There’s no running from my worst-ever birthday present

23 August 2019

“Happy birthday! Look out for something in your inbox  ;)” – texted my friend Ruth this May. I scanned through my emails excitedly, only to discover this one with horror: “Congratulations on entering the 2019 BMF Supersonic 10k; your entry has been approved!”

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Ruth had signed me up for a 10-kilometre race in Bournemouth this October.

I’ve not run farther than for a bus in about 15 years, and for one simple reason. I hate running. I find it boring; it feels unnatural charging round with no destination. And I’m not good at it. At school, I’d volunteer for anything to avoid games lessons when a cross-country run was planned – I’d willingly stay behind and do extra homework.

I phoned Ruth to praise her for what I was hoping was nothing but a practical joke, but she confirmed I was signed up, and so too were she, her husband and my sister – all of whom had never run before. “I thought you might come round to the idea,” she said. “After all, you’ve been complaining that with your new job you’ve got out of the habit of regular exercise, and training for a race will mean you have to prioritise it!”

Begrudgingly, I went on the website and downloaded the 14-week training programme. Since then, I’ve been running – almost – without fail every other day, as it prescribes. Now in the habit of doing it, it’s not such an effort cajoling myself into training.

Furthermore, we four reluctant runners have a WhatsApp group where we can share our small victories and encourage each other.

Now in week seven, I wouldn’t say I exactly enjoy it, but I have to confess that sometimes I do look forward to my next run.

As usual, Ruth is right. She’s created a situation where I am forced to do something that I ultimately did want to do but was endlessly putting off and I’m really grateful to her.

I wonder whether the method can be applied to other parts of my life. After all, it incorporates several of the most useful ingredients for achieving something: a specific aim, a deadline, a strategy to get there, a routine and camaraderie.

I think it’s a great recipe for budgeting and achieving financial goals too.

It’s much easier to save when you’ve got something you’re working towards. A friend of mine promised herself a hot air balloon ride if she saved enough money by making packed lunches. The ride was months ago, but she’s now in the habit of making them.

A regular routine also helps. I have a monthly direct debit straight to my savings account so I never have to rely on willpower to save.

Saving with someone else can also make it easier. Whether it’s a bit of healthy competition to save the most or sharing victories when you manage to save, having a saving buddy can keep you motivated. In my household we’ve all decided that we’d like to eat out less, so we’re taking it in turns to recreate our favourite restaurant meals at home. It has actually made cutting back fun.

I sometimes still doubt whether I’ll manage 10 kilometres, and the October race is not far away. But jogging along, red-faced, last Sunday morning I realised clever Ruth had already accomplished what she’d set out to achieve.

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