The 4 weeks of lockdown are now behind us and I think for runners and walkers it was slightly better than the summer lockdown as we could get out with a buddie.
When the lockdown rules were announced we wondered how we could help everyone find a buddie to get out with, so we set up some WhatsApp groups for all our regular sessions and people applied to join their group.
It was a roaring success, people linking up and running/walking routes that were new to them.
Motivation was high and so many more of us kept going through this lockdown.
We had some good fun on our Facebook group too, Challenge Tuesday made a comeback and Fun Friday was.....fun!
Now we are settling back in to our groups, it's really great to be back with friends we haven't seen for a few weeks, catching up on news, discussing Christmas plans and, oh yes, running and walking!
Getting back to groups is so much more than the exercise, it is about the running and walking of course, we all want to get fitter, or get outside, or be able to eat a few treats without worrying about our waistline, but it's also about the camaraderie, the friendships, the chat, the connections, all the things we missed so much during lockdown.
We do keep to all the UKA Covid-Secure guidelines, and our groups are smaller so that we can keep to the rules. We are constantly monitoring the space between us and we fall in to single-file when there are other path users. We want to make sure that everyone is safe!
We may face another lockdown, who knows. The vaccine is here but it'll be a while before we can all benefit from it.
So until then, Stay Safe everyone!
,My running blog. 0 - 26 miles in 18 months - by Paul
It was a sunny day sitting on Brean beach with my friends and parents, I had recently been off work with depression / anxiety. It came up in conversation that Cheryl (my friend who was there with us on the beach) was to run the London marathon, the next week. Being me at the time I could not even comprehend that this was even possible and was sort of stunned that someone I knew was going to be doing it.
I did however think it was quite exciting and found out that it was possible to track her progress on the phone. Sun 28th (marathon day) soon came round, we were actually at a van meet that day but I was eager to get the app on (unfortunately due to technical difficulties the chip didn’t work, so I couldn't follow the progress anyway)
I was back to work the next day. Even though I felt well, I didn’t feel the reason I was ill in the first place had been addressed. Because of this I did want to change things to try and reduce the chances of a repeat illness in the future. So with this in mind, I was back home watching clips of the London Marathon, including Cheryl finishing ) and I literally said to myself "this time next year I want to do that" and I entered the ballot as soon as it was open.
This was quite a tall order (no pun intended as I’m only 5ft 3 ) but as I hadn't run for over 20 years and even when I had, it was just because it was PE at school and wasn’t through choice. I was also 13 stone 5. To start with, for a couple of weeks, I did a lot of walking. Even that was energetic for me, but I realised I was enjoying it. A friend of mine agreed to do a couple of short runs with me and even though I was slow (I mean people on zimmers were coming past) I was enjoying it. She also introduced, me to park run which I remember well, it took me 45 mins and I couldn’t run it all (but it was ace!) and the next one I did I remember knocking 3 mins off.
I was enjoying it so much I booked up 3 events (I needed this so I had something to aim for) - 10k March for Men (9th June) - 10k Race for life (14th July) - Cheltenham half marathon (29th Sept)
By now I had managed a couple of 5ks and wondered where to go from there, I wasn't a fan of running alone and remembered that Caitlin ran with a local running club. So on Friday 31st of May I joined Happy Feet, it was the best decision I had made so far (and still is) it’s been brilliant.
Over the next few months I got stronger and got my parkrun time down from 45 mins to 35 mins, all within 4 months of starting. I also got my distance up to 10k to complete both the March for Men and the Race for Life which was my first official run. I was now starting to up my distance to get prepared for the Cheltenham half marathon in September. This soon came round and there I was standing towards the back of the start line thinking it’s better to overtake (like that’s going to happen) than be overtaken. Apart from losing my headphones and being overtaken by a few people, the start went well. I was adamant I wasn’t going to rush at the start and it paid off. Not only was I not being overtaken but I was overtaking those who shot past me at the start, I had met someone to run with and I was having the best Sunday morning ever.
