Running my way out of a pandemic: Great North Run training week 6; in which good things happen and my legs finally work out what they’re meant to do…

Hey there, week six of consistent running! I am going to spend the next few months asking myself the same question; how have I managed to keep this up for so long? Why haven’t I caved before now, deciding that I’m taking too much on? If anything, I know that if I can get to week six, I can get to the Great North Run start line.

This week started with ALOT of rain, it is summer but it doesn’t look very much like summer. I know I said this last week. I went for my first run of the week on Tuesday, with my running club, the rain had stopped by the time we got out. This was good news. The route was explained to us, “last weeks route but in reverse,” we were told. I’d barely got my head around it in order, let alone running it backwards. I began trying to visualise this backwards route in my head. I started the run well, comfortably somewhere in the middle of the group this time, I ran along the path and felt proud of myself that I was actually confident about where I was going. I kept going past the bridge which I would cross if I was running the route the right way around, I continued passing the lake, still feeling confident, still telling myself that I can totally boss this run. Around the lake I ran, until I ended up in exactly the same place I had started, next to the little green bridge I would cross if I was running the run the right way. I had done a loop of the lake. This shouldn’t be where I should be at all. I should be heading towards a viaduct. I realised routes in reverse don’t compute with my brain. I wondered if I should cross the green bridge and run the route the way I half know it, with the accidental loop of the lake tagged on, or to just run back towards the start line of the carpark. I decided on the latter, it was the “half knowing” the route that proved slightly problematic. I ran back to the carpark, completing just under 5K. Some of the group had already finished, “well done,” they said as I came to join them. “Oh I got lost, and ended up just looping the lake,” I told them. “That’s why I’m back sooner than I should be.” I felt I needed to justify myself as a slow runner. “Well at least you made it back, that’s the main thing,” one of the group told me. And you know what? She’s damn right. That evening I told my family that I hope I don’t get lost running the Great North Run to be told; “Alice, it’s just one long straight road with people lining the route all the way, it’s very unlikely”. I can’t argue with that.

The hill of dreams…

I was meant to run my second run of the week with the club on Thursday, but I got a call to say that there was a “possible” Covid outbreak in the 5K group I ran with on Tuesday, so I decided to give the club run a miss that Day. There wasn’t, it was all fine in the end with a negative test result, but of course it’s better to ere on the side of caution at the moment. We aren’t over this pandemic yet. I went on a 5 K run on my own on Friday night, this time running the reverse route the right way round. I remembered it! I was so pleased with myself for not getting lost, and would have totally high-fived someone if A) it was legal and B) someone was actually around. I even conquered the evil hill.

May be an image of one or more people, tree and outdoors
Hill conquering…

I got to the viaduct, took an obligatory photo and then from there as I’d got into the run, things suddenly clicked. It was like my legs had just woken up and worked out what to do. I felt myself getting gradually faster and feeling more in control of my movements, the new trainers helping to bounce me along. I was less scared about falling flat on my face as I had been. Running suddenly felt very natural and like I’d always been doing it. I had to stop to take stock of how I was feeling because I didn’t believe I’d ever get here, but six weeks in, I am definitely improving. It had been pouring all day Friday, and after work, I’d expected to get drenched like last week. There was a brilliant rainbow that I admired before leaving, maybe it was my late friend looking down screaming you can bloody do it, not that I believe in any of that stuff really, but the rainbow was nice. The rain stopped giving me a window to run, and I was very pleased it did. I came home and ate a Spag Bol. It was the best veggie Spag Bol I had ever eaten.

After a rest day on Saturday, I was ready to run on Sunday. Although I didn’t run on Saturday, I did achieve something pretty massive in post-pandemic terms. I want into a shop. Anxiety has stopped me going inside public buildings for over a year and shopping always felt like a step too far. I’d much rather go for a run than buy a pint of milk. On Saturday this all changed, and with the support of mum and being able to regulate my breathing, I survived a whole shopping trip. It was to Waitrose in a small town, and I feel terribly middle class writing this. But I did it. Waitrose seems to be one of the few shops monitoring people going in and out, and disinfecting shopping trolleys, which all helped to keep me at ease. The majority of the people in the shop at the time were all at least over 60, as is the demographic of that part of Northumberland, and were more than likely vaccinated. Another factor that helped this post pandemic victory. I celebrated by buying myself a packet of chocolate buttons and a box of Cornetto ice creams for when it gets warm again. We then enjoyed a victory walk along the river after, and spent some time wondering if a person was either wild swimming or in trouble. We decided that they were just happily swimming along, despite the strong currents, and that specific river not being many people’s first choice of swimming destination. Although I have heard cold water swimming is great for anxiety, I might try it sometime if I can find someone daft enough to go with me.

It was very warm as I began today’s run, the first time I’ve been able to run in just a t-shirt in ages, and considered that my long leggings were just too long. Half way around I wondered whether I could get away with stripping down to a sports bra, I was that warm. I didn’t but it may come to it eventually. I enjoyed the breeze when it appeared occasionally.

May be an image of Alice Hewson, tree and grass

One thing I’ve made it my mission to avoid is fixating on times and paces, or more so other people’s. I’ve never shared exactly how fast I am online, and you’d probably have to get me very drunk to get any running times out of me. It’s not that I’m particularly ashamed, but that I’m very much aware how little it takes to compare yourself to other people. I don’t want to be that person to make someone believe they aren’t a enough good runner, and equally I don’t want to be that person to be constantly chasing a PB or trying to be a few minutes faster, because someone from Twitter ran that fast. I just want to run and enjoy it. I don’t even want to be competitive with myself. When I was younger, and looked up to and admired older women, who at the time I thought were better than me, I was constantly chasing someone I am not. I also didn’t realise those people or that specific person I admired at the time really wasn’t that brilliant after all. I have recently learned where she is now, and just why she wasn’t as brill as I thought she was. “Poetic justice”, as a friend put it when I told her. We all have our demons, and I’m always conscious that runners times are really only half the story. Todays run was tough because it was unexpectedly warm, but it made me so so happy. I ran 6.49 K, and got to the 5K point in the quickest time I have ever ran. Like I say that time is between me and my Fitbit, and not compared to anyone else but myself. My time doesn’t tell me that I’m a better runner now or that I wasn’t so great before, but actually shows me that I am developing in confidence. Feeling confident while running is much more important to me than speed. I could come last but still feel like I’ve bossed it the whole way round. This is what I really aspire to. And most of all just being able to run at all is always going to be good enough. I don’t need to be any better than that.

I spent Sunday afternoon celebrating my run by walking around a village in Northumberland, looking on in awe at houses I’ll never be able to afford…

If you’ve got to the end of these mushy reflections, sponsoring me will be lovely!

Actually, might be able to stretch to a willow shelter…
Lovely things…

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