Running makes me so very happy. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found a hobby which not only brings me joy but which has also changed my life beyond recognition.
In 2016 I set myself an initial goal of running 5km without walking… then to do it in less than 30 minutes… then came 10km and so on.
Running has made me realise how well I am able to respond to a challenging goal when it involves something I really care about. For me it doesn’t take anything away from the enjoyment of running, in fact quite the opposite; it makes me much more likely to make sure I find time to run and I really enjoy planning my training and adding variety to my sessions to give me the best chance of succeeding.
And that feeling… that feeling you get when your hard work pays off and you achieve your goal; I’m not sure I have the words to describe how it feels, but it might help if I start by giving a bit of context.
Until recently, if you had asked me whether I worked hard for my academic qualifications I would have replied with a resounding yes… I always submitted my coursework on time and revised for exams, of course I worked hard. But running has taught me that I didn’t. I was fortunate that I found academic work came quite naturally to me and, in reality, I did what I wanted as and when I wanted.
The outcome? Yes I got good results, I was pleased when I received them and happy that they were what I needed to be able to progress with my career. But I never really appreciated my results nor did I truly value my academic qualifications.
But running… oh how running has humbled me. Yes it has highlighted my strengths but my goodness, it has taken the weaknesses and written them in giant letters across the sky. I am not a naturally gifted athlete, nothing about it comes easy and if I don’t work hard, I do not make progress. I can’t bluff it, I can’t give up when I’m tired and I can’t ignore it for days then cram everything I should have done over the course of a month into a few days.
Towards the end of 2018 I realised that I might be capable of some pace goals which, until then, had always seemed unreachable. But I knew I was going to have to work my socks off to achieve them. I wanted a sub-50 minute 10k and I accepted that in order to get anywhere close, I was going to have to spend plenty of time feeling uncomfortable in training.
It can be hard to push yourself in training if you’re not used to doing it and especially if you always train alone. To be honest it takes real guts and determination to head out for a run and know that it’s going to feel pretty horrible at the time… but the feeling you get when it’s done is wonderful.
I tried for sub-50 several times. I failed several times and I remember feeling disappointed. But, within a day or two I would turn that disappointment into fuel and I’d get back to training, adding an extra hill rep into my sessions and increasing the pace slightly in my interval runs.
The hard work paid off in November last year and I got my first real taste of how it feels to give your all and to be rewarded by achieving your goal. That medal was truly made of blood, sweat and tears and I will treasure it always.
Off the back of that incredible feeling, I set my goals for 2019:
- A sub-24 minute parkrun at my home parkrun
- A sub-49 minute 10k
- A sub 1.55 half marathon
- To survive a full marathon
I’ve been able to cross three of my goals off this year, but a 10k PB has eluded me. My final attempt was this week at Telford – a flat, fast course with real PB potential. I knew within a mile of starting that it wasn’t going to be my day. The course is lapped so at the halfway point I was able to see in huge, illuminated, red numbers the reality of the situation; the clock should’ve read 23:45… but it showed 25 minutes and I was already much too uncomfortable to run a negative split.
In previous races, when it got uncomfortable I almost relished it. I’ve been able to grit my teeth and embrace the pain in my legs and the burning in my lungs – it makes me feel alive and I look forward to the feeling I’ll get when I cross the line. But on Sunday it was my head that gave up… when it got uncomfortable, instead of leaning into it I backed off.
I gave myself a hard time and cried. I cried big, ugly tears in the car. But by the time I got home to my girls I’d put my smile back on and made a conscious decision to turn my missed goal into a positive. If you want something, work for it. If you don’t get it? Work harder.
It doesn’t matter what your goal is. Running is completely personal and it is all relative. When I first set my 5k goal it was as daunting a prospect as when I set the marathon one.
Whatever your goal, set it bravely. Commit to it fully. But never lose sight of why you’re doing it and never ever do anything that makes you lose the love of it.