Karla Borland talks us through a tale that might be familiar to many runners. From disapproving to enthusiastic runner in the blink of an eye.  

My mother is what a close Scottish friend once called a ‘nippy sweetie’. 

The sort of person who bakes and cooks obsessively for anyone who might be ill, is happy to spend her spare time helping me do work on my house and is generous to a fault.  She is also the person who regularly tells me I look like I’m auditioning to be a tramp in Oliver Twist, wonders aloud why I’m so wrinkly so young and for years has likened an obsession with running to having a serious mental health condition.

She once told me ‘People are talking about you running, out in all weathers, in the rain. You’re lucky they haven’t sectioned you by the side of the road’.

“It’s not good for your knees”

Requests for base layers, socks or a head torch on my Christmas list have been ignored for years. Attempting to get out the door early to run has been met with tuts of disapproval when I’m home for the weekend.

When my mum and dad came to watch London marathon she wondered if she’d have to spend the whole morning watching the race and could they not pop to Oxford Street instead (my proud father veto-ed this in a rare moment of victory).

On the phone when I’ve previously complained about being tired after an on-call weekend my mother has told me I’m running too much and that I should concentrate on work (she also has a Puritanical work ethic). Until the last couple of years, suggesting exercise other than walking was like suggesting a 4-day week.

A peculiar turn of events

It has been bewildering therefore to find that my mum has not only taken up running but is running back and forth on the beach, five mornings every week.

It has been less shocking to find out that she’s quite a talented runner.  She is the most competitive and bloody-minded person I’ve ever met, and I’m married to an Olympic gold medallist. There’s no way I’d take her on at bridge or table tennis – her other new skills in retirement. 

In addition to our regular phone call news exchange which mostly consists of my mother listing all the people who are sick or have died recently in the North Coast of Northern Ireland, we now also discuss pre-run defaecation and running kit.

My dad tells me that she has singlehandedly kept Sweaty Betty in business during lockdown, with the purchase of some very nice matching running outfits. My grey and very unmatched kit looks sad by comparison.

Mum has placed dibbs on my Nike Next % trainers when I’m done with them although I’m not sure how much advantage is to be expected on Portstewart Strand. 

How about some intervals?

Some of our conversations have been very funny. I suggested that interval training might help improve my mum’s speed, but she remained unconvinced despite an explanation of the physiology behind it.

Needless to say, no interval training has been carried out. And she has no memory of ever having any negative feelings towards running previously, much to my amusement. Recently mum told me that running is like brushing your teeth – the day doesn’t feel quite right until you’ve done it. I have to agree with her.

Perhaps what is most unexpected of all, is how much pride and pleasure I feel that my mum enjoys running so much.

Running with my mum on the beach feels really special and is something I never imagined I’d do. Long may it continue!