When I think about running I have very mixed emotions. Part of me is taken back to my school days when running definitely felt like a punishment and if there was a glimpse of hope that I could get my parents to write me a sick note then I would. However, the other (more mature?) part of me loves the freedom of running, the time to myself, just the music in my ears, the thoughts in my head and my feet on the pavement....
So really, depending on my frame of mind the mention of a run would either have me hiding away in the corner or grabbing my trainers and heading out the door at double speed!
I remember the pivotal moment of my 'running journey' - and I think everyone has one; was watching a friend's boyfriend run the Brighton Marathon. We stood there that day and the atmosphere was incredible. The sun was shining and the crowd was cheering. I remember my friend and I looking at one another and we just knew - we were going to run the marathon!
Now really, that thought was laughable! At this point I couldn't even run for 26 minutes let alone 26 miles!! What was I actually thinking? I was the girl that took short cuts during cross-country and dropped out of track laps as soon as humanly possible - feigning a stitch or twisted ankle and now I actually stood there believing that we could run a marathon... I think I must have had sun stroke.
The next day my friend and I registered for the marathon the following year - (yup, we hadn't changed our minds) and set about finding the perfect training program. We found a beginners program (run for 30 seconds, walk for a minute etc) and started following it to the letter. I forget how long the program was now, but we entered a series of races to keep ourselves motivated; A 5k, a half marathon, a 20 miler and then we had the marathon.
Yup, there we are smiling in front of a bunch of portaloos... you can tell this is the 'before' picture can't you!
The marathon went well, we ran it in just under 5 hours which had been our goal and we'd only cried a couple of times and convinced each other not to give up a handful, so all in all it was a job well done! Seriously though, for me this was box ticked, never again. Every time I went out on a run it would be an emotional roller coaster. I remember calling my husband (then boyfriend) and crying on the phone to him during a run - telling him I couldn't do it and asking him why I was even attempting it. I remember putting playlists together of the best upbeat motivating music and having a mantra in my head of 'yes you can' which I repeated continually to the rhythm of my breathing and my feet hitting the pavement.
Shortly after the marathon I discovered I was pregnant. Running stopped and I took on the 'I can do whatever I like because I'm pregnant' attitude... fast forward to after my son was born and I wanted to get back in shape. Remembering the highs of running (because somehow we forget the bad bits when we're looking back on things) I decided that I should go out for a run. I'd run a marathon, so a quick 5k should be easy right...wrong. I was back to square one. My 'yes I can' mantra quickly turned into 'no you can't' the running lasted less than five minutes and the tears started flowing. How had I ended up back here?
I quit. It's as simple as that. Nothing could convince me and I couldn't convince myself. I had put so much into running, both physically and emotionally and to have lost it all felt soul destroying. I focussed on other regimes and left 'running' with my collection of running shoes at the back of my wardrobe.
Fast forward 6 years and I decided at the end of last year that I wanted running back in my life. I needed that 'me' time, I craved the music in my ears and the pavement at me feet. The solitude, the headspace, I needed it. However, I was back to square one. I couldn't just go out and 'see how long I could run for' because I knew the school girl inside of me would be asking why I was putting myself through this and demanding that I stop! So I found a plan!
I had heard a lot about the BBC Couch to 5K app so downloaded it onto my phone and set out. The app claims that it can get you from the 'couch' to running 5K (or continuously for 30 minutes) in 9 weeks.
Firstly you get to choose your celebrity 'trainer' who will guide you through the 9 weeks. I went for comedienne Sarah Millican because she called me 'pet' and told me how proud she was after each run! I dusted off my running shoes, loaded up the playlists and headed out in the cold (yup, I chose winter to start up again) and set off on my first 'run'. The app builds it up perfectly, your running intervals gradually get longer and are challenging yet achievable. Each week you would be doing just a little bit longer - I knew I had run for 10 minutes, so 12 shouldn't be a problem. Physically I knew that 5k or 30 minutes shouldn't be a problem... it was still the mental battle for me.
With a combination of good music, my 'yes you can' mantra, Sarah Millican cheering me on and pure stubbornness I made it to the finish! That in itself felt like a huge achievement! Not that I could physically run, but that mentally I could go the distance...
Now that we're hopefully heading into Spring I would love to add a 5K run into my weekly fitness regime, but other than that I feel at 'peace' with running. I have no desires to run another marathon - heck, I don't even want to run 10K. I've found my running comfort zone and I know that people say that the 'magic' happens outside of your comfort zone, but quite frankly sometimes it feels good just to be satisfied!
I'd love to hear about your running journeys. Good, bad and indifferent and if you try the BBC app then please let me know!
You can follow my fitness journey and hear my daily waffling over on my instagram - coffee.and.kettlebells and if you ever see me out running - feel free to cheer me on!