I’ve been waiting for this day for 6 weeks. Ever since I started doing the Couch to 5K training programme. I’d been having a couple of bad weeks dieting – well pretending to diet and not really actually doing anything about it that lasted more than 24 hours. Then one day I arrived home from work determined to use the exercise bike… but my husband had arrived home 5 minutes earlier and beaten me to it. In a fit of childish pique I thought “Sod you, ruining my plans, I’m going to go out and run.” So I downloaded the C25K app, put my trainers on and went out.
You might think this was a bit of an extreme reaction, but I had successfully completed the programme back in 2011 so I knew a lot about it and with my phone all ready to go I felt like I could do this without too much research.
Now I should tell you that back in 2011 I had just finished 6 months of WeightWatchers and I had lost over 3 stone so I was considerably lighter and fitter than I am right now. I also cycled regularly and walked quite a bit. I did my first (and as it turned out only) 5k race about a week after I finished the programme and I ran it in an amazing (still think the timing clocks were wrong) 32 ish minutes.
Then life and dark winter nights got in the way. I moved house and got myself all loved up and married. Running was the last thing on my mind. Fast forward to 2014. I’m still loved up and married, but after 6 short weeks running is ALWAYS on my mind. It’s an addiction – a very weird, pain inducing, breath sapping, muscle aching addiction. And I had forgotten how quickly it takes hold. I am always thinking about running, reading about it, writing forum posts about it. Not quite dreaming about it but it’s only a matter of time.
Even as I’m struggling to drag my very slow feet around I’m thinking about my next run – what intervals will I be doing, will it be harder than what I’m doing now, will the work I’m doing now make the next run easier… on and on and on. There is no doubt that it’s harder this time round and maybe that’s why the joy at the end of each run, each little tick on my progress chart, each new route mapped on mapmyrun.com is sweeter.
I ran for 25 minutes today non stop. At the end of it the nice lady that has been my virtual coach for the last 6 weeks, Laura, told me I’m finally a runner. A friend of mine commented this morning that I was always a runner and I think she’s right. Once you’ve done more than just run for a bus that seed is planted in your brain and it doesn’t go away – the mental strength that you get from running just 1 more minute than you did last time, or 200 metres further than you did last time is immense. It stays with you all day, through your rest day and on to your next running day, when you layer up a little more strength.
This is obviously a physical challenge, 6 weeks ago I could NOT have run for 25 minutes. So I am getting fitter and stronger, by following the programme as it guides me to a point where I can run for 30 minutes non-stop. But there is a huge, huge mental challenge to this – the runner inside my head is constantly having to tell the non-running part of my brain to shut up – to remember how good it feels when the coach tells you only 60 seconds to go. My internal runner is also running behind me reminding me that even though I have pins and needles in my feet I am enjoying being out in the fresh air, that even though I’m out of breath I love seeing the trees and grass in the park as I run past.
I’m winning this mental challenge now. I have a 5K Big Fun Run booked for August 16. That’s 4 days after I finish this programme. And I am probably going to be a lot slower than lots of other people. But I’ll be faster than all the people still sitting on their couches and that’s good enough for me.
Thanks Laura – I am a runner.
Shameless plug for my sponsorship page. I’m running in support of Asthma UK – as an adult diagnosed very late in life I’m indebted to them for the support and information they’ve given me since my diagnosis so this is my way of giving a little back. https://www.justgiving.com/Lis-Garrett/
And here’s a link to the Couch To 5 K programme.