Victoria of 'Plus The Dog' Shares her Epic Journey into Running.
A year ago I would have told you that I am not a runner. I am, in fact a walker, and I am proud of my walking accomplishments. I have completed a marathon walking, fairly quickly actually, and more then once, (three times in fact, overnight, through London-it’s called the ‘Moonwalk.’ Google it, it’s great!)
Some time ago, I started doing Parkrun on a Saturday morning (also, if you haven’t heard about Parkrun, Google that too. It’s also great!) I started walking it, as a way to try and regain some fitness after one, and then two babies fought their way out of my nether-regions. I assured my husband that I would never run it, but at least I was out, doing something physical.
Then, last year something happened.
I ran it.
Albeit very slowly, at first a bit at a time, but I did run it.
Since then, the running has escalated. Now, don’t get the wrong end of the stick here, I am not in any way shape or form quick, but I do keep doing it.
For Christmas, my husband, who is supposed to care about me, and, you know, want the best for me, entered me into a 5K ‘race’ as my Christmas present. I was all at once pleased and really annoyed with him for doing this. I would have been happy with chocolate or something unimaginative but luxurious, but instead I got a race number. This is not luxurious, at least not in any context I know about.
Still - Parkrun is 5k, so I knew I could actually run it, but at Parkrun I don’t worry about coming last anymore because I know there is always a handful of enthusiastic walkers (not ‘The Walking Dead’ type). This, however, was an actual, like, proper 'race,' and for sure I was going to come last here, if I wasn’t the slowest it was more then likely that I would be the clumsiest and fall on my face with the pressure…
If you don’t know me, I should fill you in on the fact that I’m not exactly small. I’m an inch short of 6ft tall, but not in a waify, floaty, model sort of a way. My body type would probably be accurately described as ‘cumbersome.’ While ‘ginormous’ would most likely be be an exaggeration, ‘cumbersome’ about says it, and I have all the elegance and grace to match. The possibility of falling over my own feet has been a real concern throughout my running journey. Luckily, the biggest real threat while running so far has been running out of oxygen. There was that one fall I had on the gravel near a duck pond at parkrun, where I ripped my leggings and bled all over them, (thank you people who stopped to see if I was ok that day) but it was all superficial, and has not put me off as much as I thought it might. Anyway, back the the point (which I had wondered away from. This might explain why I do sometimes accidentally run way further then I intend to on solo runs, because I do have a tendency to wonder off from the point) the run my oh-so-supportive husband had signed me up for was in March, so at Christmas time it felt far enough away to be able to forget about it for a bit. I’m not actually a runner so just finishing would be ok by me.
I have discovered that there is remarkably more psychology involved in running then I expected. I am still working on how to manage that. As I approached March my husband suggested increasing the number of runs I do in a week. I was reluctant, once a week seemed enough for me alongside anything else I do for exercise. Finding time to do this stuff is always a challenge with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old in the house. Plus, I’m not a runner, remember? Two runs a week felt excessive for someone who isn’t actually a runner.
Somehow though, I found myself getting up one extra morning a week to get out and run before everyone went to work. Looking for runs I could do in the dark, ones that were well lit. Looking for reflective strips on running clothes. I ran in sub-zero temperatures, and had to read running articles to figure out how to prevent the itchy-skin that low temperature brings to my legs and torso (you can’t easily prevent it by the way, and it’s quite unpleasant.) I ran in the fog and in the mud. I ran in the dark, and in the growing daylight with ice on the ground. I ran when I was on a hen do. I ran in my own and with a buddy. I ran in bright sunshine. When it came to the ‘race’ in March, I ran in gale-force winds. I hated dragging myself out of bed super early to do it, but I ran.
The ‘race’ itself went as well as I could have hoped for. I achieved a PB, I didn’t come last and I didn’t get blown away by the wind that was troubling the vendors at the event in their Gazebos. My little support-team of 3 (the husband & the children) cheered me at the finish, just over the 30 min mark - a really good time for me, and my friend who had joined me finished not long after, having gone through her own personal battle in the process.
But finishing wasn’t the biggest thing that came out of the experience. The biggest thing that I learnt on this particular bit of my journey is, as it turns out, I’m a runner. Yes, I’m slower then most of the rest of the field - I still consistently finish in the bottom third - but I choose to run in my own time. I choose to run in less then perfect conditions. I choose to earn medals for running.
I choose to run.
Interestingly, as soon as I admitted this to myself, something changed again. A couple of months later I hit my goal of running 5k under 30 mins, I still chase that elusive 29 min time, I’m not consistent yet, but I have done it. No one can take that away from me now. If you look on the ‘run Britain’ website my name is there, with several entries. I have since pushed myself up to running a full 10k, although not at an actual event. More importantly, I make myself get up and run. I think about ‘form,’ and consciously try to ‘run’ instead of ‘sort of shuffle.’ I go to ‘events’ (if I call them races like my husband does I would panic over them even more) and run sometimes with other people.
For the last 30-something years of my life I haven’t been a runner. If you’d have told me at any point that I was going to be one day I would have laughed. I outright wouldn’t have believed it. If you had told me last year, I would have laughed.