For the fourth chapter in my blog “Fatman to Ironman” I will describe my Couch 2 5k course.
I am having a great time reflecting on my experiences so far, and appreciate having an audience to share them with. Knowing you are out there reading my blog is helping me to stay super focussed and motivated, throughout my winter training.
2019 is going to be awesome. Thank you!
My Osteopath, Stonehenge Osteopath had been so good at her job throughout January and February 2017, that she was now losing me as a patient. However, I had now gained a very good friend. I knew I would be joining her with Shrewton Running Club on their journey, but first I had to start mine.
Couch 2 5K – February 2017
The last few treatment sessions in February, Caroline and I discussed how I could start becoming more active. She described a course that Shrewton Running Club were about to deliver. A “Couch 2 5K” and thought it would be ideal for me. I’ve no idea how she managed to convince me I could run, but she did. Before that night, the only thing I had ever ran was a bath.
Caroline has a brilliant way of convincing people to do something. She sees the slightest glimmer of an idea in someone, and before you know it, you are planning an event. No point in faffing around.
Caroline! I hold you fully responsible and I cannot thank you enough.
On the 7th February 2017 I was able to declare myself medically fit and able to run. I had signed my first ever Par-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire) and proudly posted it off to Shrewton Running Club.
I was excited and anxious at the same time. The sense of determination over the next couple of weeks was overwhelming. I just wanted to get it done. The Couch 2 5k course would start on Wednesday 22nd February 2017. I was due to meet the Running Club at the Recreation ground at 1800 Hrs. Where my life would change for ever.
I set about getting my self some “Active wear” and made all the usual mistakes inexperienced people do. Yes, my first pair of running shoes were brought from Sports Direct.
My running shorts were an epic bright orange and lacked any match to the running tops. However, I eagerly awaited my first night in Lycra.
Couch 2 5k Week One
Wednesday 22nd February 2017 had come. I had my 8-week training plan ahead of me. I was going to succeed!
“Why not start with a brisk walk down to the Recreation Ground”
I am fortunate to live five minutes away from Shrewton Recreation ground, so the embarrassment of walking down there in my Lycra would be short lived. I had to convince myself that everyone else would be feeling just the same.
Having plucked up the courage to leave, I promptly set about my “Brisk walk down”. I had read on my training plan to do this as a start of a warm up. I was determined, and I was going to do everything they advised.
I was met by the lovely Karen Mills, of Shrewton Running Club at the Rec. Car park. There was a small group of people I recognised from the inaugural AGM just weeks before. Caroline, my Osteopath, and a few people I would be doing the course with. In that five-minute walk to the Rec. I could easily have turned back four times. But seeing those friendly, welcoming faces convinced me to stay.
I knew the goal! The goal would be to run 5 kilometres without stopping. Tonight, I had to focus on the process. I would use this tool later with my Triathlon training.
We entered onto the football pitch and Roxanne “Roxy” Foster began a guided dynamic warm up/stretch routine. I was laughing throughout, I felt so silly. I would later learn that warming up is crucial to avoid injury, but that night it was hilarious. Roxy and I would later go on to have some epic finish line kicks in our league races. I will beat you next time Roxy!
We then set about “Running” We all stood on the goal line and then ran for one minute. I was off like a rocket! Wow, where did that come from. I hadn’t planned to do that. Looking back, I was just so stoked and determined not to fail, but on the night, I was amazed. I had just run for a whole minute! We then walked for ninety seconds and regrouped. Karen was amazed, and kindly reminded me I was supposed to be a beginner.
We repeated the one-minute run, ninety seconds walk eight times. Each time I was off! Like a Duracell Bunny. In my mind, once I had started running I was not going to stop until I heard that call. I had no idea I was going too fast. I would later learn the importance of pacing the hard way.
Before I knew it, the half hour session was over, and there we all were again in fits of laughter at how I was stretching.
The twelve of us had completed the session and we all congratulated each other. Karen reminded us we had homework and we all went home, elated.
I would make sure I got that homework done, and on the Sunday morning at 1100 Hrs. I returned to the Rec and repeated the session, alone. I was just as elated, but somehow it wasn’t as much fun.
