I started running to get fit after a bit of a health scare. I just wanted to exercise and running was the only real option. (I live out in the sticks and going to the gym costs money and is a 25 min drive. I thought by the time I got to the gym I would lose motivation but running can be done anywhere and you can be out there as quick as you can get changed.) There is something therapeutic about running, after a busy day you can process and file your day and then just relax and be at one with your mind. Some of my best ideas have come on a run.
Running means the world to me because it can be done on my own terms. I have variety in hills, speed, recovery runs and I can enjoy being out in the fresh air, taking in the scenery. Running provides solitude but also with company. Running with a buddy or a group (or even during an event!) is a great feeling. The running community is a great place for advice and support. I crave and enjoy the feeling and satisfaction I get after a run.
I’ve been out injured during the previous 18 months due to a prolapsed disc. I’ve been receiving Physio and initially, I wasn’t allowed to run. When you’re injured, you feel like you’re never going to get back to where you were because you haven’t run in months. (And you sometimes make the wrong food group choices. When you run, you’ve earned a treat. It’s nice to have a treat!)
Recently I was told to try running again and I’m training well but I haven’t entered a race or even gone down my local club because I’m competitive and I tend to push myself too hard. (Then the injury spiral starts anew.)
The hardest part about getting back to running after an injury is confidence. For me, it was awful staying away from the club, but the inner competitor in me would mean I’d normally run above my fitness level so I needed to stay away from the club while I recovered. I missed the friendship because that was personal to me. I was lucky, my club sends out a weekly newsletter via email which was a great way to feel connected and members supported me to take my time to recover via social media.
Then enters the Global 5km, a virtual race where I could do my best and compete without trying to catch the guy or girl in front of me. And I was motivated by the challenge of posting a time that would at least compare to others. I wanted to raise my game and test myself to restore my confidence and see if my body would hold out. I wanted to feel apart of something and the global 5km hit all the right buttons; a sense of occasion, the build-up yet no pressure or time on the day, and I could even run from my front door. I decided on a route from my home along the wintry trail in northeast England. I live at top of a hill so at least the first part was downhill (I had to slow for a couple of roads to cross safely but luckily I didn’t lose too much momentum).
I felt great for the first km and I was about 10 seconds ahead of my target pace, aided by the nice start sloping downwards, gravity was assisting. After the next 2km, I averaged 3 minutes 30 per km and I actually became confident that if I dug in, I would be able to dig in and finish strong. We all have a sprint finish in us, just some days it is 10 meters and other days it’s 200! On the day of the Global 5km, mine was a lot closer to the 10 meters but I put it all in. I paused Runkeeper, worried that I might press delete in my excitement when I noticed my time of 17 minutes 22 seconds. I saved it, hoped it worked, and then double-checked the distance; 5.01km phew, it would count. 17 minutes and 22 seconds was the quickest I had gone since my back injury. (I have since learned that I received 10th place overall which is amazingly brilliant!) I was shattered and for the first time in at least the last 18 months, I had tight calf muscles the following day! I’m hoping that this is the start of my comeback.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from running is to take your time. Rest days are still training days! Without them, you will get injured. Listen to and act on the advice of other runners. Appreciate every moment you can get out and run at any pace and in any circumstances. Don’t think of injuries and setbacks as obstacles but as small hurdles that given time we will all get over.
Set a goal to complete a race, event, or join the park run movement or running club for the social aspect. You’ll find that when you run with a buddy, you motivate each other. (And it’s more fun to have a chat and a giggle.) Always encourage others because the hardest part is sometimes getting out the door! I am driven but I am also inspired by others who took up the Global 5km challenge and particularly those who have not run that distance before. I understand and share the excitement of accomplishment and the addiction that is the post-exercise mind explosion. Keep jogging everyone, we don’t know where it will lead us but I believe it will lead us to greater satisfaction, create better people and help us see the good in others!