It’s just over a year since I started running again for the first time in more than 11 years. I’d joined the gym in a bid to shift a bit of weight and get my fitness levels up. I wasn’t sure what to do during that first visit. I had an induction session booked in for two weeks later but, not wanting to make a fool of myself on equipment which was way more advanced than the last time I’d been in a gym or struggle with weights I wouldn’t lift, I got on the treadmill and walked while I tried to figure out what to do. And then I turned the speed up and ran. And I remembered how much I loved running.
I managed about three minutes before I felt out of breath and needed to slow the machine down.
But it was a start.
I decided then and there that my goal for 2018 was to be able to run 10K comfortably by my 40th birthday, just less than six months away in June.
A few days (and a few more gym trips) later I bumped into my friend Kate while out and about with our respective families. “I did Parkrun this morning,” she told me. “I’ve just started running for the first time in years.”
Laughing at the coincidence – Kate and I share the exact same birthday so I shouldn’t have been surprised that we’d rediscovered running at the same time – I agreed to go along with her the following week to the free weekly timed run at Cardiff’s Bute Park.
I was so anxious about being rubbish that I didn’t print out the bar code required to get an official time because I didn’t want anyone to see my name on the official results page and laugh at me.
Looking back I can’t believe I was worried about that. Parkrun is such a fun and friendly event with the most supportive participants. I instantly felt a part of it. As we lined up to start, I bumped into a friend Sarah who runs all kinds of marathons and half marathons at a super speedy space. “It’s my first time,” I told her. “Please don’t laugh at me for being rubbish.” “I would never laugh at you,” she said looking genuinely surprised I would think such a thing. “It’s great that you’re here and before you know it you’ll be beating me around the course.” I couldn’t ever see that being a possibility but I was thankful for her encouragement.
I managed to get to around 2K before I needed to walk. And then I stop-started for the rest of the course, determined to finish the course.
I wasn’t anywhere near the fastest. But I wasn’t the slowest either. And I did it. I felt such a sense of pride… slowly followed by a determination that I could do it again, and better. And so the next week I found myself once again lining up at Parkrun. Slowly I found my speed and stamina increasing, helped by running on the treadmill at the gym and finding the confidence to run outdoors on my own for the first time since before I had children.
(Incidentally the most I’d run pre-kids was 5K with a couple of Race for Lifes. I also ran for my school as a teenager. I wasn’t exactly sporty at school so no one was more surprised than me when it turned out I wasn’t bad at the 800m and 1500m. I only wish I’d been encouraged then to join a junior running club. I ran sporadically as a student with the seafront route from the university to the Mumbles my favourite route.)
Kate and I signed up for the Race for Life 10K at Bute Park in July, two weeks after we both turned 40.
Somewhere along the line, a couple of serious running friends encouraged me to sign up for the Cardiff Half Marathon (thanks Gareth, Matt and Rebecca!).
Around the same time, Tŷ Hafan, the children’s hospice for Wales, asked me and my family if we’d consider running Wales’s first 5K Bubble Rush. “Yes!” I told them. “But I’m not just going to do the Bubble Rush. I’d also love to be on your team for the inaugural Barry Island 10K and the Cardiff Half Marathon. My children can do the family races at those two races too.”
Once it was in writing on my blog and people began to sponsor us I began to panic. “Can I really run a half marathon?” I asked myself.
Turns out I could. I ran a half marathon. I had no time goals in mind – I just wanted to complete the course and raise awareness of Tŷ Hafan. I surprised myself by completing it in two hours six minutes and four seconds.
Every time I felt like stopping or slowing down I reminded myself of what I was running for – the incredible children supported by Tŷ Hafan and their families. A few blisters and being out of puff is nothing compared to what they are facing. The charity relies on fundraising to pay for the vital services it provides to families across Wales. Thinking of them kept me going. I often found myself running with tears in my eyes and even streaming down my cheeks.
We raised around £800 for Ty Hafan in 2018 through our running challenges and it is undoubtedly the thing I am most proud of last year.
I was on such a high after completing the half marathon. But then came the devastating news that two men had died shortly after finishing the race. I didn’t know either of the men but the news really knocked me for six. I didn’t sleep that night thinking about their families and loved ones and the awful pain they must all be in. Both had died from heart-related issues. I wanted to do something to help…. and while looking at the Welsh Hearts website I was reminded of the annual Cardiff Bay Santa and Elf Dash where participants run a 5K distance in Christmas fancy dress in aid of the charity.
