flashbulb

memory

When you say “running” to me, I have a flashbulb memory of my 11 year old self, running for the train with my school friends and being unable to keep up.

What on earth possessed me?

So what on earth possessed me, 48 year on (and precious little regular exercise in the interim!) to join RUN Harpenden?

Partly, it was having a bit more time, plus a growing awareness that I shouldn’t keep taking my health for granted. I was lucky enough to be well – but not very fit. 

Encouraged by a younger friend who had been with RUN Harpenden for nearly a year that it was friendly, inclusive and that, yes, I really could do it (she had!) I signed up.  My family reacted with howls of derision, witty jibes about my athleticism (or lack thereof) and sat back, waiting for me to give up, so that they could sympathise – and then everything could go back to normal.

The Running Diary of a 59 year old
woman who has “never been able to run”

To my family’s astonishment and mine, I have now been running regularly for 8 months and it has become an important part of my life, not just because I am now exercising consistently for the first time ever, but also because I have met some really lovely people along the way. The company of my “fellow endurance athletes” (as it pleases us to call ourselves!) has been a most wonderful bonus.

To 5k - and beyond!

I’m so glad that I kept notes in my termly Running Diary from the outset. Back in September 2018, when I started, my Short Term goals were carefully unambitious. One was simply to stick with it for 8 weeks – and I did, so that was a big tick. Two others, improving cardiovascular fitness and avoiding physical damage (ever the optimist!) were also notched up on the way. My Ultimate Dream Goal was to “run 3 times a week and to be able to run for 5k”. Eight weeks later, I was doing both: astonishing!

My first diary entry reads: “Found 8x 60 second runs pretty challenging”. Andy encouraged us to go at an easy pace and the feeling in the group was supportive and collaborative, not competitive. Even so, I was very conscious of my limitations. But when one of the other runners bounced up to me a big smile and said: “We DID it!” I suddenly realised that we had! The mood over coffee in the Oval Café that day was celebratory. We had left the couch!

In my homework that first week, my diary notes that I was overtaken by a lady with a pushchair, several dog walkers and a couple of small children on fairy cycles. But, so what? I was out there doing it! I was an athlete!

overtaken by
・a lady with a pushchair
・several dog walkers
・small children on fairy cycles

By week 4, I record having managed two lots of 800 metres: “Never thought I would manage it but I did!” I remember how daunted I felt, running round the Oval that day but Andy has a way of introducing new things in such a low key, but positive, way that you achieve them – almost in spite of yourself! I think that was also the week that I felt I had to stop and explain myself to an elderly couple on the Nickey Line, because I just couldn’t get up enough speed to pass them and I had been lurking behind them, breathing hard, for an embarrassingly long time!

By week 6, there was a real growth in confidence: “I was very slow – but don’t care, as I enjoyed setting myself a manageable pace”. I think I had discovered by then the importance of pacing myself and of “running easy”.

In Week 8, a Park Run was scheduled at Wardown Park. When we started RESOLUTION Runners, I made a show of listening respectfully when Andy said to put it in the diary, but I didn’t really think that it applied to me! But, guess what? I did it. We all did. Afterwards, I wrote: “The end but was hard, some of the others accelerated and I just couldn’t. But I made it. And the feeling of elation was incomparable”. Quite a different diary entry from my first.

I made it.
And the feeling of elation was incomparable!

5km parkrunLuton Wardown Park

Now a reality check. I took up running when I was 59. I’m very happy if I only ever run 5k. I’d like to think that, over time, I might manage to go a little further, or a little faster. But, the main thing is, I’m out there and I’m exercising. I’m learning to listen to my body. If something aches, I don’t push it – I don’t want an injury that will stall my burgeoning running career! Feeling physically tired is a bit of a novelty after years of feeling mentally worn out. I go to bed a bit earlier and I sleep better, too. Overall, I think I feel more relaxed. And now, when I get one of those embarrassing forms at the doctor’s that asks how active my lifestyle is, I don’t have to cringe and apologise, or massage the truth. Result!

I’ve just signed up to my 5th RUN Harpenden group. In every group, I have been one of the slowest. New runners start and quickly outstrip me. But the companionship is amazing and, although we are all serious about improving our running, we laugh a lot, too. We use the Whatapp group to organise homework sessions and we share each other’s triumphs and disappointments over coffee in the Oval Café, or along the Nickey Line. We like a snazzy new bit of running gear, but we can also improvise brilliantly with whatever is to hand, and kitchen timers and whistles have played a role in our running journey!

Remembering how I thought I couldn’t possibly achieve 5k, I wonder what else I could do in life, if I dared to give it a go.

Thank you Andy, Graham and Deborah!
Thank you, my Fellow Athletes!

59 year oldRunner

I wonder what else I could do in life,

if I dared to give it a go?

RUN Harpenden