As usual come New Year’s Eve I made the same resolution that I make most years, “I must get fitter and lose some weight”.
This usually involves me going out running around the streets of Egham full of the joys of getting fit 2, possibly 3 times a week and covering around 2km! As January progresses I find myself starting to make excuses; why I should stay in bed, its cold, or wet, or something. So what was I going to do different for my 2016 New Year’s Resolution? The goal, as ever, was the same. But how could I achieve it?
My wife mentioned a friend had seen a C25K course advertised on facebook and she thought it would be a good idea if I gave it a go. At first I though ‘why would I join when I can go running on my own?’ But she pointed out that ‘on my own’ usually lasts at best a month tops. So I looked into the Runnymede Runners C25K course, a structured training programme lasting 8 weeks, based around interval training where you build up time and distance as the weeks evolve. The course culminates in the Bedfont Lake 5k park run. I contacted the RR team and signed myself up.
The day of the first training session arrived and I woke up nervous but excited that I was actually joining a running club (thoughts of ‘am I going to be running with Mo Farah types’ were pretty much at the forefront of my mind. Would they all leave me behind!) I looked out the window to see snow on the ground, surely all would be cancelled, no-one would go running round Saville Gardens in this weather! I checked the facebook page to see if there was a cancellation notice, only to see a post about wearing the correct kit for the correct weather. So I donned my many layers, woolly hat and gloves and set off to see how many other people were like minded. I was surprised to meet 39 or so people standing in the cold waiting for the whistle.
We got introduced to our C25K coaches, Arun Gomes and Dave Bird. We all learnt very quickly that Arun loves his Garmin and feels naked without it and Dave seems to often forget to blow his crucial whistle. We also learnt over the next 8 weeks that these 2 guys would be a great help and would go above and beyond to help us all achieve our end goal of the 5k at Bedfont.
It has to be said that soon running was starting to become infectious and I started looking forward to the mid week training sessions and clocking my mileage per run and cumulatively. Next up was a revamp of my kit, I went and had my running assessed to see which trainers I should be wearing. I appear to have a strange running technique, but not to worry as the trainers can level me out (who would have thought it!)! I also treated myself to some new running kit.
We had a great group of people doing the training course, with big groups on Sunday and some smaller groups for the weekday evening training sessions. It wasn’t long before the camaraderie and banter started developing, most memorably one night passing burger king (they know who they are…). From that moment on I realised we were lucky to have a great group! Dave and Arun would run and walk us around Egham in the rain and cold, with Dave introducing the cheeky chappie, which was basically a way of telling us to run more. No one complained, we just followed the whistle. We did various routes around Egham as the distances started to get longer, including the infamous Egham hill run (less said about that the better).
We came to our last training session before our Park Run debut on Thursday night which was basically a 30 minute run with no stopping. As I mentioned earlier you start obsessing about times and distances the more you get involved. When Dave blew his whistle to cool down Jo checked the distance and noticed we weren’t far off completing a 5k training run, so a group of us carried on until Jo said stop as we hit the 5k. We finished under the motorway bridge and it was like a scene out of Rocky, we all high fived and cheered!
Park Run debut
The Bedfont Park Run was brilliant. It is well organised and a great location with a mixture of flat and bumps (bumps is a technical term for not saying hill!) along the way. I set myself the goal of a sub 30 minutes finish, which I felt should be achievable. It does have to be noted that the best prep before a race should not include a Friday night at The Stoop watching Harlequins play rugby and drinking a few pints and certainly not ending up in the kebab house at 1am ordering your dinner! (Ed note: this was already planned before the date was set). Never the less I turned up at Bedfont drinking my Lucozade hydro water and it which felt a bit like mixing oil and water.
Park Run set off under the wettest conditions I have run in yet. First lap I was trying to run round the puddles, keeping my new trainers nice and clean. Inspired by the cow bell and high fives from the children ringing it, I completed lap 1 of 2. The second lap was very much a different story. Gasping for breath whilst being encouraged round by James (training buddy) and Dave. Ploughing through the puddles, as I couldn’t face trying to dance round them anymore (stuff the trainers!) Trying to avoid being overtaken by a man pushing a pram (who was very quick I might add). It’s fair to say I just wanted it to end! After coming round what I thought was the last bend to the finish line, I summoned up the last remaining fuel I had in the tank to try and do my version of a sprint finish, only to find out the course changes slightly from the first lap and I still had further to go.
I came round to the finish line to be cheered home by my new team mates from the Runnymede Runners, collected my barcode information and handed it in. Unofficially I had beaten my 30 minute target, but I had to wait till later for the official confirmation.
We cheered in all the other C25K graduates home and enjoyed a massive cake spread put on to celebrate our 5k graduation. We were also presented with a Runnymede Runner’s medal to say we had completed the course (my daughter thinks this is the best thing ever and means I ‘technically’ won the race).
Not all graduates could do the first Park Run, so we went back the following week to see our other members complete their first 5k runs. Having another go puts a bit of pressure on, as it now starts to become about PB’s and whether you can beat your previous week’s time. Needless to say for this one I had improved my preparation by staying in the night before and drinking lots of water.
We finished the race and again had the long wait for the official email to come out from Bedfont Park Run to see if we had beaten our previous times. I was pleased to have knocked a minute of my previous time, and most of the group who were running the course for the second time came away with new PB’s.
5km had been the original goal, but we’ve been bitten by the running bug and there is more to come! So what next…