Maybe NOT Born to Run?

‘Born to Run’ would not be used to describe me, or my running technique. Sue once described me running as, affectionately I hope, “my little pony trotting along”. Worse thing is she is actually right. I run far too much on my toes and hence have calf muscles unattractively big. But anyway, I digress. I would love to be able to introduce this blog as a way of documenting me running some super challenging marathon but at present the idea of running a Marathon is a far off dream- despite Hugh’s rather questionable encouragement to do so. To be honest I find it all rather amusing that I am even using the word Marathon and myself in the same sentence. This time two years ago running was something I had only done if late for a bus. I had often thought how nice it sounded when friends would tell me what a great run they had done last night. But to be honest I thought running could only be done by stick thin fitness fanatics and it was only after watching my Best Friend Jade complete a Half Marathon in Plymouth I thought to myself- Maybe I could do this? And if I did this maybe I could eat some more cake! Luckily this was at a time that, due to living in Switzerland and having two dogs, I had discovered a real love for hiking mountains and had some degree of fitness. Or so I thought. So motivated by Jade’s success I promptly looked online for a half marathon that I could complete and found that the Basel Half Marathon was three months away which was plenty of time to train. Right? So I signed up, bought some new trainers (because isn’t it a fact new shoes make you run faster?) and set off for my first training run. Which lasted, and I am being generous here, approximately 3 minutes before I couldn’t possibly run a second more. A friend of a friend who had been roped in on this premier run, when eventually I  crawled through the designated course, remarked that for that three minutes of glory I had ran far too fast, and I needed to slow down, as I tired myself out too quickly.

I took his wise words on board and over the next few weeks I slowed my pace down and plodded my way around my village- often having to walk or plod, but as the days and weeks went past I eventually ran 5km without stopping (only 16km to go)  and began to count down the days to the race. I didn’t feel confident to run with other people, sure that I would slow them down or make a fool of myself so to keep myself entertained during my runs I discovered that running to an audio book was the trick for me as I would get distracted by the story and sometimes forget that I was running and so run just that little bit further every time. Looking back, the fact that I had signed up for this half Marathon meant that I put a huge amount of pressure on myself as I didn’t want to lose face by not doing it or dying trying. By July the Swiss summer had well and truly got underway and running in temperatures of 35degrees plus for me was just not an option. I started getting up earlier and earlier just to try and run before the heat became unbearable.  I even took my running things on holiday to Marseille with me, much to be bemusement of my husband (then boyfriend) Fabian.  By the beginning of September I was able to run 16km with relative ease and with two weeks to go before the race I set out to run 21km. Having read about training on the internet  I had seen that running the actually mileage before a race was not necessarily necessary but I felt that mentally I needed to know that I could do it. By the end of that 21km run I felt sick, was tired beyond belief but also it gave me just that little bit of extra confidence that I would be able to finish, be it at a slow 2hours 30 minutes.

I awoke on race day very early. Far too nervous to eat and also paranoid about whether I would need to use a toilet during the race. (NB- For any new runners – yes the really really HAVING to go to the toilet happens to a lot of people during runs. It’s normal. Yes, even number 2s!!!). After going to the toilet approximately 10 times before the start of the race, all of a sudden we were off and the race had begun. The first 15 kilometres were okay, the last 6 or so possibly the longest off my life but the feeling of passing through that finish line (and then collapsing in a sweaty heap) is amazing. I really felt I had achieved something. I had also managed it in 2 hours 16, so 14 minutes quicker than in my traning run. I also felt that I would never, ever put myself through that ever again.

So my running shoes went back into the closet, the Swiss autumn began and went followed by a Swiss winter. My excuses were readily available. You can’t run in 4 foot or more of snow. It actually is dangerous. I have earnt a rest. I am tired. I just want to hibernate etc etc. But then Fabian put a spanner in my ‘eating–my-way-through –winter ‘ challenge by proposing. Which meant I had to not resemble an albino whale in a wedding dress in just 4 or 5 months! Back out of the closet my faithful shoes came, but this time, with no race looming ‘just’ a wedding I found an enjoyment in running that I had not  felt whilst training. Suddenly running was fun!  But yet again, post wedding, my motivation began to dwindle and the desire to run waned.

