Tomorrow (Friday) will be my 27th Birthday. That's not especially remarkable, but for the year that has been and gone since I turned 26.
In June of last year we waited anxiously for a third of my four grandparents to go through major, quite risky and sort of experimental surgery, him having recently been diagnosed with cancer. Cancer has rampaged through my family leaving quite literally death and destruction in its path, which left me feeling a bit helpless. My way of *doing* something... to set myself a ridiculous challenge.
I was struggling on through Couch25K this time last year. I'd barely gotten half way through the program in 4 months thanks mostly to assorted injuries and a problematic period around our house move. So naturally, I decided that running 100 kilometres in races between my birthdays would be a great idea. I mean it's only like doing the 10km race I'd already booked myself onto (to try and keep me motivated with C25K), ten times over. RIGHT?
So let's talk numbers shall we...
The official total number of race kilometres: 143.4
Total number of races: 14
Total kilometres run since 03/06/15: 561
That's a lot of running. I didn't always love it either. You know how some people seem to instantly get something and the radiate this love for it all, that wasn't me. I had to learn to love being active all round, not just the whole running thing, so here's a few more things I learned along the way...
Running isn't bad for you. Running and not doing any stretching or even a small amount of other strength training is bad for you and likely to result in injury. It would also seem that adding strength training to my weekly regime made me run faster. A lot faster.
Now vs Then: Jan 2016:Jan 2015
Finish lines before finish times. Beating your goal time or getting a PB is great, but if you spend the entire run sobbing in pain or miserable because you'd rather be riding your bike or reading your book or cooking a new recipe, well, what's the point really. I know that we won't all want to get our behinds up and out all the time, but there has to be some joy in there somewhere and sometimes that joy is in completion of a job well done and enjoyed.... BUT....
When you do reach a goal, grad a new personal best time or run a minute longer or a few hundred metres further, it's awesome. Like that weird high people talk about awesome. 12 months in, I still take pleasure in realising I can now do something harder, faster, further or quicker. This is especially evident having run a couple of my marathon training routes over the last few weeks, and enjoying them, finding them fun, chatting and laughing whilst running them. As opposed to snarling, crying or staggering my way through them. And that's amazing.
Feeling strong at the end of my final race
For a 'cheap' sport it's easy to spend a lot. Suddenly, there's a whole load of amazing kit that you simply have to have. Truthfully, the only kit you really must have is a decent pair of properly fitted running shoes- something I wrote about recently in my post about needing new running shoes. If leggings and a sweatshirt are comfortable for you, go for your life. If H&M, F21 or Clothing at Tesco make your favourite 3/4 tights or vest top for less than £20, stick with it. We can all get caught up buying shiny new things, but need is a different category altogether.
Doesn't everyone match their nails to their race kit?!
There are loads of really nice people who run. I attend a running club, and that's fun each week, but when out and about or at race events, people are, for the most part (there's always one idiot jumping the queue for the portaloo...) really very nice. They'll cheer you across the line, appreciate it when you move aside for them, they'll be your pacer without realising, they'll ask you if you're ok if you burn out, even though they're racing too. I have found the running community at large to be very celebratory of everyone's achievements, friendly and encouraging.
And the question I've been asked so often... will I keep running now I don't *need* to?
Well I started on the Couch25K journey because I needed to exercise and it was so portable compared to moving my bike up and down between Cambridge and London, and that hasn't changed. This challenge was about pushing myself and raising money for Cancer Research UK, but it also made me train to a level that I can and do enjoy running. It lead me to a community of people I've made friend within where previously I was lonely, and it brings me joy. I'd be a fool not to keep running, and the thought that I'd just hang up my trainers come June 3rd 2016 never even crossed my mind.
I came. I ran. I've raised over £1000 for Cancer Research UK, and the page is open until 23:59 tomorrow if you'd like to donate by clicking this link: Chloe's JustGiving Page