It’s the Glasgow OUTrun soon! This five-mile race, organised by the Glasgow Frontrunners, is taking place starting in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park on Saturday the 19th of August. You can sign up for a place here!
I took part in the OUTrun last year, eight months after I’d begun the couch to 5k programme. I’d started running in January, after some personal issues - stress, anxiety, depression. Things that affect billions of people every day, but that had crept up and become big issues for me affecting my daily life.
It’s well documented that exercise can help ease symptoms of depression, though obviously this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution: some people with major depression suffer from psychomotor impairment, which makes it difficult to function on a day-to-day basis let alone go out for a jog. Some others might find exercise ties in all too easily with compulsive behaviour, and find themselves exercising into extremely serious illness. However, for a lot of people, there can be plenty of benefits.
Getting out of depression wasn’t really on my agenda at the time. GFR were running their C25K programme in January, and a friend had told his partner that he’d do it if I did. I think he was banking on the idea that I’d never do it. At that point my opinion of running was pretty low: you run and you get out of breath and you get a stitch and you want to throw up and you sweat a lot.
My opinion of gay (or even inclusive) groups was pretty low as well, though my actual understanding of them was based on going to gay bars and finding them to be uncomfortable places to spend time.They didn’t really feel like spaces for me. I just applied this experience to all gay groups.
C25K: A Great Starting Point for New Runners
I decided to join for the C25K, if nothing else just to cast off the expectation that I wouldn’t do it. And also because I figured it might be good to leave the house a bit more than I was at that point, when the depression and anxiety were high. And also because I figured I should face some of my internalised homophobia and deal with it. It helped that I wouldn’t be going alone either: I was pretty determined to make my friend stick to his guns for this.
Naturally, all my expectations were subverted, because every article needs a dramatic twist. Everybody was very friendly, and welcoming, and the predatory undercurrent that had made me feel nervous in other gay spaces just didn’t exist. It was just a group of people who liked to run, and wanted to do so without the potential homophobia that can crop up randomly in places that aren’t so consciously inclusive.
The C25K programme starts off easily, helping you build confidence as well as ensuring that you don’t overwork yourself. Your body has to adapt to running regularly and trying to run a marathon at the start will just leave you in pain. The first few weeks were sort of a breeze, and it was easy to talk to others and have a laugh while we were stomping around the city centre.
At some point near the end of the programme I developed shin splints, which made walking, let alone running, extremely painful. I had to sit out of the running for over a month, and watch as everyone graduated from the 5k, to 10k training, to running 10ks. Left behind, when I started running again I started doing so alone. I didn't want to drag anyone down to my level!
This was pretty much when I discovered one of my favourite aspects of running: getting out there and seeing the world around me. I started running more and more, just to get out and see what was out there. I ended up discovering parts of the city I’d never seen before. I’d pick a spot on the map that sounded interesting, and go there. I’d take a few pictures. I found new parks and had exciting little adventures. I was hooked.
This culminated with me finding a park about eight miles away from home, and running there. I ran along beside motorways when there were no paths. I ran through forests. I burned my entire phone battery by the time I got there and barely had enough to take a few snaps before it died.
So of course I signed up for the OUTrun. I could do that too. Five miles? Easy!
When the morning came I set off with some trepidation. I’d never run in something so formal. And there were hundreds of people there too. I found some friends and tried not to think about what I was about to do. There was a nice warmup and then we were off.
God, I didn't want to be last. Every time more people surged ahead of me I felt my resolve slip. I didn't want to be last. Every time I could possibly bear it I pushed ahead as fast as I could. My feet went numb over and over again, but as soon as I could manage to stamp some feeling back into them I went for it. I remember thinking we were nearing the finish line when actually we going uphill again, right at the end. A long, languorous path uphill that almost left me throwing up. I went down again but even the force of gravity was barely enough to keep me moving forward.
When I got to the end, and I could see the finish in sight, I forced myself to pick up speed. I didn't want people to see me staggering or sauntering in. I felt my chest heaving out of control, and everything began to fade. I had to grip onto it tightly and force each breath to stay as measured as I could, the pins and needles in my feet jangling with every footfall.Photo from Glasgow Frontrunners
After that I remember people running up to me and trying to congratulate me while I raggedly gasped for air. I stood with my back against a wall and tried not to throw up all over them.
It was pretty intense, and amazing. I can’t wait to do it again this year.