Sunday, 2 September 2012

Pixie Power

This morning I went for a run. 30 minutes. 3.01 miles.

Nothing too interesting there you might think. Lots of people run.  And I’m sure lots of these people got up this morning and ran faster and for longer than me. But what really struck me this morning was how much I enjoyed my run. If you’d told me this time last year that I would run a 10k (and actually make it to the finish line!) and end up enjoying running in the process I probably would have decided you were delusional.

Prior to January this year, running and I were not friends. Sure, I would hit the treadmill at the gym but it always felt like a necessary evil.

Then at the start of 2012, one of my colleagues – Jen (follow her running adventures at the excellent - suggested a few of us sign up for the inaugural 10k Town and Gown here in Cambridge. Jen – a super-fit and super-motivated lady - had already been bitten by the running bug in a big way. Normally I would have given the 10k suggestion a polite ‘thanks but no thanks’ but this year was different. I was going through a particularly rough break-up. I had just moved to a new house and was back in a flat-share for the first time in two years. I was burying myself in work and not really doing much else. Maybe I should give this running suggestion a try. So, much to my own surprise, I said yes and signed up for my first 10k. This would be the longest distance I had run since…umm…ever.

I printed out a 10k training schedule for beginners and off I went, running by myself along the Cam. The first few runs felt brutal. I really wasn’t used to running outside and it was a very different beast to running on the treadmill – there are no yappy dogs chasing you at the gym for one thing! I was out of breath after 15 minutes of fairly gentle running. I would go back home and my flatmates would take one look at my beetroot coloured face and decide I was about to collapse. Running continuously for 10k seemed unlikely and severely embarrassing myself in front of my colleagues looked to be pretty much a given.

But…gradually…week-by-week and run-by-run…I got better. A little bit farther each time. A little bit stronger. Until finally, not long before the day of the race I found that elusive ‘runner’s high’. That point when running doesn’t feel like a slog, when you feel light on your feet and full of energy, when you just keep going even though you’ve finished your training schedule for that day. My mind was clear. I was less stressed. I had caught the running bug! I ran a practice 10k the week before the race and completed it in 58 minutes. Certainly not the fastest time ever but if I could do that on the day I would be very happy.

Sadly, the universe had other plans.

On race day it was, to use the vernacular, absolutely pissing it down. It was a cold, wet and miserable April morning and when my phone rang just as I was pulling on my jacket I jumped at it, hoping that it would be the race organiser calling to let me know that the whole thing was cancelled. It wasn’t. It was my colleague and fellow runner Sara confirming that it was still all systems go and we were meeting as planned.


I think the rain put a lot of runners off and it was a sparsely attended race (not that I have much to compare it to but there really weren’t a lot of people). The six of us stood huddled under umbrellas for a good 30 minutes before the race started. In those 30 minutes there was nowhere to go and nothing to do apart from get progressively colder and wetter.

The race started and off we went. Large parts of the course had turned into muddy ditches and you had no choice but to slow down and squelch around them. The rain pelted down in sheets for all 10 kilometres and at around the 7k mark I was hit by calf cramp. I kept going and stumbled over the finishing line in a very poor 1hour 12minutes. I was slower than all my colleagues. Now, I know that somebody has to come last, but why did it have to be me?!*

I was disappointed for several weeks afterwards. It seemed that all the training had been a waste of time. And, to be honest, I really hadn’t enjoyed the race. It was wet, it was miserable and for large chunks of it I was running by myself, I couldn’t see anyone in front of me or (rather more depressingly) behind me.

Then I tried to see the positive side of things. Maybe the actual day of the race hadn’t been great. But all the training that had gone before it hadn’t been so bad – apart from those first few runs where I thought my lungs would explode!

So I kept running.

I even signed up for another race. On September 16th this year, along with 5 of my colleagues, I’ll be taking part in the Chariots of Fire relay race in Cambridge. We’re calling ourselves the Pixies and we’ll each be running 1.7 miles so this is more about speed than endurance. I’ve been training hard and even though I know I won’t be the fastest (I think Jen pretty much has a lock on that one!), I really hope I won’t be the slowest.

After the relay is over…who knows? I’m pretty sure that I’m going to sign up for another 10k. I’d like to improve my time and have a better overall race experience. But whatever happens, I’ll definitely keep running!

So, having read all that (and if you’ve made it to the end – well done!), why not take a look at our sponsorship page:
and give some pennies (or pounds) to the Pixies! Any donations would be much appreciated. Thank you!

*I wasn’t last overall (before you start thinking I’m an incredibly poor runner). There were runners who came in behind me. To be fair, most of them were septuagenarians but still, I wasn’t the slowest overall!

1 comment:

  1. That's the spirit! You'll be running your first 26.2 in no time! ;) And great to see you on there!!! xx