It’s Global Running Day and What a Privilege to Be Able to Run… Three years ago I could not run, I literally could not pick up my feet and shuffle. I used to be a runner in my distant past, in fact, as a student I ran for my varsity, I did triathlon and I was fit. But I took a couple of years off to have kids and eight kids later, not to mention a couple of years that turned into twenty years, and there was no bouncing back to my original fitness. Eight kids was one thing, sitting on the couch reading stories for twenty years was quite another… what was I thinking?
I am not a champion runner, I am never going to break any records… but I do love it. I represent the thousands of runners who dread the cut-off, who run at the back of the pack and think please, please may I get up this hill. I actually have even gotten over the fact that I could be last… because at least if I am last, it means that I got up and got out there. I am the runner that gets home from a race so elated that I finished, that I enter three more. Only, to get to the next start line thinking, “Why on earth did I enter.” To be honest, each time I finish a race, I am surprised… surprised I made it, surprised I survived and surprised that I want to go back and do it all over again!!!
I began my fitness journey on an Eight Week Beginner’s Course at Sport Science, in which my goal was simply to start moving again. To be honest, while I had been hiking and getting out doors with my kids, almost everything I did, typical mother person, was at the pace of a toddler. Now, because I am an unbelievably slow learner those eight weeks turned into a year, and while most people do their Couch to 5K in a couple of weeks, it took me a year… but I got there. I turned my Parkrun survival stagger into a run. Once I got to running 5K, it wasn’t long before I felt brave enough to tackle a 10km and then dream of a 21km. I chose to run my childhood dream race the Two Oceans half marathon… and with the help of the OPTIFIT Team at Sport Science, I just made it around the route. It was hard, harder than you can imagine (!), but the bug had bitten and I carried on to do a couple more half marathons last year.
Open Water Swimming
I quickly realised that I can only run so much in a week and in order to achieve the running fitness I needed, without getting injured, that I needed to cross train… and the perfect sport for me was swimming. I started swimming in the gym, but when the gals from Elemint inited me to join them on an outdoor swimming adventure, one wintry afternoon… I fell in love and never looked back, and never missed a chance to swim in the great outdoors again… training and training, in and six months I was good and ready to take part in a Robben Island Crossing… this is next level dreamy and something I really couldn’t have imagined a year ago. At the start of lockdown we were a week or two away from our Robben Island Crossing and I had just finished my last big swim, a 5km swim in the crispy cold Atlantic. And we had begun tapering and watching the weather for the perfect day. And then lockdown happened.
There have been setbacks along the way.
When I began working out, all those years ago, I didn’t actually own workout gear, let alone workout shoes… I did my first Parkrun in Hiking boots and I had truly sore feet. I did not know at the time that I had planter fasciitis. Anyway, I was told that if I lost weight my feet wouldn’t hurt anymore. Somewhere along the journey of losing twenty odd kilograms, I realised that losing weight massively improved my life, but not so much my planter fasciitis. When I started training for a half marathon and my distance got longer and longer and my strength training was much more running focused… it vanished, just like that I was pain free. Until January this year, I have no idea what I did….
But my long lost injury returned with a vengeance. I have done more strength training, I have stretched, I have done a million different little exercises and I have run less and less (because of the pain), I was at my wits end. I love being part of the Balega Family so much, and they sent me some specific inserts to try. And they really and truly helped, just the extra cushioning in the correct places in your shoe made a massive difference. I was able to walk better, and run slightly, definitely not pain free, but I was running better. I focused on swimming, with as little running as possible, just enough to keep ticking over. The idea was that I would stay fit and the injury would evaporate because I wasn’t running nearly as much… isn’t “rest” supposed to be the cure all?
