To run a mile (or three)

I was feeling quite chuffed with myself on Sunday. I’d just run 5 Km to raise a couple of quid for charity, despite my prior certainty that I’d be walking most of it…

It all began a few weeks ago – well, it began earlier this year, but more of that later. My mate and business colleague Pete phoned up and asked me if I fancied a 5K run for charity; he’d been roped in and was looking for a little moral support. So I said I’d think about it, and think about it I did. Until about 10 days before the run itself, when I went and signed up for it. No turning back now.

So I supplemented my gym visits with half-hour sessions on the treadmill in the evenings, running and walking in intervals, and getting my fitness up to some sort of decent level. And I came away with the impression that I could do the 5K in about 45 minutes, give or take – my 30-minute sessions were yielding about 3.3-3.5K, so I figured that was a good calculation.

I say ‘supplemented’ because I’d been working with a personal trainer since about March this year, with noticeable improvements in terms of ‘spare tyre’ size. Fiona certainly noticed the improvements, even if they weren’t immediately obvious to me. And I suppose I recognised improvements in general fitness too – although I still wasn’t convinced that a 5K run was going to be particularly easy. My trainer, Mark, had been working to a deliberately random strategy, mixing up the workouts so that my body never got used to what was being asked of it. And I suppose I’d been avoiding testing myself on the basis that I wasn’t confident that the results would be all that good. Still, I was managing a bit on the treadmill, so I was pretty sure I’d finish the event, at the very least.

It might be tempting to suppose that I’m being weedy about such an event (after all, it’s *only* 5 kilometres!), but looking at where I’ve come from might make it easier to understand. Three years ago, I was pretty overweight, unfit, unhealthy, suffering with various MS symptoms and not particularly motivated. And no way would I have contemplated running anywhere – apart from my philosophy of never running for buses or trains because there will always be another one, I wasn’t able to run more than about 50 yards! And I think I lost sight of that when it came to it, estimating my progress by looking at the super-fit guys at the gym. But I think I’ve come a long way, and here’s how I came to that conclusion.

Turning up at the event on the day, I was tired and a teeny bit hungover from a couple of glasses of wine the night before. Self-inflicted injury, so no sympathy deserved. But I wasn’t feeling fit, and I wasn’t feeling like running at all. Anyway, I signed in, got my Santa outfit, and clambered into what was to be my 100% polyester shell-suit for the 5K run. The pictures were hilarious, but I was sweating before I took a single step. There was a good-sized crowd there, including Pete, his friend Leighsa and a few of the guys from the 3 Peaks event we did at the end of August: Dave, Dan, Cathy and Shaun – the latter being a serious fitness freak. Dave, on the other hand, broke his back in an accident a while ago, so double respect for him. Not only climbing the three peaks (where I failed because of my knees), but now running in a 5K event. Wow…

So off we went, our group towards the back of the pack, and I found the going a little slow for me. Don’t get me wrong; I just can’t jog slowly – it wears me out! So I pulled out into the road and ran ahead a bit, fully expecting Pete et al to overtake me laughing any minute. But it didn’t happen. Needless to say, Shaun and Cathy were out in front, and I didn’t expect to see them at all. I ran as long as I could (overtaking Cathy!), then slowed to a walk – when Cathy ran by me again. And so it was to be, she a little way ahead of me as I ran, then walked, ran and walked. Coming around the second-to-last corner, I ran again – this time deciding that I was not going to stop until I hit the finish line. I overtook Cathy just before the last corner, and ran all the way. And ran past Fiona, who was waiting just before the finish line and NOT expecting to see me so soon!

And I finished ahead of Cathy, Pete, Leighsa, et al. Which is bizarre! Shaun, on the other hand, finished way ahead of me, in a 20-minute blast. Phew!

In the end, I did the run in a little over 28 minutes. Which surprised the hell out of me, not to mention Fiona, Pete and Leighsa (who’s a bit of a fitness bunny herself). I think that Cathy was quite surprised too, given that I hadn’t completed the three peaks and she and Shaun had! None more surprised than I, however. Former lardy git runs 5 kilometres and doesn’t die – now there’s a headline for you. Fi was inordinately proud of me – and when you think that when we first ran together I was only able to manage hundred-yard stints before lapsing to a gasping walk. And I have to give credit where it’s due: she’s the one that got me working with a personal trainer, which made the world of difference.

Oh, but I ached. A bath on Sunday evening helped only slightly, to the extent that I was still aching on Tuesday when I went back to Mark and thanked him for the good work. “10 kilometres next”, was all he said (smug git!) – and then put me through a workout of rowing (1000m – a new record of 3:57.4), deadlifts, kettle bell swings, barbell squats, dumbbell presses and sprints before I finally collapsed. You see what I have to contend with?? 🙂

And today I ache even more. But I suppose it’s a good ache; it means I’m improving. And that, I suppose is the point. I like improving, and I like the feeling of achievement. So I’ll be working with Mark for a while yet.

If you feel like sponsoring me, go to – apparently they’ll take donations until March!

Finally, I think that Mark’s website deserves a mention. Maybe he’ll go a bit easier on me in our next session… 🙂