You may have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet on my blog for the last few months but I haven’t been sitting around on the couch – in fact – I’ve been hitting some of the fab paths around Edinburgh as I worked through the NHS Couch to 5K running programme. Me? Running? Who’d have thought that!! My husband is amazed (and so supportive); my family is shocked. But yes, I have gotten the running bug. It started 2 Christmases ago when I did the Santa Run. I trained on my own, using an undeveloped block of streets near my flat – just going round and round walking and running in circles until I worked up to 5K. After the Santa run, I hung up my trainers for a full year, until last year’s Santa Run came round. A friend of mine just started doing the NHS Couch to 5K (available as free podcasts or a free app for smartphones) and was looking to sign up for an event to keep her motivated. I suggested the Santa Run as the atmosphere was so amazing and so much fun with Santa Suits, festive music and great local entertainers. Of course, she wanted me to do it with her! As this was just October, I had time to train so I also downloaded the app and away I went.
The app was SO MUCH better than the training I did on my own the previous year. I go for an hour walk around the paths near me every day so I just used the same route for my runs for 3 days a week as recommended by the programme which lasts for 9 weeks. The early weeks are intervals of walking and short bursts of running. This I could do! Each segment is repeated 3 times, and then you move on to the next week. Each week there was less walking and more running. Looking at the programme I would get a bit apprehensive – I can’t run for 8 minutes!
But with the guidance of the narrator, I managed each week’s new challenge. I was up to week 4 when the Santa Run came along, but that was only 2.5K so I was well prepared. And hooked. Instead of stopping, this year (after a break for the holidays) I kept going.
My regular walking route was actually longer than 5K so when the recording finished I would just walk the rest of the way home, but 4 or 5 weeks after resuming the programme I started doing an extra run as I headed home. I was still doing intervals but the runs were getting longer and longer. One day, as I was scrolling through my facebook newsfeed, I saw a post from Health in Mind. They were looking for people to run as part of their team for the Meadows Marathon on 6th of March. There were 4 events: a 5K, 10K, half-marathon and full marathon. After learning about the great work they do in Edinburgh (and Scotland) when they featured as a Guest Blog Post, I was keen to lend my support. But which event? I knew I could run 5K – so do I play it safe or challenge myself to 10K? On my next run I used a training app called Strava (free to download) to track my training. Turns out, my weekly runs (with my added extra bit at the end) was about 6.5K. I still wasn’t convinced I could do a 10K with just 5 weeks to go, but I had a plan. I extended my route and tried doing 2 of the programmes back to back – nearly an hour of running/walking intervals. I managed easily and was delighted to see that I ran for over 8.5K. I ran straight to my PC to sign-up for the 10K! And then I ran right to the running shop to get the right gear so I would be prepared for any weather. Since then, I did two short runs and one double run every week; in rain, sun and even snow! I increased the long run each week – 8.5K, 9.3K, 9.5K and the week before the event – 9.8K! But, I was still doing intervals. I found it took me a long time to warm up so, I did intervals for the first half and then ran the second half. I decided I would bring my podcasts, and do the same thing for the Meadows Marathon.
The day of the Meadows Marathon finally arrived. Besides the Santa Runs, this was my first real running event. The 10K event was 4 laps around the Meadows. I decided to stick to my plan to do intervals for the first 2 laps and run as much of the final laps as possible. I had no goals for times – I just wanted to finish. As I was getting ready, I was beginning to have doubts. Why was I getting ready at 8:30am for a run at 10? It was only 2C, would my muscles stiffen up while waiting around for the start? Would I be able to stick to my plan or would I get caught up in the moment, try to go to fast and burn out? My husband ushered me to the car and silenced my fears, encouraging me to just enjoy the run and the atmosphere around a big event (he enters cycling events all the time and loves the adrenaline and buzz).
Turns out I had nothing to fear. The event was so well organised. We registered and got our timing chip and number (my FIRST EVER number and timing chip!!) inside ‘The Dome’ at Potterrow.
There was a secure room to leave your bags, plenty of space to chill out, toilets and a cafe for a warm drink. There was also space for the official charities to set up information booths. Everyone got a free Meadows Marathon T-Shirt, but I headed over to connect with Health in Mind, as I promised to wear a shirt promoting them.
And, on such a cold morning, I was looking forward to having an extra layer. Katherine had brought along some leaflets with information about all the great work they do – I’ll share some links at the end so please head over and check out what they do!
We hung out inside, enjoying the warmth, until just 15 minutes before the start when we were summoned outside for a fun and energetic warm-up led by instructors from Pure Gym. We lunged, jumped, and grape-vined.
And then it was time. The 10K runners started off in 2 groups; followed 15 minutes later by the full marathon runners (5K and half marathon event was in the afternoon, making sure there were never too many people on the paths in the Meadows).
My podcasts start with a brisk walk – but I got caught up in the moment and joined in for a running start; once on the circuit I resisted the temptation to go with the flow and settled back into my plan as a wave of humanity flooded past me. Within minutes the crowd of runners thinned out and everyone settled into their own rhythm.
All along the circuit we were cheered on by family, friends, drummers and merry volunteers who held up funny signs to make us smile and were there with water or a high-five and there to make sure our path was safe and clear.
It all added up to a great atmosphere, which made all my earlier fears disappear. As I plodded along, alternating brisk walking and running I noticed that as I was finishing my second lap – there were already people heading for the finish line!
But, for me, this wasn’t a race – it was a journey, and I was happy just to be in an organised event and motivated to run all the way from here to the finish – more than I had ever run before. And…. I did it! I ran the full last 2 laps and all the way across the finish line.
I ran further than ever before, beat my own best time, give a great charity some publicity and burned nearly 1000 calories! Not bad for 1 hour and 12 minutes of my day. The Meadows Marathon was so well organised that I will definitely do it again next year but in the meantime I’ll be heading online to find another 10K – maybe next time I’ll run the full distance!
If you’re interested in running, I can highly recommend the NHS Couch to 5K plan, or if you prefer training with others there are running clubs all over the city – check out Lululemon, Sweatshop or go to Meetup.com and search for running in Edinburgh. Do it for fun, do it for your health, do it for charity – but just do it!
And, please check out Health in Mind to find out more about their services to the community. They’ve also just revamped and relaunched ‘Edspace’, Edinburgh’s online source of mental health and wellbeing information, including local services, self-help materials, local news and events and much more!