Tuesday 1 November 2016

Run fatgirl run...

In April you might vaguely recall that I had to run. Not for a bus or a train of course, honestly darling if you have to do that you need to review your life choices. No this time it was for a plane. And not as you might think that I was late to the airport but rather because I was sat at the champagne bar doing what every Contrarian should do, drinking fizz and writing. More specifically I’s been updating the new landlord with the Economy-7-not-working-so-we-had-no-hot-water problem.

A bit awkward really.

The thing was I had put that incident out of my head until this afternoon when I was standing in Gatwick’s departure hall and saw said bar. You see I had been so engrossed I’d not heard my flight called and being blind as a bat couldn’t see the display. So when I checked and saw that the gate was closing in just a few minutes time I actually ran.

And this is what I remembered. Me. Running. Me.

I’ll leave that to sink in. No giggling at the back.

So here I am at 40,000 feet somewhere over the North Atlantic en route to New York. A place that I realised would mark an important milestone. When I run there I will pass one hundred miles in my running shoes. Not sling backs, actual running shoes. It’s been a difficult journey.

So what went wrong?

Well back in August my ex announced that they would be doing the couch to 5k program. I was vaguely aware of this as I knew of one or two other lunatics who had done it. But me? Well I had sort of praised myself that I would start running when I was down to weight which, needless to say, never happened as a mixture of chrimble, road trips and general comfort eating did its very best to reverse all may good intentions.

In short dear reader, I was back to being a bit overweight. And when I saw a  bit I don’t mean a bit.

Inevitably I had to do some research, after all if the ex was seriously considering it then really anything they can do… And it didn’t look so bad. She says. All I had to do was install an app, do a little bit of walking and a little bit of running et voilá 9 weeks later I’ll be able to run five thousand metres. Or roughly the distance from my apartment to St Pauls. What?


I honestly wasn’t sure this was a good idea but I did at least see that the idea was to slowly break you in. Well, that or just break you. So off I toddled to Sports Direct, found some running shoes in my size that owing to their shocking colour were much cheaper. I suspect this is what is known as unfashionable.

Or a little something I call normal.

Anyway, I decided that there was no time like the present so on getting home I felt there was no time like the present, changed in to something vaguely sporty that I used to wear for roof exercises in the old place before the roof terrace burnt to a crisp. And fuelled by a fury from a text message I’d received I stomped out to try and make sense of the app and do a run.

Having chosen Sarah Millican as my voice of encouragement, she at least speaks like me, I headed off for that first brisk warm up walk. After the five minutes had passed it was time for a minute running. It didn’t seem so bad. This was easy, I was a natural! This was followed by a walk then another run. Still okay. In fact there would be eight one minute runs. How hard can this be?

Very. Bloody. Hard.

The first run/walk
By the last run I wanted Satan to rise up and point out that it was my round at the No Hope cocktail bar in hell. Jeez.

The 25th of August would go down in the annals of time as being the day I lost my good sense and sense of decorum.

By the time I got home I’d caught my breath and though I looked like somebody had thrown a bucket of water over me it didn’t matter. I actually felt pretty good. I mean shaky legs is good. Right? The next run would be at the weekend. This time though I
would have the ex with me as it sort of made sense for us to do it at the same time. It seemed harder this time, my body had clearly realised something was going on and it throughly disapproved of whatever it was.

Things seemed to be going well. Sort of.

The third didn’t seem as bad as the second and I decided maybe it would be okay. Well except that the next run was, well worse. The same idea but the intervals had changed a little. And it was harder though on the plus side it now meant I only had to contend with six running bits. Six perfectly formed little steps of torture.

By this point I’d decided the best time for me was to run in the morning as otherwise I would get home feeling too tired to go out again. Ladies and gentlemen, I had a routine!

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I would *leap out of bed, pull on my running clothes, head out in to the dawn and listen to Sarah both encouraging me and giving tips. She’s a canny lass.

There was an upside to all this, I was getting to see some spectacular sunrises as summer drifted in to autumn and the sun gradually sunk lower in the sky. And there were more useful benefits, my recovery time was definitely better, my heart rate and breathing becoming normal far more quickly. It was still horrible but now it was doable horrible and whilst I couldn’t quite see how I could manage to run for thirty minutes I could see that Sarah really believed it.

By week five things were getting serious, three five minute runs with a pair of breaks. But day two was different, run eight minutes twice with a break. That wasn’t so bad. Or at least it was better than what happened on Friday and day three… Run. Twenty. Minutes.

What? No, no, no, no. I can’t do that.

Turns out sometimes I’m wrong.

Week six followed a similar changing pattern but things were getting longer. Oh crikey. Friday though… Twenty five minutes. I was by now urging myself on by saying run to the next lamppost. Or any other handy landmark that was a very short distance away. It was a case of mind over body and body was presenting a very persuasive argument.

Week seven took me by surprise, I was expecting it of course, but what I wasn’t expecting was being back to the runs being the same. Or that each would be twenty five minutes. Oh hell.

Week eight topped that as we moved to twenty eight minutes. I also now had a problem, I’d run out of places to run. I had been walking to the Thames, then running through King Edward Park, around Shadwell Basin, through Wapping Woods, along the ornamental canal and then turning around at Vaughn Way before retracing my steps. And those extra three minutes… Dear lord.

The final week coincided with Missy being back in Blighty so we agreed that she would run with me on what would be my final week of the program and the point where I would run for thirty tiring minutes. Trouble is… She’s an experienced runner so our pace was up a bit. But. Incredibly…

I did it.

I couldn’t quite believe it. Fortunately I didn’t burst in to tears as I did when I reached twenty minutes but it was still emotional. As expected we ran out of track so we had to run on a way through Limehouse which I wasn’t entirely comfortable with but by this point I had to just keep moving or fail.

The second thirty minutes wasn’t much better. In fact if anything it was harder because I found that being tired has a massive impact on my ability to run and if truth be told I was running on mental and emotional empty. The route was different again, this time we ran along Limehouse Cut and past our old apartment. In fact we kept running all the way to the A12 before we had to turn around. It was difficult but doable.

For the final run we took the route up Regent’s Canal turning around at Victoria Park. We agreed that the trouble with the canal routes was that owing to the number of cyclists it was fairly unsociable as you spent a lot of time running in single file.

So what have I learned? Well the programme clearly works. And being tired is a really bad idea so I need to try avoiding late nights before a day I need to run. Similarly walking seventeen miles up and down hills and around Wiltshire is a really bad idea just before a run. I also learned that it’s nicer to run with someone, I suppose this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. But the big thing I learned was
Headphone health warning...
about me and about my sheer bloody mindedness in doing something I’ve not done in 35 years. And, incredibly, that I quite like it though this is tinged by frustration of my body and lack of stamina. Only time and effort can fix that. I've also learned that sweat and headphones are poor companions, if you look like the picture to the right after running then get yourself some waterproof ones. Just saying.

So what now? Well since then I’ve run another week and even this morning though I’ll admit the runs didn’t go as well owing to a number of very late nights taking their toll. I can’t promise that the first New York run will be any better but I can tell you this, I can’t wait to put the 100th mile on my running shoes.

Now that has to be an achievement.

*force myself to move as I really wanted to sleep more

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