One Women’s Journey Part 3

One Women’s Journey Part 3

Part 3: Three 5ks, two personal trainers and the 10k of my life

The story of probably the most unlikely person in the world to ever run and how she gets there (hopefully)!

Well, 9 months after my first few running steps I had a 5k race under my belt.  For most people that is a long time but for me it was amazing. Running that first 5k was genuinely nothing short of a miracle.

Two days later I flew to France for a week, still riding high on the feelings I had going over the finish line. I didn’t run in France – I just didn’t see the need. It almost felt like I had achieved all my running goals in that one race. In fact, there was a real danger that my running journey would end with that 5k. It almost gave me too much of a good feeling (if that is possible). There was a danger that I might sit back smugly and think “mission accomplished”.

I am not sure if anyone noticed this but a friend told me the week after I came home from France that there was a local 5k on 19th March. “Easy” I thought. It was on a flat path around a lake in a country park and in my naivety I thought it would all be so easy now. I still didn’t run for another week after returning from France (although to be fair my life was extremely busy).  I had a note in my diary for 23rd February which read “start 10k training properly”. That day came and went.  I thought it would be better to start training properly after the local 5k.

The first time I ran again after the 5k in Manchester was 26th February.  It was a gentle run and I enjoyed it. Nothing to show that there was a hard lesson ahead to learn. I kept on running a few times a week – the longest being 4 miles.  I really did think that because I had run one 5k, the next one would be easy. 

Two days before the second 5k I developed a pain in my hip. I hadn’t particularly been pushing myself, but had played a game of badminton and twisted.

It still niggled on the morning of the second 5k but I assumed it would go away. This run was a real family event and three of our children were running. I set off in high spirits but by the time I got 1 mile into the run I knew this one was a different thing altogether. Our 5 year old son was running it with my husband walking next to him and before long they were way ahead of me.  One of the fast runners from my husband’s running club was running with me to encourage me and I think she was really shocked at how badly I was doing. I ran the first mile and then walked for at least the next quarter mile. My hip was hurting, my pride was wounded and I knew I could be overtaken by the first walkers at any time. My husband was concerned about my hip and suggested I should stop but my pride would not allow me that luxury. I kept going, with plenty of walk breaks, pretending it just felt good to be out but hating the whole thing. I did manage to run over the finish line and the running club and my children were all shouting me in. My 17 year old son had managed to come third which was a massive achievement, and thankfully gave me something to focus on other than how dreadful I felt in every other way.

We went into the café for refreshments with the rest of the running club, who were very encouraging even though I actually felt like just running away. My time for this 5k was 7 minutes longer than my first one, over a much “easier” course. I didn’t think, at that point, that I would ever want to run again. “Who cares if I’m only holding the coats, perhaps that’s all I’ll ever be up to” I thought.

Then my running journey was jolted back on track by a few simple words. One of the ladies from the running club casually said “if you would like me to go running with you one day, I would be more than happy to do so”. She has no idea what impact those words had on me. She had seen how pathetic I was, she didn’t have any illusions as to how slow I was, I didn’t have to pretend to be good – she had witnessed exactly what I was capable of. Yet she had genuinely offered to run with me. I could have hugged her (I didn’t know her very well then – I have since given her a hug for her massive input into my running). My first personal trainer was on the job!

I had a running buddy! A running buddy who was going to be vital in my preparation for the 10k if I had any chance of making it. We arranged to meet one Monday evening and the very thought of doing it pushed me to go out the Saturday before and run 5.3 miles. On our first run together I managed 5.2 miles, with my buddy adjusting her pace to mine and spurring me on in just the right fashion.

The next Monday we met near her home, 8 miles from ours, right in the forest park. We had a wonderful run, along beautiful forest lanes, with glimpses of the Galloway Hills on a balmy evening. It was amazing to be running, and even more amazing when, at the end of the run she told me we had just run 10k. What a feeling that was. There were some walks in it, a toilet stop behind a tree and a lot of chatting but I was absolutely fine.  It had taken us 1 hour and 24 minutes. I decided there and then that my goal was to do the 10k race in under 1 hour and 20 minutes.

At the beginning of April our family went camping near Coniston for my husband to run the Coniston 14+ race. The weather was glorious, his time was brilliant and I had a lovely 2 mile run round a small Tarn on the evening after his race. I was back on track. The hip was fine, my heart was back in it and wearing the new skort I treated myself to I was a runner again.

Two weeks later I ran with the running club for the first time on a 5k time trial.  I was last but I knocked 36 seconds off my first 5k time and a massive 8 minutes off the disastrous second one.

My friend ran with me almost every Monday evening in the weeks running up to the 10k. She took me 6.2 miles a couple of times and on the last run pushed me to 6.4 miles which I managed in 1 hour and 23 minutes.

