The day I first put on my tatty £15 trainers and went for a jog was the day I took control of my cancer diagnosis.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a cold April day in 2014 and my then-injured dad joined me as I plodded along a muddy country lane with very little energy - and even less hair!
Cancer had, by that point, taken my dignity, right breast, tummy fat, hair and taste buds.
But, on that day, I took something back. Running showed me that I could be stronger than the disease trying to take my life away. And, by taking just a few steps in the right direction, I had the power to change that life for the better.
While the PBs and race medals are nice to have, running has taught me more about life than I could ever possibly imagine. It's transformed my world - and I'm still just a beginner.
So what have I learned along the way?:
1) It's amazing how quickly small steps can turn into miles
When I tell people I'm running a marathon, they immediately think I was, in some way, born to run. (My hip surgeon and left leg would disagree!). Two years ago, it took all my strength to jog the 210 steps across the local park. Those steps meant the world to my chemo-poisoned body and, I often return to that path to remind myself of just how far I've come. The hardest part? Getting started.
2) We are the sum total of our imperfections
As someone who was teased at school for not looking or walking quite right, I grew up thinking the only lycra I'd ever wear would be in a swimming pool (in the early hours when noone could see). But, every scar on my body has given me confidence to realise that I am the person I am today because of the bits that didn't turn out right first time. I am the product of my imperfections - and my wardrobe full of lycra reminds me I've nothing to hide.
3) Commuting without the armpits of strangers is a wonderful thing
Rush hour on a train in London is enough to put you off city living for life. Swap the sweaty armpits for sunrise over the Thames, however, and you start to appreciate just how beautiful it can be. London's clocks are my landmarks (forcing me to hurry up so I'm not late). I love the fact there are still pine needles from Christmas trees all over the pavements. And, I get more smiles out of commuters on one run than I have in 13 years of tube journeys!
4) Contact lenses make the best running companions
How liberating it is to not have to push your glasses up your nose every 2 seconds! Now I've overcome my fear of poking my eyes out, I've begun to enjoy the little details that have, for years, remained out of focus.
5) The world is full of incredible people - if you look hard enough
I'm writing this after a training day at Breast Cancer Care's headquarters where I met yet more inspiring, driven and kind people in trainers! This awesome charity has supported me since diagnosis day, through six chemos and one pair of trainers. They have shown me that I can both run for my life and to help the lives of others.
6) Believe you can, and you're halfway there (even before you're out the door)
I ran 18.5 miles in week two of training, not because it was on the plan (it most certainly was not), but because I wanted to prove to myself that I had it in me. Running has taught me that a determination to succeed and a dose of self-belief can take you a long way. Plus, my mind after a run seems to operate about five times faster with a focus on the can do, not the can't be bothered.
7) Give a girl a pair of trainers and she can conquer the world
My dad always used to talk about the importance of sensible footwear (this was when I thought increasing my heel height every year to make me taller was a good thing!). I think I only now understand what he meant. My running trainers come with extra energy attached and when I put them on I feel like a little bit of me is invincible (until I start running!)
8) The power of music should not be underestimated
My questionable playlist is best kept for another day, but running has brought music back into my life and remains one of my greatest motivators! Yes, even Backstreet Boys get a look in!
9) Put your oxygen mask on first
The pre-cancer days were days when I thought exercise was a luxury. I put myself last because I thought the sign of a good person was one who put everything in to her work and those around her. Now, I understand that you have to invest in yourself before you're qualified to look after others.
10) Run your own race
Old Jackie didn't need trainers to feel competitive. I was so busy racing through life trying to achieve my ambitions that I had actually forgotten to live. Now I see that life isn't about keeping up with everyone else, but setting your own goals. I'll never be a sub 4-hour marathon runner or first over the finish line, but that's ok. I'll always run with my right foot turned in and with a rather odd grimace on my face, and that's ok too.
11) You can have too much pasta!
You have been warned! You only run 26.2 miles once, so trebling your carb intake to run up the road is not necessary.
Every step now makes me happy to be alive.
It's just a shame I had to go through a serious illness to discover just how powerful a pair of trainers can be.Suggest a correction