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.

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.

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.

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