Three years ago almost to the day I started the Couch to 5k program. From never ever running before in my entire life, I had at some point during Summer 2013 decided that I should figure out what this ‘going for a run’ lark is all about. I searched the internet for beginners running and up came the Couch to 5k program – a 9 week walk/run training plan for complete beginners aiming to run 5 kilometres (3.1 miles). I know now a slow build like this is most definitely the best approach to running, allowing your body to adapt to both the physical exertion and the greater impact on the knees/joints. So on the 19th of August 2013, I downloaded a Couch to 5k app to my phone, popped my headphones in and off I went. That first run was 20 minutes of 60 seconds jogging, 90 seconds of walking. The app allowed me to listen to music while a very nice lady gently encouraged me to start or stop running. That first walk/run felt kinda easy, probably owing to the fact that the program plans for a slow build and also that, while I was pretty much a couch potato, I still had youth and the occasional hill walk and zumba class on my side.
Through August and September I continued on the program at a slightly faster than planned rate – at 3 sessions per week I instead probably averaged 4 or 5, turning a 9 week program into six. As I progressed, I planned my finale run (and first 5k non-stop run) to take place at Leamington Parkrun. Parkrun is a free weekly timed 5k run taking place every Saturday morning in parks across the UK. It’s an amazing creation, and has significantly contributed to the wealth of new runners like me taking up the sport in the last decade. It’s a great place to do your first 5k; the atmosphere is so supportive; whether you run, walk or plod, everyone is made to feel welcome and included, all ages, shapes and sizes. I remember giving it my all, forcing myself not to walk at all (even though I really wanted to) and feeling so happy when I finished (I finished!!) in a time of 30:23.
Credit: David Hawtin
After parkrun I continued running round about 3 times a week, starting to progress slowly through the distance to my new goal of running 10k. A fortnight’s holiday to Vietnam didn’t help my cause – the jetlag and 2 weeks off my newfound sport made the first few runs back feel horrendous! But nevertheless by November 2013 I was ready to sign up to my first 10k – the Coventry 10k.
Looking back now, having done so many other running/multisport races, Coventry 10k is a fairly poorly organised affair with an inaccurate course, insufficient toilets and a manual ‘hope they spot you’ timing system. Still, it was good enough for my first attempt at a longer distance race. It was a nice crisp November morning and as far as I remember, the race went well. I was more than a little surprised by my finishing time of 55:41, but I largely put that down to the slightly short course and perhaps being fitter than I initially thought.
Now that running was becoming a triweekly occurance and I’d completed my first 10k run, I felt I could officially call myself a runner! I rewarded myself with a pair of snazz new trainers specially designed for running and signed up to the local running club. I didn’t know it yet, but my journey to Ironman had begun!