iTAB Star, Sept 2022
Sarah Bird from Norfolk, Uk.
“I’ve lost over half of my body weight, 10 Stone nine pounds. This is what running has help me achieve.”
Nominated and inspired by fellow iTAB Star Bryony Seabrook, Sarah had an epiphany moment that sparked a transformational journey of weight loss and running.
‘I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that I could run a half marathon. When I signed up, it was like a bit of a joke, really. I thought this is so ridiculous. I did it and I can’t believe I did it!’
Sarah, on running her first London Landmarks Half Marathon.
Why do you run?
Many reasons. Health reasons. I never I never used to be very fit. I did when I was younger and then I put loads of weight on when I was older and didn’t do any fitness at all. So, I started losing weight. And then I did the first Run Your Own Marathon with Bryony, I walked it, and I just carried on from there. So, I run for fitness, and for my mental health. It’s my time for thinking. It’s my time for connecting with people like Bryony. Yeah, lots of reasons.
Just to give you a bit of context, this is kind of what running has also helped me to achieve. I’m just going to show you [Sarah holds up a before and after picture to illustrate her weight loss] this was me before, and this was at Latitude Festival and then obviously this is me after. I’m really proud of what I’ve done. I mean, I’m very ashamed when I look at the picture because of how I how I let myself get like that, but what I’ve done now to change has completely changed my life. And my fitness and everything really so I’m really pleased with what I’ve achieved.
Best run ever?
I would have to say the London landmarks. I’ve done it twice now. I love the atmosphere. It’s still run by Tommy’s and I just love the atmosphere of it, it’s really fun. There’s so much support for everyone and it’s nice to feel that you’re also contributing to the charity as well. So, I really love it.
Any running habits that are hard to break?
Whenever I run, I have to have my Tommy’s top on. If I didn’t have my Tommy stuff on, with my team Dylan on the back, I would feel really guilty. So, I always run with my Tommy top.
Best thing about running?
The end! 😊
I’m only joking. Just the feeling that I pushed myself to do it. Quite often the thought of going, I’m like, I don’t want to do this today. And when I first start, I’m like, I really can’t do this today. It takes me about three or four miles and then I’m kind of like yeah, okay, I think I can do it today.
What charity do you run for and why?
When I run the big ones, like Landon Landmarks, I run for Tommy’s. The reason I run for Tommy’s is for Bryony. She set up her own charity event called run your own marathon in memory of her son Dylan, who was stillborn. I met Bryony a Slimming World and she got me into running, I heard her story and it really inspired me and I thought okay, I’ll give it a go. So, I started walking and that was when I did the first Run Your Own Marathon. Then I just built from that. So yeah, Tommy’s is the main one but it’s for Dylan really.
How does running make you feel?
It makes me feel like I’ve achieved something. It makes me feel good.
Greatest running achievement?
It’s got to be the London Landmarks Half Marathon. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that I could run a half marathon. When I signed up, it was like a bit of a joke, really. I thought this is so ridiculous. I did it and I can’t believe I did it, so I did it again the next year and this year. But I think the first achievement was definitely the Run Your Own Marathon because, as I say, I had no fitness for many years, and I was really unhealthy and overweight. So, to be able to walk a marathon over a month was a real achievement for me, that gave me the push.
What advice would you have for first-time runners?
I think you should have a purpose for doing it. So have something to strive towards. For me, like I say, I knew it was helping me with my weight loss. I also really like doing it to run with somebody else. It’s really good for so many things; your mental health, fitness, and for connecting with people, but I think having a purpose is important and my purpose was Run Your Own Marathon.
When you get tired what stops you from quitting?
I think remembering why I’m doing it. I’m also quite a stubborn person, so I always want to beat what I did the time before. I’m not somebody that stops while they’re running. Sometimes if I’m running with somebody and they stop, I still run but slower. I know that if I stop I find it really difficult to start again, so yeah, just keep going. I’m always trying to compete with myself. I stopped competing with other people because some of my friends are really fast, so now I don’t worry about them I just worry about what I do.