Although my aim was just to finish, I really wanted to come in under 3 hours. All was well until mile 10 I think, when my running buddy wasn't feeling well, I said we would stick together and even though we had to walk a little we both finished at 2hr 57 mins, a bit close for comfort lol.
It was shortly after this that I found out I was unsuccessful in getting a space in the London marathon. I then found out that Stratford marathon was on the same date and it looked like a nice one, so I booked to do that. From then on, I was getting as much training in as I could, trying to get as fit as I could. Ready to start doing longer distances after Christmas, to be prepared for the big day.
Shortly after this I unfortunately picked up an injury, possibly caused from over training but I think if would have happened anyway. I had what I thought was a bad ankle and tried everything to try and sort it.
I didn’t run for at least 4 weeks, possibly longer. Everything I tried just didn’t seem to do anything and it got to the point that it actually hurt to walk, I really thought I had no chance to be ready for the marathon now. Then a glimmer of light. The University of Worcester were advertising that they would be happy to take on case studies for the students to learn and with that I contacted them.
Straight away they pointed out how bad my balance was and quickly diagnosed my problem as peninsula tendonitis. Over the next few weeks, I had exercises and stretches to carry out and I quickly began to see improvements. By early February I was back to it but I had lost about 5 weeks of training. Even though I didn’t think I would be ready for a marathon in April, I restarted training again and within 3 weeks I was back up to half marathon distances and getting more confidence.
March continued with progressively longer runs, but I was thinking that perhaps a run/walk approach to the big day might be safer. I thought it would give me a greater chance of finishing. By the middle of March however the world had different ideas and with Covid taking over, the marathon was postponed. I was gutted as it meant a lot to me to do it on the date, but it was out of my hands and I really didn’t want to do it on my own.
Throughout lockdown I didn’t do the longer runs as I didn’t want to burn out not knowing when the race day would actually be. By July I was itching to get going again, I changed my goal to just doing a marathon sometime in 2020. I then found out that Ian ( a friend from Happy Feet) was training for a marathon, he wasn’t sure when or where but kindly said I could join him and we started training with the idea of running a non-organised marathon at some point in the year. Shortly after this Jenny, another friend from Happy Feet Fitness and Shane a friend from camping, started to join us.
This was great, our own little group for the day. Back in September half marathons were “if I finish it would be great” now they were a regular occurrence! I think it was 5 or 6 , in 3 months and 1 of them even banking a medal, even though it was a training run (always making it more worthwhile ).
Ian found out that the London marathon would now be a virtual event on October 4th, it was great that we had a date to aim for. Time was suddenly going extra fast, juggling life and training was hard work, but I persisted with long runs most Saturday mornings. This meaning being up at 6am on the weekend, but I knew it would be worth it and that it had to be done - even better I was enjoying it.
Before I knew it I was doing half marathon + mileage, and not before time. The big day was just around the corner, plans were being made. I planned our route, which I really enjoyed and thankfully the others were happy for me to do this. Water stops were all organised and it was all becoming very real, I was actually going to do this!
The weekend before, plans were made with fellow runners who said they would join us, which as I found out on the day would be a god send. My friends all teamed up to come out to support me on the route, I felt like everything was falling into place.
After a week where for the first time ever I had the best ever excuse to eat loads, the weekend was finally here. Obviously there had to be one final disappointment (like in the films), my friend Cheryl, who I mentioned at the beginning, was unable to attend due to issues out of her control. I don’t know who was more disappointed me or her. I knew if I was going to succeed, I needed to get myself back onto a high and after talking to a few friends, I was back on form and ready.
6am Race day, up for my normal bowl of granola and a banana and just for good luck a few jelly babies. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great, but at 8.35am we set off for what I kept telling myself was just a long training run.
We set off in great spirits all of us having a big build up to the day, all was going well and we were bang on schedule until mile 19, with the odd struggle mentally, not physically, I gave myself a good talking to and overcame this.
