Heidi Davies won individual bronze and team gold at last year’s European Mountain Running Championships. The 19-year-old rising star and inov-8 ambassador has a 5km Parkrun PB of 17:44. When not training and racing, Heidi (photographed above on the slopes of England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike) plays the piano and clarinet, while all the time planning her next trail running adventures. Last weekend (June 3), wearing our super-fast X-TALON 212 running shoes, she once again qualified to represent Great Britain, this time at the 2017 European Mountain Running Championships. This week featured Global Running Day and we asked the teenager to tell us why she runs…
So why do I run?
So why do you run? If you’re asking me that question, I bet 9 times out of 10 you’re not a runner yourself. To you, running is awful. You couldn’t think of anything worse than dragging your body weight around on your own two feet and trying to put your frame of muscles and bones into fast forward motion. To you, that would be a version of hell itself. Am I right?
“What!” I hear you exclaim. “You actually enjoy putting your body through so much pain? Don’t you get bored? Don’t you get tired? Wouldn’t you rather just watch TV? But, how do you actually enjoy running?”
Maybe you think running just isn’t your thing. I mean, I don’t blame you; why would you even want to get out of breath? That’s just not any fun, right? Life in your comfort zone is so much better isn’t it? At least you know where you stand, right? WRONG!
I’m sorry to disappoint but I’m going to have to prove you wrong. So why do I run? I’ll tell you why… let’s start from the beginning.
I run to make my younger self proud
If you were to say to my ten-year-old self that I would become a runner, I’d have laughed before eagerly sticking my head back into the book I was reading. As a young child, sport just wasn’t my thing. I’ve always been a trier and tried and failed (miserably) to even catch a ball in primary school; failing to even keep my eyes open when the ball came towards me. I sucked at sport and I always dreaded the PE lessons and games of rounders we were required to play.
It was only natural that I would dread my first experience of running in a local primary schools’ cross country race. My young naive 11-year-old self thought I was in for the worst experience of my short life so far. However, I surprised myself and actually enjoyed that initial thrill of trying to run as fast as I could around a boggy field. I found it a battle with myself as much as against the other children, which suited my slightly shy, introverted personality. That was it! I had found my true calling. I had pushed forward into the unknown on that one afternoon in my last year of primary school and I haven’t looked back since.
I run to discover the unknown
For non-runners the unknown and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be a scary, unnerving experience. Even more so when you haven’t actually pushed yourself out of your physical comfort zone since you were a child playing tag or such like on the school yard. The unknown is something I have come to love as a runner. As a runner ‘the unknown’ is a glorifying experience. It’s the unknown that drives me to continue to put one foot in front of the other, over and over because I want to understand how far my body, mind and spirit is willing to go. I’m still grasping my understanding of this and every run shows me new possibilities.
Running teaches me that I capable of so much more than I ever thought before. Everyday when you lace up your trainers and step outside into the open air; there is always a question mark hanging over your head. Where will your feet take you today? How far will you go? How fast will you be able to push your body today? This is a question mark that I have come to love as it ensures the running experience is constantly new and refreshing. The world is your oyster, even more so when you run. All you have to do is have the belief in yourself.
I run because that is what we were born to do
Running is the most natural form of movement for the human body. It allows us to go back to our roots as a species; to a time when running was essential to our survival. This rings true when I’m out there on the trails; jumping over rocks, floating on silent strides, the wind in my ears with just my shadow and the natural environment for company. It’s easy to feel a strong connection to our ancestors who performed this pure movement many years ago.
It is sometimes in these moments that I feel as if I could run forever and never get tired. It is for these special moments that I run, because there is no greater feeling than pushing past your comfort zone and feeling free as if you are flying over the terrain. Running reminds me what a privilege it is to be alive and to be able to move on this wonderful planet. I have been lucky enough to have had many opportunities to visit different countries and places which I otherwise wouldn’t if I didn’t run. Running truly has opened up my eyes to the world and for this I am forever thankful.
I run to explore
The one aspect of running which I have truly fallen in love with is the ability to be able to use your own two feet as a method of exploration. I think this is probably why I have found mountain running to be my niche in the sport of running during the summer months. Mountain runners are a different breed of runner. Through the nature of the sport, the focus is more on fun and development and there are no egos. Everyone is an equal and has an appreciation for the environment and world in which we live. We know we are lucky to experience this through running remote trails. It’s like that first breath of fresh air you crave after being stuck inside an exam room for hours. Refreshing, invigorating and a completely newfangled approach to enjoying the whole running experience.
The culture of mountain running is something completely different to what I’d experienced previously. The one obvious difference is that mountain runners smile. Running in the mountains or on the trails makes people happy. How can it not when you get to scamper over terrain in breathtakingly beautiful surroundings? Yes it can hurt, your lungs can feel on fire, your legs like bricks, but it is pure enjoyment.
I run because the friends and stories you make along the way are so heartwarming
The social side of running is something I really enjoy too. I have made many friends through the sport from all different countries and the combination of running and being in beautiful places, either competing or for a training camp, seems to just pull us runners together. Runners can sometimes be seen as our own unique crazy species so it is only natural that if you see another runner you automatically want to share stories of your running adventures. Running is something that bonds people together to allow them to have a greater sense of purpose in life too.
I run to inspire others
I have really discovered how running can inspire others as I have been helping to inspire the next generation of runners in my local area. Seeing the children smiling and being really enthusiastic; desperate to get outside and move their bodies just because of something you have said is truly heartwarming. Even just running down the street and exchanging a word or two with a passer-by and seeing them smile can make you realise how much sport and running does bring people of all kinds together.
Because running is something all humans have in common, even if some people dislike or cringe at the thought. Trust me, that is only a thought. Yes it may be a horrible thought, but once you get your running shoes on and get out there, you’ll probably come to love it too.
Running is so much more than just a sport. It’s more than just a race. It’s about the inspiring people you meet, the incredible places you get to visit, the close friendships you build and the unforgettable memories you make. I run because running is freedom to me and there is no better way to experience life’s journey.