The weekend before the 10k we went to Belfast for my husband to run Belfast Marathon and we were making it a long weekend with some of the children. We sailed over on Friday morning, watched the Royal Wedding on the ferry with everyone else and spent a couple of days “seeing the sights”. On the Saturday morning I got up early and went for a run along the river through the city. I have never experienced running in a city before and felt like I was seeing things through different eyes.  I felt like pinching myself to make sure it was me.  Early morning, leaving the others in the hotel, and absorbing the feel of a city waking up, was an exciting way to start the day and as I ran back towards the hotel I felt as though I had added another new dimension to my running.

On the morning of the marathon we got caught up in the excitement. The children always enjoy supporting their daddy and will him on to achieve his goal of the moment. This marathon really took it out of him as he was pushing for a huge PB but this time, when he had finished, I felt as though I had a new kind of sympathy with him. Although running a marathon will be years away, if ever, for me, I know how it feels to run a race.

We took the ferry back that evening. We were sitting comfortably in chairs right at the front of the ferry but it was very cold. At least I was very cold. No-one else seemed to be cold, in fact shivery, like me. Then I was hot. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I was shivering from fever, not cold. Everyone else was fine. My heart sank. This was Monday evening and the event I had been aiming for, looking forward to, training for, over the last few months was 48 hours away and I was getting sick. I couldn’t believe it.

The next morning I was ill. My temperature was spiking and dipping like nobodies’ business and I felt really sick. I stayed in bed and slept most of the day. If willing myself better was possible then I was going to do it. I knew for a fact that if I didn’t run this race I would probably never run again. Sounds dramatic but we females can be quite dramatic at times and pushing towards this had taken so much out of me that I didn’t think I could convince myself that “there would be another one”. 

Wednesday morning I had a text from a friend who was also doing the run as her first 10k. “Lovely day for a run” she wrote. I told her that I didn’t even know if I would be running it. My temperature seemed OK so I decided to make the decision whether to run by lunch time. We have an 8 seater car and we were giving lifts to others from the running club so I pre-warned them that I may have to pull out.

By lunchtime, still shaky but on my feet, I made the decision that I would run the 10k with the aim of just getting round. I adjusted my time goal to 1 hour 30 minutes and we set off in the late afternoon. Our 17 year old son was also running and as he had done so well in the local 5k everyone was expecting great things from him. The moment, in the car, on the way to the run, when he announced that he was going to run with me to keep me going, was one of the nicest moments of my life. We are all proud of our children, sometimes for what they have achieved, sometimes for what they say but this was one of those moments when I was proud of him just because of who he is. He became the second person to make sure my 10k goal was achieved – my second personal trainer.

There wasn’t time for nerves really. We chatted away on the 1 and a half hour journey, met up with friends there, including my friend whose first race it was, tied on our chips and headed for the start line. My son and I made for the back and before we knew it we were off. It was a beautiful evening, running along the shore front in Troon, being cheered on by crowds of encouragers. I knew I would be slow, even possibly last but with my son at the side of me I also knew I would finish it. As we ran passed my husband and friends cheering us on, I grabbed my water bottle and off we went.

Troon 10k is a lovely run. Some small hills but enough interest to stop you getting bored and discouraged. There are people all along, standing on street corners and in their driveways, clapping and encouraging even though we were way behind the bulk of the runners. We walked every so often and my son just kept going at my pace. He said all the right things at all the right times. He kept talking to me when he sensed me slacking and all along he assured me there were people behind us. It felt like a really long way – far longer than the training runs I had done, probably because I was still recovering from the bug, but eventually we ran back to the shore and began the last 1.5k. There waiting on the corner was my friend and another member of the running club, both of whom had finished ages ago with excellent PB’s but who had come back to meet me. I nearly stopped and burst into tears at that point, but that would have defeated the object so I dug in and ran a tiny bit faster. By the time I could see the line I was nearer dropping but my youngest son and friends’ daughter came to run in with me, we overtook two people on the last stretch, the rest of the running club had waited to “see me in” and before I knew it I was over the line and in a massive bear hug with my son.

So many people came to say well done that I felt like a celebrity. My friend who was running her first 10k stayed to wait for me. She had an incredible achievement under her belt. She had run it in seconds over 1 hour. I had encouraged her into running in the first place and I wished for a moment that I had encouraged her to take up belly dancing instead of running, but felt very proud of her at the same time!

I don’t know if other people feel like I felt after that race. I felt on top of the world. I had come in, in 1 hour 19 minutes and 45 seconds.  My son’s chance of glory had gone the minute he had said he would run with me but my gratitude to him was immense. I was surrounded by supporters who treated me as though I had climbed Everest even though their times were all very impressive with a number of PBs taken. I realised at that point that my running journey was just beginning. That there is much more to achieve out there and that I will have to push hard to achieve it, perhaps harder than some. But I also knew that evening that I had become part of a group of people who would be with me all the way. Who would celebrate my successes as much as those ultra marathoner runners. More than anything, I was massively grateful to my running buddy for getting me back on track and going the distance, and indescribably proud of my son for sacrificing a brilliant time on his first 10k to see his ailing, overweight, lumbering mother over the finish line and give her the evening of her life!

The next article will follow a summer of running – the goal being just to keep it up!

Andrea Williams

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