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Couch 2 5k Week 3

2 May, 2011

I’m not quite finished with Week 3 – I’m two runs in. It’s only to be expected that the programme will make leaps ahead but somehow the 90 seconds to 3 mins transition feels harder than it should. Perhaps it will make next week – whatever that entails – feel easier.

I’m trying to remind myself that I usually get a second wind during a run which gets rid of the initial aches and resistance that my shins are screaming about.

I tell myself afterwards – see? You survived. And you feel ok. Stiffness is not pain.

I ignore the feeling that someone has strapped buckets of jelly to my arse and get on with it, in the hopes that some day soon I won’t be schlepping quite so much of myself around the park.

I put the weight issues aside, and remind myself that my poor little heart must be working overtime and that cardiovascular fitness is as important as fitting into those jeans.

I promise to run every other day til I’m at the 5k.


Running the Country

24 April, 2011

By inclination and by location I am an urban runner.* All the same, most of my runs over the past seven or eight years have taken place in one of London’s largest parks rather than on Tarmac. Sadly at the moment due to “Olympic regeneration”, it’s mostly like a ravaged war zone but you can dodge past the wire fencing and complete an almost-lap of the park which is three miles, all told. Not that I’m there yet but I will be, soon.

Today I finished up Week 2 of the Couch 2 5k programme out in the leafy environs of Buckinghamshire while visiting the in-laws. I saw butterflies, skylarks, and a bold hare who bounced across my path, eyed me for an instant and then bounded through the hedgerow into the fields. It was like meeting the Easter Bunny in person.

The other remarkable creature I encountered was nonlondinium-perambulatus. Bouncy, nippy and alert, they throw up a hand in greeting, smile widely and mouth “good morning” as you cross paths along leafy country lanes – or in one case, consciously turning their head to do so as they speed past at a healthy downwards clip. Oh my god, people who say hello!

That doesn’t happen much in London, at least not without building some bridges first. Regardless of ability, whether panting newbies who need like they need a hand – or oxygen – or aerodynamic performance clothing-clad athletes, you don’t get much chat out of townie runners. I remember years ago, obstinately acknowledging everyone I met on early runs around the park – I must have scared the bejaysus out of them all. At best you got a startled look – some people seemed downright offended.  I suppose our park does have some history that might contribute to that, or maybe everyone’s just in their own little world.  The local running club, while proclaiming to be inclusive and welcoming to all levels, in practice seemed rather more interested in someone who took off like Jo Pavey so I didn’t keep up with that for long.

With the advent of plethoras of podcasts and other motivational tools (Nike+ app to log your runs, Runkeeper and iPod playlists for motivation, a HRM to ensure you’re in your target zone) you’d think that conversation would be overrated anyway. But for all the tools in the arsenal, there are few that can mandate compliance – as in sticking to a plan or a training schedule. Yes, you’ve got the iPod all charged and ready to go.  But does that really get you up and out the door?

When I was at my most fit (about eleven years ago) I had two groups of people at my local gym with whom I trained: gym sessions in the morning and running club in the evenings. Even without the conversation to motivate us, we showed up – because everyone else showed up. There were always a core few and a periphery or up to a dozen who were there and ready to go, even on very cold or very hot nights, during celebrations and holidays or when you’d sooner, honestly, be at home, lying in bed, or down the pub. We stuck with it because you didn’t want to let each other down.  On those days when you felt like crap you still hauled yourself along because you knew someone would lift you through it – or slink off home if nobody else was around to play with.  It was a diverse group of women in the mornings: ages 18-60 something and sizes 8-28. Really the only thing we had in common was that we all kept turning up – but we did.

One of them told me that her husband went out running with a “club” from the gym in the evenings a few times a week and persistently encouraged me to go.  Only in hindsight did I realise that she suspected that he was having an affair with one of the women – he wasn’t – but he was the elder statesman of the group who appointed himself guardia and used to sacrifice his training time to run at the back with whoever was slowest on winter nights, for their safety, while others chased times.  With that group I ran early mornings around Potter’s Bar when only foxes were out for company, piled into cars on rainy Sundays to take on my first road races, and ultimately trained for the London Marathon. Only two of us won ballot places but everyone else took up charity offers, and we raised funds for our coach’s total – a fairly hefty £2000 between the lot of us.

On my second night with the club, our trainer Richard asked me why I wanted to take up running. “Because I want to run the marathon,” came of my gob before I’d gone three feet further. It was the instinctive articulation of something I hadn’t really known – but made total sense to me, after cheering on friends in the marathon a couple of months before that. Without that group I never would have made it around.  So while all the gadgets in the world will help you log and statistic-ify your training, it won’t get you out there in the first place. I miss many things about running – running without pain, the sub-10 minute mile, the ability to keep going for more than two miles – and I miss the people.  However for the time being I’m going to stick with the iPod etc – and keep dragging the boyfriend out too. By the end of the Couch 2 5K programme though, I may well be more brave…

*yes I’m still doing run/walk intervals but I’m not going to call myself a ralker, ok?

Couch 2 5k Week 2

17 April, 2011

Two things got me out of bed and running this morning.

