Meet the Team – Hilary – and the T Shirts are out and about!

Here is the lovely Angela sporting our T shirt on one of her training runs. You should be seeing them out and about now and throughout the summer, and it’s never too late to donate. Visit here or scan the QR code on the back of our T shirts when you see us. And now it’s time to meet the final member of our team, Hilary.

What is your running history? I wouldn’t run for a bus until I was 40. I was rubbish at all sports growing up but I think running was the one I hated the most. I’d get out of breath straight away and feel weak and useless. Then, when I was 40, I suddenly decided I was going to do it. My son was a good runner so maybe that was an influence. I went out by myself every single day – I knew if I gave myself a day off that would be the end of it. I went from being able to run about 30 steps to 5k in a month. I didn’t have a programme, I just seemed to know what to do – a tiny bit more each day. At first it was all about not stopping, which turned out to be a question of taking control of my breathing.

After that I’ve run most of my life, with a few breaks. I’ve only done 3 official races, all of them Great North Runs. I did the first in 2013 and the second the next year, to prove to myself it wasn’t a fluke. I couldn’t really believe that I was capable of running so far, but I am. The last one was 2018 when I ran for Blood Cancer UK because there was a Brownie in the unit I lead who had leukaemia. The next week all the Brownies ran round the field until, if you counted up what I’d done and what they’d done, we had done a marathon. We raised over £1,000 and it was a good feeling to share the experience with the girls.

For a while I helped out at my local club, Morpeth Harriers, which was really good fun. I worked with the beginner groups and I was always at the back with the children who thought they couldn’t do it and wanted to stop, encouraging them. I knew what that felt like!

What was your best run? Technically, the Great North Run in 2018 when I got a PB of 2.09, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve only ever done three proper events, all GNRs.

There are other memorable runs, too. My running son lives in Whitehaven and one time when I was staying with him we got the train to St Bees first thing in the morning and ran back home up the coastal path. It was spectacular, you could see the houses on the Isle of Man and he is a great person to run with. Breakfast when we arrived in Whitehaven was especially tasty that day, too. I like to run wherever I go, it makes me feel I’m getting to know a place. I’ve had some great runs from Keswick – one week I ran up Latrigg every morning, which was exciting because I didn’t think I’d be able to do trail style running – as well as the view at the top!

What are the barriers to your running?  At first it was imposter syndrome. I’d always been convinced I wasn’t the right sort of person to run – very unsporty, with big joggly boobs, that sort of thing. I would imagine everyone looking at me from their car windows and laughing.

Then it was a belief, after a few days off, that I wouldn’t be able to get back to it, that my idea that running’s not for me was the right one after all – but now I know that I am a runner so even if I’m injured or unable to run for a while, I trust I’ll run again.

Now the big barrier is time. Life crowds in and it’s hard to carve out the time sometimes. I’d love to do more events but I know I’d need to train properly and I can’t commit to it alongside the rest of life.

What does running give you? So many things! It gets me outdoors, which is really important, and it’s vital to my health now. I really believe that stuff they say about exercising outdoors being the best – I hate a treadmill, it’s so boring!

I make a kind of relationship with a place when I run. I notice things, make friends with where I am. I used to run to music or podcasts but now I try to pay attention to where I am.

Mostly I run by myself but I’ve made some good friendships through running and I love running with Joe, my son – when I was ill with anaemia in 2018 I had a physical, mental and spiritual collapse, really, and Joe took me running regularly. My joints felt as if they were made of rusting iron and I was slow and cumbersome, but Joe was so encouraging, we had really good chats and it was a key part of my recovery.

How has running changed you? I’m fitter and healthier because of it and I have a better relationship with the earth. I spent over a year writing a haiku in my head every time I went for a run and it really helped me notice my surroundings better.

I have a different understanding of my body and how it’s part of me, how it works with mind and spirit to make me. I used to think of my body as often letting me down or causing me problems, but now I have a lot of respect for it. I think it wants to cooperate and help me be me, I think all the different bits of me really want to be friends with each other. I wrote a poem about that which is soon to be published in a Young Adult magazine!

Perhaps the most important thing is that I now have a nailed-on belief that people who say you are who you are and you can never change anything are wrong. I was totally convinced I wasn’t a runner for 40-some years. Now I wouldn’t be without it. It’s key to who I am and how I relate to the world. I know how that change happened and while I agree that you can’t control everything in your life I think change is possible. I am still surprised to say I am a runner but I know it’s true. And I have welcomed and nurtured other changes in my life too, because I know it’s possible.

Where is God when you run? God is everywhere – in the birds and the trees but also in the houses and on the path and in the rubbish and in the thoughts that come up when I run. But especially I think God is in the breath. When I run it’s not just what I see and hear and feel but I breathe very deeply and it feels like I’m taking God’s world into me and putting myself into God’s world. In Hebrew the word for breath, nephesh, also means spirit and life and that actually feels true to me when I run.