I said from the start that I want to be one of those people who wakes up and wants to Continue reading
We deserve a medal. 8am on Saturday morning and we’re pouring ourselves out of bed and into leggings and trainers. Elaine tumbled down the steps and across the road towards where I was parked and her expression mirrored my own. I burst into giggles as I caught her eye. ‘Water’. She greets me. ‘There’s a bottle in the back’ I said. Gunning the engine as she drank deeply, I laugh out loud ‘Oh Lord, what are we like? I was so tired this morning I couldn’t even face brushing my teeth’. ‘I’ve just drunk your water’ she replies. ‘That’s ok.’ ‘No, all your water’ she adds sheepishly, as we pull out into the light, early morning, weekend, Dublin traffic.
I’m bringing Elaine along to her first ever parkrun. I’ve been preaching proudly about parkruns for the past 6 weeks, ever since we first began our #Couch2Christmas challenge to run 10k for Aware. The parkrun is such a clever idea. You register online for free, print off your barcode, and are then welcome to participate in a timed 5k run in parks all over the world, every Saturday morning at 0930. It’s all organised by volunteers and the runners are a varied mix, ranging from walkers and joggers, right up to elite athletes. I’ve dipped in and out of parkruns for a year now, according to my fitness levels and I’ve always found a warm welcome, whether I’m running or walking.
We cut down along the Grand Canal and out onto the motorway heading for Celbridge, then turn off at Junction 6, in search of Castletown House. This is a new Parkrun and I haven’t been here before, but our coach, Irish Ultra runner John O’Regan had mentioned how beautiful the trail was. Heading up the drive towards the main house, I could see he hadn’t exaggerated. The stunning Autumn weather is amplified here, where the heavy woodland sweeps down towards the river. Gloriously green fields glow emerald against the copper gold of the trees that weep drifts of brightly coloured leaves at our feet. We park in front of the big house and as we walk away from the car, I feel guilty as if I am trespassing. We pass a groundsman who salutes us with a cheery smile and I stop to talk, surprised, because I had half expected a reprimand. It is the first of many welcomes.
Down to the start and a hug from run director Sharon Ashmore who explained the course and then announced our presence to the group of assembled runners; as Elaine and me stood mortified and wishing we’d stood behind a tree!
You don’t have to win to succeed..
To be honest I didn’t feel much like a winner as I plodded on towards the river. The trail was slightly downhill which helped, but I felt every ounce of the extra weight that I’m currently carrying.
As I watched Elaine’s long legs disappearing around the bend ahead, I felt a flash of envy. Then looking down at my stumpy little tree trunks, I decided that they’d have to do, and I grinned, as I ever so slightly extended my shuffle. The sound of the river renewed my interest. I looked off to my left and considered if I could get my kayak in there, and was still pondering the silver, gurgling, eddies of the river when I got to a bridge, and took a cheerful word of guidance from a Marshal to ‘look out for surface leaves’. I didn’t exactly need to slow down… but I tore my gaze from the shiny river to concentrate on the trail. It took a bit of concentration too, because there was a hill here. Focus, breath, step. A cheery Halloween scarecrow shouted encouragement as I headed into the hill. No I wasn’t hallucinating. This was the Marshal who had believed that instruction to wear fancy dress….
As I prepared to head out into my second loop, I swung out of the way of the flying feet of finishers, coming quickly up behind me. Their 5k was over while I was less than half way through mine. They were pushing hard for good times or PB’s (personal bests). I could hear their breathing, hard and heavy; but still they took the energy and time to call out to me ‘you’re doing great, keep going’. That’s the generosity of spirit that I’ve come to expect at parkrun, and I so admire it. It still quickens my heart to hear real athletes call encouragement to this huffing, puffing, red-faced steam engine, chugging up a hill. If they can believe in me, it’s so much easier to believe in myself.
What’s 45 seconds? For me, it’s the length of a news report or soundbite, the length of time it takes to Continue reading
I’m just back from a shopping trip with new runners and leggings. Everyone knows if you Continue reading
The challenge is on. One minute I am sitting nice and cosy on the TV3 Midday panel with Elaine Crowley and the next thing I know, we have talked ourselves into running a 10k before Christmas.
