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  • Writer's pictureThe Reluctant Achiever

When you think you can’t …. you probably can’t. But when you think you can ….

Updated: May 20

Hopefully, I’ve got your attention and I’m sure you get my point. Here’s a little story to show you what I mean ...

At the tender age of four, I was diagnosed with asthma. My parents didn’t treat me any differently because of this, and occasionally that turned out quite badly for me.

You see I was - still am - quite badly allergic to dogs. Off we’d go to visit a friend’s house, and, only minutes after arriving, you’d find me outside wheezing, coughing and going purple. Then I’d feel awful for days afterwards.

At that time - and I’m going back a bit here - they knew a lot less about asthma than they do today. Most of the miraculous medicines we have now didn’t exist then. In spite of this, I still kept up with the crowd, almost certainly out of sheer determination.

Until one day the unexpected happened...

You’re an embarrassment

One sunny day near the end of term I marched out onto the school field in my PE kit, proud to be taking part in Sports Day. I took my seat at the side of the sports field with all the other kids and waited my turn expectantly.

Shortly after taking my place a teacher tapped me on the shoulder and told me I’d be sitting this one out due to my asthma! She meant the whole event.

THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME, not a wheeze or a cough in sight.

I felt heartbroken and ashamed, my parents had come to see me and I wasn’t even going to be in one race.

Even today the memory burns raw in my mind. My parents, sitting looking perplexed as race after race went by and I remained on the sideline … I’m sure the teachers thought they were acting in my best interests - but they couldn’t have been more wrong.

I went right off school sports after that day, doing everything I could to avoid them. Being told you can’t by those who represent authority has a bigger impact on us than we realise.

How many times have you heard an older person, a teacher or a parent tell a youngster they’ll never amount to anything? Or they can’t do something? We’re all constantly battling against negative statements such as these. Or, even worse, we believe them and give up... It’s frightening to think our whole lives can be overshadowed by one careless statement by a thoughtless individual.

I still loved the occasional game of rounders with my friends, riding my bike or swimming with my sister but that was all. And one thing I could never do was run. At least not for any length of time. “You’ll never be able to run, you have asthma …”

Over the years I still made a handful of attempts, but always managed to give up after a couple of outings which ended up with me in a wheezing heap - many of us I’m sure have done the same. It never occurred to me to join a group or a club, I couldn’t have borne the shame of looking ridiculous.

I’m not a quitter, but this just seemed too difficult… In reality, all I needed was...

The right coach, and a good plan

At the ripe old age of 46 I met my now partner, he has always been a runner, he can’t remember not running. When we got onto the subject of my failed attempts to run he invited me to have another try. The plan was to start really slow,

“if you think you’re running too slowly, slow down ..”.

Hmm, I wasn’t convinced - but I had nothing to lose - if you don’t count some self-respect and a lot of sweat that is.

I managed an incredible 2 miles on my first outing - barely faster than walking pace, but a massive achievement for me. I was still purple in the face and the wheeze was there, but 2 miles was something I never thought I would ever achieve, never mind on the first outing.

We went out a few more times, never pushing the speed but starting to feel more at ease each time. And then a revelation happened.

How did I not know this?

I went to my annual asthma review and happened to mention to the nurse that I was starting to run. She didn’t try to discourage me in fact she said:

“Make sure you take your inhaler before you start running”

Pretty basic you think. But this inhaler - I was told to use it only if I was having an asthma attack. No one had ever advised me to take it BEFORE I had a problem.

This little piece of advice has revolutionised my life!

  • I now take my inhaler BEFORE I run (no wheeze).

  • I also take my inhaler BEFORE I’m exposed to allergens - the effects of exposure are drastically reduced.

For asthmatics who fancy taking up running, it’s wise to see your asthma nurse or GP before you start, but there’s nothing to stop you after they give you the go-ahead.

Once my breathing was under control we started to make steady progress, mostly in baby steps (another of the coach’s strategies). Sometimes I’d go backwards, but never for long. I mean, not literally backwards, that would make things much harder :-)

Then one day I reached the mythical 5-mile mark, woah, what? Me running five miles?

By now I was starting to enjoy running.

Those of you who run know exactly what I mean. Those of you who don’t might think I’m crazy.

But think back to when you were a kid, when you played out, hide and seek, tag, just running for the sheer heck of it. Running now brings back those feelings. We might not be as fast, we might have to plan our outings, but the rush of adrenalin is still there and it feels gooooood.

From that point, I wanted more. I entered a 10K race, that’s 6.2 miles.

Suddenly you’re on a whole new level. You’re out with real runners, you’re a real runner. There’s a crowd - they encourage you - and you feel….


First time runners, be assured - that little step to get out of the door for the first time is the hardest. From there, every time you put on your trainers, IT GETS EASIER.

I’ve run in the sunshine, the rain, even the snow. I’ve run all around my local area, in other towns, in the countryside and even run in other countries. It is a great way to travel.

Sightseeing as a runner is so carefree and exciting, it’s a fantastic way to explore a new place.

One of my favourite memories is running around Bruges on Christmas morning. After exploring the town and getting out to see the windmills, we finished the run with a stop at the Christmas market for a cheeky vin chaud (warm spiced wine) and a chat with the locals. Perfect.

You don’t have to be fast and you certainly don’t have to be the best. But you do have to keep trying, and you do have to believe in yourself. No one else can do that for you.

A couple of years ago I had a crazy idea that I’d like to run a marathon. For the gal who couldn’t run 2 miles just a short while ago, running 26.2 miles seemed like a mountain to climb, but I was determined to make it.

Find out more about my marathon journey by checking out my Facebook page: Diary of a Reluctant Runner - (6) Diary of a Reluctant Runner - Paris or bust | Facebook

If you decide you fancy a go at running the Marathon de Paris, check out this amazing group (4) #ParisMarathon Girls | Facebook

And remember ...

When you think you can’t …. you probably can’t. But when you think you can …. YOU CAN!

Lots of love and encouragement,

The Reluctant Achiever

The Reluctant Achiever is written by professional copywriter Wendy Ann Jones.

You can find out more about Wendy by visiting her website: or her LinkedIn profile.

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