I’ve never been one for running. In fact I spent a lot of my youth poking fun at those of my acquaintance who did run, and never felt the least interest in the idea of it.
Then, some time in the autumn of 2017 I found myself listening to a radio show that included Sandi Toksvik talking about running. She said that she’d been getting concerned by her weight and complete lack of fitness as she got older and had decided therefore to do the Couch to 5k programme. At the beginning she couldn’t run 100 yards, but had persisted with it and nowadays could do a 5k at the drop of a hat. She said she felt a great deal better and had lost a lot of weight.
Now, I’d been thinking about fitness and age for a while. There had been a few trips to the gym over the years but nothing had ever stuck. Other than Morris Dancing (which demands a fair degree of effort) I wasn’t doing any exercise and was getting concerned about this. So when I heard Sandi on the radio that day I was struck by the thought that if she could do it, then why couldn’t I? The trouble was that I’ve never been particularly good at sticking to something when it got difficult, and realised that even the C25K was going to be a struggle, so a major incentive was required. Accordingly I told my daughters that this was my plan and for Christmas I needed running gear – for years I hadn’t even had a pair of trainers! They responded with enthusiasm, including taking me to Cambridge to get my gait checked and to select a decent pair of running shoes, and by Christmas Day I had running tops, leggings and gloves. And on January 3rd 2018, with Michael Johnson selected as the coach, I started the Couch to 5K app and set off on week 1, run 1. I never expected it to be easy, and by golly it wasn’t! That first day was 8 x 1 minute runs, interspersed with 90 seconds of walking, by the time I was on the 6th run each of those minutes seemed half an hour! But I did it, and followed the course all the way through. At times I really found it tough, (week 5 had to be repeated because the first 20 minute run completely floored me) but finally got there at the beginning of May. The thought of the girls having bought me all this gear was a very strong incentive in the tough runs and I’m not sure that I’d have got through it on willpower alone.
So by the beginning of May I was a C25K graduate, but wasn’t actually running anything like 5k. According to my Strava app at most I was managing to run just over 2 miles, around 3.5k. I occasionally ran with my sister and my daughter and the running distance very slowly crept upwards and at the end of May managed my first 5k, in the princely time of 44 minutes.
Shortly after this I was contacted by a chap called Justin from Ely Runners who wanted to publicise a beginner’s running course that club was organising. We talked a bit and before I knew it I was signed up. And that course was a revelation!
Up to this point I’d done almost all my running on my own, with, as mentioned, the occasional jaunt with my sister or daughter, but now I found myself running with 30 people or more. Most were faster than me but it quickly became apparent that that didn’t matter. However slowly I went there was always at least one coach or club runner keeping me company; their attitude was that I was a runner and they were helping me improve. And improve I did! The culmination of the course was a timed 5k that I completed in just over 40 minutes – 4 minutes faster than I’d ever done before. And so, on 25th August with many other graduates from the course I ran the Littleport parkrun and did so in less than 40 minutes. I was unbelievably chuffed! Since then I’ve run a further 11 parkruns and volunteered three times as well and lowered my PB to a bit over 38 minutes. I’ve also joined Ely Runners and go out training with them most weeks. It’s somewhat daunting to be training alongside people who regularly do marathons but a completely unexpected camaraderie has been uplifting. The greyhounds might lap me in training but they frequently give me a cheery word as they do so. I’ve made friends amongst people I never expected to meet and though it’s always going to be hard and I’m never going to worry Mo Farah I find that I enjoy being a runner.
Today is 3rd January 2019, exactly one year since I started the C25K, and tonight I begin my training to get to 10K. Wish me luck!