Why RED January gave me a new perspective on running

Like many of the population, my main resolution for every year is to run more and I don’t get close to achieving that goal. When I heard that my brother’s girlfriend was doing RED January I knew I had to give it a go. 

RED January is a scheme where you do something active every day – I decided that I was going to run every day, because running every day is totally free. I didn’t have to worry about gym times or subscriptions or equipment. I don’t know too much about exercise routines but I do run on and off. Even though I’ve even done half marathons in the past, but I wanted to take it further. Dedicating myself to running was the perfect way to stay focused on my goal.

RED running montage
RED running montage

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I am one of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of runners in Britain that harbours dreams of doing a marathon, but I struggle to get motivated. I’ve signed up to several marathons but then I let life get in the way. Running sometimes felt like such a chore to me – even though there were elements that I liked about it – and getting out of the house was the thing I struggled to do.

On new year’s day, I wasn’t hungover at all so I went for a run around the estate that I lived in. I’d done a few runs before Christmas so it felt ok, I wasn’t too fast but I didn’t hate it either. Being off work meant that I could get into a routine much more easily, as I wasn’t back in the office until the 6th of January. By the time I was back, I’d cemented half an hour’s worth of daily running into my routine. Luckily, work wasn’t too busy so I got to leave on time to eat my tea and then go for a run afterwards.

When I started to feel like my goal was achievable, I began to tell people what I was doing. The positive responses made me feel good, but there were some naysayers. One friend told me that it was ‘incredibly bad for me’, which I struggled to believe. If you’re running long distances and you have an injury – then I’m sure there are drawbacks to skipping rest days. I made sure to only run a couple of miles every day and I wasn’t trying to get a personal best.

The benefits started to kick in after about 10 days – or should I say that I started to feel them more deeply. It took me less time to fall asleep, I felt less physical symptoms of anxiety (the mental ones remained) and my running improved. I’ve always been a slow runner, as I always tried for longer distances over speed, which I now think is one of the reasons why I found running to be such a chore.

When it got to the middle of January, I could see the wall approaching – I would procrastinate more and my motivation dipped. I didn’t want to run away from this challenge in the metaphorical sense, so I did a few runs that I didn’t enjoy so much. Once I accepted that I’d chosen this and there were less than 10 days to go, my determination returned. With any physical challenge, there is always a wall and I felt so proud that I’d finally managed to get past it to keep on running.

I’ve had mental health problems like anxiety, depression and OCD my whole life – so doing something physical yet achievable like this was perfect for me. My last week of RED was a breeze as I could see the goal that I had in mind becoming a reality. The fact that I didn’t give up made me feel good about myself. Not only that, but I had a better relationship with my body. When I felt any pain or bodily sensation, I thought about where it came from, instead of panicking about it so much. 

Not every run was fun by any means, and sometimes I would go ‘plogging’ (picking you trash while running) to give myself something to aim for. One thing I didn’t aim for was personal bests, but because I was running short distances, I got them anyway. I’ve started doing longer runs now and my times are the best they’ve ever been. Making my times faster before attempting longer distances really worked for me.

I really recommend RED for getting over the wall – my brother’s girlfriend loves it so much that she’s carried on doing it. When I came in from my last January run, my boyfriend played trumpet music to celebrate what I’d achieved and it felt good. A love of running is a hard-won achievement – you really do have to earn it.

Interested? Read more with Bella Mackie’s Jog On:

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Why RED January gave me a new perspective on running
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