Player One – Level Up!

My determined plod towards the Birmingham Half Marathon continues and I definitely feel like I’ve levelled up! I have now completed the 5-10km training app I was using and I have really noticed a lot of progress in my running. The biggest change for me has been the increase in my confidence as a runner. For example, there were plenty of times during C25K when I would open my app as I left my house to run and ended up sighing and feeling doubtful at the programme in front of me (“run for 20 minutes non-stop?! I’ll never do that!” and so on). That all changed as I progressed through the 5-10km programme. I’d open the app, see that it wanted me to run for 45 minutes non-stop that day and I’d think “yeah, I can do that – bring it on!” and off I’d go. I wasn’t phased by the time spent running any more, as I’d proven to myself time and again that I can do it, that I’ve got it in me. I may not be fast or a natural runner but I’ve got the determination to do it. By the time the final run of the programme arrived – which was a 60 minute non-stop run – I was itching to get going, run for the longest I’d ever run non-stop in my entire life, and allow myself to feel proud for completing the programme.

So, on Saturday just gone, I got ready, drank my electrolytes, charged up my earphones, and got out there. It all went perfectly. No aching or pains anywhere. My breathing stayed nice and even. It was sunny but not hot. I ran my usual route listening to my running playlist and not even thinking about the fact that I would be running for an hour – I was enjoying doing it too much! I kept an eye on my running apps to monitor the distance I was reaching. Although I was able to run the requisite amount of time non-stop, I only reached 8.2km doing so. Pace is something that’s always been at the back of my mind – that I perhaps should work on getting a little faster – but I’ve paid attention to the advice given to me by experienced runners; to focus on distance first and then the pace will come along later.

I made a decision there and then – the hour of running was up but I hadn’t got to the magical 10km mark yet. I felt fine and more than able to continue running, so that’s what I did. I carried on running, determined to get to the 10km milestone. And I did it! I had to extend my running route a little to accommodate the extra distance and in doing so, I ran past the local playground that’s just down the road from my house. My two boys were at the playground with their friends, scooters in tow. They spotted me running and so, for about the last 500m of my run, they joined me on their scooters shouting “come on mum! You can do it!” It was a really wonderful moment to finally hit the 10km sweet spot – with a really good and positive run and my two boys scooting alongside me at the end of it.

10k run pic

Me at the end of my first ever 10km run – red, sweaty, and very happy.

Now the next phase begins. I’ve already downloaded my 21k training app and done my first run (it was 45 minutes non-stop, so I felt that I eased into it nicely). I feel like I’ve got my eye on the prize now as the app’s programme takes me up to the date of the Birmingham Half so it’s all finally leading up to the big day. I know that it will be challenging and I will have to dig into my reserves of determination but I’m not deterred by that – I’ve got through two running programmes so far, got over a minor injury and rest period, and when I started this journey, I couldn’t run for a bus. So I know I’ve got it in me.

21k pic

On the left, my badge for starting the 12k programme: I’m a 21k Candidate! On the right, my first ever 10k run! I did a proud.

I also still feel that I need to look at my pace a little bit more now, but in a way that’s complementary to my training app that doesn’t put too much pressure on me. So I’ve joined a local running club. I was really unsure about this at first as one of the things I love most about running is the fact that I can do it on my own. Plus I’m really very socially awkward! However, it would be useful to have a gauge for my running and to be able to benefit from the experience of other runners as the half marathon draws closer. Luckily my local club was taking on new members as part of a C25K programme. When I explained that I had already done this, they allowed me to join a sub-group of new members who do a 20 minute non-stop run while the C25K run takes place. It was a really useful experience! They ran at a much faster pace than I usually do: MapMyRun measured the pace as a consistent 7:17 for each of the three KMs we ran. My usual pace is between 8:00 – 8:30, so this was quite a bit faster! I stayed at the back of the pack and made sure that even though I was keeping up, I wasn’t overdoing it. It wasn’t easy but I stayed with the pack, despite puffing and panting like an old steam train. It wasn’t the easiest 20 minute run I’ve ever done but I felt so much better for it. Especially when I went for a long run the next day and did the best pacing I’ve ever done (Strava recorded seven PBs for that run!), so I think that additional 20 minute faster paced run every Wednesday night will be a beneficial addition to my training. We shall see!

