Non-running Runner: What I've Learnt So Far


Caroline is running six half-marathons in twelve months for Start360! 

You can sponsor her at

This is her story...

13 March 2018

“That path consists of many steps. Small ones– because the big ones make us worry, fear and not even try”.

Last year I decided to set a challenge of 12 half marathons in 12 months – in a moment of crazy enthusiasm without actually thinking it through with no actual plan, add in telling the world and her wife, plus agreeing to fundraise for my organisation. Fundraising page -


Started a plan – no real experience, didn’t ask for advice or look at the overall mental and physical impact this would have on me. So, everything was going ok – training in the morning – didn’t change much else but added in regular running – didn’t look at nutrition, sleep, finding balance and keeping the fun element throughout.

Despite this amateur start, along with my sister, I supported over 25 women to complete their first 5km (9 September 2017), followed by completing Belfast Half Marathon on 17th September 2017 (earning my first shiny piece of bling) and an amazing 10km along the Causeway Coast (23 September). As I type this, this was an achievement 5km, 10km and a half marathon in one month – this definitely doesn’t sound like failure to someone outside my head. 

Six weeks in and ‘BOOM’ injury – there is a muscle in your butt, ‘pirofirmis’, which tightened and hurt like hell. I couldn’t walk properly I stumbled home and had to admit defeat and needed a couple of sports massage sessions. Now, massage may conjure up images of candles, incense and chimes – NO – this feels like someone is using a jack hammer to omit cries of pain and sobbing as each wee muscle screams for mercy. At one stage, having a broken butt was preferable.

Due to this I had to postpone two races which then caused the panic and anxiety (me and the anxiety gremlin have a history) to slowly started to drip feed into my mind and body mainly in the middle of the night. ‘How can you ask people to sponsor you, you can’t even run’ – ‘Here you go again, big grand ideas and a big fat fail’ – ‘Everyone is going to laugh and you will have to leave’ – ‘You are nearly 50, overweight, in crap shape and never stick at anything’.

Even in the lead up, I hadn’t done anything about fundraising, this meant putting myself out there and being seen – it scared me to death. After Belfast Half, my training dipped and the anxiety and panic increased – I can hide it very well for a while until it starts to impact everything. My mindfulness practice helped and having a couple of really good friends who supported me and challenged me meant ‘normal’ function could be maintained. The big block was admitting ‘I can’t actually achieve 12 half marathons in 12 months’ – how am I going to tell my organisation I’m a big fat failure. This was the reason there have been no blog updates – no pictures or funny captions or requests for money.

It’s like I had set myself up to fail – I wasn’t a runner, I was someone who ran a little from time to time and had completed a few races. I didn’t value the dedication, the drive and determination it had taken to get to every starting line and cross each finish line.

Again, I pushed on through and completed another half marathon, this one was more personal, as my beautiful niece Louise has autism, Run for Autism (7 October 2017 around Newtown Hamilton – very, very hilly) and I earned a pretty special piece of shiny bling as it was the run's 10th Anniversary - plus my two sisters and niece helped in the celebrations. Again, didn’t make much fuss or update my Just Giving page – who would want to support me or who would even be interested in what I had to say or what I was doing. Whilst this was about raising money and awareness for Start360, it was me who was the face of this particular challenge and I just couldn’t see me succeeding due to injury and my ever present anxiety gremlin.

After this race, I injured my knee and had to slow down the training again, which had become sporadic, procrastination joined anxiety and my mind was in a constant whirl. Running started to become something which I dreaded and hated so instead of reducing my anxiety it added to it and still I told no-one I was feeling like a huge weight had taken over my life.

Start360 is an organisation which is all about change, supporting people, encouraging people to talk and develop inner strength to soar. Here I was, talking the talk but definitely not walking, never mind running, the run.

I had entered a local race on November 10, ‘The Wedding Half Marathon’, and a number of local ‘runners’ were taking part, so again I stepped up to the starting line – got my head in gear – started the Garmin watch – crossed another finish line and earned another piece of shiny bling. It was freezing, my mind was against me and I clung to each breath as if it was a life ring. My mindfulness got me through this one – every breath for every step and knowing my amazing friend and yoga teacher Sarah was at the finish – I felt like crying and screaming ‘I can’t do this’ but instead ‘happy’ face.

Since November, I’ve been plagued with injury, self-doubt, procrastination and feelings of failure but still weekly I’ve put on my trainers and my Boyle Fitness running shirt (my sister’s gym) and cover a few miles – some weeks have been better than others. I’ve decided 12 half marathons in these 12 months isn’t a realistic goal but 6 half marathons in these 12 months IS… each one will challenge me in a different way mentally and physically – the first three certainly have. I’m never going to win any races unless everyone else lies down just before the cross the finish line and even then who knows. It started of being about ‘the bling’ but for me it’s about awareness of my self-doubt, ditching old values and beliefs about myself, embracing the anxiety gremlin and recognising every single achievement – standing up and saying ‘I’m stronger today than I was yesterday’.

I’ve found an amazing ‘running tribe’ all very supportive, different stages in their running, different reasons to run but a family all the same. Running is fun again, even pyramid training in gale force winds in the dark or with the rain pelting in your face as you know there are still 2 more miles to go – it’s the sense accomplishment – it used to be an accomplishment getting out of bed – so look how far I’ve travelled – my road, my journey. I’ve discovered getting out of my way means an awareness of old gremlins and their nagging voices and choosing peace of mind instead as often as possible. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy but each day I’m alive and able to move makes it worth it.

So now the sweaty picture updates, the laughs and tears, the bling, the short runs and the half marathon finish lines…So from today dig deep into your pockets and donate so more people can get support, find their tribe and move forward in their journey. I’ve completed two 5km Park runs, one 5km road race, one 10km trail race and 3 half marathons since September whilst doing a jig with anxiety gremlin – now that’s a great achievement!

“I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”

Hafiz of Shiraz 



Caroline ‘BLING’ Boyle 

1 September 2017

My running challenge over the next year is 12 half marathons in 12 months - first race is Belfast half 17th September 2017 ....last one in Brisbane Australia just before my 50th birthday August 2018 - raising money and awareness for my organisation - Start360. Already have had a few stumbling blocks both mentally and physically. Started training 8 weeks ago and had an injury so been recovering (back injury) with help of great sports massage therapist and rest. After reading this article about a 101 year old taking up competitive running decided to find away through whatever challenges landed on my path. Having a goal is so important - having 12 is slightly crazy but if it was easy everyone would be doing it watch out for training photos, inspirational quotes, my struggles and successes, my reason for putting my trainers on and how running is my therapy and the need at times to push through the negative thoughts. RUN - WALK - CRAWL.