As we sat, discussing the benefits of running for both your physical and mental health, Elaine had a Continue reading
Who said I couldn’t run 10k? What? Oh, that’s right…. no one.. except me perhaps! I’m chuffed because I really didn’t want to do it but now I’m so glad I did. (In about 1:30 which is good for me). What a great day. Despite the Continue reading
My antlers twitched and I kicked up a bunch of golden leaves, as I strolled across Marlay Park this morning for the annual RNLI Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter…
It’s a special day. A friend of mine has been training hard for the 1K. It’s been a while since they did anything like this, and the amount of effort and perseverance they’ve put in for today’s one kilometre Santa Saunter, far outshines the amount of training I’ve been doing for my 5k. That brings with it two inescapable facts – I’m very proud of my friend for being here, and I’m not so sure about my own running ability later in the day!
Bumping into the organisers we share grins and congratulations as hundreds of people pour into the park, which is rapidly filling up with reindeer cladded men, women and children of all shapes, sizes and physical abilities. At this point we’ve just heard that there are over a thousand registrations. This is one of the things I love about fun runs – everyone feels welcome, and you get lots of runners, trotters and walkers who might not usually turn out for a run in the park. I’m always saying to just get out there and run; you don’t have to be an athlete to start – get active and the fitness follows. But days like this are such a wonderful encouragement for getting started. The cause is pretty special too, and one close to my heart. The RNLI save so many lives as their brave volunteer crews negotiate some of the roughest sea conditions around Europe.
I’m actually a bit nervous, because I’ve been asked to handle the warm-up for the first race and I haven’t done that before – not in public. I helped our teams warm up on the set of Setanta TV’s ‘Get Off The Couch’ – and I’ve been part of plenty of warm-ups with my own running club, LeCheile AC but I’m suddenly feel out of my comfort zone.
As I line up with my Megaphone on the grass in front of the start line, I take stock. I’m surrounded by a ‘sea’ of red-shirted reindeer – and I’m wearing furry ears and a pair of antlers. I stand for a moment looking at the front row of tiny runners, standing knee high to their parents and looking back expectantly. I glance nervously sideways at my trusty sidekick, the 6ft tall RNLI Reindeer ‘Rookie’ – and finding my voice I ask my reindeer runners to lift their left arm and wave to Santa. We raise our knees and ‘step in and out of Santa’s Sleigh’, we roll our shoulders – because it’s Santa’s favourite after carrying his magic sack with all those presents, we see how well Rookie can balance on one leg… and finish running on the spot in the ‘Santa Stampede’ before wrapping up with a round of applause for Rookie who now knows which side is right and left.
Walking over to my friends who are cracking up laughing, I sigh with relief thankful my 5 minutes of fame are over, when Niamh Stephenson from the RNLI dashes over to ask me to do it all again for the next race. Erm – judging from the comments later it appears I may have inadvertently changed warm-up tradition forever for the annual RNLI Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter…..
*Disclaimer No.1 – sorry Santa if I slightly misrepresented your warm-up exercises
*Disclaimer No.2 – sorry Irish Ultra Runner John O’Regan if I slightly misrepresented your warm-up exercises
I hadn’t heard of a fartlek session before tonight. In fact, one of my sporty friends on Facebook had to tell me how to spell it! But that’s what I ran headlong into tonight, when I decided to return to Le Chéile AC. Extreme Ultra Runner John O’Regan was taking the session – what about that for running royalty? as we started off, he reassured me that I’d be running ‘within and outside’ my comfort zone. While my brain was trying to process that, I tried to explain that just turning up was outside my comfort zone!
Growing up, I always felt the definition of being fit was being able to run, and it was something that always eluded me. But this February I turned up at Le Cheile AC in Leixlip, determined to finally give it a proper shot. I joined their Couch to 5k programme and with persistence, patient trainers, and the support of the other ‘Fit 4 Life’ runners, I finally made it to my ‘graduation 5k’ just as the evenings were turning long and bright. Chuffed with myself… I threw my running shoes in a corner and left them there for a couple of days, which turned to a couple of weeks, which turned to a couple of months. Eventually I knew I’d lost my run-fitness but kept thinking that I’d start running again myself on my own, before facing the embarrassment of huffing and puffing my way back to the club. Well you can guess how well that worked for me!
Finally this week I decided to bite the bullet. I need to be fit for the Liffey Descent challenge for LauraLynn Children’s Hospice in September, I’ve got to keep my weight down to fit into my Sásta fitness training kayak, and I’ve signed up for the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race on October 5th – so it’s time to get my running shoes back on and face the music. I didn’t exactly grumble on Twitter, but I did suggest I might have to drive home when I found the car-park was full…. The Tweet said I wondered “if this would be the day when I realised I loved running”; well it didn’t quite work out that way – but…
We started with stretching exercises led by John who defies gravity with his balance. When jokingly challenged about his dance-like ability, the running supremo grabbed a girl out of the line and waltzed his way across the track in a decidedly accomplished fashion, to the collective squeals and delight of the group gathered along the start-line. Ice-breakers over, we moved to the main event.
