It does and it doesn’t feel like a long time ago since I started running, aiming to complete six miles a week and now averaging over six miles a day as I trained for the Stirling Marathon.
In the general scheme of things – life, kids, and work – 20 months isn’t that long and flies past. On the other hand, starting with a two mile run and completing one over 20 miles feels like a whole different world from where I started.
When I started, I wasn’t running to lose weight, to compete or even for enjoyment. I would watch people running, listen to people talking about it and not be in the least bit interested. I was happy with getting a weekly game of five-a-sides and going about the rest of my business. I wasn’t a great footballer but I wasn’t terrible either. I had a sweet left foot and when fit, I put in a decent shift on the pitch. I always played my best when I had had a run of games and my fitness allowed me to cover the whole of the pitch from beginning to end. I reluctantly got into running to try and rebuild my fitness after missing too many games. A few more injuries and niggles later, my legs, knees and mind started to prefer moving my legs backwards and forward rather than the twisty excesses of fives.
My running has gone from strength to strength from those early days, helped along with the progression and camaraderie of the E6C, and latterly joining the Maryhill Harriers.
So what have been my reflections over the past 20 months?
Rest and recovery
At the start I tended, as have most of us, to run at one pace, which was generally too fast. It feels good pushing yourself and feeling like you’ve had a strong workout but running too fast, too often will get you injured and hamper any comebacks from injury.
Combining running fast with running too much can also be risky as I found out six months after I started. I got carried away trying to increase my mileage and running more often, resulting in a month of injury troubles and hardly any running. After that I made sure I built myself back up slowly, not running concurrent days and having plenty of rest days.
A foam roller has got be one the cheapest and best buys I made. There are plenty of tips on Runners World or Youtube about how to use one and it works wonders for me. I don’t use it as often as I should but that’s maybe because I sometimes feel like a big pervert when I’m rolling around the ground on it and making some suspicious noises as I do (all pain related of course).
Goals change all the time
Looking to increase my monthly mileage and increase the distance of my long runs were just two of my ever-changing goals. Others started from being able to keep up with a workmate in Great Run Local to making sure I beat him, then giving him a time advantage to compete over 5k and other distances. Others have been to get close to a 20 minute 5k, and as the PB kept coming down at Parkrun it was to keep knocking off the big minutes then improve my finishing position. My Parkrun PB is currently 17:49 and it feels a big ask to get it to under 17 but who knows what is achievable.
A similar story exists for my 10k, initially working towards getting under 40 minutes then working my way down each minute marker. I am currently on 36:58 and wonder if I’ll ever manage sub 36, again it feels like a big ask.
Not all goals need to be about times though and can simply be about running somewhere I haven’t ran before, increasing the number of hill reps I do, getting out at least four/five times a week, challenging myself to get out early in the morning or helping my boy to pace his Junior Parkrun so that he enjoys it more.
Racing has been something I’ve surprised myself with. I didn’t think I would get competitive at running and when I realised I was quite good at it I joined the Harriers just to improve myself and not for the competitive element. I remember thinking I won’t really do any races and didn’t fancy lining up against ‘serious’ runners. All that changed though as I entered occasional races and wanted to firstly beat my own times, then after recognising the same faces at different events I wanted to target catching up and maybe beat those faster than me. After recent encouraging performances over 10k and the marathon, I now want to be at the level where I get a stripy race number.
My approach to races is to have a look at results from previous years, check out the times recorded against names I recognise and pitch my goals at whether I think I could go faster or finish around the same pace. This in turn gives me an idea of how close to the front I think I should put myself at races. Inevitably I always start a bit further back than I should, however as I’ve gained more confidence I’ve crept closer. During the race itself I like to get into my own space. I hate running behind people who have weird running styles – legs and arms going everywhere – or folk who sound like cat retching on a furball. Once I settle into my pace I target groups and runners in the distance and gradually try to catch them. If someone faster is in my line of sight my aim changes to not letting them disappear into the horizon and hopefully that pulls me along a wee bit quicker.
Things I’ve enjoyed
- Completing my first parkrun then PBing the next one, an easy self-esteem win.
- Breaking 100 miles a month for the first time
- The difference in what fast feels like – starting with 8min/miles, getting closer to 7s then holding near 6s for 10ks and under 6s for 5k
- Spending far too much time thinking about / making up new routes when you should be working. Same goes for looking for races, working out training plans, reading about running gadgets, recovery methods, how to treat ITB syndrome, trying to identify muscles you never knew existed and how to stretch them cause they’re bloody sore
- Running in Argyll and taking my trainers wherever I go to try and find local races or just to go exploring
- Sharing progress with other likeminded souls who pick you up when you’re down, share advice, routes, personal recovery methods, motivate you to go out when you’d otherwise just crash in front of the telly
- Getting lost on trails and learning that sometimes it’s not so bad lugging your phone about to keep you on the right path. Also lets you take some lovely photos (and it’s a bit of safety net if someone wants to “kick your c**t in”).
- Taking part in and finishing 3rd in The Great Carradale Canter 10k race
- Completing the Stirling Marathon and achieving sub 3 at the first attempt
- A gorgeous run from Ardrishaig to Ormsary
- The genuine encouragement I’ve received from friends and general amazement about how well I’ve taken to running.
There’s always the target of improving my PBs, which as of now sit at 5k: 17:49, 10k: 36:58, Marathon: 2:58:23 and the not quite a half marathon: 1:23:51. Over the summer I think I’ll look at a few 10ks, perhaps the Great Scottish Run in October, and scope out another marathon (maybe save that for next year though).
I’ve enjoyed my recent long runs and will make sure I keep them as a staple part of my training. I’d like to do an ultra at some point but I don’t think I could commit to the training demands right now. Perhaps I’ll just look to get out running in the local hills and countryside more.
One area I’ll consider is improving my diet and how to fuel properly for races. My legs had little left at the final stages of the Stirling Marathon and I’d like to finish feeling a lot stronger. However, it’ll be hard giving up the Mars Bars, crisps and fizzy drinks. I really do manage to eat a lot of crap for being a skinny bastard.
So that’s where I am now. I would never have thought struggling to run six miles a week would have ever led me to completing a marathon in under three hours in the space of 20 months.
It’s good to find something you enjoy and shout about it. Just got to run.