For the fifth chapter in my blog “Fatman to Ironman” I will describe my first ever Parkrun. My Couch 2 5k Graduation day at Salisbury, 22nd April 2017
I thoroughly enjoyed recalling my experiences with my C25k training and hope you enjoyed sharing with me. Blogging is a brilliant tool to reflect, and has allowed me to focus on my goal in June. It has also reminded me of the huge amount of support I am getting as I go forward. Unlike my “Fatman” Journey, where, prior to Slimming World, (Ch. 2) I felt alone and unable to achieve weight loss. My “Ironman” journey is far different – You are fully supporting me and willing me on!
You are awesome. Thank you!
Our day had arrived, it was the morning of 22nd April 2017 and I couldn’t wait. I was awake at 0600 hrs and having breakfast. We weren’t due to start running until 0900 hrs. I was excited and couldn’t sleep.
I didn’t want a big breakfast as I knew it would sit heavy on my stomach. I had no knowledge of pre race nutrition at this time, or the need to digest well before your event. Today I was simply over excited and couldn’t sleep, so I got up and had some Weetabix.
I had arranged to meet my brother, Andre in the car park of Churchill Gardens, Salisbury at 0830 hrs. Sarah, his ever suffering wife would be yet again widowed to one of Andres running events. This time she was there to support me. My wife Sue, and Sarah would suffer together.
I’m not sure any one had ever doubted I would be at Parkrun that day, but nonetheless, stepping out of the car was a hugely nervy experience for me.
Together we made our way to the Parkrun start area. Clearly identifiable by all the other excited runners, walkers and joggers and the Parkrun flags. Salisbury Parkrun is a short walk from the car park, through a Skateboard park and over a small river. It was a particularly warm morning, but I was shaking with fear.
I wasn’t as afraid/terrified as I was when Sue and I first went to slimming world. Neither was it the same fear I had when I first went to meet Shrewton Running Club, for their Inaugural AGM. Nonetheless I was afraid. Despite all the training I had had over the last few weeks. I now had the overwhelming fear of failure. It was short lived.
At the Parkrun Start area I quickly identified the friendly faces of Shrewton Running Club. Before long, the first ever C25k graduates of Shrewton Running club would be huddled together, wishing everyone good luck. There was no negative chatter here. We were going to smash this, and being back in with this awesome group of individuals removed any doubt of that!
Some of the guys were sporting the newly purchased Club “Colours”. I had opted not to buy one of these vests at this time, I thought I would hold out until I was a bit thinner.
Nick Sage, our Club Chairman presented me with a “Spare” he just happened to have and said I could give him the money later. Well, I couldn’t turn his offer down – On went the Club “Colours” for the first time. It was a snug fit, but I was hugely proud of myself. The feeling of putting that vest on instantly allowed me to forget the pre race nerves. I was now even more motivated – The Club “Colours!! Bring it on!!
The warm up
After a few minutes of wishing each other good luck, the “Newbies” were invited to the pre run brief, followed by a warm up session. The brief was difficult to hear, being part deaf didn’t help, but the noise of all the excited voices made it very difficult. I would be passing the play park three times. I had clocked that much from the brief.
Andre came to the warm up session with me, despite being a seasoned runner he did the “Newbie session” a series of dynamic warm ups. In my mind I thought I was wasting energy I could be using in the event. However, I really did get involved and even got a slight sweat on. I was ready.
The start line
We made our way to the start line and my “Running Buddy” Andy Hartfield, suggested we get to the front of the group. The start brief had said the 30 minute+ runners are to head toward the rear of the pack.
Andy Hartfield had trained with me in the C25k course, and I guess, as an analyst, he knew I would be in or around 30 minutes.
I had never considered where I would be starting from, and would of preferred to hide away at the back of the pack. I hadn’t even considered the finish time I should be aiming for. For me this was all about getting over the finish line, and hopefully without stopping! However, there I was amongst some elite looking chaps and we were all eager to get going.