Mile 21 came and unfortunately Ian’s knee started to play up after an injury earlier in the year. I had always said I would possibly have to run/walk the last 5 miles, and so I wasn’t too upset to do this. I'm not sure if I could have run the rest or not, but the aim was to finish.
At the last water stop it felt like we had been going for ever, and now the tables had turned. My head wanted to get finished and was saying push, and my legs felt like they had been attached to lead weights, but I was so close to finishing and this feeling was incredible, so many feelings and emotions!
The final few yards, and apart from accidentally pushing Ian into a puddle, I got the "YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE 26.2 MILES" for the Virtual London Marathon! Giving me a massive boost to put a sprint finish on, and I’ve never, ever, felt so good!
I had finally done it. That night sitting in my recliner I remembered that day 18 months ago when I made the decision to do it, it took 4 days for it to really sink in that I HAD done it!
If you want to do it you can, it just takes persistence, time and patience but it can be done.
Well as proud of my achievements as I am there was a sense of sadness, as I had completed my challenge so what now ? - Well I’ve set myself a goal of doing Stratford marathon in 4 hr 30 next year, but as we all know, plans don’t always go to plan. So, watch this space lol.
So, we seem to have a battle of the groups on our hands!
The Monday morning, evening and Friday morning groups are trying to out-do each other in a Boomerang challenge!
Sadly I can't rotate one of the clips!
As you can see the evening group is giving in gracefully this week....but they have plans!!!!!
The weekend of 5th, 6th and 7th September 2020 was the first Virtual Worcester City run.
Due to covid restrictions we couldn't all run together, but lots of us signed up anyway, as profits were going to the Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust.
Events of the North organised it from a distance, and all we had to do was enter, download the app, run or walk the distance and then submit our proof.
We stayed in our normal groups and either did the 5k, or did a bit more and got up to 10k, a few hardy runners managed the half marathon!
There were some pretty pleased runners as you can see from their photos!
It was nice to feel that we had participated, but we can't wait till next year when we hope we can do it for real!
Keep running and walking, and keep safe!
Over on our FaceBook page we had a post this week about comparison, and it generated quite a discussion.
I've been mulling it over for a few days and thought I'd share my thoughts....
When I stared running I didn't have a running watch, I didn't even think that much about time, I did need to know how long I'd been running for as I was doing a version of couch to 5k, but that was it.
As I started to run more I became more interested in how long I'd been out running and I think I used a phone app to see how far I'd run, I then had to work out on a calculator how fast I'd run, I had no idea there were gadgets out there that would work that out for me!
As time went on I found out about GPS watches, and invested in one. Wow, I was hooked! I could see at a glance how far I'd run and how fast I was going, in the beginning that was really motivating, if I felt tired, I'd look at my watch and think, only half a mile and I'll have reached my target, so I'd push on..... Luckily I didn't injure myself doing that, but I have seen others do so, not wanting to stop until the watch shows the magic number can become a bit of on obsession.
I have used my watch to help me train for races and improve my times, and I really do like having that instant feedback with me but.....as the years went by I became more focused on that task master on my wrist, I'd catch myself thinking "last week I was 3 seconds faster at this point" and I would beat myself up for that perceived failure. Eventually I started to vary my routes more so that I couldn't do that en-route comparison as easily.
My comparison has always been with myself, about how I could have run those few seconds faster, gone those few 100 meters further, been more even with my splits......on and on that comparison goes, there was a time that I thought that I wasn't making any progress and felt like giving up!
Then along came the running community apps, yet more opportunities to compare myself to others. To be honest, by the time I got round to joining (I'm definitely not an early adopter!) I was much more comfortable with my own running and was more interested in other people's stats than comparing them with my own.
However I do notice others talking about how they compare themselves with others, feeling that they should be running further or faster or for longer, that so-and-so hasn't been running as long as me, but has improved quicker, that mega mileage is being done by running friends and that they can find the time to do it so why can't I....
Gadgets are great, I still love mine but I use it for my own benefit, my watch also counts steps and some days I love just saying "Yah-Boo" watch, I'm not going to do to target you've set me and I DON'T CARE!
