I’m reluctant to call myself a runner, but I do run – usually several times a week – so I suppose that’s what I am. I don’t really feel like a ‘proper’ runner though. It might stem from the fact that I only ever really run for about 30 minutes. I feel like I’m a bit too amateur and that referring to myself as a runner would be a a bit presumptuous.
Anyway, regardless of whether I call myself a runner or not, I do run, however this hasn’t always been the case. At school, I really wasn’t sporty at all. I didn’t hate PE, but I wasn’t any good at sports, and in my free time you were much more likely to find me curled up with a book than doing sport. I wasn’t lazy, and I did spend time outside with friends, playing imaginary games, so I definitely moved. I just wasn’t a sporty person.
It was only when I went to uni and found that I could join sports teams regardless of my ability (I went to Durham, a collegiate university, so as well as the really good uni teams each college has their own sports teams and anyone can join) that I actually started to enjoy sports. I joined our college gym as well – it was small, but I think it cost me £5 for the whole time I was at uni! I played football a couple of times a week, and occasionally went to the gym, and I walked a lot. I ran a bit on the treadmill at the gym (and playing football, obviously) but I still never really thought about going for a run.
When working in Austria as an au pair, I was asked by the mother of the family if I wanted to go for a run. It was a gentle 5km jog, and I really enjoyed it (the beautiful scenery of the vineyards probably helped!). When I moved to Austria for a year, I started actually going for runs on a semi-regular basis. When I moved back to the UK, I kept it up but on a treadmill rather than outside.
After a year or so, I moved and stopped running. I did 2.5 miles as part of a work team in the Leeds Half Marathon relay as a one off, and then didn’t run again until several months later when a colleague talked me into signing up for the Great North Run (half marathon). With about six weeks to go, I figured I should do some training so I joined a gym next to where my husband played football three times a week, meaning I could drive down with him and run whilst he played.
I’m going to stress right now, I had absolutely no idea how to train for a half marathon. I just ran on the treadmill as much as I could. I didn’t do any road training, which in hindsight was a big mistake. The Great North Run came, and I managed to run it (I think my time was 2:25:??) – I was super chuffed, as I was hoping for under two and a half hours. However, the pounding on the roads really hurt my knees, and other than one or two attempts (which also gave me sore knees), I didn’t run again for about five years.
Fast forward to March 2016. I was on a business trip, and had gone to the hotel gym. I usually just put the treadmill on a brisk walk and a decent incline in order to get a workout, but something really made me want to jog – I think it was just a need to get into that rhythm and completely zone out. I started on a slowish jog, for about ten minutes, and over the two week trip I gradually increased it. I then started to get a sore knee again so stopped.
Eventually I made an appointment to see a doctor. He prodded me for a bit, and diagnosed me as having a Baker’s cyst. He explained that it was a very small one, but that the impact when running causes the fluid in the cyst to move, which makes the cyst swell a bit (which in turn causes the pain). He confirmed that it’s not dangerous unless it bursts, which he estimated to be very, very unlikely.
Assured that the pain wasn’t a joint issue that would be made worse by running, in October 2016 I finally starting running again. I followed a complete beginners plan from Runs for Cookies (Katie had written a post about training plans and that gave me the push I needed to start). It’s similar to things like Couch to 5k I think. In Katie’s Walk to Run plan, you start by walking three or four times a week for 30 minutes each time. Gradually, you run more and more of the 30 minutes. The first running session, for example, is five minutes walking, half a minute of running at whatever speed you can manage, then walking to make it up to 30 minutes. For me, this was much better than doing intervals, as I wanted to get that continuous motion going. I also went into this with a reasonable fitness level (for me, anyway!) as I had been doing other exercise, so I could have run for more than 30 seconds to start with (although certainly not for 30 minutes!), but I made sure to follow the plan to ease my knee in gradually.
On 31st December 2016, I ran for 30 minutes continuously and was so overjoyed. To make things even better, I had no knee pain. I did feel like I was going to die at the end (well, not actually like I was going to die, but I was completely exhausted) as the last ten minutes were all uphill!
Having reached that goal, I needed a new one to work towards. After a bit of thought, I set myself the target of doing 5k in under 25 minutes. Running a 5k that fast would have seemed completely unachievable to me a few months ago, but I’m hoping it’s realistic. I might just be mad though…