Intervals!

Tonight was something of a departure me, my first outing at the club interval training on a Wednesday evening.

I’d often thought of going but a lack of confidence and a surety in my mind that I’d stand out like a sore thumb amongst the (much) speedier runners always put me off.

But, recently, a few from my Monday night sessions have expressed an interest in going so tonight, tenatively, seemed to be the night that we’d all go to see what it was all about and, importantly, to give each other moral support.

I walked up, the usual 40-45 minute dander, but when I got to Ecos I didn’t know where everyone started from so it took a few minutes to find them and when I did I hardly had time to catch my breath before we were off, running to the carpark to do the warm-up.

Yep, running to warm-up before we started the actual running! Note to self, leave home much earlier next time!

It was such a relief to see a fair few from the 30/45 minute groups on Monday, I immediately relaxed knowing that I’d be within similarly paced company.

So, after the warm-up runs and exercises it was time to start the sessions properly. Tonight’s was 9 x 2 minutes running followed by 90 seconds recovery which, for me, was walking around in circles just to keep active.

The idea was that faster runners would go much further on the way out but would catch us slower ones on the return to the starting point so that we all then left from the same place again … and it worked!

For me it was a case of not sprinting flat out – we had to do this nine times! – but to keep going at a steadier pace than normal for the full two minutes, no walking allowed. I know running for two minutes isn’t anything out of the ordinary but I usually pace myself – tonight was going much harder than I’m used. I’m pleased to say I managed this, my Garmin constantly buzzing to tell me I was going faster than normal. I’ll take that.

It was tough, I’ll not deny that, but it was also exhilarating and lots of fun … everyone seemed agreed on this, and plans were made to do it all again next week. I can’t wait!

Relive my run

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Running and my mental health

I’ve often considered composing a blog about how running has helped or affected me mentally but never actually had the nerve or wherewithal to sit down and write it.

But since it’s World Mental Health Day there’s no better time I suppose.

Then again, who cares about what I think? Who set me up as some sort of ‘expert’ on the subject? Who even do I think I am? You get the picture … they’re questions that get to the very core of who I am or, at least, give an insight into my own opinion of myself.

Full disclosure … I’m not a fan of myself. I’ve never been and I doubt I ever will. I constantly fear that I come across as full of my own self-importance, that I’m big-headed, that I’m needy, that I’m lesser than everyone else, a failure.

Earlier this decade I went through 16 months of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy until I was unceremoniously dumped by my counsellor. No warning, no gradual winding down of the sessions, she even gave me ‘homework’ at my last session – a pretty intense task as well – only to abruptly end them, not even in person but hiding behind my GP’s secretary, and for a long, long time that sudden ending to my weekly sessions really hit me badly.

I just couldn’t handle it. She was a professional, she was paid to listen to me but even she couldn’t stick me. If she wasn’t prepared to do it, then why should anyone else?

Then I discovered running. What a revelation! What a change it has made to my life!

From my first tentative steps in putting myself through the NHS C25K programme to my first marathon running has given me the chance to escape all my worries. When I’m out running my only immediate concern is my next step, my next kilometre or my next mile.

Running has allowed me to process the current issues in my life, quite often bringing clarity to a situation where none existed beforehand.

Running has opened up so many wonderful things over the past two-and-a-half years that I would never otherwise have experienced. I have met so many amazing people and felt things I never imagined possible … the sense of euphoria at crossing the finishing line, the pushing of another boundary, the smashing of another glass ceiling.

I have all my medals, 40+ and counting, on the wall beside my desk but deliberately just out of sight. Looking straightahead at my monitor typing this I can’t see them, but turn my head a little to the left and there they are, in all their glory, reminding me what I’ve done and what I can do. I always get a little lift seeing them there.

I’m chronically shy. I withdraw in a crowd of people. I lack the confidence to engage with others. I worry (no, I know) this makes me appear aloof and unwelcoming when the polar opposite is the case … but my own insecurities stop me from being any different.

Yet, because of running, I joined my local club. That in itself was a huge leap on my part. I’m slow, I’ll always be slow and I really worried that I’d be like a fish out of water amongst the rest of them. A little fat 46-year-old alongside these athletes.

But, in less than a year, I now look after the club website and the majority of press relations. I often worry that I don’t do a decent job, that I’m only in the position because no-one else wants it yet when I get positive comments (oops, remember what I said earlier about being big-headed?) I’m on cloud nine, I feel like my very existence and presence is vindicated.

I can go to club sessions on a Monday night and feel I’m amongst friends. For a notorious loner that is a huge thing. I can go to races and be guaranteed support simply because of the shirt I’m wearing. That is massive.

I still worry myself sick before each and every run, even a short training outing. What if I’m even more useless than normal? What if I can’t do it? What if someone sees me and mocks me? I favour running in the dark or running in quiet areas for those very reasons.

However, I keep doing it, I keep putting myself through it even if sometimes it takes me all day to work up the courage to go out.

Why? Because running has really helped me develop as a person. It has taught me that no matter the hurdle or challenge in front of me I have the strength buried deep within to handle it, to face it head on.

I guess that’s the point of this blog.

Running is much more than putting one foot in front of another, it has instilled within me a belief in myself that I never realised existed before.

I’m not fixed or cured. I’ll never be that, but I am a much ‘better’ person because of running.

Apologies for the length of this post, and well done for sticking me out until the end, but thank-you for doing so. I hope I’ve helped or inspired you in some small way.

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Running to my heart’s content

Yesterday’s 10k took a lot more out of me than I imagined it would so it was with some trepidation that I went to tonight’s club session.

My thighs and my ankles felt dodgy so I decided to see how I felt after the walk up to the Leisure Centre and take it from there, although there was never any question that I wouldn’t go with the 30-minute group.

Because I was intending to take it really easy I decided this would be a good opportunity to try to run at a lower Heart Rate Zone than normal ie: drop to Zone 4 instead of Zone 5.

I hadn’t much of a clue how to do this and I didn’t set my Garmin up to send me alerts so I was really just playing it by ear. As it turned out I didn’t gauge it too badly, which was good.

Tonight’s group was quite big so it was easy to keep to a comfortable pace although I did resist opening up when the opportunity presented itself.

My legs felt ok once I got going but I still held back quite a bit. Towards the end of the session Emma said she’d be carrying on for another 15 minutes for those that wanted to follow her so I broke off with the splinter group to get a wee bit extra in my legs.

We ran up to Tesco’s – a steady incline – before turning to come back down again. Maybe it was benefits of the hills from yesterday but I did loosen up a fair bit going up, feeling quite comfortable although still not really pushing it.

I then ran home to bring my total running time up to 50 minutes or thereabouts. All very relaxed and just what I needed after Sunday.

Relive my run