Tag Archives: running

5k A Day you say? Oh go on then…!

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One of my favourite 5ks…with my bike-mad big boy as pace maker

Lately I’ve been distracted and drained by negative things. I’ve let everything that winds me up, stresses me out and generally saps my positivity dominate my waking day and my sleepless night. So with the summer holidays just around the corner, I decided I needed to re-focus and re-energise myself with a new happy project to drag me out of the doldrums.

My 100 Happy Days phase phased out after an amazing week in NYC and after Day 48, I stalled. It was almost too tough to top such a steady succession of happy days. That’s not to say I haven’t had a fair few since though! Some particular favourites have included running the Hackney half marathon in a PB time; enjoying the great outdoors and plenty of giggles at Center Parcs; performing live on stage at the 02 Arena with Take That; and watching Federer and Murray on Centre Court at Wimbledon…but I digress (purely to brag!)

So on a quest for a daily endorphin high, and in a bid to get beach-ready, I decided to set myself the goal of running 5k a day in July. This challenge required a certain amount of logistical planning given our family’s weekly routines and limited childcare options. But I reasoned that surely it wouldn’t be that difficult to find half an hour in every day to devote to pavement pounding when I frequently find myself wasting hours of my life Facebook-stalking and Instagramming my lunch.

The first few days felt easy, fun even. My usual running routine is limited to three runs a week; one 5k, one longer pace run (7-8k) and a distance run (10k or more). So not having to run more than 5k at any one time felt a bit like a luxury. I also soon discovered that I could multi-task whilst running short distances. Dog walking can be easily incorporated into daily runs if I plan my route around the local park. My energy-infused puppy then bolts about my legs as I do laps of the playing field panting far harder than he ever does. Childcare can also be managed during short distance runs. By plonking the boys in the playground (with strict instructions not to leave the fenced area), I can run rings around them which is ironic really as they usually do that to me! I’ve yet to work out how to do the ironing and reply to emails whilst running but with a few days left to go to until the end of the month, there’s still time.

In a bid to be sensible and kinder to myself I’ve allowed myself one rest day per week. There have been some days when squeezing in a 5k simply wasn’t going to happen. Last Wednesday for example; after leaving early to drive to Surrey for work, I then had to rush home to walk the dog before legging it to school to watch the Year 3 Folk Dance Festival, whereafter I collected the boys from school, the toddler from nursery and the tea from the pizza aisle in Tesco, before heading straight off to watch an open air performance of Mr Stink as soon Dave walked through the door. When I finally flopped on the the sofa that evening, I’d have rather boiled by own head than gone for a 5k run.

But has it been worth it, this pig headed and fairly pointless goal of mine? To be truthful, I’m not really sure yet. Physically I am exhausted. My body just isn’t used to running every day. My shins are sore, my legs are stiff and I’m fairly sure my muscle fibres are refusing to refuse just to spite me. Some days I’ve run so slowly that when I’ve caught sight of myself in a shop window or car door, I’ve looked like I’m jogging on the spot! And when I’ve reluctantly laced up my trainers simply to stick to my schedule, my NMA (negative mental attitude) has added seconds to my split times. I’ve also noticed how much my diet effects my daily runs. I’ve often used my running routine as a way to legitimise my bad eating habits. Chips for tea or biscuits before bedtime can be justified when I tell myself, it’s ok, I’ll run it off tomorrow (which BTW really isn’t ever the case as a half hour run only ever burns about 300 calories which is barely a bag of crisps!). So this challenge has taught me that I really need to learn more about how to better fuel and condition my body for exercise, instead of using exercise as an excuse to pig out and binge drink.

I’ve also learnt that I run faster first thing. And getting up early to clock my 5k before the kids are awake is hugely satisfying. I can then enjoy the endorphin rush and smile smugly to myself for the rest of the day, happy in the knowledge that I can put on my slippers not my running shoes once the little ones are in bed. Conversely, on those tough and tiring days, the thought of having to do a run when Dave gets home from work is almost as physically painful as the run itself!

