Recently the good folk over at Run Kildare asked me to pen a guest-blog on preparations for this year’s event on the plains of Kildare…it just happened that they got in touch as I started the new ‘couch to 5k’ project over at Le Cheile AC in Leixlip. So I had plenty to write about….
I sit in the car with the engine running, the heater fan on ‘full’ and I shiver as I peer out through the foggy windscreen into the dark of the night beyond. It’s 7.50pm and in ten minutes I must head off into the cold and make my way to the club house, or rev the engine and spin wheels in the direction of home. I don’t have the words to tell you how much I want to head for home…
Half an hour later, I’m dragging off my windbreaker and wiping a bead of sweat from my brow as I turn to jog back to the clubhouse. I’m certainly warm now; in fact I’m glowing and grinning from ear to ear. I have company too… There are 30 of us ‘newbies’ out on the road – giving it sox on night one of the ‘Couch to 5K’ programme at Le Cheile AC in Leixlip. I’ve signed up for the next 10 weeks because I’m on a mission; I’ve promised the folks at Run Kildare that I’ll join them again this year.
I’m starting from scratch because I’ve been sick and it’s amazing what a difference sitting at home for 6 weeks can do to a body. My chest heaves and I wonder how 90 secs could ever last so long. 4, 3, 2, 1… the final seconds drag past and we can walk again. That’s the routine for now, run and walk, run and walk, and it’s hard – but it’s very ‘doable’. I have a mental advantage too, because I know how to do this. I’ve done it before. I’ve been 23 stone and I’ve learned how to walk, then to trot, then to run, to climb a mountain, to paddle a kayak, to ride a bike and to live. If I can get fit, anyone can – and if I can get fit twice there’s hope for us all.
The passion and support of other people has helped me to get out there and get active over the past couple of years, and my previously undiscovered love of the outdoors and adventure has brought me all the way to Everest Base Camp, The Alps, and most recently a tri-adventure challenge that saw me climbing an extinct volcano and cycling hundreds of kilometres across Africa to kayak in the Nile. It’s a message in turn that I’m passionate to pass on. The outdoors is for us all, and all you need to do is open the door and walk out into it. It’s waiting for you, and there are so many clubs and organisations that will give you advice and support along the way. Sport is not just for the sporty!
“Get Off The Couch” is a new TV programme that I’m presenting this year, which is built entirely around that message. Screening on Setanta TV this autumn, Athena Media’s GOTC follows the adventures of six participants doing just that, getting off the couch and getting active and healthy. It’s a great team and you can already check them out on Facebook or Twitter (#GetOffTheCouch), or on the programme’s website. You can get involved too and offer us support as we all support each other through a whole range of activities from running and walking to climbing mountains, swimming in the sea and kayaking on the Liffey.
I’m looking longingly at the heels of the other runners as they head off towards the hill-run that we face on the way home. I thought I’d have a gentle night tonight, it being the first session. But the eagle eyes of Irish Ultra Runner John O Regan spotted me walking out; and coaching us for the night, he snaked in like a collie after a herd of sheep, nipping a few of us out of the pack, and putting us through some slightly harder paces. I’m huffing and puffing, but I’m laughing to myself to. It’s a quiet, internal sort of laugh, because I don’t have the breath to laugh out loud. It’s just that he spotted me dossing and he was right, because I’m keeping up with the new pace, even though I didn’t think I could.
Last year I was afflicted with ‘dodgy knees’ but I made it to Run Kildare and thanks to advice and tips from the same John O’Regan on the day, I not only finished, but I enjoyed every second of the run. I’m looking forward to the winds of the Curragh in my face again. Le Cheile’s Couch to 5K will definitely do its job, and I know that if I can run 5k, I can run 8k, and I can make it around the 10k at this years ‘Run Kildare’ on May 12th.
I’ve promised I’ll make it and I’m determined to be there. Those beautiful plains that are normally the reserve of racehorses will open up to us runners this summer, and that’s an opportunity not to be missed. There are three races; a marathon, half marathon and my 10k. So dust off your runners, and ignore the biting cold of these dark winter evenings. Spring is coming and your playground awaits. Open your -door, step out and join me….. c’mon –‘Get Off The Couch’