What a difference a year makes…

Posted: 07/11/2012 in Uncategorized

If you’re looking for the South Africa report, hang onto your horses. It’ll be along in a wee while.

This is more about the fact that on the 31st October, while on the other continent, I celebrated my first anniversary as “a runner”.

Yes, one year ago (and a few days) I was mulling things over in the living room, feet up on the coffee table, feeling a little portly*.

I was the proud owner of a pair of running shoes, some nice Reebok ones that, unbeknownst to me, were the subject of a court case in America over their remarkable claims. They were a lovely glossy blue, and I felt very fit while wearing them**.

Myself and Mrs Bees had decided on a course of badminton to increase our overall fitness which was a little poor***. It hadn’t gone too well. We’d played maybe twice and were having trouble finding the time to find a court, travel and still eat at night.

As I rested my laurels****, my eyes scanned the book-case, and I noticed we had a book called “The Beginner’s Guide To Running” – clearly one of Mrs Bees purchases, along with Chi Walking and Chi Running, each gathered in the hope that ownership of the book will somehow magically confer fitness. It didn’t work.

Guffawing my way to the book shelf, I pulled out the Beginner’s Guide and leafed through***** it’s pages. A few hundred pages on stuff, and a whopping eight pages of the actual training plan. That sounded a bit rubbish. What kind of ridiculous short-change deal is that?

Then, I read the plan.

First outing was thirty seconds running, four and a half minutes walking, repeat that eight times. Pfft, even I could do that.

Hang on, I could do that. I suddenly realised that I had everything I needed to have a go at this – shoes, gear and now a plan.

So I did. Starting at a lovely 16 and a half stone, it wasn’t easy******.

I finished the thirteen week course in a typically paced sixteen weeks, and finished off with a 10km run. With no stops, no walking, no mid-run buns and no ambulance required.

Since then, I’ve stuck with it, through three pairs of road shoes (the Reeboks got a puncture, no really, my Asics were ace but gave me constant knee pain, and finally I transitioned to barefoot shoes******* which I now run in 100% of the time),  the discovery of trail running (and two pairs of trail shoes – the lovely Mizuno Wave Harriers that I still love but don’t wear and my current Vivobarefoot Breatho Trails, another barefoot masterpiece) and numerous bit of technical clothing. By technical, I think it means “won’t rub the nips off you” (though in certain cases this has proven to be wrong). Some of it is black, some of it is scarily neon, and some of it frankly leaves little to the imagination if I stand still. All of it is pretty much now too big – remember I said I’d started at 16 and a half stone? Well, I weighed myself again yesterday and I’m now a slightly sprightlier 14 stone on the nose. I can’t remember the last time I weighed 14 stone – I suspect it might be about 12 years ago when I did a little bit of rock climbing.

Race-wise, I kicked off with a few Parkruns as I got underway – 5km of Saturday morning fun. In April I ran my first proper race, the North Tyneside 10k Run, a lovely gambol from North Shields along the riverbank, past Tynemouth Priory, along the coast through Whitley Bay, ending up at the iconic St Mary’s Lighthouse. To say I felt like death at the end is a bit of an understatement, but I enjoyed it into the bargain.

In June, I was lucky to get a place in the 150th Anniversary Blaydon Race, where it poured from start to finish, and I learned the lesson of owning either waterproof or very short shorts. At the time I had neither, and a couple of hours after the race when I got home I was till wet through. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed it and wouldn’t mind if it rained next time.

In October, I ran a marathon. The Kielder Marathon as it goes – the few folk i’d come across who’d run it described it as the hardest marathon I’ve ever run, so I was a little apprehensive. It was hard, the hardest thing I’ve done, and while there were times I struggled, I never really thought I wouldn’t keep ambling along at a snail’s pace to the finish. Five hours fifteen, if you’re interested, and I’m insanely proud of my medal.

So what have I learned? I mean, I must have learned something, right?

  1. I can run. This is still the most astonishing thing to me – after years of saying “I’m not a runner, I’ve got the wrong hips for running, it turns out I was wrong. Heh.
  2. I like running. Seriously. I think it keeps me sane, it certainly keeps me relaxed, which has come in useful a few times over the last year, let me tell you.
  3. Trails are cool. So much better than roads, it’s just a shame I live in such a flat borough.
  4. I’m a bit stubborn. OK, so a lot stubborn, but that’s not a bad thing.
  5. The bigger the challenge, the wider the smile when I sign up. I was pretty cheery about the North Tyneside 10k, grinning at the Blaydon Race, and positively laughing at myself when I clicked “Submit” on my entry for the marathon.
  6. Once I’ve decided to do something, I look for something harder afterwards, so the thing I’ve signed up for is a stepping stone rather than a goal.
  7. I’m all about distance, rather than speed. Therefore I’m gravitating to ultras******** rather than short, speedy races.

Is that enough? There have been insights, monologues, spurious ramblings and some good ideas on the way as well as some good ol’ musing.

So what am I doing into my second year? Well, winter approaches, and I’m hoping it will be another mild one so I can get out like last year. I’m entered in the gloriously crackers Wall Run in June to run from Carlisle to Newcastle over two days. I’ve got a mad plan to run The Comrades in South Africa in a couple of years, and I want to hit more trails, and more long distances once we hit the nirvana that is spring. I want to do a bit more proper barefoot running, that’s the type without any shoes at all.

While I love running stuff, clothes, equipment and all the associated gubbins, I’ve also realised that I don’t really need much of it, so I don’t spend much on running these days – bar some smaller tops I haven’t bought anything in a while, and that was only to avoid inadvertent para-gliding while running along the coast.

So there we go, a year in a nutshell, a jolly running year it’s been. It’s been a blast to blog as I went, and what started as a simple record of times, distances and routes to motivate myself through the 13 week programme has turned into a bit of an obsession. I hope you’ve enjoyed whatever bit of the ride you’ve been along for, and it would be nice to see you popping by a time or two in the coming year, I’m sure there’s be running and musing to share as I forge on into the future. 🙂

*OK, very portly

**OK, so my feet felt fit, they didn’t cover any further up

***OK, so very, very poor

****OK, arse

*****Yes, you’re right, I clearly was very bored

******OK, so the half minute one was pretty alright, but man, when I stepped up the a minute, flippin’ heck.

*******So barefoot shoes is a bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it? Minimalist doesn’t really do it, either, as that includes a whole range of waffle-sole travesties. In short, if it’s only got a couple of millimetres of rubber between you and the ground, and no cushioning, then it’s looking good. If you can bend the toe back over the heel into a ‘U’ shape, then all the better.

********An ultra is anything over a marathon, 26.2 miles, technically. Though, if you’re getting the gist of the points, you also realise that I wouldn’t sign up for a 30 mile ultra. Instead, I’ve opted for a 69 miles, two day ultra instead. And I was initially going to do the one day version instead.

  1. Tim says:

    really interesting post especially the implied drifting towards Ultra distances, you maybe should look at the Hardmoors 30 on New Years Day.

    • Hi Tim! Sounds interesting, and I’ll certainly take a gander at that. 🙂 Checked out your site too – I’ve used chia seeds before, mixed with water, agave nectar and lime juice – your raspberry mix looks groovy, is it like a gel?

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