Running. An old friend of mine who I frequently fall in and out of love with; its simplistic charm and our long mornings together but the unruly weight over your shoulders to beat that PB.
I’ve been an off and on runner now for about four years and each time I have to start from scratch with little or no fitness from the get go.
Many people call what I do the ‘couch to 5k challenge’, which is great and basically symbolises what I’m trying to achieve; I just don’t put too much emphasis on the word ‘challenge’ put you off going ahead and giving it a go.
Before I get off the couch, I find a route that will suit. I just use GoogleMaps, however I know that Strava Local is a good place to find routes near you that other users have completed.
I find a relatively short (2-3km or less) route that will either circle back to your start point, or has a very obvious halfway point to turn back for home. Personally I prefer circular routes because you don’t have to look at the same scenery twice (bore).
Always head out slow and steady, even if I felt like I could be walking quicker I just keep the running motion up. Always keeping in mind that if I start to flag, it is okay to stop or just walk. This is all about baby steps.
For my first run I did 5k in 35 minutes (see below):
You’ll see here, starting off pretty slow but once I was into it, the pace was pretty even throughout, the pace of 11 minute miles is considered to be well-below average for a guy my age, so improvement had to come.
That’s 5k conquered right? Now what
OK, so I was pretty chuffed I had gone out there and ran 3.1 miles (wait, is that it!?), but you want more you want to go faster and better that last time. Yes, I ran 5k but it was slow, I felt awful. Sluggish, hot bothered and embarrassed.
Looking back, I shouldn’t have felt embarrassed. I was out there giving my all on a blistering hot sunny day! Next, I had to plan my goals. Making them as achievable as possible.
I wanted to be able to get under a 25 minute 5k. Sounds simple as pie, but realistically meant going from a 11 min/mile pace to an 8 min/mile pace (still below average guys my age).
Plan of attack
I planned out a number of runs varying in both length and intensity but also those all important rest days, I’d try to get at least two rest days in a week and aim to run over 20km every week.
Some days I would look to run a little further at the same pace, thus increasing the duration, some days I would keep the distance down but increase the intensity.
You should never be able to run the further distance at the higher intensity.
An example of a longer run:
This was only six weeks into training and I ran twice the distance at a quicker pace than when I started. I was so proud of this run!
I was finding it hard to find the time to run so I had to incorporate some runs from the train home, by taking the train stop earlier than I should, I was able to get out a 8km run and get home only 20 minutes later than if I got off my normal stop – not too shabby!
Here’s an example of that kind of run:
Look at that average pace! I was now 1 minute 30 seconds quicker per mile at almost twice the distance, than when I started, only 10 weeks into training!
Upping the ante
So, a breakup and subsequent moving house meant a new routes, new challenges and more focus. I was ready to hit it harder than ever before – going by the same principles. Longer runs had to come in the morning now as I was working closer to home, this wasn’t a bad thing as the views around the Cornish coast in the early morning are absolutely gorgeous!
I was starting to see some real results now, getting closer and closer to that 25 minute 5k goal I had set myself – I was gutted after this run, although this was a PB at the time, I was so close to the 25 minutes that it was gutting for me!
The fateful day
It was threatening to rain and I didn’t want to run. I felt lethargic and tired, but I knew I’d feel better afterwards. After a warm up I set off and within 10 minutes it has started to absolutely lash it down. I’m talking something biblical here.
I didn’t let this stop me, if anything it spurred me on and kept me cool on that warm summers day, but little did I know what it had in store for me.
25 minutes and 2 seconds – I couldn’t believe it when I got back. Soaked through but literally chuffed to bits – I hit my goal and I had ran 5k quicker than I ever had before!