Monday, 8 February 2016

Here is a post I would never have believed I'd be writing

I'm going a little off topic today to share a project that's kept me busy for the last six months. To be honest, it's a bit of a vanity post, so you absolutely don't have to read to the end,

In July I turned 47. On a bit of a whim I spent some birthday money on a pair of running shoes and downloaded the 'Couch to 5k Plan' running app for my phone. I spent August following the plan. At first I was running for just 60 seconds at a time, my muscles, unused for decades, complaining at every step, my heart almost whirring in its acceleration and my lungs labouring to fuel the whole enterprise with what suddenly seemed like very thin air indeed.

Over the weeks, my runs lengthened until at the end of August this happened:


The Couch to 5k Plan promises to get you to 5k or 30 minutes. Because of my relatively slow running speed, I reached 30 minutes before I got to 5k. But the thought of running 5k continued to inspire me, so two days later...


That was the day I felt able to call myself a runner. In truth I became a little emotional when the voice in my ear announced, "Completed: five kilometres."

Just ten days later and it was saying, "Completed: ten kilometres."


Even now I can hardly believe that ten days after my first 5k I ran my first 10k. It seems ridiculous.

Around this time, I joined Parkrun and started running timed 5k distances. This was my first experience of running with a group, which added a dimension. Until you run with other people it is possible to believe this is a private pursuit. Parkrun forced me (in a good way) to acknowledge and embrace the community aspect of running. 



I kept going. I ran three times a week, concentrating on 5k runs with the odd 10k now and again. Before Christmas I booked my place on the Watford Half Marathon, which I ran yesterday.

Here we all are ready to get going:


I was never going to set any records, but I hoped first that I would finish the race and that if I did that I could do it within two and a half hours, although I would happily have settled for three. In training I had never run farther than 17k, so I was making the assumption that I could maintain that pace for an additional 5k on the day.

Here is what happened:


This also happened:


I can't really explain what this all means to me without getting a bit blubby, but I'll try. I've never been fit, Even at school I used any excuse to get out of games, I think that if I showed my medal to any younger version of me they would be incredulous. Indeed, I find it hard to believe myself.

And if I thought it was all down to me I would leave it there. But it took a team of people. There are my wife and children who have supported me in a thousand ways and were there yesterday at the finishing line. There are the marshals on the Watford route who didn't have to be so enthusiastic, so encouraging, but unfailingly were. There are the Watford residents who came out of their houses and clapped and called to us all as we ran past. There are the friends who sponsored me, who asked how it was going, who egged me on daily. There are the Parkrun volunteers and runners who made 'coming out' so easy. There were also the people walking by the canal last August who must have thought the sweaty, panting man running past them who stopped every minute was ridiculous but never gave any indication.  I owe all these people a very great deal.

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