Back in February 2015, I popped in to see my son and daughter in law. My 5-year old grandson Harry had just come in from school, handed his mother a crumpled piece of paper from his school bag, and said “this is for you mum.” His mother Carly reads out loud “it’s a 10k running race in May at Silverstone Race Circuit.” She looked perplexed!
Harry then turns to me and asks “grandma you can do this too.” I reply “Harry I don’t run” – his reply “Grandma you could learn to run, I’ll teach you” – what could I say? I find myself saying “Carly if you do it, I’ll do it.” Did I really just say that? I must be mad, particularly when I’d just celebrated my 61st birthday the month before!
Carly quickly finds an app on her smartphone, “couch-to-10k.” The race is approximately in 12-weeks time. The apps training is a 15-week programme, which means we would be 3-weeks short of training. We look at each other and say “can we do this?” YES of course we can, it can’t be that difficult to run a 10k! Famous last words!
That night I downloaded the app and scrolled through the programme to see what was involved. One of my concerns was getting injured, so my plan was to run 3-times a week, deep water running in a pool twice a week and yoga from home, which hopefully would keep me injured free.
The following day I put on an old pair of tennis shoes and my journey begins.
Week 1: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then alternate 60-seconds of jogging, and 90-seconds of walking for a total of 30-minutes. Seems doable, so far so good!
Week 2: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then alternate 90 seconds of jogging, and two minutes of walking for a total of 31-minutes. Walking feels good, jogging feels challenging.
Week 3: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then do two reputations of the following: jog for 90-seconds. Walk for 90-seconds. Jog for 3-minutes. Walk for 3-minutes. Total time 28-minutes. OK so there’s more to this running malarky than I thought! I can’t believe that jogging for 3-minutes is so hard. Carly is struggling with shin splints and decides to stop all together.
Week 4: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then jog for 3-minutes. Walk 90-seconds. Jog 5-minutes. Walk 2.5minutes. Jog 3-minutes. Walk 90-seconds. Jog 5-minutes. Total time: 31-minutes. Starting to feel maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all!
Week 5: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then jog 3/4 mile. Walk 1/2mile. Jog 3/4 mile. Total time: 30-minutes. Puffing and blowing like an old billy goat!
Week 6: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then Jog 1-mile. Walk 1/4mile. Jog 1-mile. Total time 33-minutes. It’s really beginning to feel like a challenge. I decide I need proper running shoes and visit the store sweatshop.
Week 7: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.5-miles. Total time 35-minutes. This is definitely hard work. A little voice appears in my head – persevere, you can do it! The new running shoes are working a treat on my legs!
Week 8: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.75-miles. Total time 38-minutes. Every day is getting a little harder, and I’m finding I’m having to psyche and chant, “I know I can do it, I can do it,” and if I say it enough times I’ll start to believe it!
Week 9: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then jog for 10-minutes. Walk for 1-minute. Repeat 4-times. Total time: 54-minutes. A 1-minute walk passes by too quickly!
Week 10: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then jog for 15-minutes. Walk for 1-minute. Repeat 3 times. Total time 58-minutes. Phew, that’s all I can say!
Week 11: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then jog for 17-minutes. Walk for 1 minute. Repeat 3 times. Total time 1-hour and 4-minutes. I make the decision to run non-stop. I need to know if I can run a 10k. The race is in 2-weeks time. No pressure! And yes I ran it non-stop!
Week 12: Brisk 5-minute warmup walk, then jog for 18-minutes. Walk for 1-minute. Repeat 3-times. Total time: 1-hour and 10-minutes. I made the decision on day 3 of this week (week-12) to run further than the app suggested. Although it was mentally and physically challenging, I managed it, that’s all I can say! This gave me the confidence to sign the form and commit to the race. No going back now!
Week 13: May 6th, 2015 – Race Day. Silverstone Race Circuit at 7pm
The big day arrives. Thankfully a tennis acquaintance’s wife, Sarah was also running, and she and her husband Chris, kindly gave me a lift to the venue, which I was extremely relieved about. One less thing to think about!
I arrived at the event, and there were runners everywhere, much more than I had anticipated. Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing, except me! Sarah showed me where I needed to pick up my number, and I have to say it seemed a little confusing to which table to go to. I eventually get my number, pinned it to my jacket, and waited anxiously for the time to pass.
Before I knew it, I’m on the race track watching the runner’s limber up. I’m sure I should have done some stretching, or something, but I was mesmerised by it all, it all just seemed a little surreal. 12/13 weeks ago I was walking and running for 60-seconds. Now I’m about to run a 10k race.
The gun fires and the runners are off. All I can see in front of me is a sea of colours getting further, and further away from me. Wow, they seem so fast! Suddenly I seemed very slow and inexperienced. Right at the back there’s me, and maybe 5/7-other runners who were happily chatting. Even if I had wanted to chat, at that point I didn’t have the energy to spare. Instead, I’m having a two-way-conversation with myself – “I can’t do this, what I’m I doing” – to, “I can, c’mom you can do this, get a grip woman?” We had just passed the 1km marker and already I was feeling exhausted! How on earth was I going to run a 10k feeling like this.
As if by magic, my fairy godmother landed! Just ahead of me there was a lady running at a nice steady pace. I followed her lead and stayed on her heels. It was the best thing I did. I became more focused, less anxious and dare I say it, I was settling nicely into a rhythmic run.
I was starting to feel a little more confident, and was able to take in what was around me. Up until then I had tunnel vision! The Race Circuit felt big, really big, quite intimidating and open to the elements. When I looked up to the grey sky I could feel rain drops.
As I turn the corner, the wind seemed to have come from nowhere, the rain started to lash down, and I’m blown from one side to the other. Within minutes I was soaked to the skin, and the funny part of it, I actually looked down to see if I still had my running gear on. I thought for one moment that somehow my pants had melted in the rain. Remember what happened to the witch in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy threw a bucket of water over her?
At one point it was pretty hard going, it felt like I was running on the spot, getting nowhere, the wind was just so strong. Puddles were appearing everywhere, and difficult to avoid. Every step I took all I could hear was slosh, slosh, the water just seemed to ooze out of my nice new shoes. Good old English weather!
Somehow, and I’m not sure how, but lap 2 was within my sight. How time flys-by when you’re having fun! As I approached the starting line (finishing line for some) there was a lot of commotion, and suddenly an orange van with a clock flashing 31-mins 10-seconds whizzes by me. I can hear people shouting, and I’m a little confused. I look behind me and see 3-guys running like crazy, it suddenly dawned on me that they were completing the race, wow!
I plodded on, still following my lady runner. Not far in front was a water station, I slowed down and grabbed a paper cup of water. The wind was behind me now, pushing me along, which felt nice, but when I tried to drink my well-earned cup of water, it ended up all over my face, not that it mattered as I was already looking like a drowned rat. But, it would have been nice to have quenched my thirst. Question – How do you drink on the run?
The next 3kms pass-by and I would say I’m about 2km away from the finishing line. My lady runner had now increased her pace, which I’m not sure I liked, but I went with it. Amazingly, I overtake other runners, thinking I hope I don’t regret this. I see the sign 1km to go, and feel quite relieved. The lady runner in front pushed herself even more. I did’t have it in me to stay on her heels, my heart was already beating like crazy.
As I watched the distance grow between us, I felt immensely grateful for her steady pace, and unknowingly to her, she kept me in the race. I crossed the finishing line in 74-minutes and 22-seconds.
I completed my first ever 10k race. An achievement that goes to my grandson Harry – because if it wasn’t for him I’d never have taken the challenge!
“The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes the race.”