I haven’t blogged for ages, not sure why to be honest as I love writing. Maybe it is because I can find it quite emotionally tiring as it is something of a brain dump. I don’t have ‘writing days’ I just do it when the mood takes me so to all of you wonderful people who have told me that you love reading my outpourings I apologise for them not being very frequent at the moment! I will try harder I promise.
I have actually been running more as I get ready for the Race For Life 10k on the 8th of June 2014. I can’t quite believe that it has come around so soon!! It seems only 5 minutes ago that I ran a very slow Sport Relief 3 miles and came home all exhilarated and signed my Mother in law Elaine (who ran the London Marathon at my age) and myself up for the RFL!! We were just going to do 5k but me being all excited and buoyed up by not dying earlier said “Oh where’s the challenge in that? Let’s do 10k!”. Not entirely sure where that came from but I must have been channeling the ghost of a much fitter and younger person than me!! My other reasoning is that the 5k is in the afternoon and I don’t enjoy running in the afternoon as much especially if it is warm so it was self preservation against the dreaded MS inducing heat. This could backfire couldn’t it?
Oh well it’s done now and to make sure that I don’t chicken out I have plastered it all over Facebook and people have actually sponsored me so I have to do it now unless I break something or expire in the meantime. I am holding my breath every day that my current mild MS attack of optic neuritis doesn’t escalate into anything more inconvenient.
So, how did this all start?
Well, as you know from my previous post about sport dodging, I am not exactly the most athletic person ever to grace the planet but I decided that I was fed up of being scared of exercise and I wanted to find something that I liked and that was just for me. So I started going to Boot Camp and we started to do a bit of running – sprint intervals, hill runs (oh god there is somewhere in hell that you are made to do that continually it is so fucking evil) and laps around the cricket ground. I was terrified at first and can vividly remember squealing indignantly “I can’t run!!”. But run I did and I hated it at first. Not because it was hard, although it was, more because I was angry at myself because I couldn’t do it and other people could. What is wrong with me I thought, why can they do it and I can’t? Anger is actually a powerful motivator if channelled effectively it turns out.
There was nothing wrong with me (apart from having MS but that rarely stops me and I won’t use it as an excuse), I just hadn’t ever done it before. Not since school anyway where I tried my best to avoid ritual humiliation on a weekly basis for just being totally crap. For the first time ever I wanted to know what the secret was, how do you do this I begrudgingly asked my running friends?
There was no secret it turned out, just training doggedly and religiously which I had never ever done. I had never trained physically for anything in my life. I didn’t know how……where on earth was I going to start? I’d heard about Couch to 5k, lots of people were banging on about it online and I just thought they were all a bit annoying in their fervour to be honest! Stupid healthy exercising people shut UP and stop making me feel inadequate!!
They weren’t doing anything of the sort though as I know now. They were too busy enjoying themselves and getting fit.
Right then I thought, let’s give this Couch to 5k a go. I mean, seriously, how hard can it be? Well to begin with I made the most obvious rooky error of just buying a pair of running shoes in my normal shoe size. I had no idea that I should have bought a pair at least half a size larger to accommodate my feet that would increase in size as they warmed up whilst running as well as moving about a lot inside my trainers. The nice very young man in the local sports shop didn’t tell me that.
Thank fuck I only ran in them a few times initially at Bootcamp and week 1 of C25k!! I realised very quickly as I started listening to the runners there what I had done and sloped off to The Running Shop in Northampton feeling rather sheepish (translate – a bit of a twat) as advised by one of our instructors (also my friend – the very lovely Ali!). I had been told tales of being made to run up and down the road to have my ‘gait’ assessed. The thought filled me with total terror but off I trotted anyway feeling like an utter charlatan.
I was greeted by a rather scary, very obvious marathon runner (actually he is an ultra marathoner as I found out) who turned out to be a very funny, sharp tongued doesn’t-suffer-fools-gladly very wise and knowledgeable man. He must have known that I’d hardly run at all but there was no judgement there just good, sound advice. He got me to walk up and down the shop, bend down and lean forward and stuff and declared that I over-pronated. I worked out that he meant I had shit collapsing ankles and flat feet. He sighed despairingly when I told him I wore mostly flip flops and UGGS and said “well what do you bloody expect wearing that crap, I bet you wear Crocs too don’t you?” I do. “Now you want me to find you some magic trainers to fix everything don’t you? Bloody runners you are a nightmare!!”.
I laughed. I didn’t care. He called me a runner. He called me a runner!!! Well I’d better shift my arse then eh?
