Today I ran 5K.
In terms of expressions I never thought I’d use, that is right up there with “I’ve decided to become teetotal”, “I wish I could spend more time shopping” and “I’m really looking forward to watching an Eastenders marathon this weekend”.
I have always believed that there are only two good reasons for running: running to catch something (usually a bus), or running away from something.
So how did I end up not only committing myself to a Couch to 5K programme but, against all the odds, seeing it through to the bitter end?
It is not that I am a total stranger to exercise: for a long time I used a gym quite regularly. However, a few years ago I had a bit of a mishap on a treadmill resulting in injury (people who know me will be laughing at this point, but I refuse to elaborate further!). I used that incident to build a flimsy defence of dumping the gym and haven’t been back since.
At that time I decided that it would be much better to just go out running and cycling in the real world. That lasted a couple of weeks and then, predictably, petered out.
After a while it became clear that the gym had been helping me to stave off at least some of the consequences of my exuberant eating and drinking habits. I gained weight. I began to take on the appearance of an international wok smuggler and not, as one of my friends kindly pointed out, a very good one.
And so I decided to try a couch to 5K programme using a free app downloaded onto my phone.
For those of you not familiar with the concept, couch to 5K gently guides the unfit on a journey starting with short bursts of running interspersed with walking, through to being able to run for 35 minutes. This takes place over eight weeks.
I was never going to do it over eight weeks.
The eight week programme assumes you are going to run three times per week. That was never going to happen. I was lucky to fit in one or two runs a week.
Nonetheless I made good, steady progress up until the point that I could run for 20 minutes, but then things started to go wrong.
I have lots of excuses: illness, injury, shoe malfunction, holidays…
But there was also a good degree of laziness and lack of dedication.
I got up to 30 minutes a couple of times, but then had to regress. The final 5 minutes eluded me. It was frustrating.
And then, finally, after many months, today I did it!
In fact, because the programme is based on time rather than distance, I ran more than 5K. I was actually running 5K at 30 minutes, so I managed to achieve the objective just before my 50th birthday, but completing the programme was my target. I actually ran 5.9 Km.
I have learnt a number of things throughout this long and painful journey so, in case you are tempted to follow my lead, I’ll share them with you.
- Before I started the programme I thought I didn’t like running. Now I KNOW I don’t like running.
I have friends who run and they tell me they enjoy it. It releases feel good endorphins or some such; it gives them a high. I don’t think I have that type of endorphin. My feel good endorphins seem more inclined to show themselves when I am sat in a nice warm pub with a pint of beer.
It’s not that I don’t feel good after a run, I do. But I feel good in the same way that I would feel good when I stopped banging my head against a wall, or when I stopped watching an Eastenders marathon.
- Car Drivers can be real arseholes
It doesn’t matter how much you are obviously suffering nor how little an inconvenience it would be to them, car drivers hardly ever give way. If you are one of the 1% that do, thank you. I imagine you run too.
Car drivers also park on the pavement in the most annoying way. In fact, on one occasion a car driver actually pulled up onto the pavement, driving toward me as I was trying to run along the same pavement. Unfortunately I didn’t have the energy to run over the top of his car as I would have liked; instead I had to risk life and limb and run around him on the road – you know, that place where cars are supposed to be.
- Pedestrians can be real arseholes too
Pavements are not that wide, but it doesn’t seem to deter people from walking two abreast even when there is a sweaty, panting person on the verge of a heart attack clearly needing to pass. Pushchairs are even worse, and don’t get me started on dog walkers who like to stay as far away from their dog as possible, but stay attached to them by a barely visible trip hazard/ lead.
And then there is the “I’m just going to stand in the middle of the pavement and stare gormlessly at my phone totally oblivious of the world around me” pedestrian. I quite like running up to them to see how close I can get before they jump.
- Running may make me even more cranky and intolerant than usual
See points 2 and 3 above.
- There is no such thing as a flat road
When you are in the comfort of your car, you could be mistaken in believing that most roads are more or less flat. They are not. They are all uphill.
- Our pavements are in an atrocious state
In addition to parked cars and ignorant pedestrians, I have frequently been forced off the pavement due to street furniture and overgrown verges sprouting brambles and nettles.
- If a lazy, unmotivated, unfit person like me can run 5K pretty much anyone can
Also, if I can do this, what else can I accomplish if I put my mind to it?
So that’s that. Will I manage to maintain my enthusiasm and continue running now the motivation of completing the programme is gone?
Maybe I need a new challenge.
Can anyone recommend a good 5K to couch app?