At home, a tomboy with two older sisters and five brothers, I enjoyed the robust pleasures of climbing trees, catching frogs and slow-worms, bike rides, and beating each other and the neighbourhood kids up, and in later years I enjoyed aikido, karate, yoga and long walks on holidays, but just lately, especially with a largely sedentary day-job, I felt the need for something vigorous, shaking it all about, and preferably in the great outdoors - so sweaty gyms were out of the question.
Running is something I'd always regarded as a bit too athletic for me, but last March I watched the Tunbridge Wells Half-Marathon runners pouring through Southborough, and was much taken with the sight, and with the sound of all those feet slapping on the road as they ran by. I mentioned this to an acquaintance I overheard talking about running. She told me about Sarah's Runners, a group who run every Tuesday morning and Thursday evening in Tunbridge Wells, and I went along the next week. There's no long-term fee to pay - you just pay £2.50 on the day for a session. It's exceedingly friendly, relaxed and non-threatening, and anyone can come along. If you're a complete beginner, you'll be asked for some details, given a basic idea of what's involved, and then everyone joins in with some warming-up exercises before heading off round various routes through Tunbridge Wells. Sarah is helped by a number of trained volunteers, keen runners all, who shepherd their group, looking after the stragglers puffing away at the back (yes, that would be me!). If you're new you join the 3 miles walk/run group, and you can gently work your way up from there.
I want to increase my bone health, not damage it, so a good pair of running shoes was needed. Southborough is blessed with a smashing little shop - the Running Hub - where I went along and was given some friendly and expert advice and fitted out with the first pair of white trainers I've ever sported (goodbye aging hippy chic!).
I was hooked from the start. There is something about the body that rejoices when you give it a bit of hard physical work to do - and running along in the open air feels wonderful after a day stuck in front of a computer in a stuffy room. It's also an eminently portable activity. Since I joined Sarah's Runners I have run across fields and through woods, along the Menin Road in Ypres, and last weekend round a Cotswolds village in the very early morning. Not only do you get some necessary exercise for the heart and lungs, and strengthening for the bones, you also gain the aesthetic pleasure of seeing the world around you, and twice as much of it than if you were walking! And lastly, although it's great fun to run in a pack, it's something you can do at any time, most places, and on your own if necessary. I'm looking forward to some good running years ahead of me, all being well!