I wrote the other day about my early years as a runner. Today I will tell you about my more recent running journey.
In 2011, shortly after my daughter started school, I ran Bath half marathon in 1:59:54. It was my third half marathon, but my first in 15 years, as finding the time to run with a job and small children at home wasn’t easy. But as the years went on, life got easier and I was able to run more.
After Bath half marathon, I did a half marathon or two a year, apart from 2015 when I was injured. While I was still going out to work in an office between 2011 and 2014, my half marathon training wasn’t great. I was basically restricted by work and childcare to two runs a week, so I made them long runs. Even when the kids were tweens, my runs were limited. The kids weren’t all old enough to be left alone and our weekends were dominated by the kids’ football and rugby. This often meant we needed to be at an away game by 10am on both Saturday and Sunday.
Doing just two long runs a week isn’t really the best way to train for a half marathon and I was susceptible to injury. I had two recurring injuries on my left side and I started to wonder if I would ever be free of them. I even thought maybe I needed to give up half marathons altogether.
But starting to work at home in 2014 meant I had a bit more time to run, so my training improved and my distances increased. By the end of 2019, I’d run 19 half marathons and my PB (achieved in 2018 at the age of 45) was 1:48:10.
In 2015, I went along to parkrun for the first time. My daughter’s friend had been running it for a few weeks and she wanted to give it a try herself. It was OK, so we went back a couple of weeks later. Then I started running it without my daughter. Before I knew it, I was obsessed with parkrun. It took me 18 months to achieve my 50 milestone and only another 13 months to get up to 100. I achieved my PB of 22:23 in 2017, which I recently beat in (not)parkrun, but I haven’t managed it in real parkrun. In 2019, I didn’t miss a single parkrun (including Christmas Day and the New Year double) – I was marshal at one, tail walker at four (a volunteer who walks at the back) and ran the rest of them. Along the way, I got my husband, both sons, my parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew running too.
By the time parkrun stopped abruptly in March 2020, I’d run over 200 and was on course to get my 250 T-shirt at the end of the year. My husband, daughter and dad have all run over 100 parkruns. My younger son, sister and brother-in-law have all run over 50. I know that none of them would have run a single one if it wasn’t for my love of parkrun.
Since parkrun ended, I’ve stuck with the routine of a 5k every Saturday morning at 9am. While it’s not quite the same, I like the routine and I still get a buzz from pushing myself and running that bit faster once a week.
I’d never wanted to run a marathon. I was happy just doing my regular runs and the occasional half marathon. But around 2017, I decided I would run one ‘one day’. It was my brother-in-law who finally persuaded me to sign up. We opted for the not very glamorous Newport marathon in 2019. In the past, I’ve always just run and seen what happens, but for my marathon I wanted to do things properly. I followed a training plan and trained to pace. I decided that 10 minute miles was a sensible starting point for my first marathon, as it is a pace I can run very comfortably. I enjoyed the discipline of following the training plan and the feeling of getting stronger as the weeks went on. The only downside of the training was the way it ate into my work time. I can’t imagine how anyone with a full-time job or young kids could train for a marathon.
My marathon went exactly to plan – I should have finished it in 4 hours 22 and I finished it in 4 hours 21. I didn’t hit a wall or suffer in any way. I just kept running. And I knew I wanted to do one every year after that.
In 2020 I trained for Brighton marathon and had signed up for four half marathons, none of which happened. In 2021, I decided to run Newport marathon again rather than Brighton (a marathon is still a marathon whether it’s in Brighton, London or Newport after all). It has already been postponed. One of my four half marathons has been cancelled, one has gone virtual and I suspect one will clash with my marathon. So with any luck I might run one ‘proper’ half marathon this year and a marathon. And, all being well, parkrun should be back on 5th June and I can look forward to finally getting my 250 T-shirt sometime in spring 2022.
But whatever happens this year, I will keep running. For the last year I’ve been running five times a week, totalling 27 miles – two four mile runs, one six mile run, my Saturday 5k and 10 miles on Sunday. That is a huge step up from the new mum who ran a mile and a half a couple of times a week.
If your life isn’t in quite the right place at the moment to run several times a week and run marathons and half marathons, just stick with what you can do. I’ve stuck with running for 27 years now and I have no intention of giving it up!
I was inspired to write this post by my friend Joy aka Pink Oddy. She is running a series of inspirational runners’ stories and was kind enough to feature me. When I wrote out my story, it was too long for her, so I thought I’d use the long version myself!