Articles

Through running I overcame my fear of being out alone

How my fear started

30 years ago, I was indecently assaulted in broad daylight. Following this incident, I was frightened of being alone outdoors in open deserted spaces, on narrow paths, in woods, on roads without houses all the way along, and anywhere alone in the dark. I wanted the safety net of knowing other people were nearby.

 

Running entered my life

I had been inactive for many years apart from walking rescue dogs in places where I felt safe. A chat with a marathon runner and a 200m jog that left me feeling puffed changed this. Incentivised to get fit, off I went with my dog to a popular country park on a lovely, sunny, Spring day last year and I absolutely loved it.

After a few runs I was passionately hooked, signed up to run a 5K race and discovered Parkrun. I was invited to join the local running club. I hadn’t realised that they welcome joggers and runners of all standards with open arms. Everyone at Morley Running Club (MRC) was lovely and I attended the weekly runs when I could, and a few race events.

Injury stopped me from running for 6 months, and when I started again it was slower and mainly on grass or paths with more ‘give’ than roads and footpaths. A club post publicising a virtual 10k July 2020, described as an ideal first trail run, therefore grabbed my attention. I paid my money, booked a place and received a running ticket. This would be my first organised event since Oct 2019. ‘Excited’ didn’t even start to describe my emotion.

The trail run that changed my life

For 2 weeks, the St Aidan’s 10k route was marked up with directional arrows. Maps were issued and medals were to be sent upon completion. Knee discomfort stopped me from running within the 2 allotted weeks. However, determined to run this course as soon as I possibly could, the event organiser kindly offered to send me the medal.  Runners love medals as we know 😊 and as soon as I felt ready, I asked three friends if they could run with me. None could join me. So, having psyched myself up for the challenge, I decided to run on my own. I had to wonder if fate was purposely intending for me to tackle my fear.

On my chosen morning rain fell persistently. Nervous, but looking forward to opening the envelope containing my medal, I parked in the car park. Having walked around the route three weeks earlier (not alone!), I reckoned that I could remember most of the way. Soon I was smiling, delighted with how much I was enjoying myself, loving the freedom of running in such beautiful surrounds that I forgot to be frightened. Alone, with a soggy map, I ran. Along paths amidst quiet countryside, through woods and beside a river, occasionally passing a dog walker in waterproofs or being passed by a sodden cyclist. My goal was simply to complete without injury and I found a comfortable pace where my stride flowed with ease.

 

After 1 hour and 4 minutes I reached the finish line, elated. Not only had I achieved my best time in the past 12 months, I had also faced my fear and it felt amazing. My love of running had over-ruled my fear of being alone. I was too happy to even consider that anything might happen.

I’m grateful to the friend who incentivised me to take that first run eighteen months ago, and to all who have supported and encouraged me on my running journey, to Parkrun, the wonderful Morley Running Club community and the St Aidan’s 10k organising team. Had I not seen the MRC post advertising this run, and been sent the medal I am unlikely to have done this run. Since then I’ve been out for another solo run through countryside where I saw no-one but marvelled at the natural beauty. I have my next venue in mind too – somewhere I have thought would be lovely for a run didn’t have the courage to go alone.

 

Love overcomes fear

It is said that we cannot feel love and fear at the same time.  I needed a love that could over-ride this long-term fear and I feel blessed to have found it in running. I hope that by sharing my story I may help others to face and conquer their fears too.

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