I bought some very marvellous black and fuschia pink running shoes. My Asics GT2000s. I loved them the moment I put them on. I still love them and they are still fucking marvellous. I have promised them that when they have to be retired I will give them a good send off in the form of some sort of scary Wolf Run type event. I will, I’ve promised so I have to. In the meantime we are okay plodding along together
I had started C25k and oh my life it was hard. And joyous beyond belief. I remember the first time I set out with my intervals programmed into my Endomondo app, my iPhone in my husband’s arm strap (he had started running at the same time I decided to, spurred on by my progress at bootcamp – peer pressure is a wonderful thing haha). I went out of the front door feeling like an absolute fraud, praying to God that no-one would see me and dutifully walked my first 5 minutes down the farm track out of the village. Then the nice Endomondo lady told me it was time to run for a minute so off I went.
It was a beautiful sunny day and I was running through the fields listening to music with the breeze blowing gently and it was just one of the most amazing feelings that I had experienced. I ran along grinning like an absolute fool – look I’m running! ME running! I’ve got MS and I’m 40 and I’m running. That minute was enough for me to remember what I forgotten from childhood – running just because I could. Because it was brilliant and awesome and OMG the minute hasn’t finished yet christ I’m going to pass out!!
I didn’t. I hung on in there and then walked for a minute which definitely was much shorter that the running minute I don’t care what anyone says. This went on all the way up to the first cow field gate and I was really really starting to enjoy myself and then I decided (rooky error number 2 – a biggy) that I didn’t want to stop on the way back. After all it wasn’t that far was it? (it’s about a mile actually) surely I could run back all the way without stopping?
Yeah. Actually it turns out I could. Through joy, elation, disbelief, excitement, aches and finally…..pain. I ran through it. In the end I was bent over, hobbling up the hill like a decrepit, constipated cretin, refusing to walk even though I had actually broken myself.
I was still elated even though I was hurting and I couldn’t run again for 2 months. I had run too far without training for it, through pain, to prove a point. In doing that I had injured myself and therefore stopped myself from being able to carry on the the Couch to 5k until I was better. It was a valuable lesson and whilst looking back I think “you twat” I am actually glad I did it then, rather than later, when I could potentially scupper something more important. I went on to do something equally stupid again later on though, of course I never really learn!
Despite doing a stupid thing I was not angry at myself for the injury. I was hugely annoyed that I couldn’t carry on because I had enjoyed it. Looking back I see that even this early on that something clicked. I can do this I thought, I can teach myself to run. I may not ever be very quick or end up doing a marathon but I like how I feel when I run. I like doing something that is just for me. I like sticking two fingers up to my MS – fuck you stupid MS I think when I run – I’m not giving in. I like the battle of wills that you have everytime – I want to stop, why am I doing this, I can’t, I can, I need to sit down, no you don’t, you want to stop you don’t need to stop and then the feeling when you finish. Joy, sometimes anger at yourself for not pushing harder, but always a feeling of achievement that you did it. Just you putting one foot in front of the other.
It took me 7 months, on and off, through illness, vertigo attacks and the usual family crises to get to 5k. My first proper 5k (not including the one I tried to do with my husband who was much further on than me at that time when I injured myself again – see? Told you) took me 47 minutes and 14 seconds. My average pace was 9.30 mins per kilometre.
3.5 months later I can now run 10k. My 5k personal best is 35 mins 43 and my average pace for that run was 7.13/k. I ran that Sports Relief 3 miles even though I had been ill with MS and I am still trying to get faster and run longer. I have lost 10lbs and weigh just under 12 stone and I am 41.
I remember what Neil from the Running Shop said to me when I asked him what he liked about running. He said “I don’t like it, I hate it. It’s never static, there is never an ultimate goal. You see you always want to go faster or further, always chasing PBs. It’s a nightmare!”. I didn’t understand then but I do now.
I am only in the very beginning stages of my running journey and I know that one day I might not be able to run but for now I will because I love it and hate it in equal measure. I am running the Race for Life in a week and it will be my first proper 10k (you can sponsor me here, go on, you know you want to)I can’t wait even though I am scared, especially of the heat. I want to do a muddy run, a half marathon next year and maybe, just maybe, if my health permits – a marathon one day.
But if I don’t then so be it because I have gained so much and continue to. Running has taught me how to keep going in life when you don’t think you can. It has taught me that what you put in you get out and that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. I know most people can speed walk faster than I run, hell even I can sometimes but that isn’t what it is about for me. It is about commitment, perseverance and doing something that just makes me feel so goddamn alive. Also I am really good at pissing behind bushes when needed and I do feel this is an important life skill.
My kids think it is great, they want to come running with me and I am absolutely going to encourage that. My poor husband is very supportive even though I drive him mad and especially because he loves running and is currently unable to because of a knee injury that might need an operation. I love him so much and he puts up with me banging on about the latest amazing gadget/thing that is going to revolutionise my running. It’s usually purple.
Today I can run. So today I am running.