I moved to Stoke on Trent in 2009 (I married a local) and found that life in my new home was enjoyable but not really conducive to my health and wellbeing. I was much more sedentary than I'd been whilst living in London, doing very little exercise and gaining weight. I couldn't even run for a bus and the 10 minute walk from my house to the shops became an ever growing challenge. By November 2010 I knew it was time for a change... Working on the mantra of eat less, exercise more, I changed my diet, switched to a smaller dinner plate and started using the exercise bike that had been gathering dust in my garage.
Over the first three months, I lost the weight I’d put on and more besides. I started to feel better and healthier. But a few months into my fitness and weight loss journey, I decided I needed another goal. After some internet searching, I came across the Couch to 5k programme and almost immediately set out for my first run along the canal towpath. Just one minute of running felt like a marathon but after a few weeks, I could run for 10 minutes and then 15 minutes and then 20 and then 30 minutes of running without stopping. I signed up for the Race for Life at Trentham Gardens, wanting to prove to myself that I really was going from couch to 5k.
I was inspired!
About that time, from my kitchen window overlooking the canal, I noticed groups of women running by on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, mostly wearing pink and looking like running was fun. They were smiling and chatting and, most importantly, they looked like real people and not elite athletes. I'd never considered joining a running club - I wasn't a runner - but these women inspired me to give it a try. By the wonders of the Internet again, I discovered that they were the Potters Trotters - a ladies only running club at that time based at Northwood Stadium but now meeting at Staffordshire University's Leek Road campus. I sent an email, was invited along and nervously joined them for my first run. I think I managed about 3 miles and still remember being excited that I hadn't needed to stop.
I was hooked!
Running twice a week with the pink ladies became a habit and my health and wellbeing continued to improve. Every week, with every conversation, I heard inspiring stories of women just like me who had done the extraordinary - completing marathons, half marathons and 10k races, transforming their outlook on life and getting out and about in their city. I dipped my toe in the water of racing and completed my first 10k, dressed as a Christmas Pudding.
I felt at home!
Running also helped me to almost get my bearings in my new home, following the canal towpath out to Westport Lake, running along the cycle way to Norton, heading out to Trentham Gardens and always getting confused by the different routes to Newcastle. I learnt about the hills and my new running friends told me about the challenge of the Potters 'arf, although it was a while before I braved Anchor Road and Milton Road.
I just kept running!
Hanley parkrun became a weekly habit and I'm still there most weekends as a runner or core volunteer. I signed up for the Stafford Half Marathon, then the Potters 'arf and even had a go at cross country! My club mates helped with training plans and ran with me in the dark days of winter, gently persuading me that a marathon was well within my capabilities. In April 2013 in Manchester, they stood on the finish line and cheered me on as I completed my first marathon and then selected me to represent them at the London Marathon in 2014. The support and inspiration that started with the Potters Trotters eventually took me all the way across Staffordshire, as in March 2016, I completed the 41 miles of the Millennium Way from Newport to Burton upon Trent.
I’ll keep on running!
I’m not sure what comes next in my sporting story – there are many challenges out there to tempt me – but hopefully I’ll be able to keep on running and encouraging other people to run too. If I can, you can. It’s time for a change.