In April 2016 I went for my first run since being made to run at school. I went with a friend who had run regularly all her life – she adjusted her pace to accommodate me, walked when I needed to and encouraged me to keep trying.
As I mentioned in my last post, that first run was dreadful. I could hardly manage 200 metres at a time. I couldn’t breathe, I had a stitch and my legs felt like lead. But, in spite of all that, I felt something unfamiliar stir inside me – a tiny part of me had enjoyed it and the stubborn part of me wanted to see if I could get better.
I’d never heard of couch to 5k. My trainers were 10 years old and I didn’t own any ‘active wear’ . I downloaded the Strava app on my ‘phone because I didn’t have a watch – and I just ran…or tried to. I went everyday, and each time I tried to run for a little bit longer before I gave in to the voice in my head telling me to walk.
I’m stubborn. Yes I was starting to enjoy running but, for the most part, I enjoyed the feeling of satisfaction I got from seeing the improvement. By the end of May, about 7 weeks after that first run, I could manage 5k without walking – in a time of about 36 minutes.
I was so excited to reach what seemed like a huge landmark but confused about how best to proceed; should I keep running 5k and try and get faster? Or should I be trying to run further? I was still trying to run everyday and, although my legs hurt almost constantly, I enjoyed the aches and pains and my love affair with running was bringing me nothing but smiles.
The answer to my question about the next step came in the form of Shrewsbury 10k – I’d seen the event page on Facebook. The race was on 19th March 2017… I was sure I could be ready by then if I worked on increasing the distance a little at a time…
I entered the race and started running further. As winter approached I could manage 10k without walking and, giddy by my success, I mentioned to my friend that I might like to aim for a half-marathon… she was kind enough to agree to enter one with me but pointed out that maybe we ought to concentrate on one thing at a time! We settled on Liverpool Rock and Roll half marathon, which would be held on Sunday 28th May 2017.
It was about this time that running and I had our first proper falling out. As the title says, this love affair is a tempestuous one and, as such, it is not without spectacular highs and crushing lows. Caught up by the speed of my initial progress I attempted to increase my mileage too quickly – I ended up with sore shins, heavy legs and every run became a chore. I was disheartened, sad and worried I’d set my sights far too high… who was I kidding? I couldn’t run 13.1 miles….
Shrewsbury 10k crept up on me and on race day I was more nervous than on my wedding day. Standing on the start line my tummy was in knots and my legs felt like jelly.
Gayle ran with me the whole way – the course was hilly and I remember at 7k feeling like I couldn’t run another step… she urged me to keep going and I did. I ran the whole 10k and finished in just over an hour- 1:02. The medal was beautiful and, as my first one, it meant a great deal, but, more than that, the post run buzz was like nothing I’d ever felt before… all at once, I was back head over heels in love.
With no real plan and only a couple of months to Liverpool I increased the distance of my weekly long run and tried to convince my brain that I could run further than 10k. Two weeks before the half I managed an 11 mile training run with only a couple of very short walk breaks – time had run out, I was as ready as I could be.
Liverpool Rock and Roll is a brilliant event – if you’re thinking of undertaking your first half or full marathon, this is definitely one to consider- mainly flat, lots of live music and a fabulous atmosphere. It was only my second proper racing experience and I was excited but so so nervous – I literally had no idea whether I could do it.
But I did. Largely because I’d raised over £500 in sponsorship for a wonderful charity and because I knew my girls were there watching me. I didn’t walk a single step and finished my first half marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 1 second.
It’s no exaggeration to say I was on cloud 9 for days. This girl who couldn’t run, who had avoided exercise her whole life had run a half marathon. I was so proud of myself – mostly for the example I was setting my little girls.
But, within a week of Liverpool, I came rapidly down from cloud 9 and this great love hit another stumbling block. I found myself struggling to get out of the door. What had, until recently, filled me with such joy now felt like a chore… could this love affair really be over with just two medals to my name?