As soon as I heard the start I was off, that Duracell Bunny had returned, the rocket was off! The feeling of having people overtake me was unpleasant. So, as they passed I would dig in a bit more, and put the hammer down a bit more. I hadn’t even got to the 1k mark.
Andre was amazed at the speed I was going at. He kept a gentle chatter going and suggested I rein it in a bit. I wasn’t thinking of the long term goal, I wasn’t conserving energy – I was chasing the next man down! This would be an effective tool for later on when on the bike leg of Triathlon. Today, I should have been focussing on my own race.
In hindsight, I had been dragged in to everyone else’s race. I was burning energy far too soon. I would later learn about race strategies and the importance of endurance.
I had no idea how fast I was going, somehow the fact that Andre was staying behind me didn’t register that I should slow down. In fact the opposite, I was being spurred on by just how quick I was.
Before long I had passed the play park for the first time. I had to slow down here as its on a hairpin left. The amount of space I had around me was now limited as the group bunched up to get around the bend. I dug in again and got my speed back up to where it had been before.
This change in speed hugely zapped my energy stores and before long a very gentle incline became an epic challenge.
I had become exceptionally warm and was blowing up. Time to take on some water.
I was heading toward the 3k mark in no time, but somehow I knew the last 2k would be a very different experience.
The Last 2k
I now had a monumental task on my hand, I was refusing to give up and continued to run at an all too fast pace. My breathing had become dangerous and erratic and I was sweating profusely. The added layer of the “Club Colours” wasn’t helping the airflow and eventually I was beaten!
I had now passed the “epic” incline and the play park twice and was somewhere on my final lap. I guess it must have been just shy of 4k.
This was a new experience for me. Until now my training had been structured, yes I would go a bit fast, but there was always someone controlling me. I had ballsed this one up today, and would have to walk for a bit.
Andre was brilliant here, he knew I was in a world where the demons in my head were winning. The body needed just a few moments to recover, my mind was winning the war.
Andre kept me walking at a fast pace, and kept me talking. We got back up to a gentle jog before long and continued taking on water. My body temperature was still high but I was now more comfortable with what I was doing. We continued to “Chat” until the finish line.
This chat was mostly Andre convincing me “You’ve got this” and me convincing Andre “No I haven’t”
I learnt a lot about running that day. I was a successful Park Runner, and the time I got that day still remains my 5k PB, eighteen months later. (Official time is a bit slower). A year on from that day I raced my first Triathlon, but more about that later.
Having got over the finish line I quickly went back to the funnel area to cheer the other C25kers over the line. I was elated and knackered at the same time. Andre was encouraging me to keep moving and do some stretching but I was taken up in the moment. I would suffer the following day.
We then reformed and got the cakes out! As with any decent race event there is always the lure of cakes at the end. This time we had Prosecco too. Hence, the photo of us lovely C25kers has us all brandishing a huge smile and a glass of wine. Awesome!
Shrewton running club, in its few months as a club, had created ten new runners. Another C25k course was ran later that year, and I hold close friendships with all those that shared the same experiences as me. I look forward to mentoring the next group of C25kers in March 2019, when https://shrewtonrunning.club/ are due to run their next course.
Well done to my fellow C25k Graduates – Left to right – Vicki Harris, Sam Hill, Eddie Lilly, Anne-Marie Trott, Jane Butler, Rachel Wilkinson, Myself, Andy Hartfield, Tammie De-Maria and Sue Parrish. You are all amazing, and form a very important part of my life.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and being part of my journey. The ten C25kers mentioned above have all gone on to achieve amazing things in their running careers already, after just eighteen months they have ran many league events, and continue to smash their Pb’s. All of them have improved their endurance from the 5k distance to 10k. Their achievements include Half Marathons, Marathons and 24hr Endurance events, along with countless fun runs and charity events. You are all truly inspirational people.
For the next chapter in my next blog, I will describe my first ever road race – Trowbridge 5k, A Wiltshire Road Race League event and a chance to earn some points for the club.
I would love to hear what you thought of my blog and welcome your comments. I hope reading this you are able to believe in your own goals and take on a challenge of your own.
If it doesn’t challenge you – It wont change you!