Ian Wharton is totally to blame for this excessively long blog and in advance I say sorry to all of you that spend the next 10 minutes reading it, they are valuable minutes that you are never going to get back!
So, what on earth could I write a blog about? Well many of you may have noticed that recently I’ve been doing stupid things like chasing PB’s, running with ‘The big fast boys’ (I have a segment named after me in honour of doing this, #proud) lots of work at the gym on the treadmill and sprints. There is a reason behind all of it, I’m being coached to get a faster 5k in 20 weeks, but that’s not how it started, it all started with a picture, a picture that changed everything for me.
My blog really starts on the 28th May last year when I was privileged enough to run with Corah Annand on her very first parkrun at Cuerden Valley after completing the Red Rose beginners course. Corah ran amazingly (but I’m not sure she’s ever been back) and we both smiled for Ray as we went past him on the finishing hill. Corah wrote a blog about her experience and added Rays’ photo of us. That photo was the photo that changed everything for me. I can remember it vividly, I was wearing a yellow, yes you heard me, yellow, Lakeland Trail ‘sting in the tail’ T-shirt, which was lovingly hugging my oversized stomach. I have since told Corah this, but that night I sat and cried over that pic and it was then that I decided things were going to change.
Fitter and thinner were first on the list and I was lucky enough to have some birthday money leftover so I got myself a PT and fitter was taken care of. Thinner was harder, but with the help of a good friend we lost weight together supporting each other along the way and with the exercise being taken up a notch, thinner started being taken care of too however, there was an added bonus, faster! I only went and got myself a PB at Vernon’s in July and a sub 25 at that! Now, I’m not saying it was all easy, it wasn’t. I worked hard, was dedicated to the cause and at times I was a little obsessive (my husband says I was totally obsessive, but he often exaggerates). The only thing I was disappointed in was that I hadn’t been taken on by Damian a Coach in running fitness at RunSmart when he’d asked for six ‘athletes’ to coach them to improve their 5k times, but I put on a brave face and a smile, yeah ok, I moaned loads and complained constantly but it wasn’t a goer, his loss not mine!
One of my targets I’d set for 2016 was to finish a half marathon and on the 25th September that target was completed at the Disneyland Paris inaugural half marathon or as they call it semi-marathon. Now Jenny my bestie was due to run it with me, but her daughter, my goddaughter was in hospital so that couldn’t happen, so I ran all 21.1km (I was in France remember) on my lonesome, with the words ‘Allez, Allez, Allez’ shouted at me every third step! I tell you, if I never hear those words again it will be too soon. However, I think I was so desperate to finish so that I didn’t have to hear those words anymore I managed a sub 2 hour and was over the moon with my time of 1:54:44.
I must have been doing something right though (possibly obsessive dedication) because on my return Damian made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, to coach me for 20 weeks to get me a sub 22 minute 5km (yeah, I laughed pretty hard too) but I couldn’t refuse. The plan was that I was to run the Lancaster 5km series (five races) progressing so that on the last race I would run a sub 22 minute. Easy peasy! Wrong!!!
My plan started on Monday 17th October and first on the list was a timed mile, not a problem I hear you say, nope no problem, unless it happens to be your sons 17th birthday. He wasn’t too impressed with the celebrations being put on hold so I could run, but it was only a mile, how long could it take? 6 minutes 30 seconds was exactly how long it would take and my first PB!
My plan was tough, Damian had me doing things that I had never done before, sprint intervals on a treadmill (I can now do them at 21kmh and yes, I am showing off!) 400 metre pyramids with no recovery, (still hate them with a passion) oh and endurance sessions, now they hurt. I spend so much time at the gym now, I have what’s fondly called my treadmill and god help anyone if they’re on it when I arrive, a glare or two in their direction normally sends them scurrying and if not, I just sit and wait as I can’t actually run on any other treadmill! (OCD nightmare).
