I didn't start out as a runner from school or even in my early twenties. In fact in those years my weekly exercise routine consisted mainly of jumping up and down to breaks and beats on a Friday night and little else.
When I came to running following a rock climbing injury it was a means to an end; to get fit again, to improve my climbing. As the bug bit and I found pleasure in longer runs on the coast path I measured my progress in pushing myself to go further and for longer.
In the years that followed I've become quite adept and moving slowly for a long time.
This year though as a family we started attending the local Park Run, mainly to get the kids out and about, but soon we arranged ourselves so that Hannah and I would take turns at running our own pace and inevitably we bacame competitive with ourselves and looked to improve our times.
Following the completion of the Glencoe Skyline and with a house build looming over us making long runs harder to fit in I decided in September to dedicate a few months to getting faster over 5k.
It turns out its not as easy as I expected. Earlier this year I'd run 21:50 ish. Just after Glencoe I surprised myself by scraping in under 21 minutes. So it seemed reasonable to think I could knock a minute more off my time with some concerted effort and a decent training plan.
I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to planning training schedules but should say that my principle basis for the training I followed this year came from this page here.
The workouts for this kind of distance are short but brutal. They hurt and they are exhausting and, at times, I felt a little like I had sucked all the joy out of running (mid week at least, I still ran a nice easy trail run at the weekends).
To be honest I was a little dissappointed by the results at first, since the sub 20 barrier continued to elude me. But a pb is a pb and I set one each time I ran for time. Eventually, just before Christmas, I got my time down to 20:24. So 30 seconds in 3 months. Given another 3 months I might just do it.
Most of all what I got from this was a good break from just plodding, a real reminder of what HARD feels like and an appreciation of what it takes to run this distance well. 5k is a hard distance when you are trying. It feels to me like a slow suffication, by the last mile my body is aching with the lactic acid build up, my lungs are screaming and my legs are turning to jelly. Crossing the finish is a blessed relief.
I'm actually glad in some ways I didn't break 20 minutes. I don't want it to be easy. I'll get there and when I do it will feel all the better. But now, I've signed up for Manchester marathon; I've only run one road marathon and that was a long time ago so I'm keen to see how I fare. So the training plan has been modified and my pace has changed again. Lakeland 100 will follow in July so another 3 months with a very different focus will be required.
After that, who knows? Maybe a summer of running short fast sessions again, or maybe I'll just keep plodding on.