- Kerry Sutton
At what point do you call yourself a "runner" ~ Nina Hart
Am I runner now I have a coach? This question often seemed to rear up in my rambling, wondering thoughts whilst out in the hills. I am not really sure why. Running has always been in my life. First watching my Dad train for marathons when I was little, then track and cross country at school. Despite taking a back seat during the Uni years in favour of the hockey club and cheap beer, I was soon lured back and ran my first London Marathon in 2000. My commitment to training and reasons for running over the years have been fairly inconsistent. I found myself on many a start line feeling frustrated with myself, again, that I hadn’t stuck to the plan, but was always left with just enough rush of adrenaline to keep me going. A 40th Birthday present of a running week in the French Alps, the arrival of our dog and a Bob Graham Round attempt in memory of our Dad, took my commitment to running to a different level. It was at some point during these years that I realized running was more than just a part of my life, it was a part of me. My reasons had changed from being superficial to much deeper. I had unlocked the love for the hills that my Dad had instilled all those years ago and can now connect with the sheer joy of just being out in nature, grateful to have a passion that can stir my emotions and make me feel so good. Last year things changed again, when I decided to step away from a business I had co- founded and an industry I had been in for 25 years, to take some time to appreciate my family and life in different ways. To mark this period of change I challenged myself to run every day for a year and set my heart on working towards an Ultra race. This was a whole new world that I aspired to and followed from afar but felt totally out of my depth to take on. So after many recommendations I finally plucked up the courage to email Kerry, feeling slightly foolish and fearful that I had been gripped by what is commonly known as a mid life crisis. Am I too old to start this now? What I am trying to achieve? Is this just a selfish obsession? Kerry quickly reassured me this was not the case and right from our first meeting, she instilled me with confidence, excitement and positivity. Together we have built plans that have helped me connect with my running in so many different ways and are working towards some goals that I never imagined would be within reach. So, how has my running changed? What have I learnt? It is hard to sum these up as I feel I could talk for hours but I will try not to! 1. Running slower is a good thing: As someone who is naturally competitive with myself I used to try to hit every run pretty hard, chasing Strava crowns or thinking if I hadn’t worked up a sweat it wasn’t worth it. But I am now starting to understand different heart rate zones, the value of running slower and what physiological impact
this is having. This also means that I can cherish sharing a slow recovery run with the kids without feeling slightly tetchy that it doesn’t count
Running with purpose: I don’t usually lack the motivation to go running, at the point I met Kerry I was running every day, but there wasn’t much to it beyond that. Mostly I would see how much time I had between mum’s taxis duties and squeeze in whatever distance I could. Now every run has a purpose, whether it is recovery, speed work, hill reps, endurance or sometimes just to go out and enjoy getting lost in the fun and freedom of it all (as long as it’s in zone 2...I get it now). As a result I feel more empowered and in control, I have more respect for my body and am even starting to tune into my perceived effort!
Stop planning, start running: As a prolific planner it has been refreshing to relinquish this process to someone far more experienced and capable than me. I often found that I would spend more time planning than actually running (similar to the relationship I cultivated with revision timetables and revising!). The plan is packed with variety. It builds and flows and unbeknown to me is cleverly tailored to each goal or race. Now there is no excuse, all I have to do to show respect and appreciation for the effort and knowledge that goes into the planning is run, and trust the process.
It’s a two-way relationship: I feel very fortunate to have found a coach who believes in taking the time to really understand people, why they run and the value of collaboration. Whether I am walking out the door for a training run or am on the start line of a race, I can feel Kerry there, her belief her encouragement. But this works both ways and like most relationships you get out what you put in. Knowing that Kerry has put her faith in me means I work harder. I don’t want to let her down. I want to show her it works. It is a partnership that inspires me to push myself further, to acknowledge the pride that she feels too. It is a genuine shared accountability.
The running community is great: Since I have had the chance to lean in a bit on my running passion and connect more with the wider running community I am continually reminded what draws me to this world. Maybe it is enhanced by being outside in nature or by the endorphins that are raging but I always feel energized by fellow runners. The spirit of positivity, the enthusiasm for life and the buzz that surround a running group is something I love being a part of and one day hope I can contribute to.
So I am not sure if having a coach officially makes me a runner or not. I don’t even know why it mattered. Maybe I was looking for an identity or a way to justify why I gave up valuable family time to go out on a run. All I know is that I feel stronger, faster and happier than I have in decades. My running is more consistent. My family seem to get it. And I now know that running will enable me to take on exciting adventures and meet fascinating and inspiring people. This is definitely good enough for me.