I’ve done a small amount of running over the years but not regularly and not seriously. So when Action Tutoring, the charity I volunteer maths tuition with (see my published guardian article), sent out a message for their volunteers to join their team in a 10km run in July, I signed up without thinking.
This is a great cause to help make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged children; by providing the charity with funding, they will be able to reach more children and help them to get the grades they need, giving them the best chance in their futures. You can support by donating, big or small, here.
Signing up was easy – but then I realised I needed to start training… A month on and where have I got to? I’ve just about managed my target of running 5km each week. The route I take through Streatham is tough. Who knew Streatham Hill would be so hilly? The first few times I forced myself out of bed weren’t hugely successful but I clearly remember the satisfaction the first time I managed to complete the route without stopping. Hurrah!
But time after time, I struggled to get out of bed. Why go outside in the cold when you can lay in bed with a cuppa tea instead? Why keep running when your calves are burning fire? Actually, the answer to that was to warm up and stretch – which I did on our trampoline, much to the amusement of Shadow and Storm.
Anyway, my point is, I struggle with motivation. There’s a reason I play team sports. I play netball and touch rugby, both with fantastic groups of people. In the 6 or 7 years I’ve been playing for various teams, I don’t think I’ve ever sacked off a game because I couldn’t be bothered. That’s just not an option. I love being a team player.
So much so that when the amazing George, known for her powerful blog about her fight with depression, mentioned GoodGym, an organisation that combines group running with voluntary work, I was super excited. I have loved my experience volunteering with Action Tutoring and would love to do more for the local community. And I would love to be better at running. Here’s my chance.
So I signed up. My first run, with GoodGym Wandsworth, was a great intro. A really friendly group of people, a reasonable route to some community gardens and a satisfying 30-45 minutes of hard work, pulling out weeds, vines and nettles from a large flower bed. With a squad of around 20 volunteers, we were done in no time. With enough time for an arm workout and a tough hill run back, I was feeling exhilarated.
Two months on and I’ve managed a GoodGym run every week, either in Wandsworth or Westminster (I say run – but starting on Oxford Street has its own challenges dodging pedestrians and crossing roads). As well as the gardening, I’ve prepared food for the homeless, cleared out a cellar to be turned into a food bank, cleaned a community centre and more.
So combined with my weekend runs, I’m clocking up the distance – to the extent that I had to invest in new running kit. The midweek run has really helped with my pace at the weekend too.
I mentioned my struggle with motivation – the Strava running app has really helped with that. After each run you can see any Personal Records that you’ve set (my fastest kilometre so far is 4:37). And you can race against yourself or others on recognised ‘segments’ and see where you stand against other runners. On more than one occasion, that has been enough to get me out of bed: to tackle the Streatham Common South Side Climb. This year, I’m second in the women’s leaderboard (and seventh all time) – Jess S is just 4 seconds ahead of me and I’m determined to beat her. Not that I’m competitive or anything…
There is one PR that I’m particularly impressed with: running 5km in under 25 minutes (24:29 in fact) – a target I set for myself years ago but never made enough progress towards. Last weekend, I decided to run a different (flatter) route to Tooting Bec Common, even joining the Park Run group for one loop which made me want to run with them (a challenge for another weekend).
So, all in all, I’d say my training is going quite well and I’m pretty excited for the challenge in July. A few people have asked me for my target time – given I can now do a 5km in 25 minutes, I think 55 minutes for a 10km would be amazing. So that’s what I’m going to aim for – it’s for the children after all. Wish me luck (by donating your hard earned cash) please!! Thanks beautiful people!