I have never been the running type. Anybody that remembers me from school will know that I spent most of the time walking around the field during cross country or sitting out because I’d twisted my ankle (again).
Quite frankly I’ve always been unfit and much happier sat on the sofa than exerting myself. But despite this, back in June I was set the challenge of learning how to run and completing a 5k. I installed a billion apps (from Couch to 5k to RunKeeper), set up personalised programs and bought some running shoes in the hope it would push me to keep it up. And my journey started.
The first time I tried to run it was pretty embarrassing. I thought I’d avoid civilisation by running really late at night but even that didn’t help the wheezing, coughing and pain that occurred. And that was only a mile. But I knew I had to persevere.
I started by running intervals and then slowly building myself to cover more and more distance. Slowly (very, very slowly..) I started to notice an improvement. I no longer wheezed, I was finding it easier to run a mile and even going up and down the stairs at work felt better. It spurred me on and for the first time I believed that maybe, possibly I could run a whole 5k. So I pushed harder. I ran further. And I knew that my big 5k race was in touching distance.
Today that big day finally arrived in the form of a parkrun:
“parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.”
So Scott & I drove to Rock Park in Barnstaple and I was filled with nerves and apprehension. After all, running is still the most accepted type of self torture there is. I spend the whole time asking myself “why?” and even though the adrenaline and relief afterwards makes the whole process worthwhile the thought of running with other people was even more daunting. What if I didn’t finish the course quickly enough? What if I fell over? What if I discover after all this time that I actually run like a total freak?
Visions of that Friends episode flashed in front of my eyes…
But the moment we arrived at Rock Park my worries melted away. The organisers were so friendly and helpful and made us feel so welcome – when they asked the almost 100-strong group if there were any first timers (we were the only two!) the group gave us a huge round of applause. People wished us luck. And we set off.
I’m not going to lie I found it tough. This was the first time I’d ran an entire 5k without a break halfway. By the time I reached 2.6km I was really struggling. Naturally, we’d picked then nicest of days to do our first run…it was muddy and to say it was raining was an understatement – certainly not the weather to be in running gear. That said, it was the volunteers I felt sorry for who had to stand there in the cold directing us along…but had they not been there I don’t think I could have finished.
Every time I ran past they would encourage you, smile, wave – anything to spur your on and get you to that finish line. I was near the back of the pack so by the time I was approaching the finish line the majority of people had been finished for some time and yet runners were cheering me on from the road as I went past, people shouting ‘you’re nearly there!’ as they passed. And suddenly I saw Scott’s smiling face and the finish line was in sight. We did it!
Not only did I complete my 5k but I also finished in a very respectable 38 minutes!
parkrun was an amazing experience and I am so glad that’s the place I celebrated my first 5k so a real heartful thank you to everybody at Barnstaple who took part this week for the encouragement. I enjoyed it so much I’ve already set myself the task of doing it all over again next week at my local parkrun in Blickling!
But it really just goes to show, if you put your mind to something and give yourself a little bit of patience to make those small steps happen, anything is possible. I may have come 94th out of 98th, but so what? To quote the great initiative This Girl Can:
Or, to quote my Mum…
“Now you’ve got the 10k to look forward to!”