First Race

I guess when I started to run there was always a part of me that thought

“I’m sure it can’t be that hard to get to the point that you can run a marathon!”

On reflection now I think I was probably mad to think that it was easy. Actually I know I was mad. The thing that I need to explain is that I’m painfully and personally annoyingly competitive. If I decide I’m going to do something I have to feel that I’m going to be alright at it. This is a trait that really annoys me. It’s a trait that means I often choose to hold back from doing things that I could have done. Physically or socially. It goes back to school and the feeling that it’s best to avoid attention and lurk in the back of the class.

Writing this blog has given me opportunity to think about myself and look at the journey I’ve gone through in life as well as running. Thinking about the impact of my competitive nature it’s clear to me the reason for feeling I will only take part in things I am confident in doing well at is fear of embarrassment.

“How could I cope with being last over the line. Everyone would know and I would be a laughing stock!!” ☹️

Writing that actually embarrasses me a bit as it’s stupid and doesn’t really reflect the level of effort and commitment that even reaching the start line, let alone finish line, of the race takes.

Trying to reach the point of feeling I could call myself a runner made me realise that taking part in a marathon or half marathon or even a 10 or 5K IS an achievement, it really is a big deal and it really is something to be proud of.

So I got to November 2017 and decided I would jump in and commit to doing a race. Of course there are loads to choose from and many of them local runs that nobody would know about that I could just turn up and see how I get on.

That might be true, but I decided to sign up to the inaugural London Big Half in March 2018. Deep end springs to mind but I thought it’s fine. A while to train and I’ll be fine when it comes round. That was sort of true.

TRAINING

So money paid, confirmation email in my inbox. 4 months to race day. ARRRRGGGGGGH what have I done????? There was a moment of “gulp and breath” and for a while I thought. Well it’s not that expensive if I don’t do it it’ll be fine! Another thing I look back on and think – really!

Anyway I had to train to feel confident. Type “half marathon training plan” into Google and I assure you that you’ll get enough different training plans to make you dizzy. There are loads, literally tonnes and how on earth are you meant to choose the best. And most importantly one that works for you, your fitness, lifestyle, available time and ability to commit. I don’t know the answer to that, sorry!

What I do know is that the best plan is the one that fits with you and not necessarily the next person or the last person. I also think a few points are worth stating that I found as being useful:

  1. Don’t target running fast
  2. Do vary runs to not just be the same route
  3. Include hills – no matter how minor
  4. Run varying speeds either short burst at a faster rate (Fartlek or intervals) or extended periods of a faster rate (tempo runs)
  5. Run most of your runs to be no more that half the time/distance off the race you are training for
  6. Add 1 long run which targets running up to the distance of your run, no need to go longer

These principles are what I based my training on. Others might be more analytical in their approach but I think this is a good way, especially for newbies who want to put some training on.

so I spent the rest of the autumn following this plan and generally felt good about the training.  I was covering good distances and times were OK.  I run on my own so it’s hard to know for sure but I was happy with it.

Then the winter came and caused problems. Rain, wind and ultimately snow. All of which seem daft to lace up and run in. What sort of lunatic does that. Well I had read a few posts about motivation for new runners and had repeatedly seen that people say you have to stick to a plan. As soon as you let things slip for modest reasons you will start losing the mojo. I can see that. I can relate too as that’s normally the approach I would take. Not this time though, oh no!  This time I’m going to try and stick with it. And this was the thing that made all the difference in two ways. Firstly I really did stick to it. Come rain, wind, shine or snow if I had planned to run I did. My wife thinking I was slowly losing my remaining marbles. Secondly I spent half my time looking for all types of running gear. Stuff to stay warm in, stuff to stay dry in. Breathable but waterproof etc etc. This is a mine field and so many option you have to stop listening eventually!!

Antway, training going well and race day about a month away the wobble set in!  There was no trigger I was doing fine but I suddenly hit massive doubts time. This was my lack of confidence waking up, the bit that normally would have stopped me before this point. It had been dormant like a mythical dragon and now it awakened (ok, enough of the dragon thing). I had a couple of days of really thinking maybe it was best to drop the silly idea of a public run. Yes I could run but Noemi was going to do it in front of people that had chosen to come and watch runners – they weren’t surely going to be interested in watching me!

I had loads of reason to pull out:

  • I would be last
  • I would probably hurt myself
  • I was going to look stupid
  • I would be too slow and they might ask me to stop

In fact anything that might be bad was going to happen to me. I had to drop out.

Whilst all those things could happen. There was no reason to feel they were likely and one other thought was in a contest with those.  I had told a lot of people what I was doing. Almost everyone that I know. It was likely going to be very embarrassing explaining to them why I had pulled out. I would have to come up with a good reason – none of the above are good enough. Probably an injury. That’s easy and nobody would argue it.

Thats the kind of thinking that goes on in my head. Find ways of backing out when you get scared. Even if a like is the only option.

I hard a long chat with the doubters in my head and convinced myself I had to go on. I then had the Beast of the East to beat!

with race day approaching weather had been bad. A lot of snow for February and this Beast from the East was a Godzilla like weather front coming to end the world – must rush out and huy unnecessary amounts of bread and milk and some tinned soup – which I never eat – got to love a quick dose of panic buying in supermarkets.

Now the snow was causing events to be cancelled. Mine was playing it’s cards close to its chest not wanting to cancel too soon. It had some big names running and presumably there was pressure to run as long as it was safe.

The snow gave another opportunity to bail out though. It had been harder to run and if the race was in doubt maybe I should just commit to staying at home hugging a radiator. I decided to leave it to the organisers.

2 days before race day they had still yet to commit. An email came out stating final decision by 2 pm Saturday. That’s only 19 hours before the start!  Not everyone was too happy. Lots of people finding travel hard and for some distances being travelled meant that was too late to decide. But the organisers had called it

I had travel challenges too. No trains to get me there on time. Not a fan of driving in to London and having to be there for 8am on a Sunday is a bit awkward – especially having kids who like to keep you up at night!

2pm on a Saturday approached and the final word can out from the organisers. The race was on. The snow had mostly gone (on the course) and it was safe.

Now, that’s great. But it was also too late to back out now. I was going to have to go through with this.  Ah well, in for a penny …

Part – 1 The best version of me

Part – 2 Learning to Walk

Part -3 Evolution not Revolution

Part 4: First Run

Part – 5 Me and Mo Farah

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