the social network

I reached a bit of a personal milestone last weekend. After focusing on training for 10k for so long, my half marathon training has progressed to the point where I finally ran 10 miles for the first time in my life. And my body did not thank me for it. When I stopped outside my house after nearly 100 minutes of pounding the pavement, my legs were like jelly. The arches of my feet kept threatening to cramp up, my knees were throbbing and my left shin was reminding me of a previous injury by sending dull pains up and down my leg. But I was thrilled. Double figures! The Great North Run medal is within reach!

Bragging about my personal achievement on Twitter, I received lovely messages of encouragement and congratulations, and also one or two of envy. I find it a brilliant marker of how far I have come in my own running journey when those who are just starting out ask me for advice or say to me ‘wow, I can’t wait until I can run that far’. I was once in their shoes, and I was lucky enough to have the support to push myself to do better. For me, that support was my husband Andy, a seasoned runner himself, it was his raving about how much fun it actually was to run and how much I would benefit from it that spurred me on. I wouldn’t be where I am today if he hadn’t convinced me to sign up for that first Manchester 10k last year and I have never looked back.

Back then I didn’t have a Twitter account and didn’t really interact with other runners so at the time I wasn’t aware of the huge social support network that is also out there. If you’re reading this, you are probably well aware of the thousands upon thousands of fellow runners floating about the Internet, each with their own reasons for being there: wanting advice, needing encouragement, keen to share their expertise, among many more. Some people blog about their experiences, as I do; sometimes purely to motivate themselves and document their progress, but sometimes just because running is such an emotive topic and is fantastic to put into words to share with others.

There are several growing running communities online now, where like-minded people who live near to each other, or maybe on the other side of the world, can virtually get together and discuss their latest PB, or their new trainers, or their chafed nipples, with others who understand as friends and family often don’t. Local running clubs, both formal and informal, enable novice and experienced runners to meet up with others to train together and motivate each other. Even if you choose to run by yourself, you are never alone.

Now the Great North Run is nearly here, I am genuinely looking forward to it – even if it means I can barely walk by the end of it. And even though I know I will get lots of encouragement on the day from the lovely fellow runners I have ‘met’ online, I am most grateful for the support I will get from my family waiting for me at the end, and having Andy run alongside me for 13.1 miles. He got me into running in the first place – he can get me through this!

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