Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How I've progressed from running 500m to 16km

As the top of my blog says, when I started out running, 6 years ago, I struggled to keep running for 500 m. Two days ago I went for my long weekend run of 16 km! Then yesterday I was chatting to a friend and she asked how I've got to the stage that I can run for 16 km and this made me reflect on how my running has progressed over the past 6 years.

What I did as a kid
I was never much of a runner as a kid. I did gymnastics for 7 years and considered myself pretty fit and strong. I did occasionally go for runs, but never anything more than around 3 km, and even those weren't very often.  Our family was generally very active when I was growing up. Weekends and holidays were often spent walking and hiking in the countryside. I also walked everywhere just day to day - to school, the shops, the beach, everyday was a walk somewhere.
So as you can see growing up I had a good base of fitness which I believe has stood me in good stead in the following years.

Post baby lack of fitness
After having our two daughters, I hadn't done much exercise at all. After our second child, I drove everywhere, rarely walked and did little or no exercise. I had put on weight and was about 20 kg heavier than I should be. I slowly got back into exercise starting out with a book from the library with, I think it was an 8 minute daily workout. I did video workouts at home and got on our exercise bike while the kids slept in the evenings.

Why and how I started running
When my husband and I first moved to Cairns, we heard about the annual Pyramid Race 

(a race up a local mountain shaped like a Pyramid). Having both enjoyed hiking in the mountains we decided we'd like to one day take the on the challenge of this race and settled on the 50th anniversary which was in 2009.
So when 2009 came about I started running - that's when I found it a struggle to run the 500 m to the local shop!
I slowly built it up with walking and jogging until I could do the 3 km run necessary for the Pyramid Race.

Since the Pyramid Race is a 3 km run to the base of the mountain, go up and down the mountain (922 m), then run  3 km back, we decided we just needed to be able to run 3 km in one go as we knew we could climb the mountain OK.  We did do a couple of practice climbs of the mountain before race day too.

So race day came and off we went. We had lots of friends came to watch us attempt this crazy race after years of inactivity! It was extremely tough - we hadn't realised how hard it would be to climb the mountain AFTER running 3 km there, and then to run 3 km back after the mountain was impossible - we barely managed to walk. Our wonderful friends and supporters waited over 3 hours at the finish line to cheer us home. 

We had come last, but we finished! What an achievement.

Beyond the first race
After completing my first Pyramid Race, I wanted more. What a feeling to finish and a sense of achievement. I knew I needed to do more to get fitter and healthier and was enjoying my short runs. So I continued running and continued to run the Pyramid Race each year, getting a little faster each time. From 3 hours 15 mins the first year, to 2 hours 45 mins the next year, then 2 hours 36 mins.
Slowly I was getting fitter but after a few years of just generally getting fit, I started to want to try other races and to go faster.

Training Plan
At the beginning of 2013 I decided to see what I could really do and get a time for a particular distance.  
There was a 5 km run in June on the flat that I entered and downloaded a free 5km training plan from the internet. I ran my own marked out 5 km run at the start and timed this, then followed the plan and was pleased to have improve my time by the end of it. So I did the plan once again in the build up to the official 5km race, when I went out and ran a full minute faster than my goal - 22 mins 58 seconds! 

That race changed a lot for me. I realised what I was capable of and wanted to know what else I could push my body to do.

I think that was the point that I decided to go from just running when I felt like it, to actually having a training programme with goals and times I wanted to achieve.

Consistency - or lack of!
So for the past couple of years I've tried various running plans - some I've planned myself, others downloaded from the internet for free. I've also done more DVD workout programmes which I've found to be great cross-training to complement my running.

I've had periods when I've been super keen and working out twice a day, and other times when I've been less motivated and have done very little, but overall have felt I've gained a lot in my fitness.

Back to square one
At the beginning of this year (2015), we had a family holiday travelling in Asia for a month. During this time I did no exercise and didn't eat particularly healthily. When we came back to Cairns, I couldn't believe how much fitness I'd lost and how hard it was to get back into it. Running was a real struggle and I felt like I'd lost all the fitness I'd built up over the past few years.
Of course it wasn't quite that bad - but it certainly felt bad enough to know that I won't willingly go for a month with no exercise again!
Maybe it's my age catching up with me; recovery takes longer, and I have to be more aware of what I eat and the exercise I do now than I did when I was in my 20s!

This year I've built my fitness back up to my best adult levels yet. I've done it through general fitness DVDs (Insanity), runs on the flat and trail runs and walks. My races this year have all been good - with personal best times and even another trail running medal - to add to my first one ever last year!

This is the first year I've started consistently running longer distances - that's with an eye to my goal of going under 2 hours for a half marathon run I'm doing in 3 weeks time. I'm almost at the end of a half marathon training programme and each long run I do, I'm still amazed that I can run that far! 

I much prefer being fit and able to run these distances to the inactive and far less healthy person I was a few years ago.
I'm now looking forward to seeing what else I can push my body to do.  The big goal being the Great Wall of China Marathon for my 50th birthday! 

So it may have taken me 6 years, but I've gone from struggling with a 500 m run to being able to go out for a 16 km run. I've built this up  slowly through time and perseverance. Anyone can do it - no matter what your starting point. I've read so many inspirational stories of what people can achieve, that it makes me want to do more and more and see just what I am capable of achieving.
Next year I'll be setting bigger and better goals, and working on keeping my training consistent; after all, I've only got seven and a half years to build up to that Marathon!!