The session involved a couple of warm-up laps on the track and then intervals of jogging separated by fast ‘pick-ups’ … running fast for 90, 60, 45, 30, 20 second bursts – something like that. To be honest, the numbers were swimming around in my head, I just concentrated on John’s whistle bursts to tell me when to run fast and when I could slow down. At first I tried counting the seconds to myself, pacing out the beats with my footsteps and breathing. I struggled to the end of each burst, running out of breath and begging in my mind for the whistle to blow. Then my mind settled down. Instead of counting and hoping for the sprint bit to end, I told myself I was relaxed and this was easy and I could run like this all night. I kept the pace slow and steady on the recovery stretches, running more slowly than anyone else, but running fast enough for me. I kept telling myself that I was comfortable instead of convincing myself I was struggling; and do you know, something happened. I began to believe. I began to believe I could run like that all night. I watched the sky turning dark, I watched the trees in the distance above the track, I looked at the runners ahead and their form and the beauty of how they moved, and I felt my joints moving easily, fluidly, almost like a dance. I think I almost meditated. I thought about warm days and felt the cool breeze on my face, I felt the sweat trickle down my back. I heard the whistle and I slowed, I heard the whistle and I picked up, and in the background I heard an encouraging voice telling me I was running faster than when I started. Finally we got the final whistle and sprinted to the end; and to my amazement I was sad to pull up.
I’m not quite ready to say I enjoyed the running… but I could have danced all night….
Monday Aug 12th: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 20 mins lunchtime running in Stephens’ Green / couple of lengths in the pool with dad 🙂
Tuesday Aug 13th: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 45″ Gym session – S&C
Wednesday Aug 14th: 40″ running session (Fartlek) with Le Cheile AC
Despite illness, wonky knees, cartiledge problems, and consultants telling my I wouldn’t…… I’m running again. Well, if you call putting one foot in front of the other at a slightly more animated pace than walking, then I’m running again.
It’s all coming together rather nicely. I’ve had a couple of sessions at Le Cheile AC and each session felt better than the last, the lovely folk at Run Kildare have invited me back again this year, and I’m off to Limerick this weekend with ‘Get Off The Couch’ participants, Karen and Cathy to take part in a triathlon workshop.
I really believe in learning about technique. When I started getting out into the great outdoors and trying out new, activity based hobbies, I was on my way back down from 23 stone. I really didn’t think I’d be able to do anything, and as soon as I discovered that I could, my whole world changed. Training helped though, and I’ve a huge amount of people to thank, for sharing their knowledge and passion for sport and the outdoors. I will be thanking people for the rest of my life, and whenever I catch up with the thanking bit… I have a whole new wave of people and blessings to be thankful to and for.
One of those people who helped me then and is helping me now, is the hugely generous Irish ulra runner John O’Regan. We’re pictured here at Run Kildare last year, when he spotted me about to jog out – knowing darned well that I’d just been told I shouldn’t. Thanks to John’s advice on the day, I got around the course without further damaging my knees – and he’s been giving me great advice ever since.
Starting back running again 2 weeks ago wasn’t easy. It hurt, my chest heaved, I couldn’t breath and I really wondered if I’d just imagined being able to run. But this week felt better. I know it will take many more weeks to get back to anything like the fitness I had before. But something wonderful happened this week, as I ran I remembered that I like it. I got that feeling that runners get, where your body does what you ask, you find a rhythm and you’re suddenly confident that you can run for ever.
Even on a rainy day, you feel the sun on your face in those moments.
After winning an adventure award from Outsider Magazine, I’m newly motivated to ‘Get off The Couch’ in the New Year. In fact I’m not waiting until then – I’m going ‘wild’ swimming with the High Rock swimmers in Malahide on Stephen’s Day, and climbing at Awesome Walls in Finglas the day after. I’m also re-examining my diet, on Diet Dayz, here on the site.
Fair play to Morning Ireland, they gave a great ‘shout out’ to us ‘outsider’ types as we gathered for what turned out to be a brilliant social event at The Grand Social. I certainly lost a few pounds dancing into the early hours of the morning!
There were icy tales of thrilling drama from Mike O’Shea and Dr Clare O’Leary, newly returned from their successful trip across the North Patagonian ice-cap; and John O’Regan probably got the essence of why we were all there, in just one sentence.
Thanks to Alan Rowlette for the pix.