“Would you think about signing up for a 5k?” asked my friend, long, long ago (last year) when I first discovered running. But no chance. I didn’t want to take part in any races. I didn’t even want to run 5k on my own. I was happy going out once a week, doing about 3.5km (kindly recorded on my phone by Runkeeper) and coming home feeling better than I had before I left the house. I had a route. I had a routine. Out the front door, down the road, back up the other road, back to the front door. Easy and not time-consuming. Why change what’s working perfectly well?
Admittedly, after a while it become a bit of a chore and a bit boring – the early novelty wore off, and I didn’t feel the same euphoria coming home. Then in the run up to Christmas, I didn’t get out at all. So on my first time going out in the new year, I was out of practice and unconsciously running at a slower pace than usual (and believe me, the bar was already low).
Then I made an AMAZING discovery. Something people who run more regularly already know. Something that anyone who combines a bit of basic maths, with some physics and biology would know. If you go slower, you can go for longer. Who knew! Everyone except me I suspect. So as I neared home, realising I had more energy than usual, I took a couple of detours around some cul-de-sacs near the house. And then Runkeeper gleefully announced I’d run 4k, and I hobbled home, somewhat broken after weeks of inactivity, but thrilled too at the extra distance.
And suddenly I got it. Improving is motivating. Doing more makes you want to do more. Again, not a newsflash to anyone else, just to late-to-the-gamers like me.
So over the last few weeks, I’ve been stretching the route, bit by bit, trying to find ways to make it a little bit longer each week (when you only go out once a week, this is slow progress).
And then this morning, I had a really good feeling about crossing the 5k mark – until I opened the curtains and saw the rain. Foiled by Irish weather.
My husband told me to go anyway – he always says that running or training in the rain is even better than in good weather. That makes no sense to me whatsoever, so I’ve always classified it with “why don’t you sign up for a 5k run” – things that have logic for people who run more often and more seriously than I do. But today the choice was either go out in the rain or cancel altogether until next week. I put on my runners.
I click into Spotify, choosing the “running” category. “Start running to detect tempo” is the message from the app – Spotify will choose appropriate music in time with my run. Moments later, I’m running to Ed Sheeran. Maybe I’m taking the slow pace thing a little too far.
The rain comes down harder as Runkeeper cheerily announces every five minute interval, and I realise that I don’t care. More than that – my husband is right – it actually feels good. I wonder if this is what the kids feel, when they’re jumping in puddles, without a care in the world for ruined hair or running mascara or arriving at work soaked to the skin.
I stretch the route further than last week, hoping I’ve gone far enough this time. There’s no way to know until I’m almost at the house. I run (slowly – Ed Sheeran tempo apparently) up the last hill towards home, begging Runkeeper in my head – call it, call it! Finally she does, just as I arrive at my house. 5.33km. Done. Finally. Happy.
I’ll never be like my sisters or my many friends who are proper runners – who go out much more often than I do, who run much greater distances, and who don’t get Ed Sheeran on Spotify. But now finally, I get it. I might even go out again tomorrow. Then again, it is my turn for a lie-in. No point in getting carried away.