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I Run

In The Beginning there was Couch to 5K

I started running in 2017. After my first daughter was born, I wanted a way to keep healthy and something to get me outside. I work from home at a desk all day, so my life was particularly sedentary and I wanted to do something about it. Running felt at the time like the simplest, easiest way to get started and make the changes I wanted to.

I’d heard of the Couch to 5K (or C25K) programme, and grabbed the “One You” Couch to 5K app for my phone. It was a nine week programme, starting from complete beginner (definitely me) level, and claimed that by the end I would be running five kilometres in 30 minutes.

I was now out of the house at least three times a week in my white t-shirt, jogging bottoms, and cheap white trainers from Amazon. Granted, the early weeks of Couch to 5K are as much walking as they are running, but I needed that. Running for 60 seconds was hard. Running for 90 seconds was harder. But I was determined and I’d set my mind to seeing the programme through to the end.

In the end, it took me a little longer than nine weeks to get to that full 30 mins of running. Life can get in the way of all sorts of aspirations, and I’d had to put the training on hold for a few days here and there. The important part was that I’d completed it. I had an aerobic base that was capable of sustaining 10km/h for 30 mins, albeit at max pace.

Being a creature habit, I unintentionally repeated that ninth week of the programme for the next 18 months or so, that is to say, I’d go out three times a week and run five kilometres in around half an hour. It got a little easier, but not a lot. My body had settled into the pace and what to expect. I was conditioned to run that and knew how to do it. After all, why do anything else? I’d established that base level of fitness that I’d sought back at the beginning and besides, half an hour is a convenient amount of time to slot into busy days.

Parkrun

I have parkrun to thank for jolting me out of my habit of running the same distance in the same time three times a week, although it was my sister who first introduced me to parkrun, so more correctly, I have her to thank. We both happened to be visiting my mum on the same weekend in Weymouth. My sister wanted to do the parkrun - did I want to come along? Absolutely! I got there far too early, barcode in pocket. We ran together on that first Saturday and so I completed my first “race” 5K in a time of 36:30.

My sister had to go home after the weekend, but I was staying all week. I ran Weymouth again the next Saturday, this time knowing what to expect and what was going on. I wanted to see what I could do and ran it as a race. I finished in 31:49. I was a significant way off the 30 minute mark, which in hindsight isn’t surprising considering how carefully I’d conditioned myself to run one exactly one route in exactly one timeframe. I learnt two things from those early parkruns: variety in training is everything, and running can be fun.

It didn’t take me long to forget those lessons…