Last December, my husband signed me up for the gym. I didn’t manage to make it there at all that month and I finally had my induction in January. I wasn’t exactly over the moon with the whole gym idea. For a long time I’d been convinced that I’d reached the fitness limits of my health condition; I’d had lots of tweaks of medication over the years and was told, “Some people just feel rubbish on the medication you’re taking, because it’s not the same as your body making it yourself.” I’ve been running for a few years now, which has helped, but I was stuck at running around 2km.
I surprised myself quite quickly at the gym and despite being unable to lift a cup of tea to my lips the day after my first strength session, there were almost immediate gains in my energy levels. And so, in September, I set myself a challenge – an Impossible challenge. To make the shift from running 2.5km on a regular basis to trying my first 5km run.
I started my training schedule, with a date firmly in the diary at the end of October. It was all going so well. I rocketed through the training and my energy levels rocketed too. At the beginning of October, I wrote in my journal…
“Up to last week I still felt unsure about running 5km. It seemed a big jump from running 2.5km, 3km. Can I really do this? From my running rate it seems that it’s going to take me 40-45 minutes. Am I fit enough? Yesterday on the treadmill, I managed 3.9km and it started to feel real. But then, today, I totally surprised myself. I walked for 5 minutes, ran for 25 minutes, walked for 5 minutes… and at the end the treadmill dashboard said it loud and proud – I did 5k! This is it! I feel certain now, 100% certain that I will finish the run and still be standing. I might even enjoy it! I might even do it in a good time!”
It was amazing! I felt invincible! But since then, this challenge has been more about patience, flexibility, and healing. First, I started getting a niggle in my heel. I listened to it, and eased off on the training. I reduced the amount I was cycling. Then I picked up a throat infection, just three days before my run date. It all happened very quickly and before I knew it I had sky high fever and difficulty swallowing. The pharmacist dispatched me to a walk-in clinic and the duty doctor made a “Ugh” sound with accompanying facial expression when he looked at my tonsils – antibiotics for me, and no chance of a run. I shifted the date a few weeks down the line, needing to have total rest for a week. Then after my rest, feeling much better, I started back into my training and my heel flared up in a major way. I took it really easy with my training and got some tips via the Internets from my cousin Aimee over at Revitalise Fitness; these really helped and it stopped getting worse, but it still didn’t get better.
It was time to call in the big guns, and get some in-person physio. I checked in with Tom at Core Fitness, and it turned out to be a classic beginner runner’s injury, my Achilles. There was nothing serious, just some early warning signs. The tips from my cousin were perfect, I just needed a couple of extra exercises. It was time to do some learning – learning how to better prepare my body for running, and help it to restore afterwards. And absolutely no 5k until I could consistently run 3k without pain the next day.
My date got shifted again. Serious frustration alert! Am I ever going to be able to do this run? I had two potential November dates in my mind, and they both had to get swept aside again. I did a fair amount of huffing and puffing and whingeing – mostly to my husband, Mel and Ruth at You Can, and my fellow Impossibles in our facebook group. They encouraged me to hang in there. I responded well to the exercises I was given, and in two weeks I was back to running with no pain. Result! Excitement, but still taking it easy and some words of caution from the physio – you’re lucky, you caught it early, you probably feel like it’s all back to normal but it’s going to take a while to settle down so don’t do anything to shock it. So I’m staying away from my bike until after my run, because cycling seems to make it worse, and I’m being super-good about my warm ups and cool downs, and I’ve been slowly increasing the distance with a mix of walk-running.
And now, here I am. The day before D-Day. Or is that 5K-Day? I’m actually going to do it. And I haven’t run or walk-run 5k since that amazing day on the treadmill back in October. James Altucher writes that it takes practice to be the person who is a source of compassion and honesty. This journey towards my Impossible could have been about pushing through, just powering on to stick to my committed date. But defeating my nemesis, the Robot of Mediocrity, isn’t always about fighting. I’ve learned much more by doing things this way – being honest with myself, showing myself compassion, letting myself heal and learning new ways to be compassionate to myself – even in the way that I prepare for and wind down from a run. I’m also in awe of the compassion and generosity of my friends, family, and supporters who have continued to back me with messages and donations – as for an extra level of accountability, I decided to make my challenge a sponsored event to raise funds for our work.
I hope that I show myself this same level of compassion tomorrow, whatever my time. For now, the predominant feeling is: Eek!
Wish me luck.
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You can read James Altucher on patience here. And yes – maybe, just maybe, I’m on my way to becoming a Jedi Knight. And that beats running a 5k, any day!
And of course there’s still time to make a donation, if you’d like Head on over to my sponsorship page here and hit the big orange “Donate now” button, and any donation up to £10 will be matched by our local community foundation, so you can double your money. Serious feel good factor! With match funding and gift aid I’ve already raised over £1000. So thank you to you fabulous donors!
If you want to take on your own challenge soon and you want some friendly support, check out the Impossibles. Your challenge doesn’t have to be sponsored and you can have a whole lot of fun along the way!