Taking the plunge

fullsizerender-34Tonight was a really big night for me.

After completing the Ballymena Runners C25K programme over the previous nine weeks I finally took the plunge and became a fully fledged member of the club – and tonight was my first training run with them.

I had long thought about joining them but didn’t want to until I felt I could hold my head up in their company and, to me, that entailed getting to the end of the C25K.

I’m not a naturally sociable person. I find it difficult to mix and I tend to withdraw in company. I happen to think that I’m a pretty reasonable, respectable and friendly chap – I’m just quiet, very quiet. That’s why joining a club was such a big deal for me.

But I did it. And I turned up tonight for the run.

Thankfully, around a dozen of the C25K people also turned up tonight so at least there were faces I recognised and some folk to engage in a little small talk with. One of the club members who had been helping out over the previous eight weeks took me and someone else under her wing, introduced us to some other members and basically looked after us.

We all gathered in the same corner of the room, looking like scared kids on their first day at assembly in big school! After the expected announcements we were then introduced to – and received a round of applause – from the not inconsiderable crowd that had turned up.

Then all the different pace groups set off, leaving us 30-minute lot to the end and after a few instructions from the group leader away we went.

He stressed that it would be an easier run than we had experienced over the previous couple of months, and so it proved. People stopped for a breather, we looped back on ourselves on quite a few occasions, we waited at the side of the road etc. etc.

Naturally that had an adverse effect on the overall pace but I wasn’t terribly bothered about that. I looked on this as my ‘easy’ run but one from which to pick up valuable experience, to run in a group and just for a change of scenery.

Things were going perfectly fine until we hit a short hill about halfway through. It may have only been 200-odd yards long but it was fairly steep. We had been warned about it and some chose to walk it or to take it easy.

Not me. For some reason – probably to challenge myself – I decided to tackle it, and to tackle it quickly. I’ll admit that it totally drained my legs by the time I got to the top, but get to the top I did. Hopefully I’ll reap the benefits.

After that the rest of the run was a bit of a slog, not helped that parts of the route were single file along roadworks in poor lighting which saw the pace drop to little more than a brisk walk. Not that I was complaining, I needed it to regroup after that blasted hill!

All-in-all, a pretty successful night. We were out, in total, for around 45 minutes although I didn’t record the standing parts so the actual running was just over 39 minutes. Hard to argue with that.

I walked back home feeling exhausted but also feeling satisfied that I had got a good workout and given all I had. That’s all I could have asked for.


To the moon and back

fullsizerender-33Given the week that’s in it, allow me to misquote a former US President. After all, January’s new arrival at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue isn’t exactly adverse to bending the facts a little so I’m not doing anything he wouldn’t do himself.

But, back to one of his predecessors. In 1962 J.F.K. gave his famous ‘moon’ speech, outlining America’s ambition to reach our satellite, long before John Lewis had any notion of opening up a delivery route there.

Anyway,  as I said, I’ll misquote him because it was this that got me out on my run today.

“We choose to run, not because it is easy but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

I woke up this morning intending to go on a run early on, to get it over and done with for the day but it was still dark out so I thought what harm would it do to go back to bed for a quick nap.

Three hours later I woke up with a start. Was that the time? Damn. Arse biscuits. Buggers and shits.

I didn’t want to go out. I had to go out but I really didn’t want to. Turning to Twitter in a feeble attempt to put off the inevitable I spotted one of those inspirational posters, a picture of a sunrise, runners, a start line and some quote about that scene making all the hurt and pain that comes with running worth it.

That was me sold, so out I went and as I left the house I remembered J.F.K.’s original quote and occupied myself during the first few minutes of my running trying to adapt it to running, my running.

I always forget that it hurts for everyone. Everyone. Not just me. I often convince myself that it *is* only me that feels the pain, that I’m the only one that wants to give up, that I’m the only one that questions my sanity.

Today I didn’t forget. I accepted the pain. And by accepting it I pushed myself on to produce my best performance for quite some time.

Given that I hope to be making my first appearance as a running club member tomorrow night I wanted to leave something in my legs so settled on just doing 5k. Not a massive distance but doing it would have meant I’ll have done my most miles in a week since Portsmouth so I was happy enough.

As I said, it was my best performance for a considerable time, I went a full 20 seconds faster per mile than I had done on Friday (and on Friday I’d gone 20 seconds quicker than the run before that!).

I felt pretty strong throughout, kept a consistent and pleasing pace all the way round, not really slowing and set a new record on my watch over the distance.

At one point, running around the estate, I was joined by a police van that was slowly cruising along clearly looking for some malcontent or t’other so I allowed myself to imagine that, instead, I was leading a marathon or some other race of note and they were simply my ‘security’, making sure the crowds lined ten deep along the route were held at bay whilst admiring and hailing my talent!

In reality, it was just me and them, and I couldn’t think of any reason why they’d want to lift me, other than for crimes against running!

Still, it was nice to dream.

Anyway, tomorrow night, joining my running club. Gulp! Will I go through with it? Will I be woefully out of my depth? Will I be politely taken to one side, reassuring and comforting arm placed around my shoulder and advised that, perhaps, this isn’t for me?

I suppose I’ll find out soon enough.


….. In with the new

fullsizerender-32So I kind of, sort of, tentatively, started my marathon training today. Maybe. I don’t know. I haven’t yet settled on a definite plan but seeing as this was my first run post-C25K I’m counting it.

It was also my first proper run in my new Asics. I set out intending to do at least a mile just to see how I got on with them. If it was a total disaster then at least I’d have done a mile and, if it was going ok, then I’d push on to do the full 30 minutes that I’d decided would be my maximum today.

I did 30 minutes.

Does that mean I got on ok with them? Largely, I suppose. My ankles and calves did burn up a little during the first 15-20 minutes but I wasn’t sure whether that was just me getting used to them, or because I was going faster than usual – a bit of both, I suspect, given my overall pace for the entire run.

I had done half-an-hour with Ballymena Runners on Tuesday night and half-an-hour today on my own and my pace today was 20 seconds per mile quicker – and given I’d done it in a brand new pair of trainers surely that’s pretty good. Right?

It was weird, though, because at times I felt I was going so slow that any passing motorist, out of their peripheral vision, would have been totally forgiven for thinking I was doing my own particular version of the Mannequin Challenge that all the cool (and not so cool) kids are doing these days!

The thoughts of that did amuse me, I must admit.

One interesting thing to consider is this – I was listening to Vassos Alexander’s audio book again whilst I was out and, rather decent of him, he was discussing running in new trainers and suggested that it would be advisable to do alternate runs in the old pair and new pair for a little while. That might be an option for me until I feel totally comfortable totally retiring the old faithfuls.

I’ll do another half-an-hour again this week, possibly parkrun in the morning, possibly not but I do want to get another one in my legs before taking the plunge in joining the club on Monday night.

There’s also a timed 5k in Belfast on Sunday, although it advertises itself as a race not a run so I’m wondering if it’ll be too fast for me ….. but it does come with the promise of a medal. Hmmmm ……..