September 2019: I run along The Rock in Bury town centre surrounded by strangers, friends and family cheering me towards a finish line that 12 months ago wasn’t even a dream.
I count the familiar faces shouting my name and ringing cowbells. I make double figures before I see my family too and sprint to the finish line as fast as I can.
I knew none but my family 12 months ago, but what a difference a year can make.
A year ago I was recovering; I had been a keen cyclist, though, as it had been a hot summer, I had not ridden as much as I should. Trying to prevent my fitness from waning too much, I was cycling into work in Bolton when a van door opened in front of me. I was lucky the physical injuries weren’t too bad, though my bike was written off and the confidence I had took a big hit. My wife likes to run and tried to get me to try that instead. “Not my sport, I’ve never been a runner” was my response, though I ran the mile around my estate to show willing.
The Couch to 5k program was great. While there are always some that drop out, there was a strong core group of people that stuck at it and supported each other. Facebook groups were formed which helped solidify us as a team working towards a common goal. The often cold and wet Tuesday nights (which took place at 8pm rather than 7pm) were the perfect preparation for our graduation at Bolton parkrun on Saturday 16th March.
Bolton was a true contrast of the extremes I have experienced with Ramsbottom Running Club: the weather was cold, wet and miserable, rain was pouring, puddles were long, deep and unavoidable, yet the warmth of the RRC group cheering us over the finish line made it all disappear in a flash. We had been told of the reputation but until that moment we had no idea. If I had any doubts about joining, like the rain, they had just evaporated.
A lot of the people I met during Couch to 5k became friends as we transitioned together to the club's regular Tuesday night runs, and post-run drinks which really enhance the social side of the club. Together we also embraced the challenge of RRC's ‘10 weeks to 10k’ program.
Much like before, Facebook groups and familiar faces, now joined by other RRC members, created a team spirit that drove us all forward. Week after week the group rose up to support other members who thought their challenges would force them to quit. Quite different to the snow that faced Couch to 5k, people now went on holiday and fell behind the plan but the groups encouragement turned around the doubters. As the program reached its conclusion, we were given a guard of honour on our return to the brewery; another thing that makes RRC stand out is that support and encouragement is second to none.
I am now the proud owner of a Bury 10k medal, but that is only a symbol of the progress I have made.
My health is better than ever and I have achieved things I never thought possible.
I am now a runner.