So with the figurative finishing line in sight, it’s safe to say that I’m looking forward to going back to my less demanding ‘as and when’ weekly running routine. In fact, I plan to take large chunks of August off as a reward for my efforts this month! Assuming I make it to Friday without injury or apathy, I’ll have run 130 kilometres in one month which is considerably more mileage than I’ve ever achieved before. And maybe my legs do look a teeny bit more sculpted than they did in June, so my beach ready remit has in some small part been addressed. But give me a week in the Med and on the prosecco and I’ll no doubt be back to where I started…but hopefully with a clearer idea of how to chase my thirties with a bit more direction and dignity.

  

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Why so weary? 

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My beloved running shoes that literally have my name written all over them but that I’m struggling to get into

I’m in a running rut. This has happened to me before but this time round I’m beginning to panic as I’m signed up to do the Hackney Half Marathon in less than 4 weeks time (and I really don’t want to pull out of my second race of the year….hashtag-sadface).

I blame New York. It’s all New York’s fault. Although we walked our asses off (28,000 steps on one day alone you know!) and I was very happy to take a break from my weekly running regime, I’ve struggled to put my trainers on and my heart into it since we got back. And ordinarily it really wouldn’t matter much as I could ease back into regular running in the same way as I’ve had to ease back into my regular post-holiday routine. But with the Hackney Half hanging over me, and with a handful of my super-fit runner friends preparing for the run themselves, I can’t escape this (largely self-inflicted) pressure to get race-ready. 

As a result, I’ve started philosophising why I run in the first place. I first started regularly ‘jogging’ (as the word ‘running’ is actually a generous and slightly misleading word when it comes to describing my pavement pounding, heavy panting technique) just after baby number 2 was born in 2007. My friend Anya coerced me into entering a 5K with the objective to run the entire race without stopping. We did it, and in addition to the flushed selfies we took afterwards, I have happy memories of that day. Thereafter I aimed a bit higher and entered a 10k the following year and then a half marathon a year or two after that. 

Running helped me to shift the baby bulge. Running gave me the opportunity to listen to interesting audio books or my much neglected collection of trance albums instead of Charlie & Lola stories or the Hokey Kokey. And running afforded me a little bit of status; “Oh, you’re a runner? I like to run too. Signed up to Royal Parks yet? I did that one last year…” Running was always supposed to be fun, and for the large part, it always has been.

So why can’t I snap out of this ‘reluctant-runner’ mindset? This week I’ve started to think up new ways to trick or kick myself into feeling motivated to go running. 

These have included:

  • Eating an entire Cadbury’s Easter egg in one evening – I hoped the guilt will force me into Lycra the next day. But it just made me feel sick! 
  • Buying a new sports bra – the temptation to try out my new kit did prove irresistible, for one run. Thereafter the novelty was lost.
  • Tracking my runs in miles instead of kilometres – going for a 5 mile jog somehow sounded less exhausting than going for an 8k run (it wasn’t!)
  • Finding an audio book to become obsessed with – I’ve been listening to Serial, a 12 part true crime story, in the hopes that my impatience to find out what happens next would motivate me to head out for some headphone-alone-time. But then I started cheating by listening to it on my commute to work and whilst dog walking too. Fail.
So despite my very best psychological efforts, I’m still feeling weary; it’s as if I’ve lost my running mojo. So what’s a girl/wobbly-woman-approaching-40 to do next….? Do I force myself to go the distance (quite literally!) and enter the Hackney Half to enjoy the accompanying sense of achievement and belonging, but knowing all the while that I will under perform and potentially dent my long term confidence? Or do I re-categorise myself as a fun-runner content on running the same routes and routines week in, week out but risk permanently damaging my morale and the chance to ever improve on my PBs? Dilemma!

 

#100happydays – day 3

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I clocked just over 10k in my running shoes today, despite the snow and sleet. Cue some smug satisfaction! I’d like to say it felt good but it really didn’t. Note to self…must get warmer, trendier, more flattering running gear for the winter months. Wearing multiple layers that included my university sweatshirt, leg warmers and a bobble hat, I looked and felt ridiculous. And I reached new heights of embarrassment whilst running past a wedding reception in full swing at Forty Hall. My pre-planned route took me via the immaculately attired, dry haired guests twice. Cringe-central! But my run today means that I’ve reached my monthly distance target of 90k; a goal that’s particularly significant to me as I’ve been recovering from a knee injury since November and have had to taper my training. What’s more, my weekend run is now done and dusted leaving me free to glug wine and relax to the max tonight, content in the knowledge that I won’t need to pound the pavement tomorrow. Phew!