Working Out During Lockdown
Before the start of lockdown we had two weeks of social distancing and in that time I crawled into a metaphorical hole. I had been so close to a massive achievement and swimming Robben Island, and now I was nowhere. I could not in that moment see how very much better my life has been now that I am mobile and able to move. A friend challenged me to a 2km a day run around the garden everyday during lockdown and I kind of got started, knowing that I had a puppy that desperately needs a load of exercise. We live on a mountainside and our garden consists of a flight of stairs, within two days of 80 times up and down the front stairs, my planter fasciitis had flared up to agony. But I refused to give up on that 2km run, that quickly became a walk, even if I was limping the entire way.
Im my despair I was scrolling through instagram and being a fan of Dame Kelly Holmes, I stoped on her insta-story and saw a workout I thought I could join… I did , and I stayed. I have found a team of athletes, that do workouts daily, some of the exercises are madly insane, like the back plank… but you know, I can do what I can do and try my best at the rest. Surprisingly, I can keep up… of course there are some things I can’t do, but one thing I have learned at Sport Science is that you can adapt every exercise to one that you can do… there is no need to stand to the side watch ever. It turns out that a core workout every morning, and running drills and HIIT workouts through ten weeks of lockdown, have done wonders for my running and my planter fasciitis. In fact the further I run, the better it feels.
Turns out the (internal) pressure of an impending race doesn’t do wonders for your running and taking a break from racing has been good for me. I haven’t gone mad, I have in fact had a chance to refresh, I have had a do over with a lot more intentionality and a much stronger core. I am doing between 3 and 5 km a day and without an insane effort, and I am getting better. Better and better… and more than that I am really enjoying it. I am enjoying running. There I said it. I am running stronger and loving it. I am there for the sunrise every morning and it is fantastic. I am so excited… I can’t wait to get back to swimming, but don’t for a second think I am not absolutely thrilled to be running… we can at last get back onto the mountain and I just can’t wait to get trailing again.
And Onwards and Upwards
My problem it appears is that I have the heart of a champion in a middle aged body that has had eight kids and then sat on a couch for twenty years… this is my true challenge. I am an onwards and upwards kind of girl, I love working out, and really wish I was better at it and because of that I just keep on moving and keep on trying. I can’t believe this is as good as I am ever going to be, so I just keep on working at it. I am genuinely loving it. To think I couldn’t run three years ago, and now I can… it has taken a team, so many folk have helped and encouraged me along the way, I don’t take any of it for granted. On Global Running Day I consider it a privilege to be able to run.
My Lockdown Support Team, That I am so Grateful For
- The folk at Sport Science, who have helped me through the years, in and out of my training and always treating me like the athlete that I dream of being. The effort they have made during lockdown, to keep in touch and their Friday Zoom classes, I am so thankful. Honestly, I never thought I would do a Zoom gym class… I was horrified at the idea, but it turns out that Zoom gym is very similar to real gym classes, most people are only really worried about how they look and they aren’t scanning the screen to see if you are doing everything right.
- My Balega Family, I could not be prouder to be part of the Global Balega Impi Team for the past two years, a team of runners, all with a touch of madness… runners who routinely run further, higher and faster than they thought they could, a global team of runners who are supportive and encouraging every single step of the way. I cannot express enough how these folk support and encourage my athletic endeavours.
- Dame Kelly Holmes what a hero she has been throughout the madness that is lockdown, she has provided free workouts on instagram once if not twice a day, every day… of you miss a workout she posts them on her YouTube channel… her workouts are incredible, she has literally taught me how to run properly again, the running drills she has taught her followers, not to mention consistent core… have done everything for my running. That being said, she is more than that, she has created team of followers that are there for every workout… it is a community from national athletes, right down to the likes of me. She touched on something that was much more than workouts, she has consistently been their to encourage and support and she has helped to conquer the loneliness, which is the hardest part of staying home for so many people.
- And of course my actual family, my supporters through thick and thin, making sure that I am anything but lonely throughout the lockdown and telling me to keep on, keep on… because when the going gets tough, it is so good to have family to keep you going.