Caitlin's Epic Couch to 5k Journey
HI MY NAME IS CAITLIN I’M 28 - A MOTHER OF ONE BEAUTIFUL LITTLE GIRL ERIN AND I LET MYSELF GO SINCE HAVING MY DAUGHTER - I NEEDED TO DO SOMETHING FOR ME.
I struggle on a daily basis with my self image and anxiety. I’d like to tell you how I went from being so out of breath and totally ashamed to chase my daughter through the park to A RUNNER. So if you told me a couple of weeks ago that I’ll be gladly putting on my trainers and going out for the door for a run I would have laughed you out of my house, I’m that sort of inherently lazy person that likes to get in the car if I think it’s “too far” to walk. Or make my partner chase after our daughter in the park for the 50th time that day, because I couldn’t bear to do more than amble along. Here’s my story about becoming a runner using the BBC couch to 5k app.
Eight weeks ago I was talking to my friend Levii who said that she’d started the Couch to 5K, being in the at the beginning of lockdown I’m going out of my mind with boredom I thought maybe I should give it another go. I’d always loved the thought of being able to run but I just thought it was never for me. I was overweight and I’d never run in my life but I knew how much it helped friends deal with their mental and physical health. I wanted to give it another go. So, I messaged my friend and my running inspiration Madelaine and asked her if I’d be crazy to attempt attempt to start a Couch to 5K plan with my toddler Erin in her pushchair - as usual Maddy was incredibly supportive and said buggy running is a thing, go for it.
See, my partner is a key worker so he was still working but to be honest the reason I went out in the very early morning with my daughter in her pushchair was because I was ashamed of lots of people seeing me, also the thought of running when it started to heat up a bit filled me with dread. So that morning I re-downloaded the Couch to 5K app as let’s face it I tried twice before and given up around week four. I put on my trainers that morning, the ones that had laid redundant for over a year. I went down the lane near my house pushing along my daughter and the first 1 minute run came and went, after that first run I was out of breath and already wondering if I’d even be able to do it, but I pushed through and I had completed run one of Couch to 5K.
The following couple of weeks I still went out with my daughter in the pushchair then one day it was raining in the morning and I couldn’t go with Erin because the rain cover for our pushchair was broken. So I messaged my partner, Nathan, and asked him if it was okay when he got back from work for me to go out then. My first run in the afternoon - more people around to look at me - (I’m sure they probably couldn’t care less really!) but as I went out and did my run that day, I didn’t feel ashamed anymore - I felt empowered - so... I wasn’t fast, I was still overweight, my face still went a very fetching shade of red. But I didn’t care any more because I was doing it, I was doing what the plan told me to do. I was completing the runs and I felt amazing every time Laura on the app congratulated me for completing a run.
So my pushchair running was over which was a good job because Erin was getting a little bit irritated in being pushed around at the crack of dawn, plus she’s an independent little lady who loves to walk so she’s not keen on her pushchair anyway!
It wasn’t all plain sailing: I had one terrible run where I threw the towel in 30 seconds out from my last run interval. I think it was week three, I’d gone out thinking I needed to go faster (comparing myself to other people) so I tried to do just that and all I did was exhaust myself and I couldn’t even complete that last run. I’m fairly sure I shouted something quite rude in the middle of the park (luckily we where still in the early throws of lockdown and it was relatively quiet!) The worst thing is when I checked Strava i hadn’t even particularly gone any faster , I’d just exhausted myself bouncing up and down trying to run fast. I had a stern word with myself…
“THIS WAS MY RUNNING JOURNEY, NOT ANYBODY ELSE’S, THE ONLY COMPETITION I NEEDED WAS ME”
I wasn’t going to let it defeat me this time so I went out the next day and repeated that run. I slowed myself right down and I completed that run punching the air when I finished. The weeks came and went and it was time for my first run with no walk breaks. I went out with the positive mindset that I definitely could do it I just need to stay steady and trust in the plan. I finished my 20 minute run and I’ve never felt more proud of myself - I don’t even think I’d run for 20 minutes in total when I was in school - I was doing it! I WAS RUNNING! More air punching. I was naturally getting a little bit quicker, my pace was improving without me trying, my Fitbit told me that my resting heart rate had come down over 15 bpm taking me from a below average heart rate for my age to a good one - it was working. I was getting fitter, I could chase Erin round the garden and I wasn’t out of puff!
