Kerry Robertson: First steps to running lead to fantastic results

Kerry Robertson gives running tips following her life-changing experience of taking part in last year's Fit Factor

Kerry Robertson from Shiremoor, at David Fairlamb's gym in North Shields
Kerry Robertson from Shiremoor, at David Fairlamb's gym in North Shields

Well we are approaching the last month of the three month Fit Factor Competition. At the same point last year I was starting to think, sorry worry, about the various challenges that lay ahead. We were enrolled to do the Great North Swim, the BUPA Gateshead 10K and the Great North Run. I know that some of the Fit Factors are really excited about some of the challenges and that some, like me last year are worrying about them.

I did my first run in over a decade with Run Geordie Run, aka Mark Allison, and the other Fit Factors of 2013 along Longsands beach at Tynemouth. I ran all the way along and back without stopping. At that point I felt rallied and inspired to do more. Mark truly is an inspiration and as we know has battled with his own weight demons. Even at that point I never thought I would succeed in running longer distances. I never contemplated that I could run two miles let alone 13.1 miles.

I told myself from the beginning that I would run what I could and walk when I needed. A year ago on May 4, I took part in a 5k charity run and managed to run most of the way (apart from the hills, there were lots of hills) I got my first blister and a few days later new trainers.

I started off slow, literally. I’d run 1.5 miles speeding up between lamp posts and trees, I’d add a quarter of a mile to every run. I aimed for one or two runs a week climbing to three a week. I would run in all kinds of weather, which to say I’m a fair weather girl would be an understatement.

Slowly, I built myself up to 4.5 miles without stopping, whilst battling with asthma over a six week period and then managed to do the BUPA 10K (6.3 miles) in 1 hour 10 min and 8 sec. A very proud day.

A week earlier I had swum a mile across Lake Windermere and that was tough, let me tell you. I picked up a chest infection which didn’t take hold till a few days after the BUPA 10k.

My training was put on hold and the damage to my chest was bad. I lost over 25% of my lung capacity and I was floored.

A few weeks of rest put me back to running only 2.5 miles and I was stuck, struggling to catch my breath and find energy. But what pulled me through? What made me push further?

I had started a fundraising page for Marie Curie. I wanted to raise enough to make a difference to just one family dealing with a loved one dying from cancer. My lovely step mum was diagnosed with breast cancer in summer 2012 and works as a nurse. I wanted to show my support to her in more ways than emotional, I wanted to make a difference, even just to one family.

Luckily my step mum pulled through after a very rough nine month battle. And although she was given the ‘all clear’ back in the summer of 2013, her immune system is still weak and regularly feels unwell. I think of her when I run.

By mid July I was back to running three times a week and started building up the mileage. I got to 9.5 miles nonstop before completing the Great North Run Half marathon in September 2013 in 2 hours 26 minutes. I was and still am well chuffed with myself.

Each run I did I would run further. Some runs were brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. One particular run I was plodding through the light drizzle and thought it couldn’t get any worse, I was wrong, the heavens opened and a major downpour ensued. Just as this happened the music from Rocky came on my iPod, I was just over half a mile from home on a 7 mile run. As I ran along the path I raised my arms to the sky and welcomed the rain, I leapt over a huge puddle (loads of point in doing that as my feet were soaked!) and started punching left and right to the beat of the Rocky music. A taxi pulled up at the roundabout and stopped, with no traffic coming he just sat still and watched me running, grinning like an idiot and punching the air. I waved and smiled at him and he smiled back, shaking his head and probably thinking I was totally nuts.

At this point I did wonder what people thought about me running, to be honest I don’t really care but it did have me puzzled. I looked up fat girls running and came across a Facebook page called ‘Fat Girls Guide to Running’ this is a page created by a lady who likes to run 10ks, half and full marathons and calls herself fat. (Personally I think she looks good!) She writes a blog and is entertaining in her view of chubby women who run and the pit falls and highs.

I have fortunately never had a negative comment, to be honest I wouldn’t know as I wear headphones and like my music loud, but I have had funny looks, I just smile and sometimes wave. I ran past a group of teenagers on bikes and they came chasing up behind me and screamed in my ear, I got a little fright and in reaction shouted some obscenities which they just laughed at and kept on riding ... kids, but that’s my only negative experience!

So next time you see a chubby person running or biking don’t secretly snigger or think negative thoughts about them or even pity them, all you need to know is that, he or she has taken those first steps to a better life and maybe like me, will be enjoying it, even if they look purple, sweaty and fit to drop.

The pros far outrun (no pun intended) the cons of running. I do suffer from a tight IT band and ligament and muscle stiffness and see my physiotherapist to help with this. I have had bad runs where I’ve been in pain or really struggled and have felt so emotional, I’ve started to cry.

But when I run I feel free and happy and if I can’t run I feel like a caged animal. Weird to think just over a year ago I was an 18st couch potato.

Running is great for losing weight with an appropriate diet. As I mentioned before I follow a carb free diet (I don’t eat bread, rice, pasta, cereals, anything made with flour or potatoes), therefore when I run I burn fat and not the carbs stored for energy. I spent 30 odd years carb loading but never made it out for that run ... until now.

Fat will sustain you better than digested carbs as fat has a longer release of energy unlike carbs which is short lived and if not used then turns into fat stores.

I hope anyone out there thinking I can’t run, I can’t do it, can look at me and think actually I can! I’ve already done a 10k this Easter and knocked 5 minutes off my BUPA 10k time from last year and I’m aiming to better it again at this year’s BUPA 10k and hopefully run the Great North Run again alongside the Fit Factors of 2014.

Take that first step out of your front door and just run to the lamp post at the end of the road, you never know where your feet will take you.

Kerry and all the Fit Factors will be raising money for the Bubble foundation.

Kerry’s Foodie tips

Here are some hearty, energy boosting ideas, perfect for just after a run of a few hours before:

Shepherds Pie

This is a twist on the traditional recipe.

500g extra lean minced beef

2 onions chopped

6 medium carrots chopped up small

1 small turnip, chopped up small

Tinned tomatoes

Tomato puree (1 teaspoon)

Extra vegetables, such as mushrooms, courgette, peppers, leeks, aubergine (all optional, all chopped up small)

Beef stock cube

Mixed dried herbs

In a large pan dry fry the mince with a splash of water and chopped onions until browned add all the vegetables except four of the carrots and turnip, these need to be brought to the boil in water till soft.

Drain the carrots and turnip and mash down whilst hot, set aside. Meanwhile all the vegetables and mince are cooking add the puree, tinned tomatoes, sprinkle the beef stock over and herbs. Allow to cook for a further five minutes. Add the mince mixture to an oven proof dish and spread the carrot/turnip mix on top. Place in to a medium oven and cook for a further 20 -25 minutes.

Banana Pancake

Bananas are great for energy. I make this a few hours before a run or have it as a breakfast on a weekend.

Mash one banana in a bowl add one egg and beat. Heat a non-stick pan and spray oil from an oil mister. Pour the egg mix on and spread about but don’t have gaps and allow to set, then flip over carefully and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.

Enjoy!

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