Cardiff’s Charlotte Arter recently set the female parkrun world record, but you don’t need to be a record setter to be a runner.
Less than a month ago, Cardiff’s Charlotte Arter set the female parkrun world record right in our very backyards. The 28-year-old former Cardiff University performance sport officer crossed the Taff Trail finish line on 1 February at 15 minutes and 49 seconds, besting her previous record by one second.
Reading that could do one of two things: a sudden surge of adrenaline capitulates you to sign up for this weekend’s parkrun, or you toss the trainers back into the box and slump into the couch cushions.
If you’re in the cushions, it’s not too late to get back up (no matter how comfy you are). Over 600 parkruns are held in the UK every Saturday, and they aren’t only for record breakers. Racers ranging from Charlotte Arter calibre to first-time runners all start and finish on the exact same line.
“Running isn’t limited to the people at the front,” says Myfanwy Thomas, a co-founder and one of 11 lead Running Buddies of SheRuns: Cardiff’s, an all-female running club with over 700 members.
“Anyone can run, that’s the beauty of it,” says Elaine Davies, another lead runner who has been running since university. “It’s never too late or too early to start running, no matter where that start is,” she says.
Elaine, Myfanwy and other members of SheRuns: Cardiff offer their Top Seven Tips to go from watching the runners rush by to starting with them this Saturday.
1. Think one foot in front of the other – and repeat
It’s not so much a pithy quip as it is a bedrock. Thinking of running as anything more, says Elaine, will make it impossible to ever leave the couch in the first place.
“You just have to get out there and do it,” she says. “The number of times I postponed dragging myself on the first run and all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other.”
And once you’ve put one foot, it’s a simple matter of repetition.
“It’s all about going out one day, then going out again the next day and the day after that,” says Sharon Eckley, an original SheRuns: Cardiff member since its inception in September, who learned quickly on that going for that one run last week (sadly) doesn’t christen someone a runner this week.
But going next week might.
“They always say, you never regret going on the run, but you will regret not going,” she says. “So just keep going. A bad run is better than no run.”
Pro: Tip For those who have never run before, the ladies recommend this run-walk method in their Couch to 5K walk-run training guide to get started.
2. Good shoes are a must
“You know you’re a runner when you spend more on trainers than you ever have on a pair of heels,” says Sian Regan, a member of SheRuns: Cardiff.
“If you even own any heels,” says Sharon.
Good shoes take you good places, but good running shoes take you great places. Whether you’re jogging half a mile around Roath Park or fell-running through knee-high slogs in the Brecon Beacons, the trainer-style matters.
“I have two pairs, one for road and one for trail, and it’s so important for any runner, new or old, to take care of their feet,” says Myfanwy. “They’re what you’re running on.”
Pro-Tip: Don’t know where to start? The ladies recommend Run and Become in Cardiff City Centre. They’ll find the perfect fit for your foot and terrain type.
3. Find your why
You won’t wake up at 7 am on a Sunday morning in the middle of a storm for just anything, and while putting one foot in front of the other sounds nice at first, it will inevitably become harder if you don’t know why you’re doing it.
“We run for so many different reasons and that’s what I love about it,” says Sharon. From needing 10 minutes headspace, getting into shape, marathon training or finding friends to share post-run coffees with, running is easy when it’s what you look forward to.
“Running is a release, a social community, an improvement in your body and your mind. It’s whatever you want it to be,” says Tanya O’Neill, co-founder and one of the original Running Buddies.
“But it can’t be something you have to do. It has to be something you want to do.”
4. Get a running buddy (or 700)
Running doesn’t have to be a lone-wolf sport. From keeping each other accountable to pushing that last block sprint to sharing in drenched laughter of running in the rain, running buddies make a huge difference.
“I remember hiding behind the corner of the library. I was so nervous, wondering if I should join the group or if I’d be better off running by myself like I’d been doing,” says Coleen Manuel, one of the club’s early members. “But before this, I wouldn’t wake up at 7:30 am on a Sunday morning to run on my own, least of all in the rain.” But for every Sunday since last September’s launch, Coleen hasn’t missed a single run.
“Having someone there makes the runs go by so much better,” she says. “It makes it fun, supportive, we push each other to be better. We’re a tribe.”
6. Don’t fear the rain (or sleet or snow or cold)
“If you don’t run in the rain, you’ll never run in this country,” says Elaine. “You have to lace up your shoes and toughen up.”
Pro-Tip: Buy a hat.
“They’re not only for the sun-shiney days, which we get oh so many of,” says Elaine with a laugh. “But you’ll never feel the rain in a hat.”
For over eight years, Elaine has worn the same milk-brown hat through sun, rain, snow and sleet, each run etched into the fabric’s jaded stains. “Which are like medals in themselves really.”
Need some motivation? Check out these races in and around Cardiff to keep up your running stamina:
7. Don’t compare yourself
To the person beside you, in front of you, behind you or on the Strava leaderboard. Because let’s face it: None of us will wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly set a new world record.
Which is perfectly okay, says Amy Earlam, a SheRuns: Cardiff member with a number of half-marathons under her trainers.
“Running is all about what your body can do, not what the body next do you is doing or what you look like next to everyone else,” she says.
So while a fellow member might crush a 10K on their first time around Roath, there’s no rule saying you have to as well. In fact, you don’t even have to crush 10 minutes.
“It took me quite a while, I could only run 100 yards then I’d have to stop,” says Sharon. “So that’s what I did — I’d run 100, then walk. Run 100 more. Then walk. Then slowly, it added up.”
And while the beginning of many runs have become habitually signalled by chirping wristwatches setting GPS’s to record, SheRuns: Cardiff suggests forgetting the watch to start.
“Running is more than speed. Speed is nothing more than a clock,” says Tanya. “Time is only relative to you as an individual.”
Becoming a runner might take seven steps, but SheRuns: Cardiff says being a runner takes only one: calling yourself one.
“We have so many women who come run with us, and I ask how long they’ve been runners and they’ll say they aren’t,” says Colleen. “If you run, you are a runner.”
That, and developing a detailed knowledge of where to wee.
“The cafes, the bushes, knowing what time the public toilets are open,” Sharon says. “It’s all very important.”