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Unfinished Business

March 27, 2010

For your convenience, all this is condensed into an informative and ramble-free synopsis at the end.

Way back in October, having decided that I was going to run in the London Marathon, I thought it might be sensible to start participating in a few races. A nice easy 10k to begin with, I thought, 10k – 10k’s not far, is it? Is it? I decided that the Cancer Research race was the one for me but thought it best to keep this one under my hat – after all, it was my first running event, I had no idea just how much humiliation I was going to subject myself to.

What started off as a run in secret ended up turning into an enormo-running fest – all my competitive friends who liked the idea of racing each other decided they’d join in too. Oh, and then my glamorous and beautiful friend N decided she’d come to cheer us on (N, by the way, is graceful as a gazelle and runs 12 miles as easily as we might take a walk to the corner shop). “Great,” I thought, “not only do they get the pleasure of seeing me in running tights, they also get to see how incredibly slow and inept I am”.

I began with plenty of enthusiasm and expectation – 10k isn’t that far and running for Cancer Research meant so much to me, after all, my dad would be on his cloud cheering me on and giving me a “shove” in the right direction, wouldn’t he? No, I think dad was off doing something else that day, either that or having a jolly good chuckle at my expense. You see, I managed to finish, oh yes, but I can’t say I really managed to run the whole way round – I think “hobble” would be a better description.

Conditions for my first 10k were not ideal, unfortunately, I'd forgotten to pack my sou'wester

The race was a two-lap course of the coldest, windiest route I’d thus far had the pleasure to run. Looking like a 76-year-old walrus with a tomato for a face, as I run around the course, I use the term “run” loosely, I am intermittently cheered on by the lovely N who doesn’t appear to have a hair out of place even though it’s windier than a curry night in a wind tunnel! Do I really want to run the London Marathon? I mean, surely I could do something easier like climb Everest dressed as a monkey in tutu and flippers.

I do manage to finish, luckily it’s taken me so long that my “friends” packed up and went home five hours ago. This is fortunate because I was so humiliatingly slow that I felt I had to lie about my finishing time to avoid embarrassment. Yes, I’ve decided to come clean and this is why:

Back in February, as I struggled on with my training, the lovely @runitfaster was looking for people on Twitter who were new to marathon training and wanted some coaching and support. Did I ever need support, I jumped at the chance! At the time, I hoped “support” for the marathon might mean he was planning to run round with me on a stretcher. Alas no, but George (for that is his name) kindly gave me free membership to his online running club and promised that each week, he’d send me a training plan. He promised to support me and assured me I could contact him whenever I needed.

Week one, I receive my training plan, full of large scary terms such as “threshold runs” and “Kenyan Hills”. “Do I have to go to Kenya to do the hills?” I ask eagerly. “Er, no,” says George “THIS is a Kenyan Hill, you big loony!” (He didn’t actually say that because he’s very nice)

Well, the training plan is tough, but fair. I realise that my leisurely trot round the local park with a break to look at the birdies really wasn’t going to cut it. Week on week I began to feel faster and stronger (by my standards!) – I’ve since completed half-marathons with varying degrees of success. But I still had unfinished business with the dreaded event – the 10k.

Last Sunday’s 10k for Sport Relief was my chance to exorcise the demons (and I’d been exercising like a demon*) that had troubled me since that windy October day. Setting off to Windsor Racecourse with my friends the lovely L and the speedy A, I’d had high hopes that I’d shave about 20 minutes off my time – I’d be happy with that. Lining up at the start, I felt like a “proper” runner among those dressed as Beefeaters, badgers, bunny girls and one chap who appeared to be dressed as a sausage. I feel pretty positive but determined to put in a good time, even if it means kneecapping the sausage and the badger. Although – how do you kneecap a sausage?

The course consisted of 12 half-mile laps which seemed somewhat ridiculous to begin with and made me feel quite nauseous by the end. As the lovely L and I make our way round we realise something marvellous and amazing: no-one is lapping us! Crikey! There must be something wrong. But no, I look at my watch – three miles down and it’s only taken us 25 minutes! We continue on to the end keeping a good pace, then build up for our sprint finish – I have yet to master sprinting so the lovely L bounds on ahead, 20 seconds in front. I cross the finish line feeling dizzy but it’s the time on my watch that nearly makes me pass out – 54 minutes 20 seconds! That’s a whole twenty-nine minutes off my 10k “PB”! Better still, we get a goody bag that looks like this:

I even get a single, solitary prune as reward for my efforts. Thanks, Sport Relief! It turned out to be one of the most positive days of my running career so far.

Tomorrow I have the Finchley 20-mile run to contend with. Somehow I doubt it will be as successful as last Sunday…

The moral of the story: a little hard work can go a long way. I never thought I’d manage a sub-1 hour 10k, much less within three months of beginning my training. And the reason I wanted to share all this? The serious bit? Well, I’ve met lots of people, since training began, who’ve said “I can’t run for more than a few minutes”, “I can’t run to save my life” etc., etc. – the thing is, I was one of those people, I couldn’t run for toffee, it was hard to begin with, it still is hard. I haven’t given up on the 2012 Olympics (yeah right) but my point is if you want to try something, anything, go for it! It doesn’t matter if you aren’t the best, there will always be people better than you and there will always be people who couldn’t be bothered to do anything at all, the important thing is, you’ve tried, that’s what matters. End of sermon.

I used to be really rubbish at running
A nice man offered to help me be less rubbish at running
Now I am less rubbish at running, and I also won a prune
Tomorrow I may revert to being rubbish at running

*My boyfriend wrote this bit. He is silly, his favourite joke is about chips.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2010 7:55 pm

    Love the blog… you still have energy left for humour.. that is a good thing! You must be doing something right. I need to take a leaf outta your book and get my own arse into gear… 🙂

  2. March 27, 2010 8:06 pm

    Ah Jo, you are very kind to me. I am amazed that people are kind enough to read and comment on my ramblings.

    I think you’re doing more than your fair share potty lady – you rock!

  3. March 27, 2010 8:27 pm

    Well done you! 54 mins eh?? I got overtaken by a rhino in one of my 10k races!!

    • March 27, 2010 8:59 pm

      Hahaha! Excellent! Being overtaken by a rhino is much better than being beaten by a sausage, I’m sure!

  4. March 27, 2010 11:13 pm

    I love reading about your training – you manage to be hugely funny and inspiring without either false modesty or piety. Oh, and please may I have your permission to use ‘it’s windier than a curry night in a wind tunnel!’?!

    • March 28, 2010 7:11 am

      You’re so kind to me! Thank you! I don’t know what to say except, please do go ahead and use that phrase whenever you deem appropriate, but I’d love to know when you use it! 🙂

  5. March 29, 2010 9:25 am

    cool… im on my second 10km hope i can beat my 1:01:12 time before

    • March 29, 2010 9:41 am

      Go for it Mike! If the conditions are right, I’m sure you’ll smash your previous time! Good luck, I’d like to know how you get on! 🙂

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