Whilst sat at work in June of this year, I was 6 months into my fitness journey. For me, this was a confusing time. I was much fitter than I was in January, however, my workouts had become stale and I needed a new challenge. The month before, I completed the 5km Pretty Muddy obstacle course and even though I did not say it on the day, I found it a little too easy.
Running has never been my strong suit due to weak ankles and old smoker’s lungs. Weight training and dancing has always been my forte, although for some reason I do not feel that these activities challenge me. I may not be able to pull off certain choreography or lift a particular weight, however, I know that I will be able to eventually if I practice. Running is completely different…because you have to engage your mental strength too.
Responsible people will train properly leading up to a sporting event. I had good intentions to do so then I ended up on the path to hell. I knew I had registered to run 10 km for Water Aid but now the date was looming closer, I was pretending to ignore it. The furthest I had run prior this event was 3.5 km. So the night before, having little training under my belt I was a nervous wreck, convinced wholeheartedly that I would throw up and then get taken away in a ST John’s Ambulance.
One thing I was smart about was how I fuelled my body. In the days leading up to the run, I ensured I drank lots of water to keep my body hydrated. The night before I ate wholemeal pasta, porridge oats and a banana. On the morning of the race I had a cheeky coffee, 2 litres of water and eggs on wholemeal toast. On arrival to Scammonden Reservoir, the marshals were informative and encouraging. Even though this eased my nerves a little, I was still dreading the run. What if I need the toilet? What if I forget to run steadily? What if I stop breathing? Will I need my water bottle?
The nerves were eating at me and I went to the loo three times in 20 minutes. The majority of people did not have water bottles so I left without mine too. I did take my mobile for music though, to power me through any hard parts of the run. So…experienced runners at the front and newbies at the back …
…on your marks… get set…go!
During the first kilometre I could already feel strained ankles, twinging knees and a tight chest. On reflection, this was just my body responding to a new type of exercise, as I had not trained! Nonetheless, I kept a slow steady pace and intended to do this until I reached the 5 km mark. Lucky for me, there were steep, up and down gradients, tunnels and rocky paths. This was to my advantage, as I do not run well on smooth, flat ground. As I hit 3 km I was actually enjoying the challenging course, it was interesting and quite scenic. A sort of ecstatic feeling took over me, my brain went into overdrive and I was convinced that I was a real marathon runner or Forrest Gump!
For 2 more kilometres I had this feeling of never ending energy and endurance. I was visualising myself crossing the 10 k mark like a hero…your brain really does take over from your body! My optimism peaked then filtered away quickly like water in cupped hands. At 7 km I had to stop. My body was feeling like an overworked machine that had not been oiled. It was not so much my joints that hurt, I just had an overall feeling of exhaustion, my mind was cloudy and I was not taking in enough oxygen. I walked for around 3 minutes taking in the beautiful surroundings. As I was putting my camera on to capture it all, I saw three women run around the corner…and I though hell no you are not over taking me!
And again my mind was engaged and ready to push my legs to the end. I had not intended to be this competitive! So I set off, not at full pelt but with the steady run I had going in the first half. At random moments I would let bursts of speed out to project myself up a small hill or steps. Thinking back, I may have been better preserving this energy for the flat runs to bring my overall time down but hey ho. Hitting 8 km I was exhausted and I’d had enough, although I was not going to drop out when I was so close! I decided to walk half a kilometre for the greater good and ignore anyone who overtook me. After all, it was about achieving a personal goal, not competing with experienced runners.
As I was walking I came into contact with a Marshal I knew and he said ‘come on you are nearly at the end!’. He looked so shocked that I had taken time out so near to the end to recharge. The look on his face shifted my mentality once again and I took off all legs and arms flailing! With the finish line in sight, I started to hiccough and I knew emotion and nausea were taking over. There was a battle between my physical body saying ‘No, stop!’ and my mind saying ‘Yes! Keep going you are almost there!’. Thankfully, mind over matter just won out and I got to the end. The feeling as you near the line is fuel in itself. Anyone and everyone, whether they know you or not, cheer you over the finish line and offer a million words of encouragement.
I was handed a goody bag containing a medal, Yorkshire Tea, a huge brownie and sports supplements. When I pulled out the medal my accomplishment sank in…I had just run my first 10k and I did it in an hour like I intended. Well what did I do next? I cried my eyes out of course!
…and I finally understood the love affair some people have with running.