44-year-old Gail Tennant began running in 2015 when she was 22 stone. Since then she has completed 79 parkruns, 13 half marathons and one marathon, become a Jogscotland Jog Leader, and lost more than half her body weight. Gail, from Strathclyde parkrun in Scotland, has kindly shared her inspiring and uplifting story:
I had been heavily overweight my entire life. I did try running to lose weight in my late teens and early twenties but I never felt very good about it and gave up, not realising that had I kept going, I would have got better and better.
Instead, I totally believed I could never be a runner.
A few years ago I had been visiting my best friend who lives in Aviemore, in Scotland, and she was looking and feeling great after taking up running. I was in total awe of what she was achieving and how active she had become. She always tried to include me in her activities but I was never physically able to take part.
Also, being 22 stone it was very difficult to find nice running outfits. So to start with, after lots of searching online, I managed to get men’s leggings to fit and a XXXL men’s t-shirt in a dark colour so I didn’t stand out too much. Another barrier was just getting out the front door for the first time.
However, I kept thinking how much my friend believed in me and how I had to just give it a go – I had nothing to lose. I used a woodland path near my house so no one could see me and did a 60 second jog and I thought ‘oh my, this is not for me’ but I kept going with a jog/walk schedule.
I am the type of person who has more success if I commit to something so I entered my first 5k in 2015 and by the time that came around I could run for three minutes before I needed to walk. To complete that 5k and not be last, which was my biggest fear, felt amazing!
I had joined a running Facebook page and read people’s posts about parkrun but I didn’t really understand what it was all about. I didn’t have the confidence to go myself, I was so worried about being last. I decided that I would volunteer first so that I could get a feel for the event. I was so nervous but Strathclyde parkrun were so friendly and gave me the job of Number Checker, what a buzz it was just seeing how it all went.
“I decided that I would volunteer first so that I could get a feel for the event.”
I actually waited until I could run 5k without stopping, which was September 2016, before I started parkrun, which I soon realised was totally unnecessary – I should have started when I first found out about parkrun. I was so nervous, the drive over I spent trying to talk myself out of it but at the same time excited about being part of the parkrun culture that I had read so much about. When I got there I followed the crowd and blended in which made me feel so much better, no one was pointing at me, there was all shapes, sizes and abilities there, I felt like an equal. My first one took me 38 minutes and I was thrilled getting my results text and I was hooked straight away. I enjoyed the posts and would read about all the other parkruns I could now join in.
I have now lost 11.5 stone and gone from a sedentary lifestyle to running 13 Half Marathons, 73 parkruns and my first full marathon – my life has totally changed. I am able to do all types of activities now from aerial rope courses, a bungee swing to theme park rides. I also joined JogScotland in February this year, it took so much courage to turn up to a running group but so glad I did as running with people has improved my times. I have so much enthusiasm for running now I became a jog leader in August this year. My family have seen such a change in me and say I am much happier than I was before. My eldest daughter asked to try parkrun about a year ago and we now run together and train together. We never miss parkrun unless we have an event on and also enjoy a bit of parkrun tourism.
“My family have seen such a change in me and say I am much happier than I was before.”
parkrunners are happy, friendly people, there is no pressure to run the full distance, anyone thinking of trying it just needs to give it a go and they’ll love the atmosphere. It is so inclusive for all abilities but if someone was so nervous about it then going and volunteering just to see how great it is without the pressure of running it is great way to help the nerves.
Before I joined JogScotland I hadn’t really considered running a full marathon, thinking that was way beyond my capabilities. Running with a group and getting encouragement from them, seeing the improvements I was making I thought I’ll sign up for Loch Ness and give it a go even if I need to walk the second half of it. I took lots of advice from jog leaders and was given a training plan. The one thing I included was parkrun, that’s my staple weekly run and I would miss it if I didn’t do it. One week my long run was 16 miles which I did before going to Springburn parkrun so my daughter wouldn’t miss out.
The marathon experience was amazing. I knew I had followed my training plan and ran a few 20 mile runs but still had worries because I hadn’t done 26.2 miles. I loved the Expo and picking up my number. The marathon had an early start but what an atmosphere, it wasn’t easy keeping going for the 26 miles but I just kept thinking, enjoy this because you only do your first marathon once so make the most of it. The last six miles were hard and I just thought I have two parkruns left and then one parkrun left, that kept me going. I did the marathon in 4hrs 45mins, I couldn’t believe my time and what I achieved and still can’t but I am still on that high. I do drop it in to conversations if I can!
I have entered the ballot for the London Marathon, that would be my ultimate dream but getting a place is like winning the lottery so Stirling will be my next full marathon. I would like to push myself more and maybe try an Ultra Marathon because I really don’t know what I am capable of until I try it. I have changed from being someone who tried to blend in to the background to trying anything and everything.
The running community is such a positive and encouraging community, it’s great for all ages and abilities. For the first time I feel like I am part of a huge team and totally accepted. Three years ago I ran my first 10k with my friend, last week I ran that same 10k and met up with one of the Run Directors from Lanark Moor parkrun who I had met through JogScotland and ran the last few kilometres with her. This was someone I would never have met if it wasn’t for running and it just made my anniversary extra special. The people who this has brought into my life is amazing and I am enjoying every minute of it.
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