In our groups we really try to embrace the health benefits of running and walking, rather than just looking at speed and distance. The improvements to our mental and physical being are huge, the social feeling is so important too.
All our groups are mixed ability which means we have some really quick runners alongside those at a more sedate pace, this might look a bit unusual to start with, but we know that for us it works. No one gets left behind and as all our paces vary slightly we don't really compare ourselves to each other on the run. I'm not saying we don't have some good natured competition, but at the heart of it we are all working as hard as we can, be that at 6 minutes a kilometer or 11, and we all respect the effort that each one of us is putting in.
Sometimes I think that I should leave my watch at home, that I shouldn't upload to that running community app, but you know what, I do like to see what I've done, I'm proud of every step I take and I'm proud of the steps that others take too!
So is Comparison the thief of Joy? Yes, I think it can be. Comparison with ourselves or with other can take away the Joy we feel in the pure energy of running, but only if we let it. X
For the last 5 weeks we have been running and walking as groups of 5 plus a leader, and it has been brilliant!
When the Government changed the regulations at the beginning of June, we were really excited and straight away we looked at how we could get back to social running. We looked at all the guidance available and put together a plan for us all to follow, to make sure we could meet again safely.
Our biggest priority is to keep everyone safe, so we keep a 2m distance when we walk, run and stretch, we arrive at our meeting places on time so we don’t have to wait around, if anyone feels unwell in any way we ask them to stay at home and we keep to quiet roads and paths to minimise our contact with other path users.
We were all really excited to get back together, we have all kept motivated in the virtual world, with our great “Challenge Tuesday” and we have had strength and conditioning and stretching classes live online, but there is nothing quite like being out in the fresh air together.
We were all a little apprehensive to begin with, after all this virus has not gone away! But we knew we needed to restore a little normality to our lives. Exercising outside is so important for both our physical and mental health, and we had all been missing it!
So, on Sunday 7th June we started back, to begin with we offered a few groups on different days, they were immediately oversubscribed so we slowly added more groups in to the mix and now have 15 going out each week. It’s great to be able to offer most people at least one group run a week.
We are so grateful to our leaders too, for taking out groups and keeping everyone safe.
We are already looking towards the future; we can’t wait for the time when we can restart our popular Couch to 5k groups and our longer distance runs. We will need to wait for further relaxation of the guidelines before we can plan these though.
For now we will keep on providing a great, fun, safe environment for our runners and walkers.
Keep safe everyone!
Marie and Rhiannon
Its been a little while since I’ve written a blog so I thought it was about time I put pen to paper!
I have absolutely loved being back at ‘work’ over the past few weeks and it’s been awesome seeing so many of you out with us.
Over the lockdown we have all had our own highs and lows, some of us have managed to get out training and some just haven’t and that’s completely ok.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed some of you have felt like you are failing, can’t keep up and just generally found running/walking hard.
Lots of you will have heard me and Marie talking about our heart rate and how important it is for good training results so thought it would be a perfect topic for my blog.
So lets talk about max heart rate and training zones, first of all we need to be able to determine our maximum heart rate.
There are several ways that we can do this and most of them involve a laboratory style assessment however we can all work out a rough estimate of our max HR by using a simple formula
220 – Your age
Although this is a very general calculation it will give us all a good base and from there, we can tweak the number to suit us.
So, I am 33 meaning my Max HR should be 220-33 = 187.
I would consider myself to be fit and I do regularly monitor my heart rate during my training and I know at my absolute maximum effort my heart rate will be around 191 so it’s a pretty good estimate.
Once we have worked out our maximum heartrate we can start to understand how it can affect how we feel during training and after.
When I am in my top zone (so in my top heart rate zone of 90-100% of my maximum), I can’t talk, thinking is hard and its not maintainable for a long period of time.
Whereas when I am in my 1st, 2nd or 3rd zone I can comfortably talk, I feel comfortable and relaxed and providing my legs will allow me I can keep on going.
