The Unconventional Runner – Week 1

“The Unconventional Runner” follows the path of one of our most exclusive running groups. Written by the Run Leader herself, this 9-week blog will lead you through all the emotions of those who take part in a Couch to 5k programme, and will demonstrate that running can be a truly memorable way to socialise and make friends.

 

The Unconventional Runner – The Couch to 5k Series

First off, using the title Unconventional Runner is a bit misleading as I do not consider myself a Runner (although I do consider myself to be Unconventional). I always think of runners as Lycra clad ladies with swishy ponytails who don’t sweat running 10 miles before they go back to a breakfast of organic muesli with some obscure milk I’ve never heard of. I am not one of those ladies.  I’m more of the drenched in sweat, hating it, wishing it was over, with hair stuck to my face and bits wobbling kind of gal who eats midget gems for breakfast. On occasion I have also been known to eat a lump of cheese for breakfast and microwave coffee from the day before. Actually, on more than one occasion, but I digress.

I used to run/jog/walk on a treadmill and did this about three times a week for around 5 months which I was really proud of.  I wanted to do Race for Life in memory of my best friend’s mother who’d died that year and this event gave me the motivation to get on with it, plus people kept sponsoring me so I kind of had to do it. I started small and worked my way up to faster and faster times, eventually getting to 5k in 33 mins. I appreciate that I’m not Usain Bolt, but for me that was some good going and I was actually starting to enjoy it. I even purchased some running leggings and a running top, but I still didn’t consider myself to be a runner.

As I wasn’t looking after myself and ignoring all the advice the inevitable then happened – I tore a muscle in my calf. I couldn’t walk or run so the race was out. I was gutted as I was looking forward to doing something positive for my friend, but weirdly I’d actually started to really enjoy the running as well.  I was proud of what my body could achieve. The reason I tore my calf muscle was because I didn’t listen to any of the sound advice being offered by the professionals, the articles in the magazines I was reading, I never warmed down or stretched and I ignored the initial pain thinking it would just go away if I took enough pain killers and pretended it wasn’t there. It didn’t and I ended up with a grade 2 tear which put me on crutches for a week and meant a trip to see a physio. It’s an incredibly painful injury and one to avoid.

After physio to help me recover from the injury (which I kind of did) and resting (which I did a lot more of) I started thinking about running again. Thinking happened for a few more months while I sat on the sofa and came up with every excuse going. My leg didn’t feel quite right, it was getting dark outside, I had no-one to run with, I didn’t wan to run in a group, I had just eaten, I was about to eat, I couldn’t find my trainers, I was worried about my wobbly bits, I was worried about what other people would think and so forth and so on. Eventually I asked some girls I knew on an “Unconventional” forum if they fancied doing a Couch to 5k thing with me and on Wednesday the 28th 6 ladies made their way to a local park.

I considered cancelling on no less than 14 occasions. I kept checking the weather in the hope that it would rain. On the way there I hoped I’d get stuck in traffic so I’d miss it. I was the one who’d organised the event so bailing would have been a really bad move and I didn’t want to let everyone down so I ignored the persistent voice in my head telling me to stay at home.

I got to the park early and one by one the ladies arrived. Ladies who all looked normal, friendly and pleased to be there. None of them looked like they had just stepped out of a running advert with perfect makeup and hair (although they all looked cool), none of them were wearing expensive colour coordinated running gear, none of them were clutching a green health drink or doing lunges as they walked in to meet me and bragging about a personal best of yadder yadder. It transpired that one lady had been so nervous she had only decided to come last minute as she was worried that she’d hold everyone back (she didn’t).

As we got chatting it turned out that each lady had decided to come and get involved for the same reason – to get fit. There was no pressure about losing weight, being fast, not sweating and so forth and so on. Most of my fears melted away and we got our apps ready.  *As a side note, you don’t have to use an app to run. You can simply don a pair of trainers and head out the door. I chose to use an app because the app made it easier for me.

The walk/jog/run was great. Yes, we were all different speeds. No, we didn’t run as one homogeneous group. Yes, we did get a bit sweaty and it was difficult to talk on occasion as we were out of breath. We also got a bit lost. We learnt that being visible in a dark park is a good idea (I have some fun bruises), but more importantly I learnt that no-one was looking at me as I ran, as they were all focused on what they were doing – plus it was dark.  I mean I’m not Mariah Carey am I so why on earth would a park full of people running, walking, cycling and generally doing their thing spend 30 minutes staring at me…?! I also learnt that I could jog and that I enjoyed it and that it made me feel confident.

After the obligatory selfie we all chipped of home and agreed to meet next week. I got back to a glass of red wine and a plate of chips which my other half had kindly got ready for me.

So while I may not think of myself as a Runner I am pretty sure that some would argue that I am. I ran and I plan on doing it again so while I may not be fast or have expensive gear or look awesome as I run I still run.

I don’t run to beat others, I don’t run to beat myself, I don’t run to race and I certainly don’t run so that other people can watch me, but I do run. I run because I value my health, I want to be able to drink wine and eat chips and it makes me feel good mentally.

On the 28th I was with a group of ladies who all joined me as they want to get fit, but I was also by myself facing my own demons down and battling my own insecurities.

 

If I can be called a Runner, anyone can.

 

Now, who’s up for next week?