What is a runner?

At running group tonight I managed to run just over 4 miles, about the distance I struggled so badly with just a couple of weeks ago.

The wind was icy, especially on the town moor, but the company was good and my legs and lungs did what I was telling them to. I enjoyed it.

I felt disproportionately chuffed that I ran all the way, although full honesty compels me to admit that I might not have done without the occasional stops at traffic lights.

It took me a while to psych myself up to join a running group, but I’m really glad I did. Although I still struggle to see myself as a runner. I’ve had all my life seeing myself as not in the slightest athletically inclined or sporty, and it’s hard to let that go. I’m still doing the shift in thinking:

from

runner = being fast and winning things

to

runner = someone who runs

It’s not about winning, it’s about challenging myself.

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One bad run.

I’m not sure what went wrong this morning. I really struggled at parkrun. For some reason my legs and lungs just wouldn’t work together. I ended up walking more than once.

At one point I was nearly in tears, just past 3k, the point at which I usually feel confident I can keep running to the finish, I was walking and just couldn’t make myself go quicker. I considered giving up. But friendly support from a passing runner kept me going. And I kept telling myself something I read this week:

It is OK to walk…it is always OK to walk

7 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Running, Too Fat To Run

So I kept going. And considering I’d walked some of the way I did OK. Official time 35mins 31secs.

You can see where I walked.

So what went wrong?

Maybe jumping from 2 runs last week to 3 runs and gym this week was too much too soon. Certainly there is a lingering cough after the bug I had over Christmas.

Maybe I set off too fast.

Maybe I shouldn’t have run two days in a row.

Maybe I had unrealistic expectations, I got my PB while I was doing a 8k run commute twice a week, could I really better that my second week back after sickness?

Maybe my mind wasn’t in it after a cryptic text from my disabled son just before it started.

Maybe it was just a bad run.

I need to recognise one bad run as just that, one bad run. They happen. What matters is not the speed I went, it’s that I got out and did it at all.

Image from This Girl Can via Pinterest

I shouldn’t let a bad run spoil my day. And I didn’t. It was great to see people, to chat over a cuppa afterwards. I ended up snoozing when I got home, which is probably a sign that I am still more run down than I think I am.

I won’t let a bad run stop me. I’ll let it steer me to increase things a bit more gradually, possibly leave it a week longer before I go back to my run commute. I’ll keep telling myself it’s OK to walk. And I’ll get there.

Not giving up…

According to Runners World and Strava today is the day most people give up on their fitness related new year resolutions. I’m determined not to, so I went for a run.

Not a bad pace considering I had to walk the last little bit.

It would be easy to use selective photos to make it look like I run somewhere pleasant surrounded by nature, and for some bits of my run I do. But a lot of it is alongside the metro line and I’m never out of earshot of the motorway. For bits of the run I dodge fly tipped furniture and daren’t fall because of the broken glass. I love that among the urban sprawl there are still beautiful patches of nature that I can run through.

Running over the motorway.

The run went ok, although my stamina is still not great. I had to walk the last little bit. I briefly toyed with the idea of stopping my tracker when I stopped running, and decided I’d only be cheating myself. If I don’t record the bad bits I won’t see how I improve. So I decided to consider the walk a cool down.

Once home I braved my first trial by scales of the year. As expected the combination of inactivity, illness and indulgence in December has led to a 6lb gain. This is frustrating. I feel like I’m doing so well since I joined Newcastle Can, but for it to work long term I need to maintain the weight loss. Hopefully now I’m active, well and eating healthily again my weight will start heading back down. I’d like to at least get myself into the “overweight” rather than “obese” BMI band this year. And to contribute a few more pounds to the Newcastle Can total!

Image from Newcastle Can Facebook Page.

However I’m not going to stress too much about the numbers. Keeping active and being mindful of what I eat have been the two biggest changes I’ve made in the last year. I’m going to concentrate on keeping those going, and hope the weight loss will follow.

I’ll keep on telling myself I can do this!

Comfort eating and working out.

Mental ill health is unpredictable. I can be tootling along feeling OK when suddenly BOOM I’m unbearably low, unable to cope, hopeless. There seems no reason for it, no trigger I could avoid, nothing I could have done differently. It’s as if a switch has been flicked and my thinking changes. Every positive becomes a negative, every solution unthinkable. This happened yesterday.

What I can do is notice it. Name it. Keep telling myself that it’s screwed up thinking, not reality. Find ways to get through it. Make it shorter.

Even after a year of healthy eating my first call when feeling bad is still food. Yesterday I ate too much chocolate. It helps. I guess it’s an improvement that yesterday I only ate six chocolates, a year ago I would have eaten six bars of chocolate, a packet of biscuits and some cake! I’m improving, but the link between food and comfort is too hard to break.

Image from Pinterest (as is chocolate image above)

I also went for two walks with the dogs and got an early night, which is a healthier way to deal with it. I woke today feeling more positive, and hope I’ve avoided a downward spiral.

