I did it.
Despite all the wondering if I still could, it went just fine.
My time was good, better than I had hoped for.
Even if I did get overtaken by someone in a giant bumble bee costume.
It has been three years since I ran in an organised event, and today helped me remember just how much I loved it.
Arriving at the start, number pinned to your shirt. People watching. Standing with the crowd, waiting for the signal. The noise of hundreds of runners all around you, feet pounding on pavements. Shouts of encouragement from the crowd. The kindness and generosity of the volunteers. The last push to the finish line. Another t-shirt for the collection.
I am back in the game.
Now what can I sign up for next?
I started running a few years go when a friend dragged me a long to a Couch to 5K group. After we completed the course and bagged our freebie t-shirt, we started to go running by ourselves, near her home. We figured out a 5K route and once a week or so we would run and walk and talk in between.
Typically we’d just set off and see how it went. We’ll run until we get to that tree and then we’ll start again at the next lamppost. And so on.
One night, we’d only done around a kilometre when it started to rain. Just a light drizzle that rapidly turned into a downpour. We figured we would get wet anyway if we turned back so we might as well carry on. Because of the rain we decided not to walk and just see how much we could run so that we could get home as quickly as possible.
And we ran all the way. The full 5K.
It hadn’t occurred to either of us that we could, so we hadn’t.
Sometimes, we don’t know what we are really capable of, until the moment presents itself.
So when that moment comes and finds you, seize it.
Last night I went for a run. For the last few months I’ve been doing a variety of run / walk combinations. I set off, with one eye on my watch, counting down until the first chance to walk.
And then I decided not to.
My legs were protesting but I know from experience I always struggle for the first kilometre or so before I warm up enough to find my rhythm.
I decided not to stop and walk.
So I didn’t.
Once the decision was made it didn’t even occur to me again at any point during that run to walk.
A reminder that when it comes to this fitness stuff, your mind-set matters. The things you tell yourself about what you can do and what you can’t, become your reality.
Decide. And then do.
I’m doing a run on Saturday. An actual event run.
It’s been nearly three years since I have felt capable to sign up to a proper event. It’s only a 5K. Not quite the half marathon distance I ran in 2016. But it’s big to me.
In the Spring of 2016 I was at the peak of my physical fitness. I ticked off my first half, triathlon and long mud run, as well as a couple of other 10Ks. By mid-Summer I was unwell. The last actual event I entered, I was a DNS. The rest of that year was spent mostly on the sofa.
It’s been a long road to this coming Saturday. I have got back on my bike and back in the gym. I’m regularly taking classes, cycling and lifting weights. Running however….. that’s still eluding me. I’m not quite sure if it’s in my legs or in my head, but something that used to be there, just isn’t.
I signed myself up to this event as a challenge to myself. In recent weeks and months, every time I have gone out to run, whether outside or on a treadmill, it has felt like a hard slog. It still does. An event pushes you out of your comfort zone. Makes you work harder than you do alone.
If I’m honest, I am dreading Saturday coming around. The prospect of not being able to complete even this short distance is huge. It is entirely pressure of my own making. I could just not turn up. Decide to go to the gym instead. In the gym, there’s no one to watch you fail.
Only by challenging myself, only by trying and risking the potential of Did Not Finish will I know if I can. If I am truly back to health and self.
Five days and counting……
On my long slog back to fitness, there is one thing that I have been avoiding.
I always had a love hate relationship with running. It’s something that many runners know well. I liked it and I didn’t, often at the same time. There are good bits and not so good bits of it.
When I first started out running, I used to run to my local supermarket and back. It was less than a mile in total, and my goal was to be able to run all the way there and all the way back without stopping. It took me a while but I got there. A couple of years later I ran for two and a half hours without stopping in my first half marathon, a feat I would never have believed I could achieve that first, sweaty, difficult time.
The thing about running, is that to get any better you just have to keep going. Yes, other stuff matters. Having a decent pair of trainers, fuelling your body appropriately, learning a little about form…. But mostly it is about just running and then running some more. There are no shortcuts to become a good runner.
I have this tension going on. I am glad I am out there, putting one foot in front of the other. But I am also constantly reminded that I am not as good at this as I used to be. I am all too consciously incompetent. I don’t like the way my body moves right now, or the ragged feel of the breath that I just can’t regulate properly. Yet.
I know that my only choice is to keep going. To keep putting on my running shoes and just simply go.
It will take time but I will get better.
If I just keep running.
Yesterday was Leeds 10K. The race that I measure myself against.
I wanted a time. I wanted to be sub one hour. Slow for some perhaps, but fast for me.
It didn’t happen.
I started well. Checking the Garmin, I was on track until about 4K. And then I could see it start to slip away from me.
By the 7K mark, it was over.
Only you keep on running all the same.
One hour, one minute and 53 seconds.
