2 and a half years ago I started climbing a mountain.
I came back from a holiday and suddenly realised that over 3 years I had gained 2 stone. I did little exercise apart from walking into town to go to the pub occasionally or a half hearted go at the Wi Fit and I felt sluggish, unhappy, and overweight. So me and my husband signed up for the Braydeston 5k, and we started running.
I tried a Couch to 5k app, which I hated, before switching to Zombies Run, and I never looked back. According to my Nike+ App my first run was 21st May 2012, and I “ran” 2.1 miles in 29 minutes, an average pace of 13’27” a mile, which featured A LOT of walking!
On the 25th June 2012 I ran my first full 5k, without taking a walk break, in 35 minutes and 33 seconds and by the end of 2012 I’d completed 2 10k races. In 2013 I started playing Roller Derby, completed my goal of running a 10k in under an hour, and finished my first half marathon. Those 18 months had completely changed the way I felt about myself and my body. I’m still a little overweight, and I’m not the fastest runner, but I could run, I had endurance, I was strong, and I was starting to work on getting better, fitter and I felt happier.
Then in 2014 it all went wrong, problems with asthma, that has barely bothered me for 25 years and a sprained ankle meant that in October, after 2 and a half years, I really felt like giving up. I’d worked so hard to get off that couch and climb to where I was at the end of 2013, and 2014 had sent me crashing back down to the bottom of the mountain. Running 2 miles was a struggle, my ankle ached for days after any strenuous exercise and anything requiring explosive effort, like jamming or sprinting left me gasping for breath and reaching for my inhaler.
When you start anything, it’s all about the journey, and it feels good achieving something you never knew you could do and testing yourself. When you’re facing doing that journey all over again, knowing that it IS something you can do, but to do it again is going to take all that work all over again, well, it doesn’t feel quite as good or inspiring.
So I set myself some goals, and one of them, to finish the Norwich Half Marathon, is approaching this Sunday. I’m now on Steroid tablets to try and get my asthma under control, which should hopefully have helped before Sunday, and to be honest I’m feeling quite proud of what I’ve achieved in such a short space of time. 5 weeks ago, when I set those goals, I was struggling to run a 10k. So I took a step back, and started run/walking my longer runs, until, in the last couple of weeks I’ve managed to start slowly running the whole lot and I completed my last 10 mile run before the Half Marathon with only 2 short walk breaks to take gels. I’m nowhere near as fast as I was last year, but setting that small goal, to build up my walk/run mileage by a mile a week, and managing to exceed it, has done a whole load for my confidence.
On Tuesday this week I beat my personal best endurance laps at Roller Derby. I did 28 laps in 5 minutes, and I can’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed by how breathless I was when I finished, and had to immediately reach for my inhaler, but it was still a full lap improvement on my last timed laps back in May and I’m trying to switch my focus to how much better I can be once my breathing is back under control.
Instead of feeling demoralised about having to make the journey again, I’m trying to look on it as a whole new trip. I’m a different person than I was in 2012, my ankle still aches and I’ve lost a lot of fitness over this year, but this time round I’m mentally stronger, I eat better, and I’m a lot more informed about fitness, health and what’s needed to get myself back to where I want to be.
I’m trying to remember that what getting fit(ter) has taught me isn’t about being faster or better or building muscle, it’s that most of it is in your head. Running taught me that I CAN run 13.1 miles, maybe not as fast as an Olympic athlete, or maybe not even as fast as the bloke down the road, but I can still do it, I just have to be strong enough to keep going when I want to stop. Roller Derby taught me to keep trying when I couldn’t do something, to fall down and get straight back up and try again, and slowly, gradually it gets easier. What gets you through training sessions isn’t already being good at something, it’s the will to keep trying, to keep pushing, and to keep fighting to be better. That change in mental attitude, not giving up when things are hard, and recognising progress, even if it’s slow, is what I really learnt over the last 2 and a half years, and what I will try and take with me into 2015.