Lacking the motivation to lace up and hit the road? Marathon runner Amy Lane knows all about our in-built resistance to exercise but has found nothing beats the natural high of running, says Simon Lewis.
HUMANS have been running since before they were first chased across the tundra by a woolly mammoth. It is in our DNA, that innate sense that we should be moving and doing so as quickly possible.
So why is it, then, that most of us stop? Why did so many of us give in to the voice in our head that said: ‘I can’t run’?
Amy Lane paid no heed to that voice, or at least she stopped listening and started doing what we are all born to do. Now she wants us to follow suit, to cast off our inhibitions and trepidations, go beyond our front doors and start running.
A digital editor atWomen’s Health magazine in London and creator of popular running podcast Well Far, she has written I Can Run: Your Empowering Guide To Running Well Far and tells Feelgood that if she could conquer her fears about it then we can too.
Lane writes about 10 years of suffering through “a psychological eating disorder” when her healthy eating became extreme. Her book, a blend of personal story and practical advice to make running “not suck”, is intended to help those, particularly but not exclusively women, who feel they face the same or similar barriers.
“It’s funny isn’t it, because the industry I work in, I could have turned to a fellow title, the biggest running magazine in the UK (Runner’s World), to ask for help but I didn’t do that because I felt stupid.
“I felt like running was this big clique and because I was a complete beginner I felt I couldn’t be part of it, there was so far to go until I got there. So that’s why the podcast came about, that feeling of being an outsider in running.
If I felt like an outsider, as a health editor with all this information available to me, my god, how many others must feel like it too?
Lane had tried running before then and found it a struggle until she discovered she was doing it for the wrong reasons.
“Running over the years has really changed for me. I first became a regular runner when I first moved to London in my early 20s. I had no money, I was studying at London College of Fashion. I was paying for myself through university so was working multiple jobs and sucking up the expense of living in the capital.
“I had no disposable income, all my money went on rent and food and running became my way of keeping my body looking how I wanted it to look and in my 20s that was as skinny and small as possible.
“So running in my 20s was only concerned with how many calories I could burn and how sweaty and exhausted I could make myself feel.
“And I still remember it to this day. I would shut my front door and run up this road with all these big houses and I used to make myself sprint from the bottom to the top, not a short distance, all the time just thinking I had to burn more calories, keep pushing myself and making it harder and harder and harder. That was what running was for me, purely a way to keep myself looking how I wanted to.”
What changed was the offer of a place in the London Marathon as part of a project for Runners World.
“In the beginning I had turned it down because I was just really worried about not being fast. Even though I was told I didn’t need to run for a time I felt this pressure of being in the health and fitness industry and taking on a marathon and not running a decent time. I was like, ‘I’m never going to be any good at this’.
“But I caught myself and told myself ‘you’ve got to take this on, you’ve got to deal with your issues’.
“So I started training for that and I remember the first time I ran for more than 60 minutes during that training. I left my house, I shut the door and before I even left my street I was telling myself I was never going to be able to do this.
“And then I put on a podcast and lo and behold, I looked at my watch and I’d been running for 47 minutes or something, ‘wow, I’ve nearly done this!’.
“I remember breaking that hour mark of running and it feeling amazing. And at that moment I didn’t once think about how many calories I’d burned or how much fat I was torching through, it was just this sense of accomplishment of how long I’d managed to run for.
“So that, for me, was the most positive thing that came out of my training for a marathon.
It was all about reaching positive goals.
“It’s funny how those runs stick in your head, those moments when you do the things you never thought you’d be able to do.”
Working from her Winchester home during lockdown has put a whole new spin on her day.
“I’m weirdly enjoying lockdown, a little bit. Only because for so many years I’ve just rushed around so it’s quite nice to be waking up at 6am and not having to start my job until 10, and having four hours to do what I want. That’s nice but I’m missing the social side, being at home.”
It’s also given her the opportunity to slow down during her pregnancy, which has meant she has to radically change her fitness routine.
“I was working out regularly and then for my first three months of the pregnancy I felt horrendous as many women do. So I’m training safely but I do feel like I’m back at the beginning of running again.
“I’m back to run-walking on most runs and I’m totally fine with that. Pregnancy is not the time to be building fitness but maintain it and at the moment it’s really nice to have that community to call upon when you’re just feeling a bit rubbish about yourself.
“Like I’ve posted [online]: ‘this time last year I was running 26 miles and now I’m run-walking 26 minutes but at least I’ve got out there and I’ve done it’ and I’ll get loads of positive feedback from other women in the same boat.”
However, there’s a voice inside this pregnant runner just dying to let rip.
I can’t wait to get back running. I’ve already been googling running buggies, they’re fine from about six months old, so I’ve got about another year and then I get back to running again.
“I’m really looking forward to that and I’m really glad that running became a part of my life because from what I know of other people having children, your time for exercise gets less and less when you’ve got more responsibilities
“So to have something where I can just literally put on my trainers and go out the door to do, I think is just going to be great, especially for my mental health.”
I Can Run was intended to hit bookshelves in the run-up to this year’s London Marathon, originally scheduled for April but now postponed to October 4 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Cork City Marathon has experienced a similar fate, put back from May 31 to September 6. But an undeterred Lane feels there is no better time than the lockdown for her book to see light.
“I do hope it’s a really good time to launch because there are so many people that are embracing running because unfortunately their daily lifestyles have changed and they’re getting out there and giving it a go.
“If someone gives it a go and doesn’t like it, that’s fair enough but if someone’s too nervous or embarrassed because they don’t have the confidence to go out and do it, if I can give them the information and I can get them out there, my job’s done.”
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