My body utilises my energy stores effectively rather than using the most easily accessible sources which can leave you feeling exhausted.
Are you questioning what are these zones? Our heart rate zones are a reflection of the percentage of our max heart rate.
90-100% Max HR
Duration - Less than 5 minutes
Benefits – Increase maximum sprint race speed
Feels like – Very exhausting for breathing and muscles
Recommended for – Very fit people/ athletes
80-90% Max HR
Duration 2-10 minutes
Benefits – Increase max performance
Feels like – Muscle fatigue and heavy breathing
Recommended for – ‘Fit’ people and for short exercise
70-80% Max HR
Duration 10-40 minutes
Benefits – Improves aerobic fitness
Feels like – Light Muscular fatigue, easy breathing, moderate sweating
Recommended for – Everyone for typical, moderate long exercise
60-70% Max HR
Duration 40-80 minutes
Benefits – Improves basic endurance and helps recovery
Feels like – Comfortable, easy breathing, light sweating
50-60% Max HR
Duration 20-40 minutes
Benefits – Improve overall health, helps recovery
Feels like – Easy every day moving around
Recommended for – basic training and novice exercisers and active recovery
As you can see from the table it is important to make sure we aren’t pushing ourselves too hard because our heart will be in a zone that is not maintainable, and we will have to stop.
The longer we exercise the harder our heart will have to work to metabolise the energy we need to keep going.
A good training plan should be a mix of using zones 1-4. To improve our resting HR and Max HR we need to push ourselves into zone 4 but only for very short periods and certainly not during every run.
We must let our bodies recover in between sessions, by also training in zone 4, you will experience symptoms of exhaustion.
We should be looking to run at a comfortable chatting pace, this is a really good indicator that your heart is in the correct zone (zone 2-3). Your runs will become easier, your heart will thank you and so will your other muscles.
Realistically you only need to try and push into zone 4 for a few minutes once a week to increase your cardiovascular fitness and that can easily be done by a short burst that is relative to your level.
In summary – slower is better, your muscles will be receiving the oxygen and nutrients they need, they will be able to utilise your bodies energy in the most efficient way and most importantly you will be looking after your heart.
Please remember, no one is ever too slow for happy feet. Take your time, enjoy your run and we will always muster
As the weather starts to warm up there are a few practical things we can do.
Put on your sunscreen.
There are sunscreens specifically for runners and walkers that stay on sweaty skin. I use my ordinary factor 50 sunscreen as I know it suits my skin, but it does sting if it gets in my eyes! Don't forget to put it on your ears if they are exposed, they are a prime site for sun damage skin cancer.
Wear a cap / hat
It's a good idea to wear something on your head to protect your scalp and your eyes. It also helps to shade your face, you can get caps with neck covering too, great if you are on a longer trek.
I have very thick hair so I prefer a visor so that the heat dissipates but I still get the eye protection.
Prescription or ordinary sunglasses keep the glare off your eyes and help to protect them, it's worth investing in a pair if this is an issue for you.
Most of us wear moisture wicking clothing as it's comfortable, but it also does a really good job of moving the moisture away from your skin to the surface of the clothing to allow it to evaporate and help keep you cool. It is tempting to wear a vest top, but often a T-shirt is better if you are going to be out longer, to give more protection to your skin.
Remember to take water, or your preferred electrolyte drink with you, even on short runs and walks. It is really important to stay hydrated even on cooler days, making sure you regularly top up through the day is important too.
The first sign of dehydration is thirst, ideally you should be drinking regularly enough not to get to the point of feeling thirsty. Fatigue, dry eyes, dry mouth, cramps, headache and muscle spasms are also signs of more serious dehydration and it can ultimately can lead to heat exhaustion and possible hospitalisation or worse.
