The Anderson Challenge

I had surgery on both legs in April 2013 and haven’t run since. I’ve been swimming, even though running was always technically possible, I had committed to some big water based challenges. Post my July swim event, my mojo disappeared and with some big family commitments that took me away from being as active as I wanted to be, I lost all interest in all sports.

My mojo came back from limbo in November but I wanted to do activities that would be fun and get me back to enjoying being active. So, I bought some of the lariest workout clothing and exercise bras I could find and signed up for classes in the gym. I never do classes in the gym. I’ve lost muscle and gained blubber over the last few years and all of my muscle strength seems to have evaporated. I have read that once you get to 35 you start losing 1% muscle mass every year, simply due to age. Well, that means I’ve lost a few percent and I can certainly feel it. Even after a 30 minute class I end up walking like a Thunderbirds puppet for two days after and its anybody’s guess if I can get my arms up high enough to put on my mascara, so I’ve learned to bend over to finish my make up.

The classes started to put a spring in my step, but I wanted to try a bit more. In fact, I really wanted to try a Park Run. Running 5km scared me though. After my leg injuries and surgery, I had become scared of running. so, here’s where the Anderson from the title comes in – in the form of Paul Anderson an extremely good runner and qualified running coach. He set me the challenge to run each week on the treadmill at the gym increasing my run distance by 1km each week until I reached 8km and then to run the local Park Run. I tentatively said I’d have a go. I started gingerly on the treadmill running 3km on 23rd November 2014. I kept waiting for my legs to start hurting and for the electric shock pains to start but they didn’t. I came home, elated. I’d just run 3km in 22.29 mins. The next Sunday I ran 3km in 21.30 and 4km in 28.10. I did 5km the next weekend – 7th December. My stats were 3km – 20.45; 4km – 27.36 and 5km – 34.17.No pains, no swelling, no hobbling and a bit of weight loss. Result! Last Sunday I ran the ‘magic’ 8km in 59.45. Each week I’ve been getting to the gym and onto the treadmill feeling worried and sick and doubting I can run as far as scheduled or worried that my legs will go pop and I’ll fail. For any of you seasoned distance runners out there I know this is nothing, but for me its been huge. I am so thrilled that I’ve managed to get to 8km. and now, at last its Park Run time.

The alarm went off bright and early yesterday morning at 7am and it was absolutely tipping down with rain. Brilliant. I ate my breakfast of champions – a crumpet ( I have a nasty Warburtons crumpet habit that has proved impossible to break over the last two years. Ian has tried and failed) – had a cuppa and got dressed and packed a bag that included four different running jackets/tops because I couldn’t decide which would be best and we set off.

It was a truly miserable morning, it was cold and drizzly but as people arrived they were smiling and chatty. They kept arriving – over 300 of us humans and several dogs turned out all ready to run. There were ‘pacers’ with tabards on and I noted gloomily that none of them were slow enough for me. I’d got my sights set on 37 minutes as a goal to complete my first Park Run and the pacers stopped at 34 minutes. Ah well, I turned up the volume on my iPod and pressed the start button on my watch and stepped across the start line. Oh my gosh! I was running – in public – with other folks. the run was partially on footpath and partially on slimy grass but it was great fun. I watched the paced groups go off and saw the back of 34. I resolved to keep him in my sights for as long as I could whilst still running my own race. 1km gone, felt good. 2km gone – still good, woo.. 3km oh, a hill – I knew how to run that  – Pop, Pop, Pop All the way to the top.. (thanks to Ryan Bowd) and I passed a few people who had decided to walk. That felt really good. I kept going and passed a few more people and then I caught sight of him – there was 34! He was about 300 metres away, but I saw him. I thought that if I could finish with him in my sights that would be a great achievement. I kept up with my pace, remembering to breathe and RUN not SHUFFLE. I felt really good, my breathing was okay and I seemed to be catching 34. by 4km I’d passed a few more people and was in a sort of battle with a big bloke dressed in red and black who didn’t want me to come past, but not only did I pass him, but with half a kilometre to go I overtook 34! I pushed myself to run as fast as I could for the last half, but I couldn’t keep 34 away and we ran to the finish together. I was absolutely thrilled. I had slept badly on Friday night because I was scared I’d come last, or not finish, but I didn’t and I finished a full three minutes quicker than I had hoped. My finish time was 34.04. No, its not fast, and no, I won’t be winning any medals anytime soon, but its my benchmark to move forwards. Most of all its a massive boost to my confidence and a huge relief that I have finally managed to conquer my run demons. Extreme for me.

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