Week six came and it was back to intervals and those two runs were a little bit harder after the high of the 20 minute continuous run - but I pushed through and then before I knew it I said goodbye to the intervals - I was a runner.
Week 8 run 3 I mapped a new route and set off, I got myself into a really good rhythm early on and before I knew it I was just running and enjoying every minute. I wasn’t having to think about my breathing I was just doing it, I was running and loving it and I really felt like a real runner. I did 3 miles that day and I felt amazing. I couldn’t believe it!
Week 9, run 1, the first 30 minute run was upon me and I was very excited to get out and give it a go. I went on the same route but extended it slightly by choosing a different path. Again, I loved it, and I barely registered the 2 extra minutes. As Laura said I’d got to 20 mins and that “I may be feeling a bit tired”, I found myself thinking : “Nope, I feel in a bloody good rhythm!” I got back and had to do a little loop past my house to get in my cool down and stopped my strava : pace 7.43/km 5.17k - 39min 54sec. BOOM, I had a little cry! I’d bloody done it! My first 5k and a little bit on top too! I was smiling from ear to ear and planned my next run for 2 days time, I couldn’t wait.
Then, my anxiety reared it’s ugly head. I’d been really good mentally through lockdown, the slower pace of life was suiting me. I was furloughed and not worrying about work/life/ mum balance. I didn’t have to constantly think about our social life. It was simple, easy. I was lucky. But as the world started to speed up a little again, out of nowhere my anxiety hit me like a train. I felt awful, I was having panic attacks. I couldn’t sleep. I’d wake up, panic & cry. My skin felt like it was crawling. I felt drained. I didn’t run for two days when I normally ran every other day.
As always : Maddy was there. She told me never to use my running as another stick to beat myself with. I took her advice and instead of running when I physically felt like I couldn’t, I went out with my family and had a nice day looking round a couple of shops and having a car picnic. I’d decided to run in the morning, who cares if I’d had a couple of rest days. It really wasn’t a problem, but my mind just wasn’t in the right place to process that for myself.
So the morning after I woke up and had another panic attack. Poor Maddy gets me on the phone to her again - she talks me down. I went downstairs and got myself ready as quick as I ever had, made breakfast for Erin, did some washing. Distracted myself from my head whirring round and round. If there’s one positive thing about living with anxiety it’s that sometimes you can do tasks that would take you hours in a matter of minutes.
I was ready to go, I needed to go.
Week 9 run 2, I pushed myself a little bit, but nothing major, but I just felt like I needed to just get a good pace early and keep it. I did just that, it was drizzly and dull. But that meant it was quiet and peaceful and I’m one of them strange people that quite likes the rain anyway. It was just me, my trainers, my music and my mind. I just thought about running, my mind switched off. This is why I love running now, when I’m out there it’s just me and those things, I don’t have to think about anything else. I had an idea of markers as I was doing the same route as the previous run and thought hey it must be working : I must be going a little quicker!? I got home, bloody elated and feeling like a totally different person from just a couple of hours ago when I woke up riddled with anxiety for no reason. Stopped strava : Pace 7.33/km, 5.14km, 38min 51sec.
3 PBS! 1 MILE, 2 MILE AND 5K!
I felt amazing. That run had given me a reset I needed. This is why I hope to always keep up running now, it really can do wonders for your mental health.
Week 9 run 3, it was here. My final run of the plan.
I strangely felt really nervous about it, I’d done the same run twice before so I have no idea why!
I set off on the same route, with no plan in mind but to just to enjoy my final couch 2 5k run!
Loving every minute again, my mind switching off, just running along. ME, running, I struggled again to believe it was me!
Stopped strava when I got home : Pace 7.27/km, 5.15km, 38min 23sec! 4 new PBs!
I had done it! I’d finished COUCH to 5K. I’d never felt a sense of achievement like it, I’d done it for me and only me. I was skipping round the house and dancing with Erin, she gave me a high five. She didn’t really have a clue what was going on but she liked it!