Beginner 5 km – Week 1

Shackleton

As I said in my last post, I am back on a 5km programme. In some ways it is incredibly frustrating. It seems a bit pathetic to find myself here, with 4 marathons under my belt, struggling to run for any time or distance even at snail’s pace. But it’s fine. I can’t do anything about that. In other ways it is quite nice. There is no pressure to work for distance now. There is no pressure to do anything at all. So here are my reflections on week 1 and my thoughts on week 2 coming up.

The first run was running for one minute and then walking for 1 minute and repeating that 10 times. The day I did that was hot and humid but the outing itself was fine. I essentially did the first part of our sheep loop, turned round after 6 runs to leave a little extra walking at the end to cool down. The next two runs were both running 2 minutes and walking 4 minutes repeated 5 times. The first one of those I did with Kath on Friday when it was even hotter and more humid than run 1. I used the same route. I found the 2 minute runs up the slopes annoyingly hard but overall it was pretty easy. Yesterday I did run 3 – which was the same intervals as run 2 – and went a fair bit further by just increasing the walking pace I think. I might have been running slightly faster just because it wasn’t as hot (in fact it was bucketing it down).

Einstein

I have enjoyed those three runs. I haven’t gone anywhere exciting on them – while a bit boring the out and back road route I have been using has a nice mix of gentle down and not too ridiculous up (almost no flat) so makes sure I don’t just run on the flat or downhill. I really noticed that two minutes uphill wasn’t easy. Clearly I have been avoiding running uphill! But I also noticed that 4 minutes seemed like a really long recovery time and that I didn’t really feel like I needed that at all.

I have also been doing a workout plan on the Nike app. I have done 2 endurance and one mobility session this week. I quite like them but I do think they have funny ideas about what beginner level is. In many of the workouts there are several moves that I can’t do fully. I reduced the level of the plan from the lowest intermediate to the beginner level as a result and the plan changed to reduce the overall number and duration of workouts and seemed to change some of the individual exercises. The mobility session I did today was much more doable all round. However, looking ahead, tomorrow’s session includes things like plank leg raises and side plank leg raises… I am not sure they are really beginner moves – I’ll just be trying to stay in plank/side plank for the given duration.

Kilian

So next week then. The Nike plan has 4 session. 2 endurance, one mobility and one strength. I think each of them has at least one exercise I will need to modify but we’ll see how we go. The runs next week should be absolutely fine. The first two are running 3 minutes walking 3 minutes four times and the third is running for 5 walking for 3 minutes a total of three times. For the first two I think I will stay on the same route – it’ll make me run the hills and should be good for an out and back over that time/distance. For the final run next week I might have a re-think.

I’ve also been doing a bit of yoga. I actually really like it when I can get my backside off the sofa! Some mornings I have just done a few gentle back bends and forward folds with one or two downward dogs to plank and back strung together in fairly random sun salutations and other days I have actually followed one of the routines from the yoga studio app. My current favourite for a grumpy back is the morning stretches routine which has lots of happy baby in it and for later on in the day I am enjoying the Rodney Yee hip opening routines.

Odin

So all in all it has been a pretty good exercise week. I’m sure the physical and mental benefits will come. I feel positive about both the running plan and the Nike app plan. I am conscious though that I am not really moving much other than when I specifically do some exercise – working at home eliminates walking for the bus/ from the train etc. Anyway, some movement is better than none! I haven’t been taking pictures while out and about so you have all 4 of our cats, in age order, dotted throughout instead. Oh and we’re not talking about the scales, they’re refusing to budge.

Just ticking them off

Two weeks since I last told you about my running. So that means that 2 weeks of marathon training are done. It doesn’t really feel like it’s done. It doesn’t really feel like marathon training. It has just felt like a fairly horrible, weird, hard slog without any progress and without really settling into it. So in week 1 I was meant to do this:

  • Monday – 30-45 minute run: Run the long way round to the Co-op to get some shopping
  • Wednesday – 30 -45 minute run: Head up the hill for at least 30 minutes and try some run/walk rather than just walking up, then run down pushing the pace a little‘Long’ run
  • Saturday – 3 miles so maybe get up early enough to run the sheep look without fear of people.
  • Yoga of some kind every day

Well, I sort of did that – I didn’t run on Monday or to the co-op but I did run for the 30 minutes on Tuesday. I had a pretty ok first mile and then a slow second mile with walking uphill. On Wednesday morning it was too gorgeous to not go out so Kath and I walked up towards the moor. We went 3.63 miles but mostly walked and stopped to look at curlews and lapwings. It was a stunning hour and a bit to set us up for the day. On Friday I went out for the second 3o minute run, again an ok first mile and a slower second mile walking up. Then I was meant to do 3 miles at the weekend but that never happened so Monday I dragged myself out and managed 2 miles. So mileage covered but in a rather random way and too much walking.