Running with music or without?
With, definitely. If I’m running with my headphones and the battery suddenly died, it’s panic mode. I really struggle because it keeps me distracted. If I’m thinking about how long I’m running and I’ve got nothing to distract me, I find it really difficult. I need to have something to distract from the fact that I might be running for an hour or two hours or however long.
How important is a running buddy?
Really important. It gives me that motivation. It gives me that enthusiasm. When I’m doing it on my own, I can listen to my music but I much prefer to be running with somebody else, whether it be Bryony or whether it be one of my other my friends that runs. Yeah, it really helps me, I enjoy it more.
‘Really important, you’ve got to have a bit of bling! You’ve got to have something to show for what you’ve put your body through.’
Sarah, on the importance of running medals.
How would you describe that moment of completing a race and crossing the finish line?
Really emotional. It makes me emotional just thinking about it. When I did the London Landmarks Half Marathons I was really emotional. I think it’s seeing everybody else come across, and hearing everyone’s stories and seeing the things written on shirts and stuff. And when I did the last London Landmarks, I finished before Bryony and her mum, and seeing them finish was wonderful.
How important is the running medal to the event?
Really important, you’ve got to have a bit of bling! You’ve got to have something to show for what you’ve put your body through. And when I first started running, I used to do these ‘race at your pace’ events or and you would get a medal every month when you did it. So yeah, I’m attracted by their shininess.
Why did you get an iTAB?
It’s recognition for what I’ve achieved. For me, it’s always about trying to better what I did the time before, so when I did the first one I wanted to do it in 2hr 30 and I did it in 2hr 35. Next time I was like right, I’ve got to do it under 2hr 30, and then I started to think it myself, if I could it in under 2hr25 that would be even better. Then when I was running I thought to myself, could I maybe do 2hr20? I didn’t quite, I did it in 2hr 21. So, it shows my progress, and for me that’s been really important.
Best running moment?
I would say, although it wasn’t my best time, the first London Landmarks Half Marathon. It was the first time I’d ever done anything like that and to finish running and with people cheering me on was incredible.
What other fitness activities do you do?
I go to Slimming World. I joined back in July 2019. I had a bit of an epiphany when I was at Latitude Festival when I saw the photo of myself and I just thought I never ever want to look like that again. And so I joined Slimming World through a referral from the doctors. I go every week and I really enjoy going, I’m at target now and I’ve lost over half of my body weight, 10 Stone nine pounds. I love seeing the people and I help there now so I do the cash in the till and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, that’s kind of my other activity other than running.
How important is being part of a running club to you?
I think it’s really important. I’m not part of a local group but when I do the Tommy’s events, the staff are amazing. So being part of that community and getting messages from people you’ve never met before on Facebook congratulating you, or wishing you luck, that’s really important, it’s just that support. And with Run Your Own Marathon for Dylan, Bryony always gets lots of core people doing the events, so we have our own little community as well, and that’s really important to me.
Future running goals?
To do another half next year. I like the thought of being able to do a marathon, but I can’t comprehend it. I can’t even imagine running that distance, and at my age I don’t think I could manage a full marathon now. So, I think half is probably my limit but I’m happy with that. If I can do a half, that’s great.
What would you say about all the amazing race organisers and volunteers who put on events?
It’s just amazing. I mean, you get so much motivation from when you’ve got the event staff cheering you on. All the work that goes into making sure that it runs successfully, and your pack at the end. Tommy’s will phone you up and see how you’re doing and wish you luck, and afterwards they’ll give you a call as well. Even your local park runs, the people that volunteer are great at spurring people on. think that races would be so much more difficult without that kind of motivation and that kind of encouragement. A lot of them do it as a volunteer work so for them to give up their time to help spur other people on is fantastic.
Thanks Sarah, you’re a star!