As a schoolchild in the 1980s and 1990s, as punishment for being naughty we would be ordered to run laps of the playing field – an activity presented as the ultimate in hellish horrors. So it’s little wonder that generations of women grow up through their teens and twenties filled with horror at the idea they might voluntarily lace up their trainers and go for a run for, bleugh, fun?!
After a decade or more of being picked last for school sports teams and publicly ridiculed by malevolent PE teachers for being shit, I came to dread exercise as much as I dreaded maths lessons. During my final two years at school, I spent the PE lessons hiding in a disused classroom with my nose in a book, hoping nobody would come and drag me outside to stand in a soggy hockey field where a PE teacher would make me look like a dick in front of my friends.
I don’t think I’m alone in these experiences of school-age PE-induced torture. Since I started running about 12 months ago, I’ve discovered a whole community of other women who also took to running in their early 30s. For a wide range of reasons (anything from wanting to lose a few pounds, to having an hour to themselves, to wanting to conquer a personal demon), more and more women are discovering running as a means of escape and release.
It’s not hard to see why. There are no expensive gym memberships, you can do it where and when you like, and you can spend as little or as long doing it as you want. Throw in the fact that running burns a lot of calories, boosts your metabolism, and releases feel-good endorphins like there’s no tomorrow, and it’s not hard to see why committed runners can’t stop raving about the benefits of the sport to everyone they see.
And that’s also why I’m thrilled that earlier this month (September 2014), Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has finally been able to get it agreed that schools can no longer order compulsory laps of the playing field as punishments to truculent children.