I couldn’t stop talking about my experiences with my wife all week. Sue would have to suffer this burden many times, and was experiencing some rapid changes in my wellbeing. Both physically and mentally.
I couldn’t wait for the next session.
Couch 2 5k week two, onwards
For the next seven weeks, I would start my Wednesdays thinking of nothing other than my training night. That is all I wanted to do, and the day at work just wouldn’t end soon enough.
Every time I turned up to the Rec. Super stoked, and determined to run for longer than I had the week before.
For each of those weeks, going home to tell Sue how the training had gone was just as exciting as the C25k course. I was never disappointed in the sessions, and religiously did my “homework” runs on the weekend. The C25k programme is perfect for someone like me, someone who had never ran before.
During this time my brother Andre had heard what I had been getting up to. A seasoned half marathon runner at that time, he was always encouraging me to get fitter during my “Fatman” days and maybe join him on a jog somewhere. I never once committed. I was happy to cheer him round, and was proud of what he was achieving.
Back then I never saw myself ever being able to participate. The task just seemed too huge.
Andre phoned me up one day, and told me all about the history of Parkrun and how he had run them many times, but never Salisbury. He knew I would love the atmosphere. He was so excited that I was actually “Doing” this, that he offered to run with me on my graduation day. He was going to be a “Parkrun Tourist”.
I now had a new goal. I was going to run with my brother! I was not going to let him down.
This focus was very important for me during those seven weeks, I may have given up if it wasn’t for the fact I was going to run this with Andre!
Couch 2 5k week 2
I approached week two of my training knowing I would be running for a whole two minutes. I was pretty sure I could do this! Yes it was twice as long as I had ever ran before, but the previous week I had surpassed even my wildest expectations. Could I do this? Yes, absolutely!
I had studied the programme on the Tuesday evening. There would only be seven intervals this week, as opposed to eight. We would also have our 90 seconds walk period in between. I was stoked and super excited. I got home from work and got into my running kit quicker than the week previous.
I left the door and walked down the lane to the Rec. This week I was buzzing from my achievements, and would walk proud and tall.
I smashed the training that night and managed to hold the same pace from the week previous. I had more homework and began to prepare for the bigger challenge of week 3 – Running for four minutes.
Couch 2 5k week 3
My first two weeks of training for my first Parkrun had been awesome. I had amazed myself and the people I was running with. However, week three would up the ante.
Looking back, running for four minutes, is nothing. That night it seemed like a monumental task! I would be running twice as long, and the walking period was now reduced to 60 seconds. I would have to do this 6 times.
On reflection, I made it more difficult that night because I approached it with negative thoughts. The two previous weeks I was very focussed and determined and I thought of nothing other than smashing it! Tonight I over thought things and allowed the negative chatter to affect my mind set. I would later use this experience to successfully complete my first open water triathlon, On race day you must avoid negative chatter!
I went on to complete week three without any problem, I was worrying over nothing. The training had begun to make me feel fitter and gradually my body was getting used to it.
Couch 2 5k week 4
Week four was made up of 4 repetitions of a 6 minute run with 90 seconds intervals.
We had transitioned now as a group of people running lengths of a football pitch, to venturing out beyond the cricket pitch and navigating the perimeter of the recreation ground. This was a lot more fun than running to a line and back. Although, I do recall the focus of running to a destination, something we later trained with when doing speed intervals at the club training nights.
We stayed as a group as we ran around the recreation ground, our run leaders engaged in conversation with us. I was focussed and chatter was distracting me. I later learned that this is a great tactic to keep you at a healthy pace. If you can run and hold a conversation, albeit short. Then your heart isn’t being over worked. We were not training to be 100 meter sprinters.
My tactic had always been to be at the front of the pack, I didn’t want the pressure of being at the back and having to catch up. However, six minutes of pacey running without talking began to be too much.
I had to drop the pace that night and learn to chat and run at the same time. It was a brilliant tool, and one I continue to use today. I was now running on feel, and being at the front was no longer important.
We were given the usual homework and advised that the following week we would be venturing out into the village. Hi-viz and head torches please!
Couch 2 5k week 5
This was an unusual training session for me, fortunately the nights were dark. It turns out I am a heavy sweater. A real fat burning machine.
