Finding my pace

The date for the 5KM run is looming: it is now 8 days away. I do think I can do it; I’m not convinced I will enjoy it. I can’t imagine it being the start of an addiction to running.

I’ve done 2 runs already this week, both on the treadmill at the gym. 4km and 4.25km, both around the 30 minute mark. I’m pleased, because it means I’m on track. I’m definitely getting fitter, and I almost enjoyed the first 3km tonight. Almost.

I ran the first 3km slightly faster than my normal speed – 8.5 instead of 8. It seemed to suit me better somehow. I don’t know if it was psychological, giving me a sense of beating my own progress. Perhaps it was more in keeping with the soundtrack in my headphones: Girls Aloud, if you’re interested. Perhaps it suited the length of my legs. Perhaps it’s just my body getting fitter.

Keep running…

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I ran 3.5km today in 28 minutes. To most people, this wouldn’t be a big deal. To people who have run marathons, like my husband, this is like walking down the street. To me, it was quite a big deal.

3.5km in 28 minutes means I’m on track to complete 5km in three weeks time, with a time of around 40 minutes. I’ve built this up from 2.5km in a few weeks, despite having been ill and other things having to take priority. I’m making progress towards my goal.

I’m starting to think that running is a bit of ‘mind over matter.’ With the right soundtrack, and the right programme on the TV screen in front of me, the distance passes fairly quickly. If I think too much about each individual step, about my heart rate, my pace, my breathing, and exactly how far I’ve got to go, every single step is painful. So distraction is the key to it for me.

I saw a poster today inviting people to go for a 5km trail run on a Saturday morning around one of the parks in Greater Manchester. Rather than thinking, “Why would anyone want to do that,” my first thought was that I will be able to do things like that. ┬áThat would mean a real change of mindset for me. The challenge for me will firstly be getting to (and through) the 5km run; the greater challenge will be to maintain and improve upon that level of fitness.

A running start

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I am not a natural runner. Swimming, totally, I could swim for ages and love being in the water. But running does not come naturally to me. Running hurts. Running makes your lungs scream for oxygen, your legs shake, your face go red. For me, running is not glamourous, relaxing or fun. It’s sheer hard work.

So I’m not sure why I’ve signed up to do a 5K next month. Partly, I suppose, it’s to give me some motivation to improve my fitness. I’ve doubled my swimming stamina since Baby Ben was born, but have barely improved my running at all. Partly, it’s because I was invited. A 5K isn’t something I would ever volunteer for without some pressure. Mainly, it’s because it’s for a good cause: Millie’s Trust, a local charity established following the death of a little girl in a choking incident at her nursery. The charity aims to improve first aid knowledge, particularly of parents and carers.

My training started this week. A friend who knows much more about running than I do suggested that my target time be around 40 minutes. I think this is about manageable. So on Monday night, I ran 2.5km on the treadmill at the gym. It took me around 18 minutes. Tonight, I ran 2.75km in 20 minutes.

My training plan is basic: increase the distance I run by 0.25km each session. I looked at Couch to 5K, and realised that if I only trained to run a 25 minutes stretch I wouldn’t be close to running 5K – more like 3 and a half. This way, I know where I am, I know what I can do, and I like the fact that the treadmill counts me through the distance. I can think, “Right, that’s 60% done; over half way.”

I am fairly certain that I will not enjoy the training. I don’t even know if I’ll enjoy the experience. But so far, knowing that I’ve run further in one go than I’ve run for well over a year is very satisfying. I feel a sense of achievement, and like the idea that in 9 more sessions I will be running 5K.

It’s only a 5K, and I know lots of people could run that at a moment’s notice. But not me. So this is a real challenge for an unnatural runner.