This weekend I ran the Cambridge 10km, with hundreds of other sweaty, red-faced people, all huffing and puffing our way around 10,000m of tarmac, under a ludicrously hot sun for a September day.
Look. Here we are. Hot. Sweaty. Pink. And we hadn’t even started yet.
I’ve run since I was young. Here is me, aged about 6, running on the cinder track in Oxford.
In the ‘best facial expression’ category, I won gold.
Twenty years ago when I ran in occasional races, friends were all like,
WHY are you doing this?? You’re not in the Olympics, Liz.
Why are you running a RACE??
These days there are races every weekend, all over the country. From 5kms, 10kms, half marathons and the Full Whack 26 Milers, there are hundreds to choose from, for almost every charity you can name.
Cancer Research UK's Race for Life first cornered the ‘everyone can run – come and have a go!’ market – this year there are over 300 women-only races organised. Lots of people just WALK round. And that's fine!
Triathlons are the new kids on the ‘I want a new challenge’ block - over 100,000 people do triathlons in the UK every year now. And almost none of them are professional triathletes. They just want to have a go, get wet and wear the weird lycra cycling gear.
Why did I get into running? Because my mother was a runner.
She used to run the 400m hurdles. This is basically the Worst Event There Is. It’s fast. It’s long, and you have to jump over things. What's not to like??
Being taken down to the track as a kid, watching the people warm up, stretch, train, win, lose and just BE FIT was completely normal for me, from the earliest age.
And it has stayed with me for life.
More than that – I’ve got better at it, as I’ve got older. A lot of that is to do with mental strength. (And, possibly also, to do with not getting hammered in the student bar most nights.)
But sport really is something you can improve on throughout life, and enjoy more the more you do it.
Last weekend I broke a 20-year record for my running club's women’s 5000m, on the track I used to train at when I was a student. I hadn't run there since 1996 - and I reckon I'm faster now than I was then. I'm certainly much stronger.
Running is a total no-brainer, if you are actually physically able to run; it’s almost free, you can do as much or a little as you want, you can do it anywhere, any time, at any level you want.
No equipment required, except trainers. And maybe a sports bra. Stops the . . . bouncing.
Here is a piece I wrote for care.com, about the effect of events like the Olympics - currently in full-swing in Rio with the Paralympic Games - on the amount of sport children do, and what a fantastically positive thing this is.
CLICK HERE TO READ...
I’ll stop gushing now. But really. . . give it a go.
Get home from work and feel like shit? GO FOR A RUN.
Feel lethargic, a bit down and...bleurgh? GO OUT FOR A WALK.
I’ve never felt worse for it. Even if it hurts.
How MUCH does it hurt? Well, take a look at this. Do I look happy??
No. I wasn't happy. I had just run 13 miles in 1 hr 23 minutes, I was in intense pain, my lungs burned, my legs felt like jelly and I thought I was going to be sick and I wanted to cry. But when the running is over, I feel mentally and physically somehow…BETTER. Always.
No, it’s not easy. It’s bloody hard. But so are all things in life worth doing.
The rewards are great. And they last for life.
Whether it's running, swimming, cycling, dancing, boxing, gymnastics or rock climbing,
Get out there. Get your kids out there.
And DO SOME SPORT.