It’s take a while – a long while – but I am finally excited about training again. After 18 months of LIFE, badness, lost perspective, dwindling self esteem and all the accompanying physical shit that comes with it I am now not only feeling good, I am also genuinely enjoying my running again. And I’m enjoying the fact that I’m enjoying it! It seems I am managing to strike a healthy balance between work, training, friends, family – and doing nothing. I’ve spent most of my twenties working multiple jobs, studying part-time, volunteering and generally overstretching myself, but after a few months of regularly practicing the art of slobbing out I have to say that I rather like it.
At the risk of being a massive cliché, I am starting off 2015 full to the brim with metaphorical beans.
Here is some cool stuff that I have done in the last few months:
1. Got a new bike
My beloved single speed, Fuji, was stolen early in 2014 from under my nose. I used the insurance money to buy a much-needed new geared bike, but I desperately wanted a single speed for bunking around town on. Riding gears is lovely on those long, summer rides, and they make Muswell Hill manageable, but there’s nothing quite like the simplicity of a single speed…
And then I saw Frank. Frank is a pretty low end bike that was a bargain during the sales (a Jamis Beatnik). I got what I paid for – a neat, steel frame (Reynolds 501) with shit components. But bit by bit I’ve been dolling her up (she got a new chainset for Christmas), learning to ride fixed and enjoying my commute.
2. Got a new job
After a couple of years lecturing, many years studying and researching, and even more years working in university libraries I realised that I didn’t actually want to do that anymore. I loved teaching and I loved my field (body theory and cultural studies), but I also loved running, cycling and community sport. After much fretting I bit the bullet, trained as a cycling instructor and as a leader in running fitness, quit my jobs and went freelance.
It paid off.
Within a month I was offered a full-time contract managing cycle training in North West London with a company called Cycle Experience. I play a massive role in getting school pupils cycling regularly, as well as running women’s cycling clubs, children’s ‘learn to ride’ clubs after school, adult training sessions and maintenance course. As an avid cyclist I am obviously enjoying the opportunity to share my passion with others, but as a researcher with an interest in the relationship between our physical interactions with the world and our identity I am like a pig in shit in this job.
Members of the Harrow Women’s Bike Club learning to repair punctures…
3. Ran a sub-23 minute 5K
After a year of convincing myself I would never run fast again, I ran fast again. Actually I realised I had never stopped being able to run fast, but I had stopped allowing myself the possibility of failure. I was convinced that I wasn’t training properly and that I was inevitably getting slower. But rather than race a parkrun and find out if my worries were true I just stopped running hard… I know it sounds stupid, but I think it was a weird self-preservation thing – better to choose to be slow than to be slow despite trying.
Obviously this highlights a couple of different issues with my perspective on training in the last year:
- There is nothing wrong with being slow, and it’s all relative anyway – what was I comparing myself to?
- What will happen if I do get slower? Will I get kicked out of my running club? Will the world end? Will anyone notice, or even care?? Probably not.
So I sucked it up and went to parkrun. There was a little self-sabotage still lurking as I rolled up to the start line with a stinking hangover, but I still ran it and I ran it as fast as I damn will could.
Hungover at Finsbury parkrun, finally back on the wagon
That was at the start of November, and since then training has got good again. I’ve learned to embrace the nausea of a 5K race and recently ran 22:47 at the new parkrun in my hometown of Hereford.
4. Went back to the club
While convinced that I was slow and rubbish, I stopped going to my running club’s training sessions. I missed the socialising and I missed enjoying running, but I was embarrassed. As I started to realise that my perspective was warped I realised that, like many things I’ve done recently, I just had to fucking do it. I went to a Tuesday night training session. Some people I knew well, some people I recognised and some I had never met before – evidence of my absense – but I chatted and ran and didn’t get left behind. In just a couple of months my club training has become the highlight of my week again. I don’t know why I was so worried…
5. Ran a 1:48:something half marathon
Yup. That’s right. I pretty much equaled my half marathon PB at the St Neot’s half marathon in November. After declaring earlier in the month that my aim for the Bath Half in March would be 1hr 48mins I only went and did it 4 months early!
Of course I had been training, but nowhere near as specifically as I had done a couple of years previous. Instead I had been running to enjoy myself and cross training when possible and had proved that I hadn’t slowed down at all – I was still capable of running those times when I pulled my finger out!
I would of course be lying if I said it was easy, but it felt nowhere near as hard as the last time I went under 1:50. I had no real expectations for the race, so ran with a couple of clubmates for the first 6 miles. As I fell back I did not feel disappointed – we’d held a smashing pace for half the race – and so the rest of the race, though tough, was an overwhelmingly positive experience. Crossing the line I had the energy to raise my arms and cheer to the clubmates that were calling my name through the finishing arch.
This race has been a real turnaround for my training and I’m now looking forward to the challenge of a new PB at the Bath Half in March.
6. Entered a triathlon
In the spirit of just fucking doing it I entered the Blenheim Palace triathlon. I keep saying that I’d love to do one, but not signing up. I hate people who say they’re going to do something, but then don’t bother and so I kind of had to do it really… I’m so excited!! There’s only one problem – I can’t really swim…
7. Learned to swim
Well, at least I couldn’t swim until I spent the best part of two months trying to learn how to. Now I can swim!
I wasn’t a complete novice – I got my badges at school and can quite merrily swim breaststroke with my chin above the water. But after taking part in the Hampstead Heath pondathon in 2011 I realised that my swim style (I call it floating with intent) wasn’t going to cut it it competition.
Trying to learn something new is hard. Actually I would go as far as to say that it’s often embarrassing for adults. Too often we stick with what we know, even when it’s making us miserable, than try something new for fear of failure. I had already confronted this once when I bought a bike off Ebay in 2009 and started cycling round town, and twice when I learned how to run in 2010. Why was I suddenly embarrassed?
Unable to find anymore excuses I asked my running buddy (and fellow blogger) the Lipstick Runner to take me to the pool and help me out. Within one session I was getting the hang of co-ordinating my breathing and could almost complete a full, 30m length of front crawl. Two months later I have completed 1200m of front crawl in a single session. It’s been tough, but I’m determined, and more importantly I’m enjoying it.
8. Went dancing, a lot
…y’know, as part of my commitment to relaxing…
9. Made my first training plan of 2015
I’ve climbed back on the horse and written a training plan for the Bath half marathon. Though I started training in December I knew it was going to get a bit haphazard over the festive period and decided that a strictly followed 8-week plan would be better than a 12-week plan I didn’t stick to and felt crap about. Training therefore officially starts on Monday and consists of 3-4 runs a week and, 3 swim sessions. I know it’s going to be tough, but I also know that I can do it. Bring it on, 2015!