Sunday 16 August 2015

This Girl Can (well sort of ). A Personal Journey from “Couch to 5k”

So I have set myself a new challenge.  I am not known in these parts for my natural running physique – I have two very big problems (and that is not including my rather large boobs). My total lack of fitness / stamina and my MS.  But I recently saw that “This Girl Can” advert, the one where normal looking women are doing exercise and looking pink, sweaty and well… normal.  There is a middle aged woman running up a hill and I just thought, “Well if she can, this girl can”.  So far, so good.

Not me (obv)
Next step – I agonise over a running playlist, purchase a sports hammock bra, find suitably baggy clothes in my bottom drawer.  The first session arrives and I hit the first hurdle: I cannot do up my sports bra by myself because it is so f**king tight and my husband is away and my daughter’s little midget fairy fingers are not strong enough, so I make my 13 year old son do it.  I obviously scar him for life with this experience, and the sight of his mother wrestling her boobs into some utilitarian undergarment will probably made him swear off women forever, but I don’t care because I am a mean running machine who is laughing in the face of her illness. So I set off walking (because the American lady on my iPhone has told me to walk) and then suddenly the moment arrives when I have to run for the first time in about 20 years.

I’d like to tell you that it was a wonderful moment full of endorphin-induced positivity but one whole minute in I thought my lungs were going to explode and my pelvic floor was going to finally give up the ghost and I would wet myself in full view of the park.  Luckily the American lady told me to walk again so disaster was averted for at least another 3 minutes.  This torture continued for another 30 minutes.  Anyway feeling smug I decided to look at my stats – wow I burned a whole 150 calories (WTF??) and actually only ran for about 4 minutes in total (FML???) I felt like I had done a sodding Marathon.

Week 2
I have discovered from other non-athlete running friends that the pelvic floor thing is totally normal (heck even Paula Radcliffe has had her issues) and that no, I probably don’t have flu, that’s just how you feel when you run for 2 minute blocks and you are over forty and overweight.  I decide to join Strava to see if it will allocate me more calories for my run than the Couch to 5k app (it doesn’t).  It also has the unfortunate and unforeseen consequence that every one of my truly athletic, running friends are now able to see that I have managed to run a whole pathetic 2 minutes.  I even get a “kudos” from a supportive friend (who of course has run 13 miles that week!).

Week 3
Running in the rain is amazing because nobody is daft enough to be out and about to witness you in all your heaving, sweaty glory.  Plus the rain masks the bad hair, sweat and possible pelvic floor issues. I think I may have shin splints.

Week 4
I am now running in blocks of a whole four minutes (read it and weep Paula).  Two old ladies, walking their dogs and having a crafty fag by the canal are obviously really impressed because I pass them at walking pace and then on my way back down the canal I pass them again: “Gosh, you must be walking fast love” – “No, I am doing a bit of running” – “Really love?” one lady responds, accompanied by an incredulous / confused face. A triathlete passes me going twice my speed (show off). I have lost a whole pound – I eat a biscuit to celebrate.

Week 5
On Facebook my friend’s kids have just run 6km with their Mum before breakfast.  So I naturally ask my children if any of them would like to join me on my quest to reach 5k.  They don’t even bother to look up from their screens as they say “No thanks!”

Week 6
I am hard as nails – I am running for chunks of 10 minutes, something which I haven’t done since I was 16 and only then when my sadistic PE teacher was standing there yelling at me from the sidelines. My legs still feel like lead though but I have taken a tip from my 10k-running hairdresser to breathe out fully to ensure I can regulate my breathing and it sort of works. I actually enjoyed a whole 3 minutes of my 45 minutes of running this week - are the endorphins finally kicking in?

Week 7
I am now running 20 minutes non-stop.  I don’t mean to big myself up but I think this is a massive achievement for a 42 year old mother of three who has MS.  My legs drag a bit but is that my illness or part of learning to run, who knows?  I have re-joined Strava so that I can feel bad about myself give myself targets.  I feel absurdly pleased when I run a mile in 10:46. (I bet Mo Farrah is shitting himself).  The highlight of the week is when I inadvertently join a local marathon event when my usual route takes me straight into the path of some elite athletes.  I have to keep pointing to my lack of race number on my chest to convince the stewards I am not part of the event. To be honest, the fact that I am going half the speed of the most of the runners is a bit of a give-away!

Week 8
I start the week full of excitement and pride that this is the week that I will finally get to 5k.  Of course, this is the point when it all starts to go wrong. Firstly, I appear to have injured my ankle trying to keep up with the Marathon runners, ominous twinges all round.  Secondly, the family decide to go camping in glorious Borrowdale and I map out what looks like a fairly innocuous route along some tracks and am genuinely excited that I will be running 5k looking up at some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. My smugness knows no bounds except I trip over a tree route and face plant onto the rocky path.  Well they do say: “Pride comes before a fall” smug cow!  I lie there thinking – thank God no one saw that and then take about 10 minutes to get to my feet.  Everything hurts.  I hobble back to the campsite. The day after, the MS fuzzy legs make a re-appearance.  The running challenge is put on hold. 4k is the most I have run to date but I have got the running bug now and am determined (when I am better) to go the whole hog.  Watch this space…