I’ve run my first ever 5K YIPPEE! I know it’s not a huge distance by any means, but it is the very first time I have managed to do any kind of running event so it was a pretty big deal for me. Three months ago I couldn’t run at all. I’m very competent on all sorts of gym equipment and at lots of classes including spin, and I’m not averse to jumping on the bike and pootling out for a few miles, but for some reason running has always been really difficult for me. Back in August I started out on the treadmill so I could accurately monitor my speed and distance and gradually increase both of these measurements. What I discovered, apart from the (not really surprising) fact that all my other cardio work had already put in some valuable groundwork in improving my aerobic capacity, is that running on the treadmill is incredibly tedious. Over time, I’ve discovered that I have the physical capacity to run some not bad distances, but I don’t have the mental capacity for it. I get really, really bored doing it. This boredom is at its absolute worst when I’m stuck inside on a treadmill staring at a wall two feet in front of me that doesn’t change (not least because I have trouble focusing on a wall that close). Gyms always provide TVs to watch but I can’t manage to run when I’m staring upwards. In fact it works best when I can look at a spot about four to six feet ahead of me on the ground. Which is impossible when you’re on a treadmill.
So as soon as I had built up a bit of stamina (and knew I wasn’t going to risk collapsing in a heap a mile from home), I got out into the fresh air instead. We’re very fortunate to live somewhere that has totally flat terrain, virtually no rain, and generally acceptable temperatures all year round, so I had to take advantage of all these benefits in order to build up my distances to the full 5K and then to work on my speed. In August it was still incredibly hot and humid so most runs were started by about 7am; although this didn’t prevent me from looking like a drowned rat by the time I’d finished, it did at least mean I wasn’t completely going to pass out from the heat. By mid-September the weather was becoming far more amenable and so I could go out at a far more sociable hour of 9am. I have to say, early morning runs are definitely the best for me; I run as soon as I am out of bed and dressed so I have no food in me that might wish to make a reappearance and, most importantly, before my brain figures out what my body is doing. Then by breakfast time I can feel really smug that I’ve done my required exercise, have a shower and get on with the rest of the day. If I leave it until later to have a run, I spend the whole day brooding about it.
A benefit of running outside in the real world is the constantly changing scenery, instead of that gym wall two feet away. However, I’ve found that if I keep the same route all the time, I still get incredibly bored. So most days before my run, I can be found on http://www.walkjogrun.net/ plotting yet another different route to keep me interested. This website is also incredibly useful for working out my speed afterwards. Being a Luddite, I don’t have any truck with smartphones and their apps (plus, have you seen the size of the pocket in the back of my shorts? I’m lucky I can just about fit my doorkey in it) so I rely on some old-fashioned technology. I look at the time on my watch when I start running and I look at it again when I finish. Then I work out how long it took me, put that detail into the website and it tells me my speed. However my smartest bit of training kit is definitely my husband. He is a pretty good pacemaker (I have to say, I have no idea how fast I’m running at any given time, I just know it hurts or I’m bored and therefore I want to get it over with) so he keeps me on track and has gradually increased my overall pace without breaking me in the process. He also wears a ridiculously bright orange T shirt so I am unable to lose him at any point.
Even with the changing scenery and the company, I still get really bored during my run, in fact the main thing that keeps me going is the fact that if I stopped then I’d be several miles from home and would still have to get back, so the quicker I get on with it the quicker I’ll be on the sofa again. So my final widget for keeping me going is my music. I’ve tried running without it and it’s so much harder. There are certain songs that really spur me on when I’m tired and desperate to finish. In no particular order, here are some of the songs that work for me:
- Irene Cara – Flashdance
- Busted – Air Hostess
- Matchbox Twenty – Our Song
- My Chemical Romance – Welcome to the Black Parade
And I must have been doing something right because over the course of three months I went from half-jogging/half-walking a mile, to getting round the whole 5km (which is just over three miles) in about 40 minutes, to my best ever time of 26 minutes. I should probably mention here, I am aware that what I’m terming “running” is probably many other people’s definition of “jogging”, but as far as I’m concerned, I have managed to shave more than a third off my original time, therefore I am going much faster than I was, therefore it counts as “running” for me.
So anyway, race day itself was interesting. The biggest thing for me was the fact that there were other people there. I mean, I knew in the abstract that there would be people besides myself there, but I really hadn’t considered what that actually meant. I’m very used to running alone. The husband doesn’t count as another person, he’s just an extension of me really, besides we both have our headphones in and just communicate with hand signals – him to point when we are making a turn, me usually to signal “get lost” or, er, something like that. We occasionally pass other people, and I have now perfected the runner’s head nod and half wave that seem to be required, but we do not actually have to interact with anybody else. That would be unthinkable. So to be in the middle of a crowd of thousands running around a muddy forest on race day was quite a shock to the system, especially when attempting to overtake a large number of them and avoiding falling into a puddle at the same time. And this is before we get onto the “friendly volunteers” who were stationed at regular intervals to throw coloured paint at us. I think that’s supposed to put the “fun” into “fun run”.
Anyway, despite the muddy and uneven terrain, frequent traffic jams and paint attacks, on the day I finished in 27 minutes. I’ve signed up for an 8K in March so I’ve now started extending my runs and I’m up to nearly 6.5km already. Then, if my hip holds out (it starts to get very grumbly around 4.5km so I don’t know how it will fare over longer distances) I’m looking at doing a 10K next October. Wish me luck!