Image: Holly and her family at the finish line of her first half marathon.
I always wanted to be one of those people.
One of those people who, on a weekend away, would materialise in the kitchen in their trainers and say, “I’m just going for a run.” Off they’d trot, returning half an hour later all healthy-flushed and stretching in the doorway.
But I wasn’t one of those people.
I’m not a lithe-limbed, running type. I’m short, and a little dumpy, and there’s nothing about my physique that suggests speed. But last year I decided to run a half marathon. I decided I would go from never having run further than to the bus stop, to running 21.5km without stopping. And I was going to achieve this transformation in the space of about 12 weeks.
Clearly, I was having a midlife crisis.
My youngest (and last) child was turning one, and we'd all had a tough year. Baby Billy didn't like sleeping, had trouble holding food down and gaining weight, and we were spending most nights sleepless and vomit-splattered. I had returned to a job I'd been doing for a long time and I was questioning my relevance, and my ability to get through the day without crying. I was (barely) functioning on a few hours sleep a day, and I was sad all the time.
I used to sneak out of the house before dawn to go to a spin class at our local gym. On maternity leave I learned pilates, something that I'd come to love. But in my new life there was no time for any of that.
Billy woke before dawn, and all hands on deck were needed to wrangle two kids through the morning pre-work ritual. Daytime was a rush of work, preschool, pick-up, evenings were a blur of dinner, bath, books, bed. And yes, I could have exercised after 8pm when the kids were asleep. But after a day like that, it was the last thing I wanted to do. Sorry, Michelle Bridges.
In my experience, if I'm feeling too tired and shitty to exercise, then I'll feel even more tired and shitty the next day. The inner voice goes, "I'm old, I'm lazy, I'm fat". "I'm old + I'm lazy + I'm fat = I'm useless."
A friend of mine was in exactly the same place after her second baby. And then, all of a sudden, she wasn't. Because she was training for a half-marathon, and every time I saw her, she looked stronger, healthier, happier. And she told me, "If I can do it, anyone can do it." And I chose to believe her.
Her secret was an organisation called Can Too. They raise money for Cure Cancer Australia, which specifically provides grants to young researchers using new techniques to search for cancer cures. You raise money for them, they will take a non-runner, like me, and train you, twice a week, until you can run 21.5km. Yes, without stopping.