I can't stress enough how important it is to keep well hydrated, but don't over do it. This is a good article about dehydration
After you've been out you'll need to cool down, it is tempting to jump in to an ice cold shower, but the shock can be quite extreme, so go cool rather than icy! Having something cold to drink is also great, an ice lolly or a ice-pole are my favourite ways to reduce my temperature! Read more about cooling down here
Use the shade
If possible plan your sessions to make the most of the cooler times of day, or take the shady paths. Depending on the time of day, wooded areas can be a haven of cool, or can hold on to the daytime heat and feel stuffy. This will be trial and error, you know your local paths the best, so experiment and find your best "hot day" routes.
Does sweat drip into your eyes? A layer of Vaseline or similar put across your eyebrow line, starting on one side near to your ear and continuing across to the other ear will help direct sweat away from your eyes.
Dampen your cap and pop it in the freezer for a short time before you go out, it gives you a nice cool head to start with.
Take a light jacket for after your run in case you cool down too quickly once you stop.
Will the heat affect my times?
In brief, yes, it probably will!
Your body is having to work hard to cool you down, producing sweat and sending your blood to your skin to cool down.
Your muscles also need that blood for oxygen and energy, so your heart and lungs are working extra hard to do that too.
It takes around two weeks to get used to the heat. In this country we rarely have the time for our bodies to acclimatise as we have such a huge variance in our weather, hot one day, rain and a chilly wind the next! So be kind to your body, a heatwave is not the time to be trying to set any records.
Don't let the warm weather put you off going out, but be prepared. If it is going to be HOT and there are weather warnings about, why not wait for the temperature to drop a little.
At Happy Feet we do pay attention to the forecasts and will cancel groups if we feel it's going to be too hot.
Safety is paramount, and comfort too, we want to enjoy our running and walking and missing a session now and again is much better than struggling through and risking overheating!
Keep safe everone!
There is no doubt that Covid-19 has changed our lives.
There we were, pottering on, not really noticing the passing of the days, not really noticing how much freedom we had, then BAM! everything stopped.
Suddenly, many of us had time on our hands, it was a novelty, we painted fences, cut grass, weeded flowerbeds. For those of us who couldn't go to work it was quite nice, except we didn't have any of the freedom we'd taken for granted. That novelty soon started to wear off!
We were restricted to an hours exercise, and even those who'd never really thought about exercise before started to get out and walk or cycle or run. Some of us had to stay within the confines of our own homes as we had conditions that made us more vulnerable if we caught the virus.
Then there were the people who had to got to work, they had no choice but to brave the virus day after day, looking after those who were sick, caring for the vulnerable in their own homes, opening up the essential shops, clearing away our rubbish, keeping out streets safe, teaching the children of key workers, amongst many other jobs.
Working from home became to norm, some were trying to educate their children whilst taking conference calls, some were trying to move their businesses online to keep an income, to say it's been a challenge for most people is an understatement!
Sadly this virus has taken lives too, it has rampaged throughout the world, leaving heartache and devastation in it's wake.
But, the human spirit is strong, we have pulled together and we have shown how much we care about each other. We have volunteered, we have checked on our neighbours and some of us have met people in our streets that we didn't even know lived there!
At Happy Feet we have grown in to an even stronger community, we have offered each other support and motivation, we have checked up on those who have gone quiet and we have shared our highs and lows. We have celebrated milestones, Sharon's half marathon on her own, Pippa's 10k, Mary and Gill covering 67 miles each for their birthdays, Hollie's solo couch to 5k comeback....the list could go on and on.
We have discovered hidden talents too...who knew we had a brilliant ukulele player in our midst, Steve's songs have really cheered us up!
Challenge Tuesday has brought us all together on one day of the week to run, walk or cycle as far as we can as a team, knowing that we aren't alone has really helped. We haven't all been able to participate on a Tuesday for a variety of reasons, but the cheers form the sidelines really do help!
We have had quizzes and photo challenges, Caitlin and Mary have been instrumental in those, they are determined to keep our minds active too!
As the restrictions start to ease and we can begin to venture back out in to the world, I hope that all the positives that have come from this awful time will stay with us, that we continue to say hello to our neighbours and look out for each other, that we allow ourselves the time to appreciate what we have.
