January 22, 2016
This Months runner of the month is an incredible lady on so many levels, relatively new to The Clubhouse she has wowed us all with her determination and grit…so it is with great honour that I would like to introduce 37 year old Jessica Guth from Keighley in West Yorkshire.
When did you start running and why?
In 2012 one of my best friends died suddenly following a heart attack and I wanted to do something in her memory and to raise money for the British Heart foundation. She was fit and sporty and did a fair bit of running and she also liked Disney films so it seemed fitting to try for a Disney race. I sat down with my girlfriend and asked for her help. She was always sporty and I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to do this alone and I also knew that I felt far too self-conscious to join a running club. She agreed to help me train and to do it with me. We signed up for and completed the Walt Disney World half marathon in January 2013. I didn’t train properly, I think I just made it to 10km in training, hated every minute of training and the race was pretty awful. It took 3.5 hours to complete the 13.1 miles. I stopped running immediately after and went back to being mostly inactive.
In January last year I was getting increasingly fed up with how unhealthy and unfit I felt. Simple things like caring for our little flock of sheep were a huge effort. I talked to my girlfriend about possibly trying the ‘running thing’ again. We had gym memberships we never used, I’d signed up for fitness classes I didn’t go to and my brilliant horse-riding instructor had sold her business so I wasn’t even riding anymore… I had to do something. So with my girlfriend’s support and encouragement I pulled on my tracksuit bottoms and attempted the first run on the couch to 5km programme again. It was awful but she didn’t let me quit. A little while later we started looking at the possibility of doing another Disney Race and, probably in a moment of madness, signed up for the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World, Florida through the Runners World Challenge. We initially had no intention of running it all but it guaranteed us a place in the 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon so we thought we were just keeping our options open. In the end we got competitive and ambitious and at some point we stopped talking about which race(s) we would do and started talking about how we would manage all 4 races over 4 days in January 2016.
Did you run a lot when you were younger? No – I didn’t even run for a bus, ever.
I had lots of sporty friends during my A-levels and uni whereas I had always been non-sporty. I was a pretty competent horse rider but that was about it. During A-levels I joined a gym with my friends, went to step aerobics classes etc and lost a load of weight. I never tried running though until after A-levels in the summer before university. I started a couch to 5km programme – and gave up after the first 4 weeks. During uni I stopped exercising completely and piled on the weight.
During my professional course after my undergraduate degree I tried the couch to 5k programme again. I didn’t even get half way through before making excuses about having a poorly knee etc. I tried again a couple of years later and gave up after a few weeks. So for most of my mid 20s to early 30s I was even more inactive than ever.
What do you love and hate about the sport of running? I love the after run feeling and I love how sometimes I can get totally lost in the moment and achieve complete clarity of mind while running. I hate that this only happened very occasionally and that mostly running is just hard work
How often do you run? 3 times, sometimes 4 times per week. Generally Tuesdays and Thursdays and then one day at the weekend
What kind of distances do you run in training? My weekly runs are 45 minutes – distance depends on my mood and whether I am doing a hilly or flat loop. The longest training run I did for the Dopey Challenge was 22 miles. I’m planning on going about that again for the London Marathon training
Do you parkrun? No but I have signed up and am planning on going.Weekends are often busy for us but I like the idea of a weekly timed 5k to keep me honest. My closest one is Bradford.
We know you recently took part in a Marathon, could you tell us about your experiences with training, motivation etc. Training for a marathon, or in my case the Dopey Challenge is a pretty big commitment and you have to be prepared to give up your weekends and some evenings. I think if you are trying to run a good time rather than just wanting to complete you have to give up more than I did.
It helped a lot that I was doing it all with my girlfriend and I would definitely recommend a running partner. Sometimes though we talked each other out of going rather than into going for a run so it has downsides too. I also blog about my running which kept me going on some days just because it made me a little more accountable and because I wanted to have something to write. I didn’t want to come back and have to write ‘I didn’t make it’ – I actually wanted to write ‘It was awful but I did it’.
One of my favourite running mantras/memes is ‘When you feel like giving up, remember why you started in the first place’ and I started running again because pretty much everyone I know didn’t think I could run any kind of distance. I started running because I didn’t think I could and I keep running because it has really helped my mental health and how I see myself and the world.
