Saturday, 30 May 2015

In which I sign up for a half marathon


In a fit of maddened determination and extreme positive thinking, I've signed up to run the Tonbridge Half Marathon in October.

No big deal, you're probably thinking, people run half marathons everyday. Heck, people run full marathons everyday. But I'm not people, not in that sense. I don't run marathons. I don't have a wardrobe full of expensive running kit, or a PB to beat.

The truth is, until a year ago, I couldn't run at all. I mean, I could run, just not with any sense of grace or wisdom.

I'd get home from work, with a route in my mind (usually only a mile or so), get changed, and go. I say this like it was a regular thing, but it'd happen six times a year, maximum, usually as a form of reconciliation after a gluttonous weekend.

 I'd hurtle myself around the block as fast as I could, thoughts of my dinner, and tonight's TV, and the evening's task, pushing me to get back home as fast as I could. The run was a task. Something on my list of things to do, to get crossed off as soon as possible, akin to doing the ironing or making tomorrow's lunch.  The faster the run was over, the faster I could go about my normal evening routine, rude interruptions firmly pushed aside.

While this attitude was great for efficiency, it left no room for that runner's friend: pacing. I had no concept of pacing, meaning that I'd go flat out for the first part of my run, leaving me puffing, panting and gasping for breath for the entire second half. Which is fine for lengthy runs, but as I said before, my route was only a mile or so.

Then, a year into our relationship, I went running with The Boy. This was a Big Deal for several reasons. He's, like, an actual runner. He's run actual marathons and stuff. I was still at the puffing and panting after half a mile stage. Our attitudes to running were mismatched to say the least.

We set off. After a few steps, it was clear that our paces were also mismatched. The odd thing was, I was going faster than him. This couldn't be right. Was he having an off day? He was by far and away the stronger runner of the two of us, yet I was the fastest. He had clearly realised that there was a problem too - but in his eyes, the problem was me.

And so it was that he explained the concept of pacing to me. He gave me by far the best advice I've ever had about running - start running at the pace you think you should be running at - and then halve it. And it worked, I ran the furthest I had ever run, around Streatham and Tooting Bec. I finally felt like I'd cracked this running malarkey.

I still didn't become a regular runner - actual, properly paced running took up too much of a chunk of my evenings - until January this year. Buoyed on by the new year resolution fever I began to run regularly after work. Nor far at first, but I built up my distances over time. This dedication to run went on for about a month, until I got a bad cough. Just breathing was hard enough with this cough, so running was out of the question. Then the weather turned, bad, then I got busy at work, then it was May, I hadn't been running for three months and the excuses just kept coming. Throughout May, I kept promising myself that I would go running that night after work. It never happened, and that's when I realised I needed some motivation to make me run regularly. Self inflicted targets and deadlines just don't have enough effect, so I've signed up to the Half Marathon. giving me the knowledge (and fear) that I need to be able to run 13 miles by October 4. No pressure then.

When I've told people that I've signed up, reactions so far have ranged from the politely interested (from those who know me little enough that anything else would be impolite) to actual, full-on belly laughing (from those who know me probably too well).