Create: Z Runs 5k

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Z put his money where his mouth was, and wrote something for the Create Sport and Personal Fitness Challenge It makes us tired just reading about it. Go, Z!

Z Runs 5k

Woman athlete completing an Ironman Competition.

A few weeks ago I ran 5 kilometres in 32.30 minutes, I came in about half way through the pack of a fun run. This isn't much of an achievement really, given that I'm 30, male, and otherwise fit I should really be one of the fitter people in the average group of humans. But the fact is I'm not, and I never have been. Well I was, once when I was a pretty small child, until I went to school. I could run around, swim, and do all sorts of normal sort of things. Then of course at school sport started to involve things I wasn't very good at, throwing, kicking and catching, and I was always last, so soon I stopped doing sports, and began to get fat. I ended up having to run 1500 meters at school, and came last my rather a long way, after that I vowed never to run again.

I was 20 the first time I did voluntary exercise, I remembered physically shaking as I walked into the swimming pool at University. Surely I would be laughed at again? But no, no one seemed to care, soon I was swimming every morning, the elite athletes I shared the pool with didn't care how slow I was, or that I could only do backstroke, and very slowly.

Gradually I became more active, I lost weight, started climbing up mountains, and began swimming. And when the weight started creeping back on I decided to do some running. I liked the idea of a sport that didn't involve gym membership (which I didn't go to) or need specialist equipment. I found out about a couch to 5k training programme and decided to give it a go. I used an app for my iPhone, but you can download the podcasts for free.

The app was pretty good, you load up your iPhone with music or podcasts, and it would play them, and every so often a little voice would interrupt and tell you to 'walk' or 'run'. No messing around keeping track of time. There was an option to update Facebook when you'd been running, and it had GPS so it could tell you how far and how fast you had run. You started off just running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 and so on. But for some reason I kept getting stuck at about 4 weeks, I just ran out of momentum. Then I had a sudden rush of blood to the head and decided to enter a 5k run in a few months' time. I knew logically that this should work: I had fourteen weeks and the app said it would take nine, so it should work. One of the reasons I decided to do this was because I worked in a department with a lot of runners, almost everyone was doing marathons, half marathons, or 10k's: compared to that a 5k looked reasonable.

Gradually I pressed on, going out three times a week. There were problems along the way. First of all it was February, and I live in Scotland, this means that it gets dark about 3pm, and I get home at 7. I solved this by getting the lights off my bicycle and going running holding a torch. Then I tripped and hurt my ankle, so I got a head torch. Ahh, I love the countryside, but it is very dark outside at night, once I dropped the torch and ended up actually missing a turning and running into a tree. The pressure of the race made me keep going. The other thing that made me keep going was Facebook. Yes, Facebook. I accidentally set up the app to update Facebook when I'd been running. I didn't think anyone would care, but they did. They clicked on 'like' and offered me encouraging comments. One of them felt inspired by me, others who were experienced runners kept me going with hints.

About 2 weeks before the race I managed to run 5km non-stop for the first time. Shortly after that I realised that I could run over the Forth Bridge and back on my way home from work, conveniently it's exactly 5km, and the views are amazing (oil tankers, rowing boats, the Forth Rail bridge).

As the race got closer I got more and more worried about my time. I was worried it was going to be like that awful time at school when I was the very, very last one. People in running clubs expect to be able to run 5k in about 30 minutes, and according to my training I was looking at 35. In some 5ks there were people in fancy dress, dogs, and those that hadn't trained.

On the big day Ben was in India, and I hadn't told any of my friends I was doing it in case I was the very last one again. I got there early, did a bit of a warm up and hung around and waited, nearly all the other runners were with friends and family. Most of them seemed to be in quite good shape but there were a couple who were fatter than me. I didn't have my GPS on, so I had no way of knowing my pace, and it seemed a lot were overtaking me. It also seemed a lot harder than the training I'd done.

It was pretty hard to tell how many people were behind me, though there seemed plenty in front. But I pushed myself to the finish as fast as I could desperate to know my time! And they didn't have it. I sat down, and waiting for the other people to come in, fortunately the other two fat people were behind me, and I seemed to be about half way through.

By the time I got back to my car I'd entered a 10k, but this time I'm going to tell people about it and try to raise money.

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