You might remember a couple of weeks ago when I published my vlog saying that I was going back to the start of couch to 5k because I was struggling to make progress and it’s a decision I’m still happy with. I haven’t stuck by it week by week but taking me back to the start has really allowed me to concentrate on my breathing and my technique. I’m back up to 5 minutes solid running again now which is good but I know I can do better if I could just get my breathing sorted out. I have had some great advice though from the ladies on the Run Mummy Run Facebook group and since then have been working on breathing in for two steps and out for two steps. It feels really unnatural and occasionally I feel like I’m hyperventilating but that seems to mean I’m going too fast as well so I’ll add that to the list of things I need to work on.
Thursday’s run wasn’t the best – I started to feel like I’ve spent the last 5 months learning how to run and can’t get beyond 5 minutes so maybe I’m just not very good at it. At that point I was ready to just hand in my running shoes to the nearest charity shop and walk barefoot to the cake shop. This was brief blip but highlighted to me how much I need to find my joy of running again – it’s becoming too much of a chore and not something I’m looking forward to anymore. On Thursday it seemed like running made me feel bad and doesn’t make me feel good about myself anymore so I should just stop.
I woke up on Friday feeling more positive but aware I needed something to change if I was going to keep going. So I made another post on the RMR Facebook group and they gave me the confidence and courage I needed to arrange getting to my first Parkrun event.
Parkrun is a brilliant initiative where they run totally free 5k running events on Saturdays all over the world. I can’t even begin to explain how nervous I was about going to a proper running event – I am a very round person who mostly walks and runs rather than actual running and I really don’t have a place at any proper running event. I just don’t belong with people who call themselves runners….but I forgot the golden rule of running which is –
So on Saturday morning I found myself standing in the cold with my husband, our daughter and 232 other people getting ready to run 5k. I’ve never taken part in a 5k event before….in fact I’ve never taken part in any event so it’s fair to assume I was wetting myself with fear and self loathing. Everyone around me was setting their fancy running watches, doing fancy stretches in their fancy running gear. They were all elite runners and clearly all contenders for the top spots in the London Marathon. In fact I’d be surprised if we didn’t see every single one of them at Rio Olympics this year.
My paranoid mind might have taken over at this point so it was probably a good job the new runner briefing was held at this time and I started to get a real picture of what was happening that day.
I should point out that Parkrun events are entirely run by volunteers – marshals, counters, barcode swipers and every person on that course is there as a volunteer and wants to make your run a good one. They cheer you on, keep you going, make sure you don’t get lost, help you up if you slip over and are generally all around brilliant people. The friendly chap who gave us our new runner briefing was encouraging, helpful and good humoured and calmed me down enough that I started to have a look around a bit better and with a clearer mind.
The people around me were in all shapes and sizes – some with dogs, some with pushchairs, some on their own, some as part of running clubs, some in tracksuits, some in top notch gear and some looking as nervous as I felt. Some were older, some were younger, some looked fitter and some looked on the more on my side of the fitness scales. Most however were smiling and making the way to the start line so I followed on.
The next 40 minutes and 22 seconds (please note how I subtly fitted in my time there) were hard work. No matter how welcoming and nice the people are they can’t change the distance or my fitness levels sadly! But what I have to point out is how much the atmosphere helped – I hit a downhill too hard at one point and I felt my calves pulling the rest of the way round. They didn’t pull enough for me to stop but it did mean I walked the second lap much more than I wanted. As they were running past so many people asked if I was ok and they reminded me I could do it I just needed to keep moving. It was because of them I didn’t stop.
All in all I was really impressed with the way the event was organised, the cheerfulness of all the volunteers but mostly the atmosphere they’ve been able to cultivate. I immediately felt like I was part of the group, like I was welcome and that I really could do this.
It made a huge difference to my outlook and I’m looking forward to going running tomorrow morning now. I will be going for a run with the knowledge that I’ve already proven I can do it and if I keep going, keep working at it and keep learning I will improve.
One day I’ll run a full 5k without stopping. Hopefully it’ll be one day soon but in the meantime I’ll just have to be patient and stick at it. I also know that I’ll be going back to Parkrun as soon as I can.
Here is a picture of my sweaty and red face having just completed the run. I’ll always regret the thumbs up but I was too tired to think of a clever pose or caption!