Run Wales

From Couch to London Marathon: My Running Journey at 50+

Beth, a grandmother and member of Clwb Run Wales, shares her journey from being an unfit 52-year-old to winning one of our Clwb places in the 2023 London Marathon.

Beth struggled to find a form of exercise that she enjoyed until she discovered the NHS Couch25K app, which helped her fall in love with running. Along the way, Beth learned that it’s never too late to start running, to focus on her own pace and to link her running to her personal motivations. Now, running has become a crucial part of her life and has helped her maintain both physical and mental health. Beth enjoys the support of Run Wales social running group, She Runs: Cardiff.

This is Beth’s story…

It’s January. A time for reflection.  It’s also the first week of my training plan for the 2023 London Marathon. So time, also, to reflect on my running journey.  I still can’t quite believe that, in less than 16 weeks’ time, I’ll be on the start line. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been offered this place through Clwb Run Wales – I’m slightly daunted at the training that lies ahead but I’m also hugely excited.

Running has become such an important part of my life that I find it difficult to imagine a time when I wasn’t running. And yet, until four years ago, I wasn’t a runner at all. I was an unfit and unhealthy 52 year old grandmother – struggling to get up off the floor when I played with my baby grand-daughter. I really wanted to be the best Nanny Beth that I could be, and I knew that I needed to make some changes to my lifestyle before that could happen.

“I really wanted to be the best Nanny Beth I could be, and I knew that I needed to make some changes to my lifestyle before that could happen.”

I’d never really found a form of exercise that I enjoyed – I’d tried a variety of classes but grew bored pretty quickly. I’d always had an idea that I’d like to be a runner – I’d watch athletics with my Dad and we always tuned in to London Marathon coverage. I’d tried running a couple of times and only lasted for one or two sessions. This was mainly down to my strategy of going off as fast as I could, getting out of breath, and then having to stop.

” It’s never too late to start running! “

I was chatting to someone I knew, who mentioned that she’d started following the NHS Couch25K app, and said that the first week involved only having to run for one minute at a time. This was music to my ears! I downloaded the app and headed for the gym to get on the treadmill. I can’t say that it was love at first run – I remember looking at my phone and willing the seconds to count down to the next walking break. But I did it! Sarah Millican told me how well I’d done, and to go and have a banana (to which I mentally told her to get lost, I was having some chocolate!)

My daughter Zoe decided to join in with me, so we completed the programme together. There were definitely times during the first few weeks where I’d have given up if Zoe hadn’t been following the plan too. The turning point, and the session where I fell in love with running, was the day that Zoe and I turned up at the gym, and there were NO TREADMILLS FREE. I was all for going home, but Zoe insisted we were going to run around the park instead. Outside. Where people might see.

I LOVED it! The transitions from running to walking were so much smoother than on the treadmill, and so much better for my joints, which had been quite sore. From that point, there was no stopping me. Soon after this, my elder daughter Gemma started the programme too and running became a real family affair for us.

” Find your running ‘why?’ and you’ll never look back! “

The three of us completed the C25k plan, and then progressed to running 5k, then 10k and then half marathons. The girls have since gone on to complete marathons and ultramarathons, and we have all completed in excess of 100 parkruns. We have all completed our Leadership in Running Fitness awards and try to give something back to the running community through volunteering.  Running has become a regular, and necessary, part of my routine. Much more than helping me maintain good physical heath, it also supports my mental wellbeing and became especially important to me during lockdown.

“ …run at your pace – don’t bother comparing yourself to others, that produces a whole load of negative energy. ”

So, what have I learned along the way? Firstly, it’s never too late to start running! Do I wish I’d started earlier in my life? Of course – but at least I’m doing it now! Secondly, it has to be your run at your pace – don’t bother comparing yourself to others, that produces a whole load of negative energy. I’ll always be at the back of the pack, but I’m a whole lot fitter and faster than the Beth who was sitting on the couch 4 years ago. And thirdly, the best way to keep going is to link your running to your ‘why’. For me, that’s about being the best version of myself that I can be. Find your running ‘why’ and you’ll never look back.

If Beth’s story has inspired you to get out and run, we’ve got more details on getting started, whatever your level, as well as our various initiatives and programmes to suit all motivations, as we encourage the population of Wales to Run With Us!