The day of the first race arrived and I’d done my paced sprints, completed every session on my plan and was good to run. The weather had other ideas though, it was icy and I mean really icy, I ran with Jenny cheering me on from the sidelines and was gutted not to get a PB, I wasn’t supposed to, my plan said learn the course, work out where I could go fast and where would slow me down, but surely with all the work I’d put in a PB should have just happened, yes it was icy, but I was faster than ever, what a wake up call that was, this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. I sulked and I moaned and Damian used his best coaching words, ‘get over it’ and we started a new week.
Soon we were into December and that brought new challenges into the mix, mainly for Damian as I had persuaded him to let me do the ’12 days of Christmas running’ and the ‘run 100 miles in December’ oh and the ‘run a mile a day in December’ too. Whilst everyone else was busily working out how they were going to fit their runs in, I sat back and left all the hard work to the coach, I mean that was his job wasn’t it? To be honest, I did feel a little sorry for him, I mean I had to keep up with my speed and endurance work, complete all the challenges, fit a Lancaster 5km race in the middle of it all and make sure I didn’t get injured, not an easy plan to write, but he did it pretty well and all went off without a hitch.
The second Lancaster race was my best to date, the plan said I had to run a 7:20min/mile pace for as much as possible, I managed roughly to do it for the whole race, mainly due to the fact that Ian Wharton was running the 10k and spent the whole race just in front of me. I was determined to keep him in my sights. I have to say the astonishment on his face as he ran around the cone and saw me behind him (yep it’s that technical of a race you run round cones) at his half way point and my finish made staring at his bottom for the whole race totally worth it and I got the PB that I wanted, 22:44 and only 45 seconds in 11 weeks to get to the sub 22. Happy days.
Happy days indeed, until race 3 and then it all went a little bit pear shaped. The plan said to run a 7 minute/mile pace for as long as I possibly could. 7 minute/mile is the pace I will need to run for the last race to get my sub 22. I set off pretty slowly (ok i started at the back as usual) and then went too quick to make up for it, I tried to slow the pace but slowed down too much and you probably get the picture, yes, the first mile wasn’t a 7min/mile pace, it was 7:10. What a failure! I’d failed, hadn’t even managed to run 1 mile at the right pace and my race was over. Now most normal people would see 7:10 and go ok, speed up a little bit and you’ve the 2nd mile nailed, but I’m not most people, sadly. I’m super harsh, super critical and too darn quick to give up, and that’s what I did, I’m ashamed to say, I walked! Only for 5 paces but I walked, more failure. Now I will admit to giving my head a wobble and I did finish with a quick mile but not enough to undo the damage, it was 30 seconds off my PB and it felt like my dream was shattered and worse still, Damian had come to run too, which meant there was no hiding or turning my phone off and saying the battery had died, I was going to have to face him. Now I won’t tell you what was said, but it wasn’t pretty, I was harsh and wouldn’t accept anything he said, it was a failure of a run and he just had to agree with me. He didn’t and still doesn’t agree with me, he found so many positives that we could take from the race but with the added tension of looking for petrol he desperately needed to get us home it was a pretty tense journey!
So, what next? Well, I still have two races to go, one in February and one in March and I have absolutely no idea whether I will reach sub 22 or not. But I can tell you this, I will follow my plan religiously like I have since the day I started. I will continue to have my weekly sports massage by Rob Mather to keep my legs in the best condition I can (he’s ace btw and I highly recommend). I will always do my strength work so that I’m as strong as I can possibly be and I will train as hard as I am able too. The only thing I can’t guarantee is that the demons in my head won’t beat me on race day. I wish I didn’t have that constant mental argument, but I do and it is something I need to work on, but with only two races to go time is short. (Any help/tips greatly appreciated).
So, this is the thing, I’ve kind of done this blog to keep me accountable, maybe knowing you all will be looking to see if I fail or succeed will give me the push to do it, or maybe I’ll just look bloody stupid in 7 weeks and be known forever more as the one who couldn’t get a sub 22. I hope I do it, I really do and not just for me but for Damian too, the time, effort and belief he has put in me and my plan as a coach has at times been overwhelming but it will all be worth it if at the end of race five we have a happier journey home.