I Move For Me: Kristiane Sherry

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Writen by Kristiane Sherry

Kristiane loves whisky, gin, tequila – and running. She lives by the sea on the edge of the South Downs National Park and is happiest hitting the trails with friends before gathering at the pub for a post-adventure roast. While she will chase a PB on the road, Kristiane loves getting off the beaten track, and her favourite race (so far!) is Kent’s Bewl 15.

My journey into movement didn’t start from the healthiest place. Six years ago, fuelled by an irrational and very specific anxiety that occasionally still rears its head, I set out to ‘beat’ the Parkrun time of (a very successful, beautiful and thin) someone I didn’t like very much. The problem: I hadn’t run at all since the horrendous days of school PE. Jealousy, acute competitiveness, self-loathing… hardly a wholesome ethos on which to start building an edifying relationship with exercise.

 With morale at a particularly low ebb, I went to Mapmyrun.com and traced an easy-to-remember mile-long route round unfamiliar streets. I dug out the dusty trainers I’d owned for the best part of a decade, the ones that only saw the light of day once a year at the start of Wimbledon when taking up tennis on the local courts seemed like a good idea (I’d struggle to serve the ball over the net, get disheartened and swiftly head to the nearest beer garden). I think I was even wearing my old PE shorts. And I went out into the blisteringly hot afternoon sun and immediately started to run.

 As implausible as it seemed both then and now, I ran my first mile. Far too fast, in flimsy shoes, in the unforgiving summer humidity. I didn’t stop. I did collapse at the end though, sprawling on the floor gasping for water with my legs, arms, stomach, everything on fire. It was absolutely awful. No part of me, mentally, physically, felt good. I was mortified by my own body’s ‘failure’ to comply with the plan. But I got up and went again. And again. I’ve found over the years that I’m recklessly fortitudinous when miserable. It’s a trait I’ve applied for both self-sustentation (in my career) and self-harm (dismissing hunger). In running, I somehow managed both, at least initially.

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I can’t pinpoint with precision the exact moment the balance tilted. It was a process that took place over weeks. But running for punishment, to prove a point, all the too-familiar striving to be better, a smaller, sleeker version of me, and a better person than her, slowly gave way. Like lifting weights from one side of a traditional kitchen scale; the other side, the feeling good, strong, freer side, began to rise up. We moved to the sea, we saw her less. But I kept running.

Somehow breathing in the sea air cleansed my mind, and not just from my immediate anxieties. I began to actually feel better in my own skin. I entered half-marathons. I joined a running club. I smashed PBs. I raced in the county league. I met amazing people and made new, real friendships as a grown-up (something I’ve always struggled with). I celebrated their achievements. I started running on the South Downs and fell in love with the undulating hills, the expanse of sky, the meanders of the River Cuckmere. With every mile I added on to my long trail runs, the less bound up in my body my mind felt. I went to races with my running friends, which turned into drinks, dinners, sharing jokes and laughing with each other, but also crying together, too. That togetherness is one of the main reasons I keep running, keep moving.

 Running, and moving in general, comes with it the risk of injury, and that’s when I realise most tangibly why I move and how important running is to me. Right now, I’m coming back after over three months off, and it’s been hard. I still saw my friends, of course. But I’ve realised there’s nothing like an endorphin hit to eschew the darkness that comes with not much liking your mind or body. I’m back at it now, building it up slowly, gently, kindly. The complete opposite of that first run. And it feels good.

 One of my favourite things about my running club is our Couch to 5K group, which helps complete beginners get in to running. Seeing women (especially) achieve things they never thought they could, reap the mental health benefits, make new friends and fall in love with the outside, makes me love moving even more. That’s another thing I’ve found: moving is compelling, irresistible, addictive, even. I’m very happily hooked.

 And I did beat her Parkrun time, by the way. But it genuinely doesn’t matter. In the process I discovered something immeasurably better – an incredible life-long love of movement. I’ll take that any day.