Today was my first day back at the gym, and I was slightly dreading it after such a long gap. But I did well.

Now I feel tired, slightly achey, but content. Which feels so good after yesterday.

Billboards and bright lights.

Nothing jolts you wide awake on a Monday morning like spotting yourself on a billboard as you drive through the rush hour! This morning I spotted the Newcastle Can ad above the central motorway. As I was driving I couldn’t take a picture, it’s the same photo as was used on the metro ads last year only now lit up on an electronic billboard! Such a crowd of people that you’d only spot me if you knew me, but a strange feeling to see myself up there.

The ad on the metro. Can you spot me?

I still think I’m fairly ordinary. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything particularly exceptional. I’ve started doing all the things I knew I should have been doing for years but hadn’t got round to enough – exercising, cooking healthily from scratch, cutting back on sweet treats. It’s been a challenge and I haven’t always kept to it – yet there I am on a billboard. I hope it shows people that if I can do it anyone can.

This evening I attended my first running group. This was one of my aims for the year and it’s good to get it ticked off in January! I already know a few people who attend the group, so I didn’t feel as anxious as if I was going somewhere completely new and unknown. And my confidence for trying new things has grown a lot over the last few months.

Everyone was really friendly and welcoming. It was great to set out running in a friendly group of women, with trainer and arm lights shining brightly in the dark. I have added several things to my running wish list having seen other people’s kit!

For the first meeting of the year the group was taking it gently, which suited me well. I managed the running, even the brief speed work (although my fast is not that fast yet!) The biggest challenge to me was the 3 minutes of squats, which I imagine I’ll still be feeling tomorrow. I’m very glad I went, and will be making every effort to attend regularly.

Best finish position, slowest time, same #parkrun!

I managed to get myself up and out early enough this morning to visit Gibside parkrun. The run itself was new to me, but Gibside is a familiar and much loved place, so I had an inkling of what I was letting myself in for. I was fairly nervous. My first parkrun of the year, still taking it slow after being ill, and yet I’d picked Gibside which has far more hills than I’m used to. In fact one of the volunteers told me it’s the 12th hilliest parkrun in the country!

This is considerably steeper than anywhere else I’ve run.

And it felt it! I was proud to manage a run up the hill to the Column of Liberty, but there were other places where I had to slow to a walk until it evened out a bit. I couldn’t even enjoy the scenery at first as freezing hail pelted down. However the final section, which is mostly downhill, and was after the sun came out, felt fantastic!

You can see how I speeded up on the downhill bits!

Gibside is also the smallest parkrun I’ve attended. My home parkrun, Newcastle, is massive with several hundred people taking part every week. At Gibside today there were 49. This let to the slightly weird situation where I got my best ever finishing position at a parkrun (45th) with my slowest ever time for a parkrun (38m 13s) at the same parkrun!

For a lot of the run I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, partly because of the trees but also because there was a long and increasing gap between us. Then I got back to the Stables where I was still labouring uphill as lots of runners were coming back on the downhill final stretch, and almost every one smiled and encouraged me.

No other runners in sight!

Gibside is not only a beautiful place, it’s parkrun has an incredibly friendly and welcoming group of volunteers and runners. I’ve never yet been to a parkrun that didn’t, but I think because there were fewer runners at Gibside there was more chance to chat to volunteers as I passed and more chance to chat to other runners at the start.

Passing the Column to Liberty in the hail.

I’m pleased with 38m13s, despite it being slower than my usual. For my first go at serious hills, while building back up to full fitness, that seems a good time.

Taking it slow

Having accepted that my recent running hiatus has affected my stamina, a conclusion I drew partly due to my failure to run one of my regular routes on Wednesday and partly due to how much my legs ached after the attempt, I’m going for a slower return to running over the next few weeks. Initially I’d planned to be straight back to 3 runs a week plus gym, but it’s clear I need to take it a bit easier and be more realistic about what my body can do.

So instead of a run today I took my teenage son and dogs out for a long walk. We did 5.6 miles in 1 hour 37 minutes, punctuated with a break for lunch. And that was with the dogs stopping to investigate every new smell and my son slowing dramatically towards the end!

It was a lovely walk, despite the cold. We sailed my son’s boat on the lake in the park, had lunch at Cafe in the Park, who gave the dogs sausages and helped me work out how to pay with my phone when I realised I’d forgotten my purse. It was cold, but not too cold while we were moving, and I definitely felt I could have gone faster.

Old dog standing guard while young dog relaxes in the Cafe.

Tomorrow I’ll be doing parkrun, possibly as a parkrun tourist elsewhere if I’m up early enough. I think two runs is plenty for my first week back at it.

I’m still keen to build my stamina and distance though. I’ve put my name into the ballot for Great North Run places, and am intending trying to get a charity place if my ballot’s unsuccessful, so I have a definite goal to aim for.