Tonight I would be running for 8 minutes and my heart rate would be through the roof. My body would deal with this by drenching my entire body with water, salt, and the kind of stains I hadn’t seen on my clothes since the all night raves of the 1990’s.
This too would be useful later in my triathlon training, I was learning about my body.
I smashed that session, and have a very fond memory of challenging Roxy to a sprint finish as we re-entered the rec. I then promptly froze my arse off as I walked home in my own sweat.
That night I began to change the way I thought of my self.
I now thought of myself as a runner!
Couch 2 5k week 6 & 7
The next couple of weeks were really exciting for me, at this point I had lived in the village for over a year and I was exploring places I had never been to. I was running with new friends and life was getting better and better.
We were all getting really anxious at this stage and the feeling of camaraderie was strong. Some of the “runners”, as we know called our selves, were finding these sessions tough now. People were conscious of their heavy, or noisy breathing, I was conscious of my sweating. We all had a genuine fear of failure and needed to be strong for each other.
The run leaders were always very chatty and supportive, and often changed their position in the pack. No one was left behind.
A couple of people had dropped out by this time through injury and the task ahead of us had suddenly become very real. I too had begun to feel a “niggle” at this stage. I refused to give in and didn’t listen to my body. I was on a mission.
I remember all of us looking forward to the walking intervals during this time. Week eight was looming and the date in my diary of 22nd February 2017 was firmly in my mind.
I have never been so focussed and committed to anything as much as I was to this course. I had come this far now that giving up was not an option. I will be on that start line for the Salisbury Parkrun.
Couch 2 5k week 8
“Thirty-minute jog, just walking on hills”
I knew this was going to be a challenge and before we were due to run it as a group, I tried it as “unofficial” home work on the Monday beforehand, after work. It was a mistake.
I was unable to do it, and it left me with a negative mind-set going into the Wednesday training night. I would later learn that sometimes you just have bad days, and to just simply reset, and move on to the next session.
I had just been introduced to the world of Strava and would have this final C25k session recorded as my First ever activity.
I now have mixed feelings on the training benefits of Strava, but that night I was simply proud to be broadcasting my achievements.
That last Wednesday of our training, we were all super focused and excited. Karen was clearly excited and proud of our achievements so far. She didn’t know about my bad day and I kept it quiet.
I later learnt that Karen had only completed her C25k with STAR – Stonehenge Tri and Road just the year before and herself had gone through an epic journey. Running had given her a year of going from strength to strength. We would later engage with England Athletics, and together become qualified Leaders in Run Fitness. Thank you Karen…. Run Leader!
However, Tonight was about the twelve of us completing our journey.
We all did our warm up routine, which as ever was hilarious. Then promptly set about running around the village. We had done this for the last few weeks as a run walk. I was loving the fact that I could run around my village. I was proud that my neighbours would see me. I hoped to run non-stop.
I was really afraid that I wasn’t going to able to do it. All the sessions before hand I had done so well. I had set the bar high, and I was beginning to struggle to keep it up.
It turns out that training with a group is so much better for me. I seem to work harder and enjoy it more.
That night I smashed the run and proudly ran back into the Rec. having not stopped once. We had all ran just over 5k and it was the week before we would be doing it for real. At Salisbury Parkrun, along with another 400 or so runners, joggers and walkers. More importantly with my brother. Andre.
I would later run this route many times, with Shrewton Running Club and on my own. It takes me to my happy place.
That Wednesday night in February twelve people would start their journey along with sharing the start of mine. Ten of those people would go on to complete the course and run a successful graduation at Salisbury Park Run, nine weeks later on the 22ndApril 2017.
I have remained friends with everyone who started that night and am eternally grateful to Karen for bringing those friends into my life.
Karen is someone who deserves a huge “Chuck up” for what she has allowed, and encourage people to achieve. A person devoted to promoting fitness and well-being in the lives of so many. Yet so humble at the same time. I am proud to consider her as a close friend.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and being part of my journey as I go forward.
For the next chapter in my blog, I will describe my first ever Parkrun – Salisbury
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 the next challenge knowing you will be successful.
The body achieves – What the mind believes!