I run, therefore I am…(ageing a bit more gracefully?)

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If someone had told me in my early 20s that I’d be a ‘regular runner’ in my early 30s, I’d have laughed them out of the pub! In school, PE class heralded my weekly dose of public humiliation and ‘cross country’ were swear words in my book. Before each and every sports day my mum would remind me that it didn’t matter if i was first or last, it was the taking part that counted. I was usually last (but remain eternally grateful to mum for always being the loudest spectator cheering me on).

Sports never used to feature fully in my life and throughout university; my definition of a workout was a brisk walk to the offy to buy wine and cigarettes. My friends weren’t jocks either. Occasionally someone would make the token suggestion that we could play a game of tennis or go for a swim but this would be brushed aside after a strenuous game of table football in the Student Union. Besides, I was good friends with the president of the Sky Diving Soc which made me feel suitably athletic.

When I first moved to London, my job and social life took priority over any form of exercise. After multiple interchanges on the tube and navigating through Soho to the office, my heart rate accelerated enough to satisfy on a daily basis. And when a post-work drink turned into a bar crawl and midnight curry, my dash for night bus felt like fitness enough.

It wasn’t until a Christmas at home in my mid-20s that mum tactfully pointed out I’d gained a few pounds; two stone in fact, when I asked the scales for a second opinion. I was gob smacked, dumbfounded and mortified! Til then, I’d never really worried about my weight but now I was panic stricken. That New Year I enrolled in Weight Watchers and my local gym and it didn’t take long for me to realise that I far preferred the company of health fanatic, fit people to self-conscious, depressed chocoholics.

And so began my love affair with running. I tried spinning, rowing and weight lifting (!) before finding my stride on the treadmill. And bonus, you could watch MTV and listen to music whilst clocking up the miles, which put paid to the boredom factor I had so frequently associated with exercise.

Admittedly my commitment to fitness fluctuated during the following few years but after the birth of my first son, my best friend and fellow university ‘jock’ suggested we enter a 5k charity race. On the day, having inadvertently ended up in the elite runners’ paddock, we started the race upfront before being swiftly overtaken by countless ladies in Lycra. But it was fun – a fun run and thereafter I tried to make running a regular and consistent part of my life.

Fast forward six years and three more kids and shock, I’m still running! Don’t get me wrong, I’m really not very good at it and when I say I’m going for a run, what I really mean is that I’ll be jogging at approximately 8k an hour for as long as possible before collapsing into a breathless heap.

And no matter how hard I try, I never quite look the part either. My running shorts make me look dumpy and my earphones make me look extraterrestrial. But even with a pair Oakleys and Dr Dre’s, I’d still struggle to look cool and athletic.

I’m also an antisocial runner. Running partners and clubs don’t appeal as not only do I find it impossible to talk and run, I’m also a self-conscious runner who prefers to turn puce and pant in private. The only company I keep on one of my runs is with Molly, my dad’s dog. Her silent support as she trots along at my heels is comforting but even Molly throws me the odd pitying look as I gasp my way up anything steeper than a slight slope.

However, I’m well practised at hiding my physical discomfort when passing fellow runners en route. From a fair distance I can usually assess how ‘serious’ a runner my counterpart seems to be. This then dictates the extent to which I suck in my stomach, steady my breathing and force a relaxed facial expression.

So, although my running habit is rarely that ego boosting or socially satisfying, I do it because running makes me feel better about myself. It can often take a gargantuan effort to drag myself out of bed or off the sofa, don my running shoes and pound the pavement but once I do, I enjoy the solitude, the satisfaction and even the hard slog itself. I’m no Paula Radcliffe by any stretch of the imagination but as I run towards my early 40s, I hope to do so with a little more confidence and a little less middle age spread.

 

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