My Up and Down Running Story

Rachel Atherton

Where it all began:

Running has been such a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. I had always been ‘fast’ as a child, and would often be challenged to race against the boys on the playground. I started to get into running properly when my brother was asked to attend an afterschool session at our local track. I went along to watch and noticed that there were children my age there so decided that I wanted to take part the following week.

I never really looked back from there. I join my local club as an under 11 and continued to run competitively until I was in my late teens.


Ups and downs

I’ve had my fair share of up’s and down’s throughout the sport, and often fell into a love / hate relationship with running. There have certainly been times where running has taken a back seat – my first year or university. This was a massive change for me. I moved away from my family home, and had a complete change in my training set up.

I struggled for quite some time to get into a new routine, and went for periods of time where I did very little running. This was a bit of a downwards spiral for me, as the less running I did the more fitness I lost which all in turn made it harder to get back into running.

Thankfully with the help of some good friends and the university coach I found my grove again. There were injuries along the way – but all challenges that I was able to overcome.

Change of focus

Track running has always been my bread and butter. It was where I’ve always felt the most comfortable. Over the past few years things on the track were beginning to feel harder and I just wasn’t seeing the performances that I wanted which made me question – why bother?

I’ve always enjoyed running but was always chasing times, and the disappointment of not running and racing as well as you wanted was starting to feel too much.

The desire to race on the track was gone, and I had even been reluctant to turn to road races. Despite regularly running well over 5k and 10k in training I was always put off ‘racing’ over these distances, in case I didn’t run as well as I perceived myself of being able to. So instead I got into the cycle of training without racing.

At the back end of last year I decided that I just wanted to run for the pure fun and enjoyment of it. Then if I got the desire to enter any 5k, 10ks etc then I would, and this left me feeling in a much more positive position. Don’t get me wrong I was still out running most days but if I just didn’t feel like it then I wouldn’t force myself.

I did the Endure 24 as part of the Run Leeds team last year, and I can honestly say that this was the most enjoyable race I have ever done! It really made me see running in a different way.


2020 rolled around and I was excited to continue with my running where I left off in 2019. I was enjoying running and was in a really good place. I even entered the Baildon Boundary Way half marathon purely because why not?!

Then lockdown happened. This scuppered my plans of my first half marathon and also meant that I was no longer able to meet with my training group. Although not ideal I was still pretty motivated and got into a good routine of training at home.

I actually managed to build up some good fitness and was looking forward to the prospects of entering a few more races – but still just for fun.

I also decided to move clubs and joined my local club of Crossgate Harriers. I had run with the club a few times in 2018 but never actually took the plunge to join as I was still trying to keep my candle burning for my track days.  2020 seemed like the perfect time to join and the club had always been so welcoming. I managed a few runs with the club post lockdown but my knee had a very different idea!


More ups and downs

I had been having trouble with my knee for quite some time but at first I was able to manage the pain. Unfortunately it started to reach a point where the pain was getting progressively worse and it finally reached the point where I was no longer able to run pain free.

I tried to carry on running on and off for a few weeks as I told myself it would get better with a few days’ rest – unfortunately not.



I’ve had several physio appointments and initially it was a bit of a mystery as to what had caused the injury. It wasn’t until during a conversation at one my appointments that I mentioned an incident that had occurred back in January. As part of the accident I had banged my knee, but due to other more serious issues this was initially over looked, however it could have quite possibly been the trauma that caused the injury.

I’m now several months down the line without running and still experiencing pain with my knee – but I know there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

Not being able to run has been tough, especially with all the current issues surrounding covid-19. Being able to get out and run would have been a massive help and distraction, but sometimes you have to roll with the punches.

The journey with running is never straightforward and there is always going to be various life changes along the way – but that’s all part of the experience.

It’s really helped me to have a strong network or people around me – partner, friends and club and my desire to get back running is just a strong as ever.


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