This is the fifth guest post in a new fitfor15in15 series designed to show the pleasant impact that feeling fit, in all its forms, can have on your life. Sal Book’s life-changing light bulb moment came several years ago when she broke a self-imposed rule and took on a challenge. The balance she’s now found makes for a wonderful, inspiring and totally relatable story. Take it away Sal!
No More Rules by Sal Book (FOX8 Design Director for Foxtel in Sydney, Australia, and lover of baking)
Sal and her boys after a half marathon in Sydney, September 2014
No running policy. No running whatsoever. Too many bits that wiggle. It hurts. Don’t run for buses. Maybe run for your life if necessary. I lived by a ‘no running policy’ that I joked about a lot. It was up there with my ‘don’t wear swimwear in front of work colleagues’ and ‘don’t live in share houses with couples’ list of rules to live by. Because in my 20s, I thought I knew everything.
I nearly broke that lifelong no running policy. Almost. I made some wonderful little humans and before long, I was running around after them 24/7/365. I wasn’t physically running, but there were definitely a lot of bits that wiggled. As a busy mum, working full time and chasing after kidlets, my 162cm body broke through and beyond the 100kg barrier. I had a moment of shock one day, watching the Biggest Loser and stuffing my face (as you do), when one of the contestants weighed in lighter than me. Yikes! It was time to ditch the wiggle.
I bought a very cheap cross trainer and off I went – weight watcher-ing everything I ate by day, cross training by night. My husband was wonderfully supportive and helped me find the time I needed for exercise. Most importantly, he listened to all my bitching about food. I love food and it was hard. Kilos slowly peeled away and 18 months later I was 30kg lighter. But the lifelong no running policy was still intact. In my mind, a cross trainer wasn’t running, so all was good.
I work in a creative industry and have found that most creatives are an inspired and positive bunch of people who enjoy the lustre of crazy ideas. Two of my colleagues were mad enough to sign up for this thing called Tough Mudder. They started a campaign to enlist anyone and everyone on their team. I was 30kg lighter, feeling great and tempted by the idea to just do something out of the ordinary. My friend knew I was a country girl at heart and wasn’t afraid of a bit of dirt, so he kept pushing me to give it a go. I had to tell him about the no running policy but he persisted and I’m ever so grateful he did.
The event was months away and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I figured that it if I could endure over 24 hours of labour pains, to squeeze out a human being, then surely I could take on this measly Mudder business. One unexpected perk from childbirth was the feeling of empowerment. The most incredible thing I’ve ever done in my lifetime is give birth to my sons. After they arrived in my life, I was surprised by an unforeseen drive that was born inside of me, especially to feel ownership of my body again. I felt like I could do anything. Take on any challenge. So I decided to do the Tough Mudder. I was going to own it. Go the whole 21km with obstacle courses. I signed up. I was scared. Damn it! I better start running or something.
The no running policy was abolished. Training was hard. I had a lot of support from friends and family. My sister ran with me, my team ran with me. My Mudder goal was to be able to run 7km without stopping and push myself with strength training on the side. Everyone around me helped a great deal, but ultimately the person who had to push me the most was me.
This popular waterside path in Sydney, called The Bay Run, is one of Sal’s favourite runs
Running was a whole world outside my comfort zone. All those wiggly bits did hurt. Running with a D-cup does suck. Every time I had a running session, I never actually wanted to run. I would procrastinate, taking forever to get out of bed, find my gear, put my shoes on. I would force myself to run, and found that I always felt amazing afterwards.
Hiding inside that little moment after the run is the addiction. You don’t see it or feel it coming. The mind says no, but after you finish, the body says yes. It feels amazing … after you’ve run your first ever full kilometre without stopping … after you’ve run your first 5km … after your first ever racing event … after your first ever PB … after every PB … Eating. After. Running (my personal favourite).
A leap of faith! Sal flying high in the Tough Mudder
Tough Mudder was difficult and incredible. Mission impossible was to attempt every obstacle. I succeeded all but one and I was grateful for my run training. For those moments between the obstacles, it didn’t feel hard. My body was able to cope and keep up with my team.
What’s not to love about this photo?!
All the winter running had really prepared me for the cold, thick mud. I finished and it was surreal. I felt invincible. But the very next week I stopped running. It was all done and dusted. I didn’t realise that I had ignited a spark.
After Tough Mudder, I spotted an advertisement for the San Francisco Half Marathon. The thought of running across the Golden Gate Bridge was enough to turn that spark into a desire to find that invincible feeling again. It didn’t take much pestering to convince my husband that we should take a family holiday to the States. Much like me, he is a man who loves experiences and before we knew it, we had booked flights for the family to America and both of us were signed up for the half marathon.
I ran 21km in 2h 26mins. I ran 18 of those kilometres grinning like an idiot, oblivious to the hurt, feeling mesmerised by where I was and where my running had taken me. I couldn’t believe I was running on the road of the Golden Gate Bridge. The last 3km did actually hurt, especially on some of the hills as we headed back into the city, but I still loved it.
My husband and I had walked across the Golden Gate on our honeymoon 11 years earlier, so to run across it was very special. He was behind me on the course, but I worked out that we would cross paths as I came back for the return leg of the bridge. I texted him to keep an eye out. We found each other, a quick kiss in the middle of all the runners and then off again.
Running across the Golden Gate Bridge was a proud and memorable achievement
One thing I love most about life, is that you never know what is ahead of you. The first time I walked that bridge with my husband, I never imagined a decade later we would be running a half marathon across it. These are the things that make me smile in life. Running continues to make me smile in life.
Sal chasing Minions in the iconic Sydney City to Surf race
It’s almost my three-year ‘runniversary’ and running is just a part of who I am now. I am a busy mum and to fit everything in, I run to work. I’m solving a transport and time issue all in one. On my long run days, I get to feel a little bit ‘bad ass’ by watching the sun rise while I’m out. If I run to work, for the rest of the day I enjoy a lovely ‘I don’t care if the Zombie Apocalypse happens’ sort of feeling – if the zombies come, well at least I can run fast enough! If work gets a bit stressful, somehow it feels easier to cruise through the problems and find solutions.
Peace and beauty on an early morning run to work
I get a lot of support from my husband. Running is something that requires time, but we try our best to give that to each other. I think it’s important for parents to have time for themselves. When I’m running, there are no phone calls, no emails, no mummy, no dramas. It’s just me. I also get a lot of support from my running group. Last year I joined Running Mums Australia, not expecting the positive change it would bring to my running. It’s a virtual running group on Facebook with over 9000 members. All of them just mums who like to run. Some are champion runners, some are just starting out, some do ultra marathons, others enjoy 5km events. All of these women are connected by their desire to run. It’s a place to share run stories and seek advice. RMA has definitely helped me maintain my running mojo and I’m very proud to be a part of that group.
My new rule is to stop making rules. They only hold you back.
Crossing the middle of the Sydney Harbour Bridge by foot isn’t something you can do every day. But it was possible for Sal, once she broke ‘the rules’