Who'd have thought that four years ago my first gentle five minute jog downhill (which ended in much wheezing, sweating and moaning of "never again!") could be a precursor to my current revived, invigorated and superfit self?
To say I used to be a little overweight is perhaps an understatement. I was a lazy 30-something, not realising that time was ticking and that pretty soon shifting my lumpy butt would be nigh on impossible. I convinced myself that my three minute cycle to work and back each day was going to be my saving grace, so I did nothing else. I also love food and hate diets, so I was my own worst enemy in that respect too.
However, in 2010 an ex-colleague completed the first Brighton Marathon. Not in a super quick time, but she finished it. I was awestruck by her achievement and convinced I would never be the sort of person to run like that. Ever. Full stop.
She inspired my boyfriend, Dan, who signed up for the 2011 Brighton Marathon as soon as he could and went on to complete that and then the 2012 race with very respectable times of 3:57 and 3:29 respectively.
I had started working at Sussex in Summer 2010 and extended my daily commute to a total of nine miles. My fitness and stamina improved gradually over the first six months.
Spurred on by Dan's new found commitment to running and inspired by his achievements, I began my own marathon journey somewhere around the beginning of 2011. Just very short distances at first - sometimes running, sometimes jogging and frequently walking. I had good days and bad days, as everyone does with running, but I pushed through and in late 2011 did my first Parkrun in Hove Park.
Parkrun is a 5km timed run/race for all ages and abilities. My boyfriend had prepped me beforehand saying I definitely wouldn't be the last to finish and, though I walked a substantial part of the second lap, I was not the last person to cross the finish line. At 31 minutes, I was a long way from being the first across the line, too. But that isn't the point of this type of race - it's you against yourself each week - aiming for a new personal best. So it became a regular thing and soon I was running the full distance and shaving minutes off my PB.
By early 2012 I was running (sporadically and very much depending on the weather) more than once per week - even occasionally swapping Sunday lie-ins for a jog on the seafront. I was regularly running for five to eight miles by the time April 2012 came around. Inspired by the second great marathon performance by my partner, I signed up for the 2013 Brighton Marathon, just ahead of 2012 Commit to Get Fit.
I carried on cycling and running throughout May 2012 and myself and my amazing team-mates in Admissions proudly won the CTGF 2012 trophy. I would add here that it was not just about the number of miles we put in, but also the group effort of the team, who tried virtually every sport on offer that month, whilst also bonding over lunchtime games of Molkki.
After the CTGF dust settled, however, I was faced with the reality of the task ahead. Running in May is very different to running in the depths of winter - I really had to dig deep to get up at 6am on Sunday mornings in January and brave the freezing drizzle and bitter winds up on the Downs - all in the name of marathon training.
I began to ready myself for "The Race" in early spring, with two half marathons: Brighton in February (boiling hot) and Hastings in March (sub-zero). I followed all of the advice on offer for first time marathon runners and by race day felt there wasn't much more I could do to get around the course in one piece.
I am proud to say that I did complete the marathon. My time of 4:27 was about what we'd predicted, given my lack of experience. I'm not going to say it was a breeze - at times it was serious hell - but it was a truly emotional and inspiring day. So many people have stories to tell you about why they are running and it is very hard not to feel a lump in your throat when you are standing at the start line.
You might think that the end of the marathon would be the end for my running journey - one of the most challenging races over and no need to put myself through that any more...surely? Not one bit.
Before the marathon training was over, I'd already been roped into a six person team to run the South Downs Way Relay, which is this Saturday the 1st June. I've been out practising my legs in the relay over the last six weeks in some of the loveliest countryside in the South of England.
I've also already signed up to run the 2014 Brighton Marathon and Half Marathon. I will definitely do Hastings again next year and am planning on a few 10k races between now and then, too. I still do the Parkrun and am hoping to go below 24 minutes in that before too long - I have mixed in some speed training with my regular weekly running schedule, which will help. The training is paying off, as I took the women's third place in the Boundary run yesterday - behind one extremely talented and accomplished runner with lots of experience and another who was super quick and about 15 years my junior!
The next step? My boyfriend and I are on the verge of committing to Brighton & Hove AC membership. Believe me, if I could go back and tell myself as I was four years ago that I would one day be joining an athletics club and running marathons for fun, I would never have believed it. I love running now - I'm fitter than I've ever been and I pretty much eat whatever I want but I don't gain weight anymore. I'm also two stone lighter than I was when I started working at Sussex.
I'm writing this blog post under the banner of Commit to Get Fit, which is an excellent and motivating initiative by Sussex Sport, but I do hope that after reading this you might also feel inspired by my story and see that it is not so hard to change your life for the better.