Of course there are days where I just don’t want to run and sometimes I give into that but mostly I tell myself that I can make that decision once I have my gear on and am out the door or I can just go out for 10 minutes. Once I am out I never regret going out and I never turn back after just a few minutes. Leaving the house is often the hardest part.
Have you had any negative experiences whilst out running? Not many actually. I once was attacked by a little dog on my out loop and had to pass it again on the way back and the owner just said something like ‘if you run faster he might not get you this time’. I often think people are staring and laughing at me but I suspect that mostly that’s not actually true!
What are your biggest worries about being a plus sized runner? I am slow. Always have been and always will be. I completed the Dopey Challenge using a run/walk method and sometimes I think that walking in between is somehow cheating. I know that’s not the case but self-doubt creeps in. I still feel quite self-conscious in running gear although that’s getting better.
I have had a number of doctors over the years tell me that I was far too heavy to run and those comments from health professionals have sort of stayed with me. I do sometimes worry about the stresses I am putting on my body with running but I just refuse to believe that I would be better off, healthier, not running. It doesn’t make sense so I try and listen to my body and take note of niggles. Luckily I now have a more supportive doctor and a brilliant osteopath
What is your ultimate running goal and whats stopping you from getting there? I don’t have a distance or time as a goal. I’d like to get to the point where most of my runs are good runs and only some are horrible. I always enjoy having run but not often the actual running. I’d like to get to a point where I actually enjoy running more often. I think that will come with increased fitness and building up distance running rather than run/walking
What’s more important to you and why? Frequency, running or distance of running? As part of marathon training I obviously need to put in the distance but actually I am looking forward to running after the London Marathon when I can just take the Garmin off and run for the hell of it, at whatever pace, whatever distance – just run by feel. I think I’d like that. I think for my mental health it’s important for me to get out 3 times a week
What could the government, local authorities, sports clubs etc do to encourage more people to take up running and sport, especially overweight and inactive women? Have women only sessions/days. Look carefully at the images they use for their marketing materials. Not say they cater for all abilities but then give examples of a running pace that is not realistic for most people who haven’t ever run. It is really hard though to reach those women in the first place because we just don’t think that things are aimed at us. I am still thinking about joining a running club and I am incredibly nervous about it even though the email communication I have had with them has been really lovely – I just don’t see myself as part of that world.
What would you say to other runners just starting out? Do it BUT do it for you. Don’t run because you think it will make your partner find you more attractive or because you are looking for a partner (something very unhelpfully suggested by the author of Run Fat Bitch Run). Run for you and run the way you want to run. For some people run/walk really works for others slowly increasing the time or distance run in one go really works. Try it and see and if you can find someone you know well and trust to do it with you. They need to be supportive and patient and they need to help you celebrate your successes and work through the tough ones. I’ve been so lucky with the support I have had from a few close friends and of course Kath who comes with me for almost every run.
What have you learned about yourself through running? That if I really want to achieve something I can. I have a tendency not to try anything I am not going to be good at. Unless it comes relatively easy I just don’t do it. Running is teaching the value and benefit of sticking with something even when it gets really tough
Also, I am even more of a perfectionist than I thought. I am always disappointed with pace etc when I wear the Garmin but I can be much more mindful and in the moment when I don’t take a watch or tracker at all and just go out and run. I’ve missed that during the Dopey training.
How has being a member of the Clubhouse helped you in any way, if so how? The support from the Clubhouse is hard to explain. The Clubhouse Ladies were the only people who knew I was attempting the Dopey. They showed an interest in every race I did from the 5km through to the marathon. They even tracked my marathon posting updates of where I was. That actually made me cry. The support makes a difference. The Clubhouse makes me accountable but in a very safe and supportive way. It’s a place to vent and a place to share frustration but most importantly to celebrate successes whatever successes they may be – marathon completion or just getting out the door. I’ve not been a member for long (just a few weeks) but I wouldn’t be without it now.
I think you will agree Jessica is a pretty amazing woman hey? If you know someone who deserves a bit of recognition like this, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with Runner of the Month in the header
If you would like to join Jessica and 160 odd other awesome women in our unique online running club then check out this page for more details about how The Clubhouse works.
We are currently undergoing a review and revamp to bring in a range of additional experts and from 1st April our prices will be going up, (but will stay the same for members who signed up in the first year) so if you want to join, now is the time.