From Couch to 10km, how I put down my crochet hook, got off the settee and started running.

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I consider myself to be reasonably fit. Since getting a dog 9 years ago I have probably walked 15-20 miles per week, that’s almost 8000 miles a year and a whopping 71,000 over 9 years. If I were the family car I would be ready for trading in.
Anyway, I walk, I ski a week or two a year (with enthusiasm between hot chocolate stops) I love to swim, I enjoy cycling, I shake my bones at Zumba. But I certainly don’t run. Runners are lean, lanky, toned with sharp edges poking through their Lycra running gear. However, after a casual challenge from a school mum and the example of my pastor who has championed running in his 50s (and lost over 5 stone in weight) I downloaded the “couch to 5k” app, pulled on my ratty old trainers, waited for cover of darkness and began to run.
Not to lose weight, not to get fit, but to see if I could.
The first week the program was warm up walk of five minutes, then alternate 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Three times in one week. It was cold, it was dark and it was very tough. My beginning to run was a complete secret. I told no one. And after the first week I acquired a full on sports bra to keep what my mamma gave me under control.
I also purchased a dog running leash. A rather scarey looking black belt with a long bungee lead to tether the dog, leaving me with hands free to run in my special hand flapping girly way that makes my husband laugh so much. If I was going to invest time into running then I had to incorporate this into my daily commitment of dog walking. And so Naughty Lucas and I began dog jogging. Or at least I was jogging and he was walking with a big grin on his daft doggy face, and I found my time per kilometre was greatly reduced should we suddenly sprint off after a cat or squirrel. He also learned to increase his pace when the audio signal on my app encourage me to “start running” in her annoying I’m fitter than you are voice.
After 4 weeks and shin splints I invested in a proper pair of running shoes. True to myself they are neon pink and hyacinth blue and have really helped.
By now I was jogging up to 16 minutes out of a 31 minute program.
By mid April I shuffled over the 4 km mark. The husband had joined me over the Easter holidays and with the change to British Summer Time I was now running during the day time. Keeping my head down and not making eye contact with passing traffic. Thankfully no one was calling an ambulance and my appearance attached to a small black and white dog racing ahead looking like a husky who had forgotten his sled was causing amusement to the school kids waiting for their bus most mornings.
By the end of April after successfully completing 5.69 km I downloaded a new app – for 10k running, and signed up for the Runher 10km run on 23rd May, a run specifically just for ladies. Where I once ran through daffodils suddenly I was running amongst bluebells, and finding new strength in my legs. And, starting to enjoy myself!
Training sessions now lasted an hour and I was running for 15 minutes at a time with a one minute rest in between.
On 17th May, 9 weeks from the couch, I ran 10km along the scenic Lagan towpath. I knew then that I would not disgrace myself at the official run.
This past week I have eaten more pasta and protein than usual, and before the event enjoyed a plate of fresh poached eggs from the Hens to give me stamina.
And so last night in the cold, grey dampness of a typical Irish May evening I joined a couple of thousand other women of all shapes, sizes and running styles and ran from start to finish. It was a coastal route which I had thought would be flat and easy along a beach path but did in fact reveal some challenging but thankfully short steep hill sections. In fact the most challenging part was the very long queue for the ladies loos before the start of the run!
To keep me going I had an excellent playlist on my phone, jelly babies for a sugar boost, lip gloss (never go anywhere without it) and husband, the 4th son, my dear supportive friend CC and her teenage nephew, and of course, my running partner Naughty Lucas all waiting for me with smiles and cheers and clicking cameras at the finish line.
I made it.
As a family we have signed up to run the 5k Color Run in our city in August.
And I plan to find a ladies relay team for our city marathon next year.
I’m still not a runner though. Just ask my dog.

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