Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The poor woman's mid-life crisis? Endurance sports!

Eight months ago, I couldn't run for a bus.

Two days ago, I ran a 30km (18.5mile) training run in preparation for the 2014 Berlin Marathon, which takes place on 28th September in less than 5 weeks.

Along the way I've ....

  • Stopped smoking 
  • Cut back dramatically on the wine
  • And the cake
  • Lost 20lbs
  • Fixed my post baby body
  • Repaired an old back injury (tipsy topple down the stairs of a double decker bus)
  • Made new friends
  • Built self-esteem and a greater sense of possibility and accomplishment
  • Gained the strength and energy to be an active and involved 43 year old mum to a very active and energetic 2 year old
I'm still 20lbs overweight and my running pace is slow slow slow. I don't look pretty when I run, but I sure look happy and I get to the finish line in my own good time. 

One of the reasons I've got this far, I am sure, is that I have always included walk breaks in my runs. From the beginning, I used the couch to 5km iphone app to get me going. At the start, running for 30 seconds felt like climbing a mountain.

When the app pushed forward to running all the way, I stopped using it. Put simply, I needed those walk breaks and I quickly settled in to running 8 minutes and walking 2 minutes. It felt comfortable and I was convinced that it would only be a matter of time before I could ditch my walk breaks altogether.

Then I discovered Jeff Galloway's book "Marathon: You Can Do It". Based on my pace, Jeff was telling me that I should be running 3 minutes and walking 1 minute - what a result. He was also telling me that it was a perfectly fine strategy for completing a marathon. Being a bit of a geek, I ran the numbers on a spreadsheet and sure enough, those 1 minute walk breaks would make very little difference to my overall time.

What a result!

And that's what I've been doing ever since. All the way to 30km. Whoop whoop!!

So much of this running stuff really is in your head, it turns out, and Jeff lays out strategies for that too. Of course, something else may work better for you. We are all so different physiologically and mentally. But my point is, that if a really overweight and really quite sad person like me as I was can do it, then it has to be achievable for so many other folks too.

The one thing that has supported me all along the way (apart from family and friends of course) has been an underlying belief that I could do this. One of the foundations for that belief was laid by supporting other people at endurance events. Seeing the participants of all ages, shapes an sizes finishing events that sometimes lasted 15 hours, really gave me the sense that with committed training I could complete a marathon. 

Once I had decided that I was going to run the Berlin Marathon in 2014, I had to act. I gave up smoking just like that after 30 years. It turns out, that I had just needed to find something that I wanted to do more than smoke. And something that I wanted to do more than drink buckets of wine. And something that I wanted to do more than eat cake for breakfast. And at the beginning, taking control of those things felt really easy compared with the prospect of running 26.2 miles. 

Squeezing in the training has been tricky at times. I'm a single mum and self-employed full time in the headhunting sector, so there's not a lot of free time in my days. But it has so been worth it and I hope that one day I'll be running races with my son. Hopefully, I'll be a little bit quicker by then, but I actually think I'll get more of a buzz out of running further. Every time I run further than I've run before, it just blows my mind and my recent half marathon at Kimbolton Castle was one of the best days of my life so far.

Or maybe I'll swim the channel.

As someone said to me recently ... "ah yes endurance sports ... the poor man's mid-life crisis".

That may well be so, but I feel better, stronger and more alive than I've felt for 30 years, and I'm planning on feeling even better next year. 

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