Thursday, December 31, 2015

An Honest Review of My Year of Running

2015 is officially the year that I ran.

I hated sports at school, at university I went to the gym reasonably regularly, but I only ran outside when training for Air Force selection. I never got to that stage, and so gave up my running endeavours which were based on the Couch25K programme. Running feels like the thing I needed to feel like I'd conquered, however much I love my bike.

The whole running thing, and I know lots of people find the evangelical nature of praise surrounding the sport/hobby annoying, so I'll try not to go on too much, came about because when working away, I didn't always have access to my bike, but needed to exercise one way or another. Having trainers and some workout gear at my work base as well as home is much easier than having a bike in each location (although a girl can dream...).

Another @hellyhansen afternoon run. My poor knees are in shreds.

I'm also lucky enough to have been working with brands like Helly Hansen (tights and top above, both c/o Helly Hansen at the end of 2014) and Mountain Warehouse over the course of the last 18 months, so I've had the benefit of some really brilliant kit. I firmly believe you should run however you're comfortable, but from my experiences on my bike, having kit designed for sports increases my comfort level ten fold and therefore means one less thing to worry about.

I'd be lying if I said I connected with running and enjoyed it- I spent most of January and February forcing myself out of the door three times per week and wondering why I seemed to finding it all steadily harder, not easier. I'm not entirely sure therefore, what possessed me to sign up for a 10km race. I suspect it had something to do with being home alone and not having anyone to stop me. Turned out having a goal of the Nike Women's 10km in June helped give me a reason to drag my sorry behind around a 3-5km loop with regularity.

#thisgirlcan #werunlondon

My partner really did think I'd gone round the twist. Couch25K suddenly became Couch210K. A programme I actually enjoyed way more than the 5k version. But that doesn't necessarily explain how you go from the basics to a marathon. in the spring, disaster struck. My grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and became the third of my four grandparents to have the disease, amongst other family members. It made me angry and I decided the time had come to do something. I set myself the challenge of running 100 kilometres between my upcoming June birthday and the following year, and after a flurry of signing up for races (without a great deal of thought behind some of them) I realised I was on track to be finished by the end of 2015.

Just a tip from someone who learned the hard way though, running a race 3 weekends out of 4 in a month is hard work- training, carb loading, early starts and travelling to/from. All of a sudden you've lost your entire weekend to about an hour of actual running. I personally wouldn't do more than one race per month if I'd thought about it a bit more.

My summer seems to have been spent almost entirely sweating it out in trainers and pounding the pavements. In July I starting working with a personal trainer to try and get my nutrition a bit better balanced having started marathon training and feeling shitty for it- note to self, running that far, that often requires more calories... and also discovered that more of my joints are hypermobile than aren't. Having suffered a major injury in May, it's been helpful to get some proper advice on strength training and it's something I've continued, not just for running but because I don't want my body to fall apart.

FTJ: Running updates
Blood, sweat, tears, races and an inordinate amount of showering....

By the time we reached September, I started to realise what I'd let myself in for with signing up for a marathon. I don't think I've ever hated food so much, given I seemed to be eating. Constantly. It seemed to me that life was a cycle of running, eating, thinking about the next run and planning the next meal. But I got there. I crossed the line in tears on October 4th and spent most of the rest of the month trying to feel proud of myself and failing to put my trainers back on. I wrote about my experiences, if you want to know what they don't tell you can happen after a marathon, you can read about it HERE.

PicMonkey Collage

So yeah. In 2015, I ran. Loads. And today I ran my final race of the year, which feels like a cathartic end to the year. A really beautiful 10km Ely NYE 10km which takes my total number of kilometres run (in races only) to.... 108 and a sneaky little official personal best 10km time of 1:06:46. If you'd like to read more about my races and the challenge I undertook in 2015 to raise money for Cancer Research UK, or if you'd like to donate to the challenge, you can see my JustGiving Page HERE.

I think a lot of people have expected I would give up running after the marathon and my challenge. I missed out on so much bike riding in the summer because I was too busy getting my running in, and I love my bike and the joy I get from cycling. But... I actually quite like running too. A marathon was probably a step (or 20,000) too far and I maintain, I'm not interested in running any more of them. A 10km race though, for me that's an enjoyable distance and I have a couple lined up for 2016 already. I've set myself a limit on the number of races I enter next year and how close together they are and I also run with a small club which I love because it's not a traditional club and welcomes a whole range of abilities and has been a great way of meeting people this year. Sports clubs can seem very exclusive, especially if you're not very experienced in the sport, it's been so much fun to learn a bit more about basic running techniques and run with people training for marathons as well as people who are just dipping a toe in the proverbial water.

Running is tough on your body. People will always be quick to tell you it's bad for you due to impact but I personally think that with some guidance and proper strength training, there's no reason not to enjoy the feeling that you can put one foot in front of the other for longer or further than you could before. For me, the key to breaking running, has been understanding my own limits and learning how far is too far.

So, to 2015, the year I ran and to 2016, the year I'll enjoy running a bit more.

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