#WhyIRun – All of life’s little problems disappear!

Gavin Petrelli, who's now a member of CDF Runners and MOTI Albany Road Run Club, tells us all about the ups and downs of his running journey - from thinking that running wasn't his thing to being a regular racer and parkrunner:

"Hey, I'm Gavin and I’m proud to call myself a runner. Although that hasn't always been the case. I started running in 2010 when I was 26. During my early 20’s I was overweight, my diet consisted of takeaways, I was unhappy with both how I looked and how I felt. I had zero confidence. I was so bad that if I didn't know you I would have been too scared and anxious to talk to you.

I had to make a change, the gym wasn’t my thing, but neither was running. A buddy of mine dragged me out so we started to run together... and my reason for running, at this point in time was to shift weight. And it certainly did shift. As the lbs were dropping off the reason for running changed, #WhyIRun became to catch up and have laugh with my mate.

We were complete novices, we had no clue about how far to run, what pace to run, we didn't know what a Tempo Run was or how to run an Interval Session and don't get me started on a Fartlek! We were eager to learn and this created another reason to run. To earn that knowledge, experience and so we had some sort of idea what we should be doing.

We were improving our running all the time, that improvement, brought along it's friend confidence and together helped us to keep going. At the time we were knocking on the door of running a distance of 10k, although needed to take a walk break or two or three. So we thought why not enter the 2010 edition of the Cardiff 10k. The challenge of trying to complete our first 10k race was then added to the slowly growing pile of #WhyIRun reasons. So we did it, we completed it in just over an hour without stopping once!

I would say from 2010 until the start of this year I was a very casual runner. My buddy and I stopped running together, so the social aspect was removed. All of my runs I did alone, I was too frightened to join a running group or club, I had this irrational fear that these groups were intimidating and only for elite athletes. I would only enter 1 or 2 events a year and for a few years no events at all.

My running went in a cycle something along the lines of….

No races planned, so no running, No running meant I’d return to my old unhealthy habits of eating all the food and not moving very much.  After piling on the lbs again I’d eventually realise I was back on that slippery slope, enter another race and start training again. So my reasons for running regressed a bit, with a rotating cycle of shifting weight, wanting to be able to complete a race, then upping the ante and taking on the half marathons.

During this time my dad was a huge reason as to why I ran, sadly he passed away in 2015. Even though he wasn't in perfect health he was there to support me during some of my first races. Upon seeing him at the finish line he'd have a certain look in his eyes. A certain look a dad gives his son when they are extremely proud. I will never forget that look and I always feel he's with me when I’m running.

I now have a young son, who is 5. I want set a good example and inspire him to keep active. I have taken him to junior parkruns and junior/family races. He genuinely gets excited watching me race and even more excited when's he’s running a race, he loves it. I get the same proud look in my eye that my father had for me. So the #WhyIRun is also to run with my son. I am already extremely proud of him and this gives me another reason to be.

After building up my confidence by entering a few races, I then decided it was time I faced my fears about joining a running group. I joined up with CDF Runners, who are the most inclusive welcoming group who made me realise I was wrong to be fearful. I also joined the Moti Albany Road Run Club which are a fantastic group, full of inspirational people and I’ve made so many friends with that group that I never want to miss a session. These groups are giving me more reasons to run.

I also started posting my workouts to Instagram quite sporadically, but I thought that someone out there would be going through similar things to me and that I might inspire them and help get them running. This has led to my involvement with a virtual social running community called InstaRunnersWales. We're a group of runners from all over Wales who met online through Instagram, and encourage and motivate each other and have regular meetups at parkruns and races. I think this community also reinforces the social aspect of #WhyIRun really well!

All the above reasons merge and combine together and very simply, I LOVE to run. It makes me feel free, alive and unstoppable. While I’m out there all of life’s little problems, worries and anxieties disappear. I feel like all my thoughts and stresses get nicely organised, processed and categorised, so I know how to deal with them. And best of all I get to do it with the most amazing people."

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