Before we get started, let's get back to this post.
In May, I watched my best friend Eve complete The Great Manchester Run, and it inspired me to a) start running and b) sign up for next year's 10K race.
So, I started out with Couch to 5K. When I started I struggled with the first 45 second run. I can't express enough how bad I was at running. Dancing, Jillian Michaels DVDs, cross training I could do, but running and I just didn't get along.
But having a goal in mind, having something to aim for, kept me going.
(You can read my beginners guide to running here).
After a few weeks, I started to get up at 5am to run before work (I am working on a post about morning workouts soon, cause believe me, I never thought I'd be getting up at 5 to run!). Couch to 5K forced me to keep moving forward, to keep going. Small, manageable goals each week pushed me forward.
I reached the end of Couch to 5K after 7 and a half weeks and ran my first 5K at Park Run at the beginning of August.
Now, since then, I haven't really blogged about my running journey. For a few weeks I just ran consistent 5Ks, working on my speed, and then I decided to start adding 0.3 miles a week to reach 10K in about 10 weeks.
I skipped ahead quite quickly from 3 miles to 4 miles, and then did a few 4 mile runs before running 4.5 miles on Thursday.
I decided I could comfortably add 0.5 miles a week to my runs, and calculated I'd be ready for a 10K around the end of October, early November, so I started looking for 10K races around then.
And then I found out there was one in my town in 3 days time. And I knew I had to do it.
Now, the thing is, I had never run this distance before. It wasn't as though I'd been training for this race. I had never run further than 4.5 miles, and I had only run that far once. I was very comfortable with my nice 3 mile runs, but this was double. 6.2 miles. I knew that I could probably do it, but I couldn't be sure.
I rested from my Thursday run until Sunday, and avoided alcohol on Saturday night. I was nervous and started to question if I was a complete idiot for even thinking I could do this. I mean, I only ran my first 5K a month and a half ago, and hell I'd only ran beyond 5K four times since then.
I was also incredibly scared of being last.
I've talked before about my being-last fear, and it has been almost-realised at Park Run, where I usually find myself right at the back. I was praying there would be tonnes of people there so I could guarantee a few people slower than me.
I set myself two goals, the same two goals I had for my first 5K.
1) I had to complete the race, and
2) I had to do it without walking
I also had an unofficial time in my head of 1 hour 20 minutes and a fear of being last, but these two goals were the most important.
After my morning toast and peanut butter, which I could hardly get down, I insisted that we arrived super early and I was one of the first to arrive. Being given my number suddenly made it feel very official.
There weren't as many people as I expected. In fact, fewer than a usual Saturday Park Run turn out.
I stood near the back, as I always do, and got my iPhone ready to go.
I had a horrible moment of realisation when the horn sounded. It was too late to back out.
So I ran.
Slowly at first. I have a tendency to over-pace myself and I could probably run faster than I do, so after the few half a mile I pushed myself a little harder. I wanted to be going just fast enough so I could slow down in the later miles. However, I panicked a bit when my phone notified me of my first mile. I was going much faster than I do normally. I was scared to run out of energy later on and have to walk. Or worse, not be able to finish.
The first two miles were the hardest.
It was a slight incline that at first only my calves noticed. I saw the people ahead slip further and further away and the people behind get closer and closer. I felt myself falling further towards the back. But I had to keep going.
I panicked during the first two miles, because I've been running beyond two miles for months. Two miles should not be hard for me anymore. If I was tired after two miles, how would I cope after 4? Or 5? Or 6?
But something happened as I hit my third mile.
I hit my stride.
Running no longer felt hard, but incredibly easy.
I was mouthing the words along with the songs in my headphones, I was smiling and thanking the pedestrians who cheered me on at the side of the road. I chatted briefly with the people at the water stand where I stopped to have my bottle refilled, and managed to get my rhythms back right after.
It didn't hurt any more.
I could just go.
And this carried on until just before my 5th mile.
The last mile and a half were tough. So tough I almost walked.
Running uphill when you've already run for 5 miles is hard. Especially when everyone around you and in front of you has decided to walk.
Reducing your speed to a painful just-running.
Urging yourself just to keep going.
Knowing you're nearly there but not actually knowing how far away the end is.
Freefalling downhill and worrying you're going to trip.
And then those last few hundred metres.
Knowing you've nearly done it.
Hearing your phone tell you you've run 6 miles. That you've been running for over an hour.
Seeing your Dad at the side clapping and cheering.
Hearing everyone shouting as you read the end.
Catching the clock in the corner of your eye as you cross the line.
1 hour 10 minutes.
Bursting into hysterical tears as you're handed your goody bag and water.
Knowing it's over, that you've done it.
Being so tired you can hardly speak, hardly walk, hardly think.
But knowing that you've done it.
Knowing that 3 months ago you couldn't run for a minute and now you've run for an hour.
Hitting a goal after 3 months that you gave yourself a year to achieve.
Not knowing how you got here, but knowing every 5am wake up call, every run in the pouring rain, every Park Run coming fourth from last, was worth it.
Wondering, what now? What's next?
Planning your half marathon training.
Thinking that you might be a runner after all.