Week two was the same again in terms of the plan but with 4 miles at the weekend. But I didn’t get out until Thursday where I just managed another 2 miles. I am struggling with people. I get really anxious when there are people. On Saturday I finally managed an early morning run. It wasn’t really any better in terms of fitness and how hard it was but it was a much calmer and more enjoyable run. We saw a deer and some ducklings and a heron. We also saw huge groups of tadpoles along the whole stretch of the canal we ran along – masses of them roughly every 20 metres or so. Today I was supposed to do 4 miles. I was too lazy this morning, enjoying coffee and kitten cuddles and then sitting in the sun so by the time I got out it was too hot. I walked to Kath’s mum’s to drop off some banana bread and then set off from there. I had a decent first mile and dragged my butt round a fairly miserable second and walked almost all of mile 3.

I haven’t done yoga every day. Actually in week one I did something at home every day – upper body stuff, stretches, a little yoga… not much but something. This last week not so much. That’s probably partly Odin’s fault as he arrived with us last Saturday and has kept us busy.

I’m not loving the running. I don’t feel like I am getting anywhere at all. Every mile is as bloody hard and horrible as the last time I went out. I am running very little really. However, I am getting out of the house for each of the runs on the plan. I am not always making the distance and that’s the next thing to focus on – actually run or run/walk the required time or distance before basically stopping to walk up the hill and home. I feel a little like I’m just going through the motions, hanging on until it starts making a difference. How often have I told myself to trust the plan and trust the process… this is again one of those times.

Today I feel tired, not an unpleasant tired but a tired that comes from actually having done something at least a little physical. I will probably not run tomorrow and then see if I can do a Tuesday and Thursday 30 minutes and then 4 miles next weekend to hit the total miles I didn’t do today (next week is meant to be three miles). I’m glad I built some wiggle room into the marathon plan.

Happy running.

The RunDisney Universe decided – it’s 26.2

It was runDisney registration day today for the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend in January 2021. Remember this, the most awesomest present:

I’ve been changing my mind about which adventure to pick ever since Kath gave me this. Together we ruled out Dopey – too much standing around for the 5k and 10k, too much holiday time taken up with sleeping, queuing or running – but I really didn’t know whether I wanted to run the half, the full or both (Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge). I kept changing my mind, thinking ‘just’ the half would be lovely, a challenge but nothing that dominates the trip, another 26.2 would be another chance to nail that distance and put London gremlins to bed and doing both would be one of those un-possible things I like to do every now and again. Registering for Goofy would make sense – I wouldn’t have to run both after all and if I didn’t, I would have simply paid for the privilege of choosing not to run (and of course we all know that in the end I would, obviously, have run them both).

So while listening to my staff meeting run past the 3pm finish time set for it, I loaded the website, hit register now as soon as it became available and watched the little dots go round and round in circles (You can’t see them on the photo but they were there).

My staff meeting finished and Kath had also finished and joined the registration queue on the iPad. The iPad got there first, Kath logged in and we completed all the details for the Goofy for us both. We were settled and agreed and all was fine. She hit pay and we got a notification that Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge had sold out. While that was happening I had got into the registration site on my laptop, we looked to upgrade to Dopey but could see that was already sold out. The half marathon was showing as still available so we input all the details for that and hit ‘pay’…. sold out. We looked at each other. I think we both knew that this meant our 26.2 journey was set to continue and we tried completing the registration forms as quickly as possible. And this time, when we hit ‘pay’, it worked.

So, I am never doing a marathon again, except I am. In January. Of course we are presuming here that it will be safe to travel etc. For now we will just hope that that’s the case and if it isn’t, well then it’s not. Registering was ridiculously stressful and initially it sort of floored me and I sat for a while not knowing whether to be disappointed or excited. We knew that the races often sell out and that individual races often go on the first day but when we registered for the 2019 Dopey, places for both Goofy and Dopey were available for a long time after registration opened so we weren’t quite expecting not to get a Goofy spot. When we didn’t we were a bit taken aback. Eventually disappointment wore off and now the excitement as well as the ridiculousness of having registered for another marathon is setting in.

