One Woman’s Journey 2

One Woman’s Journey 2

Part 2 – Getting to Know the Lamp Posts

Lamp posts are funny things.  They are part of our lives, non-threatening, useful, even helpful but certainly not something which most people get to know very well.  I imagine hardly anyone would even think of talking to them. My relationship with lampposts became very close over the first months of running. The first goal was to run from one to the other. That happened the first time I ran but I didn’t and couldn’t run between three lampposts until my second week.

There is a river running through our small town with a footbridge a quarter of a mile down river from a road bridge. The sole aim at this point was to run in a circle, over the two bridges to my starting point, making a half mile run. It seemed an insurmountable goal until I started talking to the lampposts! I’d go past in my slow plod and say “I’ll get past one more of you today”!  And over summer of 2010 I  managed it. It was a slow journey but each day I went a little further.  The lampposts became less of a focus and the enjoyment of running became more.

However, I didn’t progress to more than half a mile over the summer. I think at this point I was so stunned to be just jogging along to even think of anything else. Summers are always really busy around here, with a big family doing lots of outdoor activities (many beach based!!) we have a great time and running got pushed onto the back burner. I guess you could say I hadn’t “got the bug” yet, just a taste.

Then, the same friend who urged me not to live out my life holding coats mentioned a 10k in May of 2011 which I should aim for. I have to confess to thinking “it’s more likely to be 2012 before I make it but at least I can start out”.  But another seed was sown.

Of our six children we have a real mix. As with all children they are delightfully (most of the time) different. Our third is, at the moment, a sports fanatic. Anything which challenges his fitness is his choice of activity. His chosen career path (for now) is to be a personal fitness trainer and when he saw the metamorphosis beginning in his mother, he saw a wonderful opportunity to be involved in a miracle! He offered to come “running” with me. In reality he walked while I ran, but he was an incredible encouragement. He pushed me to run for a few more minutes each time. He said things like “this is where the weak give in” and “I am so proud of you” just as I was about to stop.

I joined a wonderful website called running4women.com which I found encouragement from. I had posted on the forum once or twice but decided in September that I needed all the help I could get. The ladies on there didn’t seem to mind that I was only running for 6 minutes at a time. I constantly got support. Boy was I going to need it! I posted on the forum after every run – a real running diary.

Looking back, it was towards the end of October that I can really say I got the bug. I went to Wales for a few days and the weather was lovely. For the first time I ran while away from home, part of it barefoot along the shore which was a wonderful feeling. Still only 20 minutes running with some walk breaks but it was another milestone on my running journey. Running was something I did!  So much so that, when recovering from a cough, I ran for 22 minutes in the lounge while watching Cash in the Attic on BBC iplayer. At that point the kids knew I was mad.

So from July to October I had moved from NEVER having attempting running to managing 20 minutes with walk breaks. The problem was, how to get better? In many senses my husband is a great role model, encourager, etc but it can be discouraging to come in from your short slog and see him breeze away on an 18 mile hill run. Mentally I had to move away from what he was doing. Be proud and pleased for him but just as proud and pleased for myself. My journey is just as hard, if not somewhat harder, than his and I have to keep reminding myself of that.

By the end of October I was running a mile, walking for a minute and then running a mile. Then the snow came.

The old me would have just given in at this point but something had changed. I could not give up. In early November I ran 2 miles without walking, but something else was beginning to dawn on me. I began to realise that even really good runners sometimes do a little walk. I wasn’t letting myself down by walking a few steps every now and again. What a release that was, along with my son’s encouragement of “every run is a good run”, I had a further injection of enthusiasm and began to think I could aim for the 10k in May. Yet another milestone – they were coming thick and fast at this point.

The big stumbling block came, not from the snow, ice or cold but from the serious flu bug which swept around over Christmas and New Year. Various people got it in our family but my husband and I were hit the worst. Three weeks without running was hard for me, but I think it was torture for him!  When I at last got out in mid January I was so scared that I would be back to counting lampposts. It was so encouraging to manage one and three quarter miles. The three weeks off hadn’t done me too much damage after all. A few days after this run we found a 10k and 5k at the same time and place in Manchester on a weekend in February when we would be visiting my in- laws. We put our names down and I suddenly had this huge focus ahead of me.

Running that 5k was a massive thing for me. It was in a park close to where we used to live, it was quite small and the 10k was two loops of the 5k. It was described on the details as “undulating” which for me felt more like “mountainous”. The minute we set off I thought “what am I doing here!” and “I don’t belong here”. But I made it round. Just as I was coming to the finish line our daughter shouted “Dad’s behind you”. He ran in and overtook me seconds before the finish line but given that he was in for a 10k PB and being a true runner’s wife, I forgave him for not going over hand in hand with me!

I felt incredible after that 5k. My time was slow, my style “interesting” and it was after all only a 5k but I felt like I had run a marathon. I really could call myself a runner. I had walked some of the hills, nearly fallen head first in mud and been overtaken by four 10k runners, including my husband, but none of that mattered. I had run a race.  Truly amazing!!

The 10k in May became more of a possibility. I’d have to seriously up my mileage though. The next article will follow all the ups and downs of someone not “born to run” going from counting lampposts to preparing for a 10k

Andrea Williams

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