I don’t run to beat people, I run to be with people


Strideout's success story for 2015 is Stroller to Runner Claire Brown/Baxter.  here she tells of her journey in her own words.

Summer 2012 the dog died, I gave up smoking and broke my wrist. Add to this 2 young kids and a pretty sedentary job and it wasn’t looking good for my waist line. I was always one of those jammy females that could eat and drink loads without expanding even an inch but that was soon to change.

Even though I had always been slim I had never been really fit, I couldn’t punch my way out of a paper bag and my stamina was non-existent. Within 6 months I had put on a stone and this didn’t seem to be slowing down and my sister was getting married that summer. Something had to be done.

I joined the gym with a friend and started various classes. Core stability was our first, hilarious, trying to balance on a gym ball whilst laughing non-stop it wasn’t for us. We then tried Body Pump, combat and attack. I fell for Pump in a big way, I started to feel strong and wanting strength took over from wanting skinny. Combat was great as it worked my cardio and unleashed some pent up aggression, again with the strength being the draw. But I struggled to fit it in round life. I hated attack, my cardio was weak and it was hard on the impact (wrong footwear I now realise). So I stuck to Pump 2-3 times a week, skinny didn’t come but strong did and my shape changed. I liked it.

2013 I got drunk at Christmas with my husband, sister and brother-in-law. I had been shown a Tough Mudder video, I was hooked. I convinced us to all enter. It will be fun I said, we will train I said, we will be fine I said....

New Year 2014 with Tough Mudder 7 months away I went in hard. Carried on pumping, added back in classes of attack and combat doing double classes 2-3 times a week. I even went out and bought running gear! I ran twice. Apparently having the stuff doesn't make you able to run.

I have months I said to myself, it will be fine I said. April came, I had done too much too quickly in the wrong trainers! My foot started to hurt, I reduced my classes for a week, no improvement, I stopped completely for two weeks, no improvement. Doctor sent me for an x-ray. Stress fracture of my forth metatarsal, my body's way of saying what the heck are you doing woman! No exercise allowed for 6 weeks they said. So I pumped but no lunges and no weights whilst squatting and swam. I stopped the impact stuff and concentrated on strength, that would be enough surely?

August the 2nd 2014, Tough Mudder. I was nervous but excited. The team of 5 of us headed out taking our pledge of camaraderie to endure 12 miles of mud and 20+ obstacles. It was fun.... it was not fine. From the off I struggled to keep up with the team, I couldn’t run for more than 100 metres or so at a time, I held my team back. 3 miles in I went over on my ankle and twisted my hip but such was the desire to finish I carried on. By the time we finished I was hobbling and being supported by my lovely husband. The pain was horrendous but I wanted that orange headband so much. Almost 5 hours it took us but we did it! Completing most of the obstacles and more miraculously all the mileage I got my headband and a well-deserved pint. Such was the elation we signed up to do it again the following year!

That night I crawled up the stairs into bed for one of the most painful night’s sleep in my life; I was broken for a week.

Phew it was over, back to just Pump and chilling out no need to worry next one is Sept 2015, it's ages away, it will be fun I said, I will train I said, I will be fine I said......!

In the meantime I had friends who were runners congratulating me in finishing it, wow you must be so fit, gosh it was so far, do you want to do Percy Pud with us this December? Ha ha ha, I am a lover not a runner was my standard response to any running challenge that was offered up. Running is boring, I only run to get to another obstacle, not a chance, jog on.

27th April 2015 I walked into a room at Wisewood sports centre with cash in my pocket and nerves up to my eyeballs. Week one of Strollers. I had enrolled on an 8 week course designed to get my sorry not-running self to run 5k by the end of it. Not a chance I thought. The main reason I chose the course was the motivation of paying for it. I figured I would be more likely to attend if I paid upfront, I was right.

I was greeted by our run leader Andrea, one of the smiliest people I know. She was friendly and welcoming and put me at ease straight away. Then there were the others on the course, all shapes, ages and backgrounds, all nervous as hell. We went and warmed up, we ran a bit, we walked a bit, we chatted a lot. We found each other on facebook and started a group chat.

We had to run twice a week, if we missed a led session we would meet another time and run together without a leader ( I say run, I mean run a bit, walk a bit, chat a lot). We supported each other, convinced each other to go if we couldn’t be bothered, convinced ourselves to go to see each other. It became as much about being social as it did about being fit.

Some improved quicker than others but we all improved and we all found someone to fall into the same pace with regardless of our speed. No one was ever left behind on a run, we would run back, scoop up and carry on. It was hard but fun and by the end we were running, I mean really running. Yes we were steady and still had occasional breaks but we could run!

Then we graduated, we should have been elated but no, it was scary, we had to run in the beginner's group with strangers.  What can I say. Those fears were completely unfounded. New women, new leaders that were all welcoming and inclusive, new Run Leaders that were fun and supportive. Once we were out pounding the pavements and trails we were all one, chatting swapping stories and tips, it was fine, I was fine and Tough Mudder was looking much less daunting.

September 2015 Tough Mudder was upon me, I was much more confident, I could run, I was strong. It was still really tough but this year was different, I kept up, I didn’t get injured, I danced over the finish line instead of hobbled. I was on top of the world and owed it all to the help, love and support of the Run Leaders and fellow runners and friends I had made at Strideout.

But once I got home I no longer had a reason to run. I had fallen out with the commercial aspect of Tough Mudder and had not signed up for another. I had no motivation to run except that of seeing my running buddies. I wasn’t sure it would be enough.

A friend asked if I wanted to do Percy Pud in December. I am a lover I said, not a runner, but that was no longer true. I was a runner. I agreed as long as she would do an obstacle run with me next year, you are on she said. So back I went to training for Sheffield’s most popular 10k with a prize of a Christmas pudding (I don’t even like Christmas pudding!). So many Strideouters had signed up too, we were in it together.

I moved up to the intermediate group with some other beginners, I was secretly chuffed but missed some of my old running friends from strollers, I hope they will join me when they are ready, I will be there waiting to support them when they come.

December 6th 2015, it was a warm morning but damp and windy, 10k out to Bradfield and back from Loxley, I had only done the distance once before but it gave me the confidence to know I could do the distance. I had put myself down for an estimated finish time of 1hr15, I was in it just to finish though not for a time, everyone said I would do better, I wasn't convinced.

The first 20 minutes of running has always been hell for me but with the adrenaline kicking in it was all good. By 5k I was starting to feel it, oh well half way so just kept going allowing a brief stop at the water station. A few friends were cheering us on and gave me a much needed boost especially at around 7k.

At one point I had to slow to a walk for a break and even then a fellow purple vest asked if I was ok spurring me on. Hit the home stretch and more familiar supporters cheering us on. Then out of nowhere I heard Andreas shout of "come on Claire it's a sprint finish" I wouldn’t say I managed a sprint but I dug deep and put my sockets to pockets to cross the finish in 1:01:20!

Promptly fell into a friend's arms and burst into tears.

I realise I don’t run to beat people, I run to be with people.

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