I run for happiness, for freedom and for strength; to remind myself that I can...

I'm Ally, and I'm a food and fitness journalist who lives in London. I first ‘found’ running when I was 17 years old. My parents had moved to New York with my three younger siblings and, faced with a frightening few years of change ahead, I decided to lace up.

It soon became my best friend and my biggest stress release. My love of the sport landed me my job at Women’s Health magazine many years later, and to this day, is still the one thing that always brings a smile to my face, no matter the weather (I actually find miles in the rain quite liberating. Mad, I know).

I ran my first proper ‘race’, if you’d like, in my second year of university. I loved running, but pre that 8 mile ‘fun run’, had never really gone much further than 5km or so. I remember the nerves in the weeks leading up to the big day so clearly. Butterflies in my stomach and a heightened heart rate matched thoughts of not being able to do it, blowing up at mile six and embarrassing myself in front of the spectators. But I was running for my then boyfriends grandad, who had recently fought dementia, and so that made me focus on the task at hand.

The big day came and all I remember is the euphoric sense of achievement when we crossed the finish line. I was grinning from ear-to-ear all day and, just like that, I was hooked.

Next came the Birmingham Half Marathon, with five of my university housemates. I loved the long hours spent lapping our student village to get the training miles in pre-race, and the sprint finish on the day.

I don’t know what appealed to me more; the challenge, pushing my body or breaking a physical and mental barrier that I hadn’t before. But all of the above soon shaped me and who I was. Running taught me persistence, determination and that you can achieve anything if you work hard enough.

Next came the full 26.2 mile marathon distance—completed in the blistering 26 degree heat of late April 2018. I crossed the line in 4 hours and 11 minutes and, just a year later, ran my first ever sub 4-hour marathon on the same course. London Marathon, you’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

I’ve now run 15 half marathons and should have completed five full marathons, by the end of this year, races permitting. I run for happiness, for freedom and for strength; to remind myself that I can, to find peace of mind and to feel alive. Most importantly, I run for my mental health; there’s no better feeling than the runner’s high you get when you smash another challenge or beat that PB. I feel grateful every day for my able body and my fitness.

Fancy a run? Remember, you CAN, and to stick with it—running could change your life, too.

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