I cried every year at Sports Day in Primary school. Annually, the anxiety drove me to relentlessly begging my Mum  to take me home.

Last year, however, realising my extent of my sedentary lifestyle, I signed up for Running Made Easy with Run With Tina and last weekend I crossed the finish line of my first 5k.

Crossing under the clock, quite appropriately sound-tracked by Jess Glynne’s Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself, was the culmination of a long learning curve – not just of panting, pacing and posture, but of learning a lot about myself.

I’m fully aware that this has the potential to sound unbelievably pompus – and I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that. I’d be the same had I, and also friends who subsequently did the same, witnessed it first hand. So here we go – 9 things I learned about life, when I was learning about running.

Keep Breathing

As you run, your leg muscles need more oxygen, and so you need to adapt your breathing to deep,  consistent breaths, all the way in and all the way out if you’re to keep going. If you’re disciplined in this, you can keep going for longer – forget to breath and you wear out sooner, your heart races, you grind to a halt. Panic. Don’t forget to breath, you can get through it.

Don’t Stop – Work Through It

An ache, a twinge, a pang of fatigue. Maybe I should stop? Look at all those times you wanted to stop, but didn’t, and how much you went on to do. Aches go away once you’ve warmed up. You find your stride and things don’t seem as difficult. Keep doing what you’re doing, even when it seems hard.

It’s Not About Speed – It’s about Pace

I was taught that the right speed is a speed at which you can hold a conversation. That’s saying it’s inherently going to be different for everyone. It’s all-too-easy to start at top speed, but soon you burn out. Work at a pace you can maintain and that you can achieve at. There were those that finished that 5k in half the time I did, but there’s no point in comparing myself to them. I got there in my own time.

You Can’t Think About Stress When You Think About Running

When you’re focusing on breathing and putting one foot in front of the other – it’s hard to feel stressed. Getting out and doing something completely removed from home or work has been the backbone of my sanity the past few months. The clarity that comes at the end of a run, even a short one, is such a relief especially when things get noisier.

It’s Ok to be Proud of How Far You’ve Come

There was a time when 5 minutes had me winded – then it became a warm-up. There were times when a presentation would tie me in knots, now I volunteer for them. It’s ok, more than that, it’s important to look back at where you’ve come from and take pride in that – there’s nothing wrong with being proud of what you’ve achieved, and I think sometimes we forget that.

Ask Others for Support – It Really Helps

The benefit of the Run With Tina class was the group element that kept you going, and added to the motivation. Similarly meeting a friend for a run was more likely to get me out of the house than if I only had myself to push me. Ask someone to share an experience with you if you can’t face it alone – you can both get something out of it.

Challenge Yourself And Be Surprised

To go from crying at sports day to signing up for a 5k is something I wouldn’t have expected for myself. Looking at the times and the distances I’ve run for that I would have previously thought impossible has been a real eye-opener. How many other times have I looked at  a situation and thought “I can’t do that…”  when I could have?

Don’t Time Yourself – Go The Distance

When I set out to run for 15min, I’d phone in the last 5 or so. As soon as I started setting a distance, I ran faster, longer and better than when I was doing just enough. There’s a lot to be said for not just phoning in the bare minimum you feel you should do, and instead setting yourself an end goal and work as hard as you can towards it.