12 months to 13.1….

This time next week, thousands of people will be putting their feet up after running 13.1 miles in the Great North Run. Here at SheCan… we’ve spent 13 weeks preparing ourselves along with a group of willing victims to take on GNR, Great Eastern and Great Birmingham half marathons. 

The lovely Jenn has been with us from the start. She was on our very first beginner course which started in September 2013 and she’s rocked up to just about every single session since, come rain or shine. And now the race is just 7 days away, Jenn looks back on how far she’s come….

Well, that’s my Half Marathon training done then.  Half marathon training – get me! 13 weeks of training all done and I feel ready for the Great North Run next Sunday.

Next Sunday? Aaaarrrghhhh – ok, I was lying – I’m not sure I am ready lol

How has that come round so quickly?  I still remember emailing Kate from work asking whether she thought that I’d be able to manage a half marathon?  Within about 4 emails – she’d managed to convince me that it was a good idea, I’d never regret it and that she and Emily would make sure I was ready – lol.  I guess that’ll be put to the test in 7 days.

I can’t quite believe that I’ve got this far.  Rewind 12 months and I was feeling pretty low – I’d hit 35 which had depressed me quite honestly, my waistline went in and out like nobody’s business and I couldn’t ever say that I’d been classed as fit – ever!

I joined SheCan… with the aim of improving my fitness but also wanting to show my daughter how important it was to try and look after yourself (hoping that I hadn’t left that too late for myself).

It hit me a few months ago how much running has helped – I was at work, trying to convince someone to join me for a run at lunchtime when she turned to me and said “You’ve changed since you’ve been running!” (and smiled)  Have I? How? But then it hit me, I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d been stressed or got really angry (and us redheads get angry – trust me). I realised that it was down to the running.  I had given myself time, twice a week at least, to go out, have time in my own head to sort things out or just switch off.  I realised then that I’d not only helped my physical fitness but my mental fitness too.  I’d surprised myself and those around me that I’d stuck it out and hadn’t lost interest after a few weeks.

That said, I was about to test my mental fitness to the limit – I’d got an email telling me that I had a place at the Great North Run!  I phoned my friend – she laughed.  I phoned my husband – he laughed.  Hang on a minute – what the hell have I done?

Still – I decided that I’d signed up for it, I was going to go for it.  I’d never done anything this big before.  I was pretty scared if I’m honest and trawled the race website to see how I could get out of it or the deadline for backing out but then I decided that actually, I hadn’t ever done anything like this before and so I was going to go for it.

If I was going to go for it, then I might as well try and raise some money whilst doing it.  As many of you know, I lost my Dad to cancer 13 years ago.  The loss hits me every day and I can’t possibly describe what that does to a person in just a few words, particularly a ‘Daddy’s girl’.  So I decided that if I was going to run, then I was going to try and raise money for Cancer Research.  

Raising money for charity has given me another reason to run but as the training has gone on, I’ve realised that I am also running for myself.  To prove to myself that I can do this and to remind myself how much I’ve changed through this running lark.  My stress levels have depleted to almost nothing, I’m more positive – having a far more ‘can do’ and ‘why not’ attitude.  

I’m not going to lie and tell you that it’s been a breeze – it hasn’t. There have been times when I’ve hated the training and found it really hard – not physically so much but mentally.  But I think I’m pretty much there – it’s taken long enough.

Over the past 13 weeks, I’ve had my wobbles, mainly to do with pace.  I’ve shown myself that I can actually run pretty quickly – but teaching myself to slow it down for more miles has not been easy.  I’ve had other runners chewing my ear a little about the pace thing – telling me that I could run it so much faster but I’ve learnt to trust what the group are being taught and realised that this way was the best way for me.  Everyone else could train at their own pace – they needed to leave me to train at mine. 

I guess that the 8 mile and 9 mile weeks particularly stick in my head for that reason.  Up to this point, all my training sessions had been with the group, but I couldn’t make it this particular week so had to go out on my own.  8 miles – that’s a long way on your own, it ended up being a run around town as well, not particularly the most inspirational scenery but I went out nice and early one Saturday morning, earphones in and gels ready.  

It was quite warm, even for 8 am – I wasn’t enjoying it, people were looking at me, I’m sure they were – I was used to the anonymity of running within a group – I didn’t like it.  At 5 miles – I was bloody knackered.  Looking at my watch I’d run faster than I’d run for weeks  – yes it was my race pace but I wasn’t sure that I’d manage the next 3 miles at the same pace.  I’d taken a gel so I didn’t think that I should be having a problem – so what the hell was wrong?  No matter how much I’ve tried to work it out, I don’t know what happened to me that morning.  I managed to give myself a talking to – actually I swore at myself quite a bit (must’ve looked like some deranged woman with tourettes standing at the side of the road) and realising that I was a reasonable way from home – told myself that I had to run home – walking was not an option.

On paper – that run was probably one of my best – in the end I did manage to run it at race pace and actually for a couple of miles, I ran my pants off (not literally – despite my previous mishaps) but it taught me that I could do it.  

One week on and I was back with the group, running a 9 miler at a much slower pace – it was torture.  I went home with really sore knees and my tail between my legs after a bit of a talking to.  I’d tried to run at a faster pace than advised, I realised that I’d been stupid – I wasn’t listening to the people that knew more about this than me.  I had promised myself that I would trust in what they had planned.  I had let my need to prove something to myself outweigh what was right for me and for my training. From then on, I set my pace on my watch and I tried to stick to it, religiously!

This morning though, I ran my last ‘long’ session before GNR with the group.  Slowly (gladly) and with my mind set on next week.  It’s great to look back and see how far we’ve all come, not just from 12 months ago but from the beginning of the half marathon training.  We’ve all learnt so much.  I know I’ve had my own demons to overcome as I’m sure others have but I can honestly say that I feel ready for this Sunday if not a little nervous – it’s a big event you know – 56,000 people last year (eek!)

I look back on our training with a smile – I’ve caught the running bug over the past 12 months – not least because of the wonderful ladies I have the privilege of running with.  From the nut jobs that lead the group (sorry girls) to Sticky, Big Sarah (although you’re not!), Jane, Jennie, Gemma – everyone in the group who make the runs enjoyable and who if not there, are genuinely missed.

Although nervous, I’m actually looking forward to running with 55,999 other people next Sunday.  From my hubby’s home city of Newcastle – across the Tyne bridge which holds fond memories towards South Shields – along roads that I’ve driven many a time and will soon be able to say – I ran down here (hopefully), in the same race as Mo Farah and a Cup Cake – wow – I genuinely can’t wait 🙂

Jenn will be back next week to give us a race report, so keep an eye out for blog updates!

We went through some tunnels at the start…

…..some runs were really cold and really wet…..
…some runs were really flipping boiling..

….but the long runs are now complete and race day beckons!

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