Sunday 9 December 2012

Can I run?

New shoes
Running has never been something I've been good at or really aspired to be good at… always seemed to be rather boring.  Of course I've run in the past, trying to keep fit during my rugby playing days but I've never considered it something I'd seriously like to do more than once a year.  During June and July 2011 I was walking 3-5 miles a day with the dogs when I decided that I could manage to jog downhill during these walks to increase my heart rate.  It was a very gradual thing but over the course of about 6 weeks I went from walking 100% of the time to a sort of walk walk jog routine.  I was tracking these activities on Runkeeper which showed me burning more calories and of course covering a greater distance in my 45-60 minute time period.  My weight loss programme continued after stalling slightly and I was a happy chap again!

Eventually on the 1st August 2011 I switched Runkeeper from tracking walking to running activities….I was finally running more than I was walking and it felt great!  In the space of 7 months I'd dropped from 324 lbs to around the 250 lbs mark and I was now able to get out and run, even if I was still smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.  In fact, my routine quickly became get up, go running, get coffee and have a smoke!  Sounds mad but at this time I was concentrating on losing weight and getting involved in a serious exercise programme, so giving up the smokes was a challenge for 2012.

In early October 2011, my brother, Simon, suggested we sign up for a 10km race in Northampton.  By this stage Nikki and I had caught the running bug and were running 3 times a week, covering 3-5 miles per run and thought this would provide a good target to aim for.  It was at this stage Nikki and I signed up to our first training programme with Runkeeper, setting ourselves a goal of completing the 10km in under 55 minutes.  My motivational drive changed at this point away from just weight loss and started to focus on achieving a time/distance goal.  The weight loss was still occurring but it was really a by product of the amount of exercise I was now involved in and I had re-learnt how to fuel my body.  

I know I always knew what was good for me, versus what wasn't quite so good, versus what was really bad for me.  Yet I spent a large part of my life constantly fuelling my body with crap, yeah it tasted great at the time but it didn't provide the nutritional requirements our bodies need.  Luckily our bodies adapt and it's never too late to readjust what you eat and how much.  If I could talk to the old me and suggested that I'm likely to select a roasted vegetable wrap over a steak & chips, I'd be laughing at myself….things change.  Sure I still eat steak & chips but in moderation; chips, pizzas etc have become a reward food that we (generally) make ourselves, so we control the ingredients and avoid processed rubbish.

A quote from Gibson's Running Quotes
Finding the time to squeeze in the runs our training programme demanded saw a further change in our routine.  Slowly we adjusted our work and social schedules so that we always had time to run - once again I don't think we suffered at all here, it's really just a matter of making the time.  If it meant getting up at 6am to squeeze in the run before heading to work, so be it.  If it meant not drinking on a Saturday night because we had a long run on the Sunday, so be it.  These were small changes or sacrifices that both of us were prepared to make to achieve our goals.  The great thing about this time was that my goals and Nikki's naturally converged and we were both running together, although Nikki was still a lot fitter than I was, focussed on the Northampton 10km.

The Beddington 10km team
In November 2011, some good friends of ours (Sarah, Julie, Tony & Andy) suggested we run another race in Beddington, Surrey.  This sounded perfect, we'd be able to test out our fitness levels in what would be my first ever official race on a nice flat course.  Nikki and I turned up at Andy and Sarah's flat early on the Sunday morning, which wasn't unusual for us, except this time we were completely and utterly sober.  We'd agreed ahead of time that we would run together, that we were only using this as a training race and not aiming for anything other than a finish. 

When the gun went off to start the race I got a little carried away and lost Nikki in the first 100 metres and got swept away at a pace I couldn't sustain.  We both completed the course in respectable times, I was just under the hour and Nikki just over if memory serves.  The look on Nikki's face said it all, I needed to learn to pace myself and also never to leave her behind when I'd promised to run with her.  It was great to get a race under my belt, it sort of closed out the year for me personally, I'd proved that I could lose weight and get fit in a very short space of time.

Running in winter
With the Beddington 10km completed I started to question my sub 55 minute goal.  I still had 4 months to go before the Northampton race and I felt like I could make up the 3 minutes easily in 4 months of training.  The natural progression was to step up to the half marathon distance and so we both entered the Bracknell Half Marathon.  We switched training programmes on Runkeeper to a half marathon plan in sub 2 hours - which was roughly the same pace as our 10km goal.  

With our target firmly in mind, 2012 was going to be an interesting year for both of us………………….