It’s been ten weeks since I started running, pulling on that old pair of trainers and going out in the dark before dawn with the lady wife. If I’d been doing the Couch 2 5K programme I’d now have run my first 5K. Instead, I’ve done the following:-
- 34 5K runs
- 7 10K runs
- 2 half marathons
I’ve managed to knock 12 minutes off my best 5K time and 13 off my 10K. My two half marathons were within 40 seconds of each other, despite being entirely different routes, so I’m nothing if not consistent now.
I’m fairly pleased with that, although I’ve plateaued in terms of distance. Need to build up my stamina to get past the half marathon distance if I’m going to manage a full marathon before it gets too hot in the summer for distance running.
I’m not really looking for a pat on the back or anything, just wanting to point out to many of you who haven’t seen me for year or so (or certainly since the original covid-19 lockdown last March), that anything is possible. Around the time my mum passed away in late 2019 I was 21 stone, had bought a pair of slip-on shoes because bending over to do my laces up literally took my breath away, and had trouble walking down the street.
Now I’m over seven stone lighter and a complete and utter bore when it comes to talking about running and stuff like that.
There were definitely big challenges along the way, the biggest four were probably:-
- I love crisps, sweets, junk food, beer, wine, cider and basically everything that is fully of calories but won’t fill you up. Lunch used to be a multipack of Wheat Crunchies and a Dairy Milk. And yes, I’d kid myself that a litre of diet cherry Pepsi made it okay.
- My starting weight itself. When you’re a unit, you can’t suddenly start being dead sporty, your joints, back, and muscles won’t like it and you’ll do yourself a mischief.
- A complete and utter lack of willpower. I sometimes managed to diet for most of a day in the office before breaking out the chocolate digestives. And it was never one, two to eat on the way back to my desk and three or four to have when I got there.
- Feeling hungry all the time. When you eat a lot, you get used to being full and you also get a larger stomach as a result. It’s very hard to break the cycle of wanting/needing to be full all the time.
How did I do it I hear you ask? What’s the secret? Well it’s obvious and a bit depressing in some senses. There is no magic wand to wave to make it easy, no special diet or one simple trick to lose lbs of belly fat as the spam adverts would like you to believe.
The first nine months I did two things basically. I walked. A lot. Over 10km a day in fact. Every single day. On top of that I started using Under Armours’ MyFitnessPal app to track what I was eating. I plugged in my weight, age and height, and what I wanted to weigh, and it did the rest, giving me a calorie target for each day and telling me when I’d had too much from one food group. Logging absolutely everything you eat is incredibly tedious, as someone who has done it for 385 consecutive days can testify to.
I’d set myself targets along the way, 10% of my body weight (13kg), then trying to get to 110kg, then 100kg, then 92kg, which was the target that meant I was no longer overweight. I’m now fluctuating between 86kg and 89kg, which seems to be where my body is happiest. I got down to 85kg at one point but felt tired and couldn’t hold it there. So I’m at the top end of the acceptable range for my height and age but I’m also wearing the same sized trousers I was when I was 18, which if nothing else will teach me to throw old stuff out as I’m sure I had at least a pair of jeans that size that still had plenty of wear in them.
Once I hit 90kg in August I was able to start swimming as well but, along with some early morning biking, that was it. I tried running with the soothing voice of Joe Whiley encouraging me on via Couch 2 5K but couldn’t do it. I gave up on about day 3 twice and it was very demoralising.
Fortunately, my wife is a super runner and gave me genuinely that “one simple trick” to running. Which was to go slowly. More slowly than you thought possible. And so I did, and at first I think I could have probably walked faster than I was “running” but I managed a couple of kilometres, and that soon became 3, 4, then 4 and a half, and finally a full 5K.
After that it was simply a case a running a bit faster and a bit further. It becomes addictive after a while, especially if you shove an audiobook on or listen to podcasts while you’re doing it, you hardly notice things like aches and pains, or the fact you’re running along at 6:45am with a headtorch on in the rain.
So there we are then, 10 weeks on from not starting Couch to 5K for the third time. I’m not entirely sure what the moral of the story is, whether it’s be more ambitious or scale your ambitions back until they’re achievable. It puts me in mind of the following quote from Terry Prachett’s Mort:
“After a while he got into the rhythm of it, and started playing the privet little quantity-surveying game that everyone plays in these circumstances. Let’s see, he thought, I’ve done nearly a quarter, let’s call it a third, so when I’ve done that corner by the hayrack it’ll be more than half, call it five-eights, which means three more wheelbarrow loads …. It doesn’t prove anything very much except that the awesome splendour of the universe is much easier to deal with if you think of it as a series of small chunks.”
If you’d like to keep up with what I’m running, you can follow me on Strava. It’s not very exciting but you do get to see the odd photo of me grimacing.