Ballymena Runners 9.1

fullsizerender-31At the risk of sounding like the infamous Jay from The Inbetweeners I want to declare the following:- “Couch to 5k? Completed it, mate!”

Yep, that’s right, tonight was the final leg of the Ballymena Runners C25K programme – the closing 30 minute run, the objective the 40-strong group had been working towards since early September.

I’ll miss it. Granted, there were some nights I was worried sick about it, nights I failed to possess the slightest bit of belief that I could complete whatever the schedule that week demanded – never mind having to do it twice more on my own.

But, little by little, I worked my way through it. As I’ve said before, going out for a long time or for a long distance wasn’t an issue to me – but running non-stop very definitely was.

I struggled to go more than a few minutes at a time before my brain told my legs to start walking again and, try as I might, my head always won.

Not any more. With the help of Ballymena Runners and the others in the group I think I’ve cracked it. I go out on runs now knowing I’ll be more or less going non-stop.

Admttedly, I haven’t tested it over anything more than half-an-hour but that’s something I’ll continue to push, adding a couple of minutes each week. I’ll look for a 5k-10k plan and follow that to bring me up to an hour, whilst incorporating it into my marathon training.

Anyway, what about tonight? We had been very fortunate so far with the weather, there hasn’t been a drop of rain throughout the previous eight weeks …… but, boy, didn’t we pay for that tonight?

There was so much rain today that I began to question whether I was going out for a run or starting triathlon training! Getting ready beforehand, I began to regret not buying a pair of flippers on Sunday instead of new trainers.

(Oh, for the record, I wore my old Asics tonight ….. partly for sentimental reasons and partly I wasn’t sure what the grip would be like on my new pair given it was so wet, I’ll wear them for short runs over the next few days to break them in properly.)

Making my way over to the assembly point, it was noticeable that numbers were down from previous weeks. Was it because of the weather? Was it because 30 minutes was a run too far for some people? Who knows …. but there was still a healthy turnout, so well done to all those who, like me, turned up for every run.

Before setting off someone from the local council – who had encouraged Ballymena Runners to organise these courses – turned up to say a few words and congratulate us, which was a nice touch.

There was a confidence amongst the group that I hadn’t detected in previous weeks. We had done all the hard work, we’d reached the end of the line and now, tonight, we were going to enjoy our lap of honour.

After the usual walk to the starting point – although maybe Noah could have turned up to give us a lift in that big boat of his – we set off.

Because, perhaps, this was the longest run, the pace was down a little from previous weeks, maybe people were scared to go off too quickly or maybe they just wanted to savour the experience.

To be honest, I didn’t really mind. My left calf cramped this morning going down the stairs for some unknown reason so I’d been icing it all day and whilst it felt grand this evening I still didn’t want to push myself too much.

The run was fine, there were no issues. Well, none apart from my glasses becoming next to useless because of the rain, so there were times – when the lighting was poor – I had to almost feel my way along for fear of going on my hoop!

As we approached the final few minutes I suddenly found myself out the front of the group on my own. Not that I was the fastest, we had looped and turned back just a moment or two earlier, but it was near the finish and in my local area so I quite enjoyed the possibility that a casual observer might see me leading the pack ….. and I did put in a little bit extra effort as well for that very reason!

Then the whistle went to signal the end of the 30 minutes. We all congratulated each other on a job well done, it felt good to get to the end.

So what next? Of immediate priority for me – even though it’s not required because it’s finished – is to complete tonight’s run two more times this week on my own.

After that, Ballymena Runners have training nights on Monday and Wednesday so my objective is to join the club and go to, at least, the Monday night 30-minute session. That’ll be faster than I’ve been used to, but it’ll challenge me and improve me and is exactly what I want and need.

Then, next Tuesday, is our graduation night – a meal at Montgomery’s in the town centre during which we’ll be presented with our finisher t-shirts. It should be a good night out.

As I said at the start, I’ll miss my Tuesday night runs with the group but, hopefully, by joining the club I’ll fall in with people of a similar pace and with similar targets and maybe find suitable training partners. As much as I enjoy the solitude of solo runs, I’ve also found that it’s nice to have company.

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