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Rebecca Wicks on how she used running to turn her life around before her 40th birthday

Rebecca Wicks gives the thumbs up at the Valentine's 10K earlier this year. Picture: Ian Edwards Photography

Rebecca Wicks gives the thumbs up at the Valentine's 10K earlier this year. Picture: Ian Edwards Photography

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A year before her 40th birthday, Rebecca Wicks didn’t like what she saw in the mirror. This is her story on how running completely turned her life around

Rebecca Wicks at the Downham 10K. Picture: Rebecca WicksRebecca Wicks at the Downham 10K. Picture: Rebecca Wicks

Life begins at 40 - that’s how the saying goes isn’t it?

Well, I decided to start a year earlier. It was May 2017 and I had just turned 39. I was extremely overweight, completely unfit and with a family that has a history of heart problems, the outlook was bleak.

I didn’t want to hit the big ‘four zero’ and feel like this.

I struggled to contemplate just how much weight I had to lose but I had to start somewhere so I began to eat sensibly and increase my fitness in the hope that my weight would drop and I would feel fitter.

Rebecca Wicks -  a woman who has turned her life around through running. Picture: Rebecca WicksRebecca Wicks - a woman who has turned her life around through running. Picture: Rebecca Wicks

I bought a ‘Fitbit’ watch and set myself a target of walking 10,000 steps a day. It gave me a focus and a habit to adopt.

Quite often if I hadn’t reached my target by the end of the day I would go out in the dark for a quick walk around the block to hit that magic number. It left me breathless just walking on some occasions, but I stuck to it and things eventually began to get a bit easier.

Within a couple of months I had lost two stone but I knew there was still work to do.

One night, desperate to get to the magic 10,000 steps (and equally desperate to get home and watch television) I decided to try a little jog.

Rebecca Wicks at the Great North Run earlier this year. Picture: Rebecca WicksRebecca Wicks at the Great North Run earlier this year. Picture: Rebecca Wicks

I managed to run from one lamppost to the next and thought I had conquered a mile. It took me a good 10 minutes of walking to recover and then I ran again to the next lamppost and so it continued. It did the job and I completed my steps much quicker than usual.

A few days later, more fully prepared (wearing an old pair of trainers, double sports bras and in the dark so no one would see me...!) I did the same again. This continued for a few weeks until I developed plantar fasciitis. After asking a few friends their advice, they suggested going to visit Neil Featherby at Sportlink and getting some proper trainers.

I walked into the shop the following weekend and felt like a fish out of water. Everyone else there was a ‘proper’ runner and there I was, fat, unfit, nearly 40 and nothing like a runner.

I needed to have a gait analysis (I wasn’t even sure what that was...) and so Neil set me off running on the treadmill. It was only five minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. Pride wouldn’t let me stop or slow down the machine and that morning, I ran for the furthest I ever had done.

Rebecca Wicks at the Downham 10K. Picture: Rebecca WicksRebecca Wicks at the Downham 10K. Picture: Rebecca Wicks

After trying on a few pairs of trainers, I settled on some that were extremely comfortable and bought them. I honestly thought that it would be the biggest waste of money and that I wouldn’t use them.

Just as I was about to leave the shop, Neil and Pete Johnson gave me some final words of advice. They told me that I had a lovely running style and that I should just keep going and eventually things would get easier.

I kept up my jogging between lampposts with their words of encouragement ringing in my ears. They were right, it did start to become a little easier. Later that summer, my friend challenged me to run a 10km race before the end of the year and in a moment of madness, I signed up for the East Coast 10km at Great Yarmouth in October 2017.

I had three months to get ready. I kept going, thinking about what Neil and Pete had said and despite shin splints, completed the race in 1 hour 16 minutes.

Rebecca Wicks before she turned her life around through running. Picture: Rebecca WicksRebecca Wicks before she turned her life around through running. Picture: Rebecca Wicks

I cried as I crossed the line as I realised how far I had come. At that point I was nearly 4 stone lighter than I had been. The day after the race I entered the New Year’s Day 10km at Wymondham so that I had something to focus on and so that I had to keep running. I can’t say at that point that I loved running, but it was a means to an end for me...

Throughout the cold winter months I kept running and was pleased that indeed things did get a bit easier.

I ran at Wymondham and was thrilled to knock four minutes off my time. I entered a few more races to keep up the incentive to run and then a friend gave me another challenge - to run 40 races throughout the year to celebrate being 40.

I don’t know why I agreed to it, but the gauntlet had been laid down. I scrutinised the list of road races and went ahead and booked some more races up. In order to fit them all in, I’ve often run two races in a week and have ventured out of the county on weekends when there was nothing in Norfolk.

Rebecca Wicks before she turned her life around through running. Picture: Rebecca WicksRebecca Wicks before she turned her life around through running. Picture: Rebecca Wicks

It’s been a busy year but I collected medal number 40 at Great Yarmouth – a year after my first ever run.

I’ve run through woodlands, across sand dunes, on roads, around airfields and around racing circuits. I’ve run 5km races, 5 mile races, 10km races and earlier this year I ran the Great North Run.

I already know I have a place in the London Marathon in April, so that will keep me focused and putting on my trainers. I’ve battled injury along the way - hip bursitis, shin splints, torn muscles and a prolapsed disc that meant 10 days on crutches and nearly three weeks of not running but I’ve not given up.

I’ve discovered how good running can make you feel and now I cannot imagine not running. I’ve also discovered how friendly and helpful members of the running community are. When I’ve not known what to do, or needed some advice, there have been plenty of people only too willing to give up their time to help and support me. I guess I am now a ‘proper’ runner!

I’m by no means an inspiration in terms of running - I won’t ever win a race or even come first in my age category, but I’ve turned my life around and have now lost nearly 7 stone.

I am fitter and healthier than I have ever been and want to let people know that if I can do it, then anyone can do it.

Life begins at 40? It doesn’t have to - you can take control whenever you like.

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