The day of the fun run was coincidentally the day we had arranged to meet up with Cardiff Daddy’s family. Out of seven cousins, four have December birthdays and we have an annual joint party for them. Cardiff’s Daddy’s sister and her husband both run… and so we suggested to the family that instead of having our planned party we all take part in the race. They all loved the idea and so our three-generational team donned our festive gear and ran Wales’s biggest Santa Dash.
It was a great end to an active year.
I was determined to continue my running and so started the 2019 by taking part in the special New Year’s Day Parkrun. I was tired after a party the previous night but the atmosphere among the 900 or so runners was electric and really spurred me on. I’d been running for around five minutes when who should I see but Sarah, the friend who had encourage me at that very first Parkrun almost a year ago. We ran the rest of the race together (along with another of her friends) and it felt like such significant moment, reminding me of just how far I’d come in a year and making me wonder where the next year will take me.
Running goals for 2019
After the half marathon I cut right back on the long distances and instead worked on increasing my 5K speed. Through interval training I’ve taken more than two minutes off my personal best. I’m currently at just over 27 minutes with the hope of getting below 25 minutes by my birthday at the end of June.
However since the half marathon I haven’t run anything longer than 9K (and that was only the once). I’ve realised I need to have races booked into my calendar to encourage me to take on the longer distances.
This year I’m aiming to gain “a medal a month” by taking part in a different race or challenge every month of 2019. I’m also looking forward to This Mums Runs launching in Cardiff and heading out with some of like-minded local ladies. So far my year is looking as follows:
January – I couldn’t find a race event I could do so have signed up for a virtual one instead where I need to run 50 miles in total during the month. At the end of the month I need to submit evidence I’ve completed the mileage and then they’ll send out the medal. It’s been a bit of a slow start to the year for various reasons but I’m up to 15.9miles so far.
February – I’ve signed up for the 10K Fix Events winter warmer event in Cardiff’s Bute Park on Sunday 3 February.
March – I’ll be starting my Mother’s Day by running the Run4Wales Cardiff Bay 10K on Sunday 31 March, the first of four 10K events they are organising for 2019.
April – I’ve not decided yet which event I’ll be running. I’m thinking of either the Vale Coastal Raves on 6 April or the Margam Park 10K on 7 April.
May – I’m definitely not ready for the Newport Marathon on 5 May – but I will be doing the Run4Wales 10K.
June – I’ve not really told many people this yet but I’m thinking of doing the Swansea Half Marathon. It would be a really special one for me because it’s the city where I went to university and where I met Cardiff Daddy. I used to love running along the seafront from Swansea Bay to the Mumbles. It’s on my birthday weekend so I’m hoping we can combine it with a family weekend away.
July – I’m looking forward to running the inaugural Porthcawl 10K.
August – I absolutely loved the Run4Wales Barry Island 10K last year and can’t wait to run in my hometown once more. I just hope it’s not as hot as last year’s race which took place in the middle of the heatwave.
September – I’m hoping to do the Cardiff 10K on 1 September. I was on holiday for last year’s event and really felt like I missed out because I know from watching previously what a great event it is.
October – I’ll be taking on the Cardiff Half Marathon again. I booked my place the day the early bird places went on sale last October. Running a marathon in your home city is a pretty special experience and the Cardiff Half takes in some of Cardiff’s most iconic sights. I’d love to run it in under two hours.
November – Possibly the 10K Mo Run in aid of The Movember Foundation which supports men’s health on a global scale. We were away last year but it looked like a fun event
December – I’m not sure yet what event I’ll be taking part in. Last year we as a family did the Cardiff Bay 5K Santa and Elf Dash in aid of Welsh Hearts so hopefully we can do that again. But I’ll see what else gets announced between now and then.
I’m hoping my children will take part in the family races attached to many of these events too. They amazed me last year by being so committed to fundraising through running taking part in two 2K races and two 5K races and becoming regulars at Junior Parkrun. My seven year old son has his race numbers stuck to his bedroom door. “I’d like to fill my door with them,” he says.
I’m hoping to once again use our running challenges to raise money for and awareness of local good causes. I’ll keep you posted when that’s all confirmed.
Are you a runner? Whether you’re experienced or a complete beginner I’d love to know your running challenges and goals for 2019. Do let me know in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or you can tweet me on @cardiffmummy
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