I have had several conversations (face to face or virtual) recently about starting running and about my running journey and about how the hell I got to be someone who can run several miles without walking and who isn’t scared of taking on distance. I hadn’t really realised I was no longer scared of distance. I noticed at Endure24 that I felt like I had a right to be there whereas at a 5k or 10k road race I’d feel like an impostor and I’d feel apologetic for my lack of speed. At some point on this journey I must have realised I can do distance – it may involve lots of walking and it will never be fast but I will get there.
But how did I get here? I can trot out advice about starting running that is sort of based on my experience but only sort of because to be honest, I don’t really remember. I remember starting (at various points in my life but particularly around January 2015) a fairly typical couch to 5k programme. I’ve never finished one. The last iteration I hated. I felt miserable before a run, during a run and mostly also after a run. I wanted to do it to get fitter and shift the substantial extra weight but I hated it. Instead of giving up I looked for something else. I tried Jeff Galloway’s method of run/walk. Somehow this really helped. I don’t know what my first intervals were – I want to say 30 seconds running, 30 seconds walking but from nothing that actually sounds like quite a lot of running. I think if you’re going from no running at all even 10 seconds and then walking the rest of the minute is great.
So why did this work for me? Less pressure I guess. There wasn’t this constant ‘next time you’ve got to run for longer’ feeling. It was always – ‘you’re going out for 30 minutes and doing your thing’. I soon found that I was running faster, walking faster and overall going further in the 30 minutes. At some point I must have upped the running and played with intervals but I don’t remember how incremental this was or what we did – some of this may of course be in the early blog posts (haven’t gone back to look – I’m interested in me not really remembering). I remember for quite a while working with 3 minute running and either 30 seconds or 1 minute walking but then beginning to struggle with that as the distances increased and settling on what became my favourite of 2 minutes running and 1 minute walking. It’s what I come back to now when I am struggling – whether mentally or physically.
More recently, and I think this is a strange and tentative new found running confidence, I have wanted to run more consistently without walk breaks. It’s not that I don’t like run/walk or think it’s cheating – it’s not and I’m often faster doing run/walk than running consistently – it’s just that it feels like that’s next in my journey. I also feel like I want to be less regimented. I do often still walk a bit even on shorter runs but I run more by feel now. I use landmarks to determine my intervals and somehow that feels more relaxed than being ruled by the beep of a watch.
So do I have advice for anyone starting out? Yeah I do – it’s bloody hard and you have to try and enjoy it and the way to enjoy it is to rid your head of unrealistic expectations. Running for 30 seconds or even 20 or 10 sounds like nothing but it isn’t nothing. It’s a very very big something. Go out for 30 minutes and take each minute as it comes. Depending on your level of general fitness try running 10 seconds, 20, 30 or even 40 and then walk the rest of the minute. If you can do that comfortably for each of the 30 minutes, try upping the running bit next time. See how you go. Don’t feel like you have to keep increasing the running portion. Settle in at an interval you like and go with that for a bit. Don’t get too competitive,enjoy being outside, learn to look around, learn to smile while you’re running, give yourself permission to stop to look at something interesting. It’s not about getting through it or getting to the end of your 30 minutes having covered as much distance as possible – it’s about learning to love running and doing it for you. The rest will follow if you want it to – but it’s taken me this long to figure out that maybe I don’t care if it doesn’t. I like stopping and watching a heron on the canal bank and I like it far more than seeing a fast time on my garmin at the end of my run.