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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Out with the old …..

fullsizerender-30I’m sure in any ‘You Know You’re A Runner If ….’ list worth it’s salt there’ll be reference made to having an irrational and illogical attachment to a pair of trainers.

After all, these are the babies that you train in every single time you go out. You’ll have a collection of tights, shorts and shirts that you’ll interchange depending on mood, whim and pong factor.

But, shoes, they’re the one piece of kit that will consistently accompany you through the highs and the lows of each run.

It’s like they become part of you. Get it wrong, buy a pair that’s not suited to your feet and you’ll pay for it. Get it right, and they’ll propel you to bigger and better things.

So it’s no easy decision to change them, right?

You know that day is coming. You’ve watched them deteriorate gradually. You may have dared not believe that you’ll have to part company with them but, as sure as night follows day, you eventually have to bite the bullet, bid farewell to the old faithfuls and begin as hopefully a productive a relationship with a new pair.

And, for me, that day was today.

I’ve noticed the heels in my old Asics Gel-Evate slowly disintegrate run on run. The foam and stuffing had all but disappeared and I was in danger of wearing them right down to the outer casing.

Now, I’ve had a very strong love/hate relationship with these trainers. I didn’t really like them. The colours are garish to say the least, enough to scare small animals and children. I found them heavy and clumpy to run in. I blamed them – in the finest tradition of shoddy workmen since time immemorial – for my bad runs.

But, here’s the thing, I’ve still completed every major run in them. I’ve tried, and preferred, other models but, when it came down to it, I kept going back to the Asics.

They saw me over the finish line in Hastings, London and Portsmouth as well as the many, many training runs in all conditions. Hell, my London timing chip is still attached to them!

I made the decision today to wear them for one last run and, perhaps fittingly, I ran to the nearest sports shop in them to let them have a look at their predecessors, to stare them in the eyelets and to give them the chance to school the new pair in what it takes to have me run in them, for better or worse!

img_4368Say goodbye to Asics Gel-Evate, say hello to Asics Gel-Luminus! I tried to get as close a match as I could, everything seemed to be in the same place and they did feel significantly lighter. They are also, despite the name, considerably less colourful!

I *might* just wear the old pair on Tuesday night when I complete the C25K programme I’ve been following. Being something of a sentimental old goat, it seems to me to be a tad unfair to retire them just short of that but that’s something I’ll think about between now and then.

Anyway, I did go out on a run today. It was Week 8, Day 3 and therefore meant 27 minutes non-stop.

The run itself was ok. I suspect I went off a little too fast because I began to blow a little during the middle section but I kept going and, in the end, recorded a slightly faster overall pace. Indeed, I’ve gone progressively further and faster in each of my last three outings which has been pleasing. My legs did hurt and did feel tired, but that’s what running does and it’s the same for everyone.

As I said, I went further and I went faster so that must mean I’m continuing to get stronger. It’s all good.

I would like to say I ran the whole thing without stopping but I can’t. However, it wasn’t my fault. As I was running along this car pulled over beside me and, thinking I recognised them, I slowed down just to say hello … but it turned out to be someone looking for directions. Seriously? Directions? Can’t you see I was bloody well running? What sort of inconsiderate bugger does that? There were people walking behind me, why not ask them?

And, as if that didn’t exasperate me enough, when I reached the sports shop the assistant asked me what I would be using the trainers for in order ascertain the best pair for me etc.

A fair enough question, and she seemed to know her stuff when it came to the difference between support and cushion etc. ….. but then she asked how long the marathon I’d done was.

I’d heard rumours that these sorts of questions are asked but I thought it was the stuff of fairytale, fantasy and exaggeration. But, no, here I was presented with the very same query.

I wasn’t quite sure whether or not she genuinely didn’t know or was just taking the piss so I answered v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y ….. twenty-six-point-two-miles (making sure to include that all-important .2!).

Her reply left me speechless: “Oh, I’ve done a marathon too, but it wasn’t as long as that, it was just 10k.”

I’ll just leave that there for you to read and weep.

Ballymena Runners 8.2

fullsizerender-29“Never leave a run feeling anything negative about it. With running, you can win every day.”

So says five-time Paralympic gold medallist Noel Thatcher MBE as quoted by Vassos Alexander in his book ‘Don’t Stop Me Now. 26.2 Tales of a Runner’s Obsession’ ….. and that summed up my run today.

I was scheduled to do 24 minutes non-stop as part of the ongoing Ballymena Runners C25K programme. Apologies for repeating myself but, once again, I was full of doubt and worry going out.

To the casual reader that might sound utterly ridiculous. I’ve done a marathon, half-marathons, 10-milers and other long distances so why the hell would I be worried about a 24 minute run?

It’s simple really. A lack of belief in myself and the fear of injury has restricted me to run/walk for the majority of my running career. I was running non-stop this time last year but then it all went to hell in a handcart.

Slowly but surely – thanks to the C25K I’ve been following – I have got my confidence back but there’s still that innate fear of failure before every single run that should I break into a walk my skewed mind will interpret that as a failure of such epic proportions that it’ll send me hurtling back to square one.

But, two runs from the end of the programme, it hasn’t happened yet.

So, back to Messrs. Thatcher and Alexander. Because I was so unsure of myself before today’s run I decided to try something different and listen to some more of the aforementioned audio book.

That passage quoted at the start of this missive came a couple of minutes into my run and, on reflection, inspired me throughout the remainder of the session.

I have found the book a welcome distraction. It’s only the second time I’ve listened to it whilst out running and both times I’ve produced the goods.

I was determined not to let myself down and complete the full run without stopping – and so I did. And what was really pleasing about it was that I covered more ground and went at a faster pace than I did with the group on Tuesday night.

Fair enough, it wasn’t massively better but it’s all about marginal gains, right?