I couldn’t run, but then I did.
Once you do a thing, you become motivated to keep doing the thing. So it seems to me, anyway.
My next running challenge takes place on 26 January 2014. It’s quite exciting. I’ll be joining a charity relay team running (swimming, cycling and, in some cases, taking the train) all around the UK. The baton has already left Land’s End in Cornwall and will end up, amidst much merry-making I expect, at John O’Groats, Scotland. Our leg is Southend-on-Sea – home of the world’s longest pleasure pier – to Chelmsford – birthplace of radio. Myself and fellow Lady-Adventurer Bloggers Jamillah and Cas, and maybe a few friends, will be covering around seven miles each. Comedy fancy dress may be involved.
The relay is part of Sport Relief, which is the moving-about-and-breathing-heavily cousin to Red Nose Day. Together, these make up Comic Relief – a Very Big Charity that supports organisations in: raising awareness of important social issues and…transforming the lives of poor and vulnerable people in the UK and across the world. To find out how to get involved with Sport Relief yourself (it’s for everyone!) see the end of this post.
Running from Can’t to Can
My last blog post (a while back now) followed a Bad Run. There have been a few of those since. But, there’s also been this…
…succeeding, on the 8th December in completing my first 10km – for brain injury charity Headway Essex – at the Santa Run in Victoria Park, London. Achieved thanks to the support of my fit brother; who could have stormed ahead and gained a personal best, but left his ego behind (although, admittedly, it is a challenge to retain an ego when dressed as Santa) to run slowly with me to keep my spirits lifted, and my feet hitting the ground. We had further support from across the Atlantic: my Canadian cousin Bev and her daughter Theresa (both hardy triathletes) got up ridiculously early to run 10k ‘alongside’ us. Amazing stuff.
My running story started a few months back, when I decided (for reasons that must have made sense at the time) it was time to overcome my assertion that I couldn’t run. It felt like a big deal, the first time I managed to endure the treadmill for 30 minutes. I started running in the streets: thinking I could attack running with the tenacity with which I attacked other fencers (a sport I enjoyed for the best part of 20 years.)
The great thing about running is that pretty much everyone can do it. It’s a natural thing to do. Watch small children or dogs: they happily RUN EVERYWHERE! FASTASYOUCAN! COME ON! However, as I soon discovered, when one is not five years old, or a border collie, then one runs out of steam very, very quickly.
After my ‘bad run’ blog, a wiser, more experienced runner – aforementioned writer Jamillah – came to my rescue. Go slowly, she advised. Go slowly enough that you can hold a conversation. Train your body to get used to the movement. We went out on a crisp, sunny morning. We jogged very slowly along the seafront and chatted continuously about communities, the education system, books, blogging, men, and many and other diverse subjects. We ran 7 km. More than I ever had before.
From that point, I changed my approach. For each run I started slowly, very slowly. As my heart quickened to support my efforts, I’d speed up. If I started to breathe too hard, or get a stitch, I slowed back down until I felt comfortable. As I neared the end of my run, if I had fuel in the tank, I’d speed up – going as fast as I could for the last couple of hundred metres.
Another helpful thing I learned was to stop comparing myself to other runners – to look at their technique, yes, but not to expect that I ought to be running as easily as they appeared to be. After all, I wouldn’t expect a novice fencer to have the moves of someone who’d practiced the sport for several years, so why think that, after a few months of running, I’d be as capable as people that had trained hard – and honed their technique – over years? Running is a very accessible sport, and easy to get started with, but to become competitive it requires commitment, training, good technique and oodles of practice. Dedicated runners have a good understanding of physiology, hydration and nutrition too.
Like a young Jedi, I have much to learn. But I have discovered the Joy of Running. Which is a bit like the Joy of Sex, but, for the most part, with less body hair. (For younger readers: I refer to a 70s instruction manual famous for including a rather hirsute gentleman demonstrating compromising positions with a female with whom, we can safely assume, he was rather well acquainted.) There’s joy to be found in the connection of mind and body, in moving, in being out in the elements and in learning to over-rule the voice that says STOP!
The more you do, the more you can do.
Look out for me running around your streets on the 26th January. I’ll be dressed as Wally. Honk if you spot me.
Team Honk – Sport Relief and how to join in…
The first ever Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Games take place from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd March 2014. The public can join the fun and games by running, swimming or cycling their way to raising cash at over a thousand venues around the country, including the landmark events at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
As one of the biggest fundraising events, Sport Relief brings the entire nation together to get active, raise cash and change lives. The money raised by the public is spent by Comic Relief to help transform the lives of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged both at home in the UK and across the world.