So now the planning starts properly. I’ve been looking at plans on and off focusing on the half mostly as I was going to leave the final decision about distance until later in the year until I had a few decent length runs in me. So I’ll need to have a bit of a re-think and shift in mindset. I’ll use the runDisney training plan with one or two little modifications I think. I can get my head round that and it feels safe and familiar (and I tried different for London and, well, let’s just say that maybe I don’t like different). I won’t go the full 26 before race day like the plan suggests, I never have, and I’ll add some speed and hill to the mid-week runs. I can do this. I’ve done it before. That doesn’t stop me from being terrified though.

Spring time lockdown running

Ok, let’s have a post that’s actually about how the running is going shall we. The last run I wrote about was the run that didn’t go to plan. Honestly, getting out and running has been a struggle. After that run and the fall I didn’t make it out for just over a week. Partly I was sensible and waited for the worst to heal and partly it was an excuse. I was anxious about running. I was anxious about people, I was frustrated with my spectacular lack of fitness and motivation. Recovering from a fall is a legitimate thing to do… but not for weeks on end.

But in the end the pull of the bluebells was too strong. Kath had been telling me about them, how gorgeous they were and how the mix of bluebell and wild garlic is just so evocative of here, of home. I dragged my butt out of bed early to make sure people wouldn’t be an issue and then we set off on a tentative run/walk to the wood. We walked the narrow path through the bluebells and it was a stunning morning and absolutely worth getting up.

I managed a repeat early start a couple of days later allowing me to run our sheep loop without worrying about people on the canal towpath. It was really hard and my ankle was stiff – it has been on and off since the fall but seemed particularly bad that morning. My hay fever symptoms were also through the roof making breathing a bit tricky. Still, early mornings along the canal with ducklings and lambs and busy little birds everywhere is always worth it. Just need to remember that.

I had another couple of short 2 mile-ish outings at the end of April. I’ve been trying to play with intervals and other things to focus on because my brain has once again decided that I can’t run at all. Some of the runs have been 30/30 intervals which is fine but feels stop start at the beginning and then doesn’t actually seem to get me much further in terms of endurance. Instead I have tried to sometimes run for the first mile and then pick landmarks, other times to run to a certain landmark or place before dropping into run/walk intervals (this used to be mentally different from running a certain distance but I am now getting to know the distance of those points so it’s not working as well as it was) or running for a certain amount of time – just to give my brain something else to think about before it spirals off into ‘you can’t do this so why bother’ mode.

For my first May run I decided to go up towards Ilkley Moor. I have never actually been able to run all the way up but I certainly can’t now so my plan for that particular route at the moment is to walk up to the top and then run back down. I was thinking that doing it once a week would be good. It’s a pull and if I do it every week I will start to feel the benefits of the hill on the up and running down gives me change to get used to running at a slightly faster pace than I could manage on a flat or undulating route. I had 2 miles up and 2 miles down in my head and enjoyed the lapwings and curlews as I walked up. As I got to about 1.75 miles I could see people up ahead and it started raining. The rain was actually lovely but the prospect of catching up with the people, passing them and then doing the same again not long after as I turned round did not seem appealing. I turned early and gently jogged down in the rain. It was gorgeous.

My other two May runs so far have been short. I wrote about yesterday’s run last night. It was a tough run. I have really struggle to run continuously. A few days ago I went out and decided I would try and run 15 minutes continuously, whatever the pace. I made it to just over 17 minutes at a painfully slow trot. Yesterday I wanted to run the loop as far as the bottom of the steep hill to come back up home. I nearly gave up so many times but the reason for running was at the forefront of my mind – particularly because I was/am still not entirely comfortable with it all. It seemed wrong to not make it to the hill. Disrespectful somehow. I made it, so just over 21 minutes of continuous running and I even managed a few more little bursts of running on the way home which is not something I have managed recently.