  1. WordPress.
  2. The London Marathon

A week or so ago when I was dallying with starting to run again and stumbled on the Worldwide WP 5k and thought – yup. A good reason to get up and out. I downloaded the NHS Couch 2 5K podcasts and got through Week 1. It’s narrated by a nice girl called Laura who sounds like she’s from Berkshire, gently soothing you to keep going through a total of eight intervals of running. So my third and final Week 1 run was also my contribution to the Worldwide WP 5k. Probably one of the very slowest ones, I cautiously stuck to the podcast programme then tagged on brisk walking to get to my 3.1 miles.
Today is the London Marathon too and although I’ve more or less given up on ever getting to that distance again, it’s always inspiring to watch people and hear the stories. I’ll always remember being on the treadmill at the gym the year Paula Radcliffe set the world record – I ended up doing about 90 minutes myself, unable to tear myself away from the TV screen above my head. The magic of something like the marathon is the group camaraderie that carries you along. I’m training by myself which means that it’s up to me to provide the motivation.
Progress with the 5k is going to be slow but that’s the way to do it.
Two things have struck me as important over these first few weeks: no pain, and compliance. Yes, there’s stiffness and the odd calf muscle twang but no lingering pain. I’m very afraid of pain. Ten years ago I was utterly debilitated with two prolapsed discs and then a myriad of other niggling conditions such as the flattest feet known to [wo]man ensued.  Progressing gradually is the only way that I’ll make it through. Along with compliance. Picking a programme and finding tools is the easy part. Getting off your ass and going out there is another thing altogether. What makes it worthwhile is that regardless of how far or how slow I’ve gone – I come home with energy to make me bounce off the wall. There’s no feeling like running – getting back to a safe, strong 5k is just about the best present I could give myself.

Here we gooooooooooooo!

7 April, 2011

Ack, there’s nothing like a blog to remind you of how many times you’ve tried – and failed at something.  Being brutally honest, not much has changed in the past year or so, except that the scales have continued to go in the wrong direction, frankly.

So why am I back here? Fitting into a pretty dress for a September wedding is a motivation, admittedly. Getting a bit older, realising that I’m going to have to work harder anyway, and a fear of not only being fat, but dangerously unfit.


  1. Healthy BMI within 365 days
  2. Be able to run a 5k in under 35 minutes

It’s going to be a pretty intensive year. There’s a wedding (definitely!) and a housemove (hopefully) in there too.

My tools are going to be my iPhone with Nike+ app, and Weightwatchers online.

Wish me lots of luck.

Another go around

9 August, 2010

I’m thinking about running again. When I say that, I mean that I am obsessing about it. I don’t want to walk, powerwalk, or jog. I want to be going at it, pounding pavements for an hour or two, getting past that lumbersome, uncomfortable first wind into the place where I can settle down, head into the wind and keep going.

However, before that, there’s a few potential stumbling blocks. My fitness levels have plummeted. I’m heavy for my feet. Possibly for my orthotics too. I’m wheezy. My GP rumbles about exercise-induced asthma but I’m not convinced.

However my lovely boyf’s lovely sister is also motivated to get on her feet at the moment and so we’ve got tentative plans to do a 5k race. In theory I could be ready for one in October, following the Couch 2 5k program. It’s starting off with a ‘ralk’ element – run/walk for controlled intervals.

I’m using Robert Ullrey’s podcasts which are great, because I literally have no excuse: iPod on, out the door. Somehow I managed to avoid downloading the first one so I am starting at Week 2 – oops – but I haven’t had any residual pain or stillness so far so I’m hopeful. On the way around the park today today I could feel something wet hit off my leg as I stumbled about and wondered if my skins had decided to spontaneously bleed, but it was a leaky waterbottle.

It seems like I’m inclined to follow a program. Here’s hoping this works. For at least a week or two.

Vital statistics

16 January, 2009

I’m rubbish at maths.  But I know the figures for my run didn’t add up this morning.  I checked my pace about fifteen minutes in and the Nike+ reported that I’d done 0.47 miles.  I’ve noticed that over my last couple of runs, the overly-medicated female voice has stopped telling me my stats – usually how far you’re run on a distance programme or long for a timed run, from what I remember.  Perhaps the sensor is moving about too much on my shoe.  I’ll keep a better eye on it for the next run.

When I came home I used the Google pedometer to calculate the distance and it came out at 2.72 miles – better but irritating because if I’d realised that was my true tally I’d have stayed out a little longer, to at least 3.5.

I decided to delete this run so as not to completely bugger up my averages (20 min mile – no thanks) and also deleted the Christmas Day walk.  So my totals are a little off but the average pace should be closer to what it really is.  And that’s what I need to work on reducing.

9  :: 31:64 :: 11:06

One of those days

15 January, 2009

I’m trying to keep up with the best of intentions and for the most part it’s working.  I’m getting a little more cautious about the distances – after some twinges, erring on side of caution and sticking to up to 4 miles at the moment, which is plenty for a newbie.  Tonight I wasn’t totally in the mood. Then I offered to cook dinner for a friend after the run and suddenly it was like a promise “got to run, got to cook’ and I did.  And it went really well.  It was one of those days when you feel immeasurably better for pounding your joints through three swimming-through-treacle miles and remember why you ever bothered to start running again.

Not loving running in the dark.  As I still rely on music to keep me going, and the Nike toy to log the run, I’ve taken to having one earphone in.  I know it’s still not totally safe.  Though I was surprised at the amount of runners that I passed – all solo – so come the spring nights, the park is going to be mobbed. (I run on pavements and roads at the moment – along bus routes where it’s busy and on the roads around my local park, if it’s early morning or winter night runs).

The other thing that I really should really get hold of is some Cram tags.  Or a plastic keyring with a contact number on it.  Well the ideal solution would be a running partner… I’m thinking that if I stick with this until the end of March I’ll try the local club again.

10 :: 34:85 :: 11:25