The title is very tongue in cheek, but I am revelling in a sense of achievement. Just over a year ago, in mid-September 2017, I embarked on the Couch to 5K app from Public Health England, with the supportive and gentle Jo Whiley chatting me through a 9 week training programme to turn me into someone who can run for 30 minutes without stopping.
The process took me longer than 9 weeks, but by the end of the process I could indeed run for 30 minutes. But only 30 minutes. And therefore, due to my lack of speed, never 5k. I have run a lot (relatively speaking) since completing the programme. Most weeks I run at least once, but usually three times a week. It is the regular exercise that was my aim, not the time or the distance.
For a variety of reasons, the runs have got shorter, now, they’re usually about 20 minutes, rather than 30, and sometimes even shorter now that the winter makes the family a bit slower in the morning. But still regular, which was the aim. All good you’d think. Except I doubted whether I could still run for 30 minutes and I knew I could not run for 5k, because, well, in my head that would mean running for about 40 minutes wouldn’t it? And If I can’t run 30 minutes, then I definitely can’t run forty.
Strangely, without my realising it, my head has become as much an obstacle as my lung capacity or leg muscles. I had thought that was an affliction that only hit elite athletes who hire sports psychologists to get them over the hurdles.
Last week was my birthday (as I may have mentioned!), I celebrated by running 30 minutes for the first time in ages and it was fine, I could absolutely do that with no real problem. Then on Friday night I was due to stay with a friend who is a proper runner, and dedicated to running Park Run every week. Park Run is a great concept – a community 5k run led by volunteers every Saturday morning at 9am in a variety of locations over the country. Please note though – 5k – impossible.
There was an inevitability of me ending up running with the friend and so after a great evening of music and gin and catching up, we went to bed late and I signed up to Park Run at 01:43, got about 5 hours sleep and faced down the impossible on a wet and windy Saturday morning in Merseyside. Thankfully the rain stopped, the sky cleared and leaping puddles was fun. And I ran for 5k. Not quickly, but it was only three mins longer than the 30 minute barrier I had imposed. And the friend was brilliant, chatting to me all the way round – turns out 5k gives you enough time for a good catch-up.
I am considering running 5k again this week. Funny thing the brain.