But watching the runners chatting happily among themselves in the morning sunlight, I felt I was missing out. I decided right then that I would run in next year’s event. There’s a 5km run; I could aim for that. I turned back to the Kongor stall to join my friends and wait for the runners to return, and it occurred to me: maybe I could get people to sponsor me to do the run, and raise some extra money for the school.
March 2014. Runners are milling around, more than last year. Again many seem to be mainly exercising their talking muscles. Starter’s gun pops and off we go. Yes! I’m one of them, and I’m doing the 10km run.
I hadn’t noticed I was near the front of the group as we crossed the start line and my heart sank when about 60 people sprinted past me within the first 20 metres. Oh well, I thought to myself, I’ll run my own race. I’m here to finish the run and raise money for the Kongor School, not to break any records.
It wasn’t easy that morning; maybe a bit hot, maybe nerves from being in my first fun run among so many fast, and young, people. But I did it. I managed to at least jog the whole way. And I wasn’t last to finish!
How did I go from “I’m fairly active but not a runner” to completing that 10km run, at my age?
It started with motivation. I decided to join in with a group of people having fun in the fresh air. I decided my gym work was going well and I was ready for another challenge. I decided that it wasn’t about breaking records but about adding another way to keep fit and see what I was capable of. And I hoped I could help raise funds for a good cause.
So I bought proper shoes for running that supported my feet. I started very slowly, walking on a treadmill at the gym; if I had a heart attack, I reasoned, best do it where there were staff on hand.
Gradually I set the speed a little faster or adjusted the incline a bit higher. Then I switched to jogging outdoors. I discovered this was harder work. A treadmill provides bounce and propulsion; outside in the real world you have to propel yourself, as well as absorb your own thudding footfalls.
Again, I took it slowly. I set a timer and jogged until it went off, turned around and jogged back, each week trying for a few extra minutes. When I could manage five minutes each way, the next week I made it eight minutes each way. Then 10, 15, and so on. After some months it ceased to matter how long I ran for; it had become a pleasure and I ran as long as I felt like. It dawned on me that the 5km run I had aimed for would be too short.
What did I gain from all this? My little fundraising idea raised over $1300 for the Kongor School, so it was worth it just for that. But I gained a lot more; a new shared interest with my partner; a great way to expel any stress from the day; and a great sense of achievement.
Maybe doing a fun run isn’t for you, but I found everything the experts say about exercise is true: improved mood and self-esteem, better stress management, better sleep, easier weight management, improved blood pressure and blood test figures. Pick up a brochure about exercise at the library; it has really good tips for getting started, and creative suggestions about different forms of exercise.
Think of something that would help motivate you, and try your own fitness challenge; no matter what your age, you might surprise yourself.
August 10, 2014
Miriam's story is inspirational to everyone. I believe we all have a duty of care to maintain our health as best we can. Miriam has shown how natural, enjoyable and rewarding it is. The body should be treated gently and lovingly. We can all set our own goal. Every bit is a plus. A 100-metre walk is enough to send beautiful fresh oxygen around our body. Especially the air off the Southern Ocean that we are blessed to breathe. With our abundant public land in the area, safe bike riding is very accessible. This of course is low impact on the knees, as is swimming. Everyone should do their best, and not become an unnecessary drain on our health system.
Miriam is "a kid" at 55. Yesterday I rode my bike 10 kilometres and walked a kilometre along the beach. I am 70 and take no medication. Please give your amazing body a chance!
Denise Miller, Wonthaggi