Here’s the thing. You don’t get what you don’t train for. And I hadn’t, not really. No excuses. I could blame the tightly bunched crowd at the start. Or the time for the water stops. Or the bloke in the bloody Minions costume that I nearly tripped over trying to get past (I didn’t by the way, he totally kicked my ass).
But the simple truth is that whilst I ran my heart out, it just wasn’t fast enough.
On the plus side it was a PB. As well as being a whole nine minutes faster than my time for last year.
So now there is only one option. Try again. In four weeks, one more event, one more attempt to meet my target.
If at first you don’t succeed……
In running and in life.
This time last year I was preparing for my first ever big running event. The Leeds 10K. The event was symbolic in my mind. It was proof to myself that I had changed. That I was no longer the girl who couldn’t get off the sofa. That I was no longer oh so overweight.
I am not sure that anyone believed I was going to run this thing. I am not entirely sure that I did.
That I could and I would.
I had one aim. Run it all the way. That was the goal. No walking. No stopping. Just running, no matter how slowly.
With the support of my amazing Personal Trainer who believed in me, with nothing more than simply not wanting to fail all over again, I got to the start line.
And I ran it. All the way. I was at the back of the pack. Somewhere I’m used to being and am happy to be too. I wasn’t fast but I did it.
I thought at the time it was the end of something; the end and the celebration of a weight loss journey. Instead it turned out to be the start of something entirely new. Because as often happens, or so I am told, I crossed that coveted finish line, thinking that it had been both a terrible and wonderful thing. Immediately wondering what to sign up for next.
Way leads on to way.
On Sunday I will run it again. So much has happened to me in this last year. Today, this feels like one more milestone along the path.
I’m a little more casual this time. I’m going for a PB of course. But this time there will be fewer nerves. Less of the unknown. More enjoyment… I hope.
I suspect this will always be the race that I measure myself against. To see how far I have come and just how fast I can run.
And on Sunday, I am going to run my heart out.
This morning I got up early as usual to go to the gym before work. As I woke the light peaking from behind the curtains suggested otherwise. A bright, beautiful morning. Low, early morning sun.
Ten minutes later my running shoes are on, my hair is tied back and my Garmin is set.
It was the kind of morning that makes you grateful. Grateful for the weather, grateful for that me time, the ability to be able to do it at all.
A mile or so away from home and I’m away from the main roads. Into the side streets. Almost no traffic. Soundtrack: birdsong.
I always have my headphones in when I’m at the gym. But when I’m outside I would rather just listen to the world.
My early runs are in sync with a couple of people on our local high street. More often or not I see the greengrocer pulling out his outdoor stalls. There’s a small accountancy firm with an early riser, sometimes unlocking the office. I fancy that he’ s the type that savours some precious time before the phone starts ringing and everyone else gets to the office.
A few people at the bus stop beginning their commute. A dog walker or two. This morning, two young rabbits, scurrying through the field that I cut across on my way home. The occasional other runner. My neighbour’s cat lounging in a spot of warm sunlight.
And just me. Simply running.
This weekend I am running the Race for Life – the muddy version.
Race for Life is a special thing, both for its purpose but also for me personally.
I have taken part a few times now. To stand with other women, for other women, is empowering. Purposeful.
To see the reasons why, and for whom, people are running is emotional and humbling.
Names on shirts. Survivors…. and those we have lost.
Mine will simply say ‘all women’. For this is a disease that impacts so many, my own family included.
I have other female friends running their own race for life this summer too for their own reasons, and to both remember and celebrate those that they have lost.
There is another reason that race for life means much to me. Two years ago, it was my first ever running event. I took part with apprehension, with no idea if my body would make it the whole 5K. Of course it did. But I remember clearly as I neared the end, looking at those stronger women who were going around for the second time, signed up for the longer distance, and wondering how on earth they could. Thinking that I would never be able too. That race was my first taste of what it was like to want a time, to beat a time, to run for yourself and for something bigger.
So to everyone who is running the race for life this year, whatever your reason, may I send you luck, love and thanks.
One of the greatest joys of life is doing something you didn’t think that you could do. Or so a quote I saw on Pinterest said anyway.
On Sunday I am running the Leeds Half Marathon.
Right now, I don’t know if I can do it. I have never run that distance before and if I am honest, my training hasn’t been that focused. My preparatory long runs have equalled, well, none.
But I believe that I can do it. And that is what counts.
It may be slow, it may not be pretty, it may not be podium worthy, but I will get around that course. Somehow.
I’ve got a strategy. Turn up, run as fast as you can, try not to walk and try not to die.
I’ve got something to prove you see. To myself.
I’m going to do something that a few years ago, when I couldn’t run for a bus, I never thought possible.
Bring. It. On.
I’m running for Retrak Charity, who have a vision that no child should live on the streets. If you would like to sponsor me for this great cause, you can find the link here.