Liz Whitworth, aged 38, became a keen social runner following the loss of her husband to cancer in 2016. Her laser focus and determination to never give up has seen the environmental modeller from Birmingham go from strength-to-strength not just on the road but also as a keen archer with a bow and arrow in her hands.
I have been running on and off since I was aged about 21. My university housemates I lived with in north Wales at the time were all runners. It was a lovely area to explore. I normally did 5k runs, nothing serious or very often. When I moved back to Birmingham, the running tailed off and I didn’t really do it after that. At that point, my husband Kieran ran, and he was taking part in half-marathons. I went and worked in Surrey, and it was there where I joined a lunchtime running group and got involved again.
Then my husband got ill with cancer. Macmillan [the cancer support charity] were encouraging people to run for a month and I thought ‘I’m going to give this a go.’ I went from running one 5k a week to doing 20k a week because I wanted to do it properly if people were going to sponsor me. My husband had previously run the Birmingham half-marathon and he said, “when I’m better I am going to do it again.” I said, “I’ll do it with you."
Unfortunately, in 2016 he died from the cancer, but I still wanted to do the Birmingham half-marathon. I messaged one of my husband’s friends who I’d watched run the Birmingham half previously and asked if she could help me. She said: “I’m actually running the Birmingham marathon, and wouldn’t your husband be proud if you ran it?” I ended up doing it and since then have just continued running because I found it was just so good for me.
I realised as the marathon got closer just how much the running was helping me. It forced me to go out, to eat correctly, and to have a regular lifestyle because you can’t do the training otherwise.
During the lockdown I ended up running a lot more. It got me to get up in the morning, put on some shoes and go out. I don’t love running, but I know it’s just so good when you make the effort to get out.
I was always told at school I was no good at sport. I did archery as soon as I started university, but you don’t have to be fit to do it. I still do archery now and shoot at county level, but the nice thing is the difference between the two. When I’m competing in archery, I have to think about what I am doing every time I shoot, as well as the training and the competition, but with running I can just put on a pair of shoes and go. This year, Archery GB have started doing the Run Archery pilots so I’ve entered both of those.
Running gives me a sense of freedom. I can just go where I want and when I want. Whether I am happy, sad, angry, whatever, I know when I go out, I will come back feeling better from it. It gives me that mental space to sort everything out in my head.
I do run with a social running group, so I also get to see friends. It’s really nice because I can pop down when I want to and go running and chat with like-minded people. I did another marathon in October and have plans to do more in the future as well as one of the short ultra-marathons.
To anyone else who runs I would say things can be hard at times, but they do get easier, and you’ve just got to keep going and not beat yourself up. It is so easy to just give up when you have those hard moments, but re-group because you can do it.