Gill Parker: I have never been a sporty person – but I just love the ‘me’ time of running

A Race For Life 10k competitor in Holyrood Park. Picture: Greg Macvean
A Race For Life 10k competitor in Holyrood Park. Picture: Greg Macvean
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It’s around about now that we start to see them. Lighter nights, slightly warmer days and the flood of adverts for the local fundraising 5K Race For Life bring them out, ­wearing trainers dragged from the back of the cupboard, slightly uncomfortable in their skin tight leggings, a little red in the face.

For the past ten years I’ve worked in a university’s health sciences and sport department, an environment full of elite athletes, sports people who write about sport, do sport, tell others how to do sport, tell others why they should do sport and how to do it.

It’s enough to put you off any kind of sport really. I am not and never have been a sports person. I think I ended up in my current job by default. However, like a wheen of other unfortunate folk in this day and age, I’ve had a battle with the beggar that is cancer. Been there, done that, fortunate to be ­winning thus far; I’m only too aware that it’s always there lurking on the horizon and its return is something over which I have only minimal influence. But one of the ways is to run.

About a year ago I considered trying the NHS Couch to 5k ­programme. Cancer had wrecked my body in terms of shape and tone. I hated the image I saw in the ­mirror. Something had to be done.

After making a load of excuses to myself, I decided that perhaps a wee bit of one-to-one coaching might help me gather some confidence about this running lark.

I was fortunate to have an offer of help from another member of staff who was working towards their coaching qualification and needed a guinea pig.

My first session out and I could barely manage 100 metres (109 yards in old money – given that I’m on the wrong side of 50).

We plug away, every week, through every weather, with Coach using a variety of tactics to try and instill some stamina and style. The stamina is improving – style is never happening.

Eight months down the line and I can, on a good day, run for 1k without stopping. It’s not far and it’s ­definitely not easy, but it’s an improvement.

At the end of January I managed a 5k route with stops and in an extreme state of exhaustion. I was elated – for Coach, for the ladies I tagged behind every Wednesday lunchtime, and the too many other people who follow and encourage me through the saga.

A colleague of mine who knows about such things, tells me that you can’t criticise or demean a sport until you’ve given it a real try. I ­rumble along at least a couple of times a week; it’s still not easy but is more natural to me.

Why do I stick with it?

I love the “me” time afforded by doing something which takes all my concentration and energy for 35 minutes.

No thoughts of work, ­family, the next CT scan – nothing – just the open road or track and putting one foot in front of the other.

Gill Parker is a working mum of two. She lives in Larbert.