Keep active and keep safe everyone, we aren't out of the woods yet!
My Lockdown Couch to 5k
Hello everyone..me again!!
Some of you may not know me, my name is Hollie and I have been a member of this remarkable running club since April 2018.
I had regularly been running in the Monday & Thursday night beyond groups and have also done the 5-10k course, resulting in doing the Worcs City 10k in 2018, which remains one of the best days I’ve ever had.
I also did up to 15k of the 10k-HM course last year. This is still, and will always be, the furthest I have ever run!
My last run before lockdown was with HF on Halloween. Since then “life” got in the way of getting out running - the usual winter coughs & colds, Christmas & mainly being crazy busy at work. I work as a buyer at Webbs Garden Centre, so at certain times of the year I don’t know whether I’m coming or going with lots of travelling, visiting showrooms and trade shows and have order deadlines to hit.
All through my break my aim was always to get back out for a run with HF. Although I was still connected to the group via Karen & Sharon & the FB page, I missed seeing everyone in the groups and being out & about running around our lovely city of Worcester.
My running kit was always ready & waiting in my car all that time..ready for the evening I finished work on time or I had enough energy to go or it wasn’t raining!
The New Year arrived and it crossed my mind to start the HF Couch to 5k course..but stupidly for someone who wasn’t running I felt doing that would be a backward step..so I continued not running!!
Fast forward to March and Covid-19 arrived. I was furloughed from my busy job & as I am a creature of habit, who thrives on routine and having structure - I knew I would have to create a new timetable & set myself some new goals. If I didn’t do this I would eat to excess & gain weight, never leave my house apart from doing my horse and I would go just a little bit crazy!!
Now was my chance to finally get my new Christmas trainers on and start Couch to 5k. If I started now I would be back up and running 5k ready to go back to the HF groups when restrictions were lifted.
Just getting out through the door to run on my own for the first few weeks was going to be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome, so I had to commit to doing this and make myself accountable by telling people I was doing it, so I told Karen & Sharon and also Marie & Rhi.
I’d got a full card of running credits, so I committed to using two of these a week and would top up when I ran out.
I also asked a couple of friends to join me, I thought we could FaceTime each other before each run, run separately and then check in after running, but despite initially being keen when it got to the first run neither felt up for it..so I was on my own.
I’d never done C25k before, so to make sure I didn’t do too much (!) and get injured, I downloaded the NHS C25k app and selected Jo Whiley as my virtual coach. I also pulled together a running playlist to listen to.
I decided to start each running week on a Tuesday, to allow me to participate in the HF Challenge Chuesday, which would be another reason to get out through the door.
Weeks 1-4 went really well, made up of a series of walk-run intervals which built up the running time gradually and at the end of each session I was feeling like I could have done a bit more, which I took as a good sign. I guess I still had some residual fitness from previous running and from being active doing horsey stable work!
These early weeks allowed me to explore the area around where I live & discover a lot of lovely new places to walk & run that before Lockdown I didn’t know existed.
Thank you Lockdown!!
The 3rd run of week 5 was to run for 20mins, with no walk breaks...this was the first time I felt worried about not being able to complete a session. I’d not run for that long non-stop for a long time! I was also starting to get a bit deflated that the end of my runs were getting harder, mainly due to the fact that to get home I had to run uphill...the joys of living in beautiful Malvern!
But after some encouragement from Marie & Caitlin on Strava, on Sunday Runday l planned a route that would hopefully finish somewhere on the flat. I put on my HF t-shirt and while I was procrastinating on my couch I took a scroll through my Strava & looked at all the runs I’d previously done & reminded myself of what my legs & I had achieved before; 15k - my longest ever run, Race for Life, Worcester City run and a few other 10k’s..so running for 20mins should be fine, shouldn’t it?!
I did my HF stretches, fired up my playlist & off I went & loved it, the first run that I actually felt like I was a runner again!
