Well, that was unexpected. Having agreed to start our training on Saturday, I definitely didn’t think I’d be writing about two 5K runs within 12 hours of each other in my first training update!
As planned, Emma and I went for our first run on Saturday evening. Visiting her family in West Wales, we took advantage of the number of people happy and willing to mind Raife for a little while. I mapped out a 5K run, although Em may have gulped when I told her where the halfway point was. And off we went in the lovely late evening sunshine.
When I started training last year, I started easy by running and walking at one-minute intervals following the recommendation of several ‘couch to 5K’ type programmes. Back at square one seemed like a sensible place to start given the extra weight gained since.
I always tried to break down my runs into really random sections, which gave me small goals of getting to the next one. I’m not a fan of kilometre markers. They always make me think ‘is that all?’. Instead, running along the canal at home, I have markers like ‘a normal dog walk’, ‘a full dog walk’, ‘This short section until the bridge’ – things like that. It makes the distances more relatable in my mind.
I knew that was going to be a struggle running without those familiar checkpoints in Emma’s hometown. I’d driven most of the route plenty of times, and probably walked a decent chunk of it a handful of times. But certainly not enough to give me those motivational markers.
The other big difference about this run was, of course, Emma! Running with her actually helped me to get past the obstacle of not having my checkpoints. And I actually spent most of the run concentrating on Em. Between her pregnancy and giving birth, it’s been a while since she’s done strenuous exercise and even longer since she went for a run. She found it quite difficult early on, almost to the point that I thought we were going to have to turn back. But I knew how good she would feel after finishing and needed to motivate her to help her along, which made me forget all about any physical or psychological factors – rhythm, breathing, asthma, checkpoints, tiredness etc. – that I might have struggled with.
We did have to slip to shorter runs and longer walks at times, but that was necessary for Em. I was more focused on completing her first 5K than anything to do with time. Come that finish line, I could see how tired she was and how much she was hurting, but also how happy she was to have kept going and finish it. I’m really proud of her for seeing it through.
Apparently, I’m a really good motivating running partner…(Emma’s words, not mine!)
No sleep, go for a run
That run was supposed to be it for the weekend. Just one 5K to get into it. Start the process. Get it under our belts. But then something happened. I became someone who goes for a run really early when they can’t sleep.
3am…don’t worry, I didn’t run at 3am!!!…Raife takes an hour and a half to get back to sleep. Then I can’t get back to sleep. Then the dog licks my face just as I’m dropping off because he needs to wee, then again because he needs to poo. Soon enough it’s 5:40 and I realise I’m not going to sleep, so I decided to go for a run.
I did the same route as the previous evening. Knowing how comfortable I felt on the run with Emma, I wanted to push myself a little harder to test where my fitness levels were. I kept at roughly the same running pace, but upped the intervals to two minutes of running and one minute of walking.
In general, I managed it quite well with a time of 34:34, which is only a few minutes slower than my average 5K time from last year. I struggled most with the cold and breathing. The sun rising over the misty countryside may have looked stunning, but obviously, at 6am the temperature was considerably sharper than 6pm the previous evening! Anyone with asthma will know that cold air tends to make it harder to breathe and often results in a very tight chest. I did pack my buff, but forgot to put it on. Despite struggling and having to use my inhaler within the first kilometre, I concentrated on my breathing and coped well for the remainder of the run, not using the inhaler again.
The biggest thing I took from that run, however, was the mental benefit. I was feeling really low again after the 3am struggle to get Raife to sleep. And I was genuinely shocked how much and how quickly I felt positive after starting the run. I felt fresh. I felt less guilty. I felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. I felt like a good Dad. I felt like I’d accomplished something. I felt happy.
Now, writing this, I’m aching. Big time. After months of barely any exercise at all, two 5K runs 12 hours apart is bit of a shock to the system. But a good one. I’m aching but I’m happy about it.
That’s all for this update. I’ve just looked at the word count – I’ll try and make these posts shorter in future. See you next week.
We’re aiming to raise £300 each for Mind, and we’d really appreciate any donation you can spare, no matter how small. You can find my JustGiving page here.