In conclusion then:

  • always take on board the advice of experienced runners. They’ve been where you are and can share their insight.
  • your mind set is a powerful training tool. When you see the run that’s planned for you, don’t be overwhelmed. Think back to where you were when you started and note how far you’ve come. Relish the opportunity to go even further.
  • Get red, get sweaty, get puffing and panting – it’s all good! What you look like when you run is insignificant – it’s what you do when you run that counts!
  • always be proud of every run, even if it hasn’t gone the way you wanted. You still got out there and did it! And there will be more of those feel good milestone runs to follow – be super proud of those!

Happy running! x

Reasons to be Cheerful…one…two…three

It’s been a while since my last post. Real life hasn’t afforded me much time to do all the things I’ve wanted to do, plus family life has been busy. Illness has been a recent feature too: run of the mill gastroenteritis for me and an alarming occurrence of an illness known as Transient Global Amnesia for my husband, which resulted in him being rushed to A&E in an ambulance. A very, very scary experience but thankfully all is well now and he has made a complete recovery (although he has no memory at all of the night it happened).It got me thinking though – that life can be as abrupt and changeable as it can be steady and predictable. It sounds clich├ęd but it’s true; you really never know what’s around the corner. Appreciate what you have while you have it.

Running-wise, things have also been a little up and down. I had my first experience of ‘mojo loss’ – after the illnesses and a period of feeling quite down and despondent, I began to really doubt my progress and what I’m doing. I began to worry that I had bitten off more than I could chew by entering a half marathon. What was I thinking?! I had a bad run too, and that seemed to cement the idea that I couldn’t do it in my head. Sounds familiar, huh? After talking this over with friends who run too, I now know that having a bad run every now and then is the norm. That losing your mojo occasionally is also fairly common. That it happens to pretty much everyone and the best way to handle it is to a) give yourself a break. Ease up on your expectations and be kind to yourself and b) when you’re ready, get back to it. Go easy and see what happens. It’ll all come back to you.

So that’s what I did and by golly it worked, which won’t come as a surprise to just about everyone else! My worries about being race ready in time for the Birmingham Half have been somewhat assuaged. I’m on track with training and have given the Strava app a go. I quite like it! The data it’s given me so far has been encouraging – it works out my times for various distances and also records Personal Records for me. I find that really motivating. I’ve been trying to ignore things like pacing and split times etc., focusing on distance and stamina instead as that seemed more important as a novice runner – it seemed more important to hit those distances without dying in the attempt! I realise now that that’s more of my long term goal and that I need to have smaller, achievable short term goals to act as stepping stones along the way. So now I’m surprising myself (via Strava) by seeing that my 5k time has already improved and I’m now doing sub 40 minute 5ks, that my overall pace is improving and that I’m actually being pretty consistent. This is all of the feel good factor that I was missing before and that’s what lead to my loss of mojo – instead of there being this huge daunting end goal looming over me, I’ve got a path littered with lots of positive milestones taking me there.

strava PRs

Check it out – my Strava stats from my most recent run (yesterday). Three Personal Records, including my fastest 5k so far. Now I know these stats aren’t going to impress anyone who’s been running for a while and who might be half my age but for me, they represent progress and good progress at that. They are my reasons to be cheerful.

As usual, here are my learning points:

  • appreciate what you have when you have it. Allow yourself to be happy in the moment because it doesn’t last long and things can change in an instant.
  • we’re only human. All of us. We all have good days and bad days, and good runs and bad runs. The trick is to not fixate on the negative and don’t beat yourself up over anything! Be kind to yourself and try again when you’re ready. As the always wise RuPaul once said (sang): “And If I fly or if I fall, At least I can say I gave it all.” You’re trying, you’re doing it, and that’s what counts.
  • short term goals are as necessary as long term ones! It’s easy to forget them when you’re focusing on what you want to ultimately achieve. Don’t forget that that’s what you’re working towards and every time you run or train, you are making other achievements along the way. They need to be noted and celebrated too – allow yourself to bask in your accomplishments a little!

Happy running x