So why the continuous running at the moment? I know I am not running with great form, that I should work much more on strengthening and building up the muscles to run properly and that I don’t have the strength to run for more than about 30 seconds in proper running form… Yep I know. I know that I am increasing the injury risk. I know I am not running efficiently and I know that I am probably undoing some of the work towards good running form that I had put in. But honestly, my brain is full. I don’t want to go out to run thinking carefully about form. I don’t want to run concentrating hard on knee lift and foot placement. I barely have the brain power to make myself go out at all. I am already thinking more than I want to about possible routes and how to avoid people. I don’t want to think about running. I want to run so I don’t have to think. I want to run to give my brain a rest. Now is not the time for me to be worrying about perfect form. That’s not to say that I don’t think it’s important or that I am ignoring it totally. I have short bursts during my runs where I try and concentrate on form. I am also doing some of my exercises some of the time. Right now though, the relaxation yoga, the stretching, the breathing and the being able to run continuously are more important for me to stay mentally healthy. If running right now was just about drills and form and strength exercises I wouldn’t be running and that doesn’t seem like a good option.

Running feels different. It is back as something I want to do rather than something I feel like I should. It’s that old favourite book which just sits and waits to be picked up again and while for now I am content flicking through it, gently reminding myself of the favourite bits, the easy passages within it, the chapters with which I feel at ease, I am beginning to wait for the next phase. I am waiting for the little hint of ambition, the readiness to tackle the more difficult passages, the willingness to get stuck in and work harder, the wish to be more systematic and focused, to start at the beginning and work towards the end of volume 1, chapter by chapter. It’s there in the background. I can feel myself mentally preparing for it without really being conscious of it at all. One day soon I’ll wake up ready to once again become a runner.

When the #DinoRun doesn’t go to plan

A little while ago some fellow #Run1000Miles runners started what has now become a fun little running game of taking their dinosaurs out for a run and taking a picture. Kath and I thought we should do that for a bit of fun too but it turned out we didn’t have a dinosaur. I mean come on, how does that happen? How do we not have a dinosaur? Then Kath found a dinosaur while sorting out a box for the loft but I never made it out for my longer run yesterday because of a rather dodgy tummy and the day before that I had some other random excuse. In short, the #DinoRun still hadn’t happened.

Today I decided I would get out. Kath and I made beetroot chocolate cake and I took some to drop off at Kath’s Mum’s with a gentle run/walk so as not to turn the cake into crumbs on the way. We had a quick chat, obviously at the requisite distance. After that I walked up the hill passing a couple of dog walkers and enjoying seeing the views from a different vantage point. I don’t often go that way and when I do, I go the other way round the loop I was on.

It somehow felt wrong to take Kath’s dinosaur so I nicked her idea instead and took the closest thing we thought we had to a dino – a platypus. She sat happily in my pocket on my right thigh looking out, every now and again reminding me to perhaps at least try to go a little faster. About half way up the hill we had a little break and look out over the valley before continuing on. I walked up the hill. I’m not actually sure that I could have run it even at my fittest but today was not the day to try. I just wanted to enjoy the warm sun and cool breeze and being out.

When I got to the top I crossed over the road to stay the required distance from a couple walking and once crossed back started run/walking – fairly half heartedly to be honest. I didn’t quite trust my tummy and I was enjoying being out without worrying about effort. I ran/walked for a little stretch. Stopped to look at a sleepy lamb and take platypus out for another look around. She was quite insistent about sitting on my shoulder and I had to negotiate hard to get her back into my pocket.

I carried on run/walk and was just thinking I might manage the next little up slope before enjoying a longish flat and down when I suddenly caught sight of a little lamb gang bouncing around in the field. I briefly thought ‘ooooh look lambs’ and was still smiling as I hit the tarmac and wondered how the hell that had happened. I landed with an oomph and just stayed still for a minute. Then I think I swore. I picked myself up off the roadside and brushed off the worst of the gravel and dust. There was a cyclist who came past me without making eye contact as I just started walking on. He must have seen me fall and pick myself up. I shouted after him: ‘I’m fine thanks’. There, always feel better for a bit of pointless passive agression.

My left hand felt bruised, my right was grazed and my left knee and shin took a bit of a battering too. I called Kath to explain I was hobbling home and to ask her to run me a bath so I could clean myself up and pick the gravel out of my hand and knee. So my planned 6ish miles didn’t quite go to plan. Because my tummy wasn’t quite playing ball I had already decided to cut it short and then I threw myself on the tarmac because I was distracted by lambs. I literally tripped over nothing – I checked – I fell on the most even part of tarmac on the entire stretch of road. Muppet.

Anyway I shall have to try another #DinoRun or rather #PlatypusRun that is worthy of the platypus. And I need to make sure that next time I fling myself at the ground I do it somewhere more forgiving than tarmac. Trails are definitely safer! I’m also going to have to find some of the yoga sessions which do not involve downward dog or anything like that because my hands are quite sore.