 4 years. There is no doubt in my mind that had I not become addicted to running via forgetthegym, there is no way I would be writing this in my apartment in the 7th arrondissement, around the corner from the Eifel tower, now. Me in July 2011 would never have had the confidence to do something like move to Paris for four years!! Just wouldn’t have even thought about it. And now, running is keeping me sane while I’m settling in, here in a country where I don’t speak the language!! I’m sure I look like an Irish nutter in my running chick T-shirt, doing my own version of a strength and speed class around the Eifel tower once a week!
But running has made me realise that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, who cares if some else is faster, slower, thinner, better. Mary said to me after my half in Limerick, “no one else has run your race”. I take that to mean that no-one else has faced what you’ve faced to get to that start line, or will have the same experience as you during a run. So, unless it’s to help someone else, don’t worry about anyone else, just keep running.
It’s not just my life that’s changed. People around started asking, what’s going on, what are you doing. Running I said, try it! And it’s taking off! My sisters are running, completing their first 5k during the summer, friends of my sisters are running, one just completed her first 10k in London and is now training for a half, another thinking of signing up for her first half marathon in Paris in April, and three of my girls I worked in Ireland with are running with forgetthegym, one completing her first 30 min run, one addicted and doing 10k’s regularly and another having completed her first 8k!
Yes there are nights when I don’t want to go, there are nights when I’m heading out the door talking to myself going, what are doing, ya eejit, get back in there to the warmth and stick on a bit of telly in English and make a nice cup of tea (well as nice as you can get outside Ireland!!). But I know none of those things will feel as good as when I’ve done my run. I may not always smile during it, but I’ll ALWAYS smile after it.
Running has taught me about motivation, endurance and reward. If it’s not hard, you won’t get a buzz after it. But that buzz is worth it.
So if you are even considering it, if there’s even a glimmer of a maybe, do it. Join forgetthegym for an 8 week course and see what happens. At worst, you’ll run for 30 minutes, at best, you won’t stop running at all – and it will change your life too.
One of the hardest things to do when leaving Ireland was to cut the apron strings with Mary, Owen, Aoife and Lorraine, take a deep breath and see if I could do it on my own. And because they are the best at preparing you, I can and I am going it alone. That said, I cannot wait to see all the girls again in Beaujolais on the 17th of November!! The instructors may not see it this way, but I guarantee you, I’ve tried a lot over the years and there is one thing I can say with certainty, you will not find a better team of people to help you on your way to fitness. I know I can’t say they’ve changed my life, or they’ve run my races as they haven’t. I have. But they’ve guided, pushed, pulled, shouted, encouraged and supported me to become a runner. Go on, let them do the same for you!