Skip to main content

I have fallen in love with a sport with which I have very little natural ability. This is something that has bothered me since I first stepped into the world of running.

I have fallen in love with a sport with which I have very little natural ability. This is something that has bothered me since I first stepped into the world of running.

Looking back at those early years, while I was running alone in the dark so nobody would see me (I know I am not the only one to start running this way), I remember that internal struggle to call myself a runner, for lots of reasons, my weight probably being the main one.

Now, here’s a massive spoiler alert… I am a runner and, if you put one foot in front of the other at any pace faster than a walk, SO ARE YOU (run-walk or ‘Jeffing’ is also more than acceptable).

When I first started to really get into running I would buy all the magazines, I would read all the online content, I would watch all the big races on TV and I would be in absolute awe of the speed those guys could run at and make it look so effortless.

I would see runners in magazines and on the TV but none of them looked like me. The people I started following on Instagram had completely different body shapes. Everyone I saw was tall, lean and speedy, how could I class myself in the same group as them?

Like so many others, I listened to all the wrong advice and gave negative thoughts in my head way too much airtime. I used to let this hold me back from really pushing myself to see what I could achieve. I used to think I was never going to be able to run fast so I would just keep plodding along, while secretly hoping I would magically get faster…

But this isn’t a woe is me tale. I’m not writing this to get you to feel sorry for me. I want to inspire you, if you have ever felt the same way then I want you to realise that you don’t need to. Like I said, one foot in front of the other is running. It took me a long time to realise that though. And even longer to appreciate my natural ability.

Back in 2017 I ran my first marathon. It just happened to be the best marathon on the planet I finished on The Mall in the fantastic time of 5 hours, 35 minutes and 35 seconds. I used to be ashamed of my time and would follow it up with all types of excuses about why it took me so long. I was disappointed in myself, I underestimated the training and struggled with most of the run. Today I’m proud that my first marathon was such an iconic one and I’m able to look back fondly on what was, overall, an amazing day.

Following the marathon I started a running account on Instagram as a way to increase my motivation, at first it was anonymous, the handle was @notarunner and I would post about my many injuries and how hard I found running. After a while, I started making small running improvements so I progressed the account to @notanaturalrunner although the content would still be scattered with fairly negative experiences.

I am very proud to say my handle has changed again to become @lisarunshappy – I am a runner and I am a very happy one. Instead of posting about how hard my run was, I try to be grateful that I get to run. I am honest when things don’t go to plan but I look for the positives in any situation. I try to spread happiness through my running and encourage others along the way.

Having an Instagram account dedicated solely to my running has encouraged me to push myself so much further outside my comfort zone and it has brought so many wonderful people into my life, many of whom I’ve never met in real life.

Social media gets a really bad rep at times but, since I turned my account into a more positive way of viewing my running it has only brought me happiness. I get more support from the people on Instagram than I ever imagined – the running community is a fantastically encouraging network.

Instagram also helped me to find Team Project Run. Being a member of Team Project Run has done wonders for my confidence, although I still didn’t feel like I was a natural runner until a recent chat with my coach.

Head Coach, Lloyd, encourages us to do all the extras that will complement our running, no matter what our pace or goals, to allow us to get the most out of running. I’m regularly doing activation exercises before my runs, whether it is an easy 40 minutes or a 10k race. I’m finally devoting time to strength and mobility workouts as well as running and I’m seeing the benefits in my pace.

During a recent athlete review with Lloyd we chatted about how I don’t see myself as having a natural ability towards running and he pointed out that there isn’t one body type that is right for running, even amongst the elite runners, everyone is different and we’re all just trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got.

I used to complain that I’m not tall enough to run fast, that my stride length is so much shorter that I’ll never be speedy… a quick Google search has told me that at 5’2” I’m taller than Charlotte Purdue…

The new Team Project Run coach, Tom Evans, came 3rd in his first ever running race. That’s impressive enough but the fact that it was one of the world’s toughest multi-stage endurance events is even more incredible. My first reaction to hearing this was that he obviously has the natural ability that I’m lacking.

When I thought about it more, I realised 3rd place in the Marathon des Sables isn’t something that happens with natural ability alone and to think that is massively unfair to Tom’s achievement. Tom may have entered the race on a whim but he was already extremely fit, probably at the peak of physical fitness as he was a Captain in the British Army – being fit is part of the job, isn’t it?

One foot in front of the other is a natural ability. It is something we were born to do. Spending our life sitting at our desks might make it feel unnatural but we can take actions to counteract that – crab walks and walking lunges are the top of my list at the moment.

I have come to the realisation that natural ability certainly has its role to play, but if you don’t push yourself how will you know what that ability could achieve? I know I am unlikely to ever be able to run a good for age / BQ, but right now I’m running good for Lisa and I think that’s pretty darn impressive.

So, I have fallen in love with a sport that I enjoy, is inclusive and is one that everyone should take up because it could make you happy too!