I think that there comes a time when you realise that a moderate bit of exercise might not be enough to stave off low level anxiety around “healthy” living… that time of life when you are counting your five a day and realizing that it is often 3 – and sometimes they are outnumbered by Alka Seltzers because of a glass of wine or two the night before…  Last year I had a sneaky suspicion that I needed to up my game and in response to encouragement from some already converted friends to become fitter and live forever, I signed up for The Darth Mannion.

My immediate response to this course of action was terror – I felt as if I had signed up for a moon landing.

WHAT was I thinking?

I was NOT one of those people who could run for hours – and if I got wet feet I would have to stop, get a towel and dry myself down, get new shoes – perhaps have a shower – straighten my hair and THEN maybe I could consider a bit more activity.

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And who were these people anyway?  Who were the Darth Coastal Runners (DCR) – these people who met at the crack of dawn to run around Gower before ordinary mortals had even properly fallen asleep?

The answer?  Much to my surprise as I crawled – nervously – out of my car in South Gower for my first training run at 8am I realised that they looked just like regular people… and after 5 minutes of chatting realised that they were friendly, funny… with a multitude of backgrounds, skills and interests… united by their love of the outdoors and being with others for moral support and company.

For five months I trained with DCR up hill and down dale… building up my strength, fitness, friendships and courage from those more experienced around me.

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Whenever I tell people that I do trail running they look at me with huge respect… as if I am some kind of superhuman being.  If only they knew… I still consider myself pretty rubbish.  I work and have three children so barely make it out of the house during the week except in my car.  I would drive to the bathroom if it made it possible to save a few minutes.  And yet on a Saturday morning I don my lycra and am usually one of the last up a hill but as someone pointed out the other week, I might only be about 20 or 30 seconds behind the ones at the front and in the scheme of things that’s not so bad.

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With this hardly impressive commitment of running about twice a week I managed to build up enough stamina to run for a couple of hours without collapsing and so realized that I was on track to complete my mission… to start AND finish The Darth Mannion itself.  A year later I am aiming to do the same again.  Signing up for The Darth Mannion (and then joining DCR) is perhaps one of the best things I have done for a healthy life.  I have met some fabulous people and have started dragging my 15 year old daughter along to encourage her to start her bid for eternal life a little earlier than mine.  The Darth Academy (DCR’s entry-level option) is a fabulous starting point for new runners and all-in-all I just want to encourage everyone to give it a go… even the part-timers like me who only just squeeze it in to a busy week.  When you are on top of a cliff looking out at the sea or up to your knees in mud in a wood… it feels amazing… when you cross that finish line at The Darth Mannion with your friends and family looking at you with new respect it is truly a fabulous moment.  It certainly was my moon landing…

Kimberley Littlemore

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