When Jo told me I had “just” 5 mins left to run the song playing was Journey’s “Don’t stop believing” and it was just what I needed to hear. Then at 2 mins to go, when I was really struggling to keep the legs moving it was John Mellencamp & “Hurts so good”....Too true..push on through the pain!!
Music is a huge part of my life and there’s hardly a minute goes by that I don’t have the radio on and I have now realised the benefit of having it with me on my solo runs. Having a playlist that is far longer than I will ever run for means that if I play it on shuffle I don’t get used to which song is coming next, or how far through a run I am. It has helped me push through in the absence of friends to chat to to pass the time & take my mind off the fact that I’m running.
The trouble comes when I try to sing along..it interferes with the breathing a bit!!
Run 3 of Week 7 has to be my biggest achievement of the course. Not because of distance, pace, or conquering hills..but just due to the fact I actually got myself out through the door & ran! The Lockdown blues had finally got to me..it was a chilly day & I’d had one of those days where I’d spent most of the day under a blanket on the sofa. I couldn’t get warm no matter what I did, I’d eaten rubbish all day, but I knew I had to get out & run TODAY..I couldn’t put it off as this was run 3 of the week & it was Sunday.
I eventually got out from under my blanket, but it was all I could do to get changed into my running gear as I just could not stop shivering!! I so very nearly didn’t go.
But, I put my trainers on & did my warm-up (literally) stretches up & down my lounge & started to feel a bit better.
In went my earphones and I started my playlist. Now, the song that played as I stepped out of my door wouldn’t be an obvious choice to go on a running playlist, however at that moment it was just what I needed to hear..Céline Dion’s “I’m Alive”!!
I put one foot in front of the other & off I went. For the remainder of the session my playlist threw up some real gems & got me around..some Greatest Showman, some Witney & some Little Mix to name a few.
Week 7 - Done - Thank you for the Music.
Week 9 soon arrived..the final week!! According to the app by the end of this week I would be able to run 5k in 30mins..from previous experience and current performance this was rather ambitious! So I thought I’d follow the app for the first 2 runs and run for 30 mins, then for the final run I’d run for 5k, however long that took me!!
My planning hadn’t taken into account that my graduation run would be during the hottest week of the year so far (!) so I got up early to run early morning to beat the heat.
However, I had planned my route to make sure I had plenty of shade to run in, but of course, by switching from running in the evening to a morning run, the sun was in a different place and the shady places I was used to were now sunny places...Oops!
Apart from this my run went really well..I’d made a different playlist for graduation, featuring obviously the very best songs, the ones that always kept me going & inspired me, which as ever they did this time.
In the end I actually ran 5.5k as at the point my watch notified me that I’d completed the distance I also got a text message notification, so that cancelled out my distance alert, so I didn’t know how far I’d gone!!
I had planned my run to finish outside the playing fields of my old secondary school, in my own way a show of defiance to the PE teachers and athletic types who hadn’t encouraged or helped me and who had made me feel like running wasn’t for me all those many years ago.
When I finished I felt elated and although I’d run 5k & beyond before this meant so much to me in that I’d done it all myself, I’d kept to my schedule, I’d not missed a run or had to repeat any weeks. Even the fact that I’d had to walk out of my door in my running gear was a big deal to me & I’d done it. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so committed & determined about completing anything before.
As I was so happy & ordinarily would celebrate C25k graduation with Happy Feet I thought I’d do a live FB post to the group to talk to somebody, about what I’d done.
Thanks to everyone who watched..apologies for the sweaty, red-faced, emotional mess!!
So now my C25k “journey” is over and the next challenge is to keep going out 3x a week without the driver of needing to complete the weekly runs to finish the program.
But the incentive to get back out with Happy Feet remains & Challenge Chuesday will still be my first run of the week.
Throughout Lockdown, Happy Feet has been a shining example of an organisation who genuinely cares for its members at such an uncertain and worrying time and I thank Marie & Rhi and all the members for being so supportive to everyone in the club, wether they are currently running, walking, cycling or even taking a break.
Thank you x