When Fabian and I decided to move back to England I knew that I needed to find some more motivation and thus, before our feet had even landed back on British soil, I had found, and contacted the Henfield Joggers.  This was quite a big deal for me. I have never been much of a club joiner. Even as a child my stint as a Brownie was shorter lived than any of my friends and surely an actually proper running club are going to take one look at my pathetic running attempts and just laugh. But then again I had seen on the website that they do pub-runs which for someone like me seeking a motivation surely a pub at the end of a run is as good a motivation as any, so perhaps it wouldn’t be too bad?

We arrived back in the UK the day before one of these pub runs and I was determined to join it. It sounded lovely, only 5 miles or so and a good way to introduce myself. Unfortunately, I underestimated the amount of time it takes to arrange a new life so disappointedly I missed the Wednesday Pub Run.  “No Fear” said Paul (of whom I had been in contact with through the HJ website and Facebook page) “Go along to the Saturday morning run!”.  I had seen some information on these Saturday Morning runs on the HJ Facebook page. They were much longer runs of 10 miles or more and the run that they had planned this particular Saturday was a 12 mile romp over the downs. I knew there was no way I could run that having converted the miles into kilometres (a problem with living in Switzerland is you forget how long a mile is. A Kilometre is so much kinder!) But naively I thought I would go along anyway, dragging my Faithful until-he-sees-something/someone-more-interesting Labrador Bear with me for moral support. I could bail after a couple of miles, but would have had at least shown my face.

I was rather nervous that morning as I finally found the Leisure Centre (I grew up in Lancing so Henfield was all new to me). There was a group of men hanging around the front doors, dressed rather professionally looking in their running gear and my heart sank. These guys’ looked like, well… actual runners! They will leave me in their dust! I nervously introduced myself and asked if they were part of HJ. The welcome I then received put me immediately at ease. Even more so when Sue arrived and started chatting to me about the new addition to her family- a puppy named Bailey. As a Veterinary Nurse one thing I could talk about all day is Puppies so I barely noticed that we had started running as Sue and I chatted and got to know each other. At mile 4 or 5, the rather tall chap of who’s back had been my main view as he was right out in front, and Sue had kindly ran at the back with me, gathered us all together and asked me whether  I wanted to short cut back- if so he would give me directions. I had been gossiping so easily with Sue I felt it would be a shame to bail just yet and so I assured Hugh, as I now knew him to be called, that I was ok and I will do another couple of miles. Then suddenly we were at mile 8 and I was starting to flag. Badly. I was hugely embarrassed by how slow I now was and even Sue had run off ahead, quite understandably unable to run or rather walk as it was now at such a slow pace. I knew that we were now at a point where short cuts were no option. I wanted to tell the others to just go on without me but I didn’t have the foggiest idea where we were to find my own way home. Finally we reached a road and, having seen how utterly rubbish this new member was turning out to be Hugh offered to leave me there outside a pub, run back to the village then come and pick me up. Kind though his offer was, I couldn’t possibly be such an inconvenience. I told them to run on, and I would call Fabian and he would collect me in the car which he did. I was shocked when I looked at my phone to see Run Keeper had recorded a run of 10 miles. I had no intention of running that far and realised that running as part of a group definitely had kept me going much longer than had I set out alone. I also found that I really enjoyed the off road running, having never really done it before.

That first run with the HJers is now almost 5 months ago and I am so glad that I joined. Not only have I made friends and enjoyed the social side of the club but I have felt so encouraged by the group to keep on running. So much so that I have entered a few races. The first race is on a Sunday morning and is along Worthing seafront.  As its only four miles it should be a fun, if rather windy race. It’s part of a Fun Run League, and unlike most of my runs now a days it’s on the road. More worryingly is that I have also signed up for another half marathon next month. It’s called the Steyning Stinger and it’s supposed to be quite a challenge.  In fact I have plans to run some form of race every month from now until October.  I will use this blog to document the runs I do during this year, and as a motivation for other people, that like me, aren’t necessarily born to run but want to, whether it be to get fit, stay slim or like me just to be able to eat more guilt free. Thanks for reading and I will update you on my first Fun Run League Race on Sunday!