So, I Go for Runs Now…

Emily Woodhouse Adventure Stories, Comment and Opinion

At the start of this year, I proclaimed that I was going to become a running person. Not a runner, because that was too big a goal. But just someone who goes for runs. It’s time for an update.

I definitely don’t feel like a runner. I don’t own any running leggings or baselayers. Usually I run in walking kit if it’s a motivated day, or what I’m wearing already if I’m dragging myself out the door. My trainers are designed for trail running, but they’re ones I happen to have. I haven’t bought anything specifically. As for the kind of runs I’m going on…

Couch to 5k

So I finally did it. I swallowed up my pride and started the NHS Couch to 5k plan. Despite feeling like absolutely not the kind of person it was for, it was exactly where I needed to start. Oh the irony. Week one has you running in 60 second bursts. I’d be hanging out at the end of that minute – just as I’d think, “Please can we stop now!” it would be 60 seconds. Equally, after the 90 seconds of recovery walk, I would have recovered enough to go. Perhaps sometimes not everything popular is wrong.

Am I enjoying it? Not particularly. I’m definitely keeping up with the progression (and waiting for it to ramp up like crazy at some point). But I’m still having days where I need to trick myself into doing the run or days where it makes me feel sick. Laura, the voice in your head, seems like a really nice person: not patronising, not overly enthusiastic. There are lots of celebrity voices you can try but I prefer Laura. She sounds like the kind of person you might meet at a trail run and be friends with. By Week 3, I’d also developed an intense hatred for the music. Week 1 was sort of upbeat indie folk. There was at least one in Week 3 that I struggled to listen to, it was so eurgh. My brother tells me most people just download the voice and use their own music, but I’m trying to keep things as simple as possible. I guess maybe the hatred propels me forwards somehow too…

Saying Yes to Runs

Being a running person this year means a completely new attitude to running. I have told pretty much everyone I’m running. Not in a weird way, but if it’s on the edge of conversation I won’t hide from it. And I’ve told my friends, as enthusiastically as possible, that I’m doing Couch to 5k. If you tell your friends, they’ll bring it up again and that’s just another way to keep you accountable. (Read: subconsciously bully yourself into running so as not to appear a failure in front of your mates.)

I also have a policy that I have to have a very good reason to say no to an offer of running. When normally my default would be to say, “Ah no, I’m not a runner really.” I have to consider it and hopefully reset my default to: this is something I can do. This has lead to some pretty interesting running experiences this year. I’ve done a ParkRun in Shropshire, gone hashing on Dartmoor and some off-day runs while up in Scotland. One of which, quite frankly, could have been considered a Swim-run. And yet there was something very exhilarating about being the crazy under-equipped trail runner, going past the well prepared walkers (don’t worry, we were on a big path and didn’t go far from civilisation).

Hopefully this policy isn’t taken too literally by my friends, if any of them end up reading this, or I may be in for a lot more running! Oh, and I also kind of ran a section of the Shropshire Way in January… I’ve been meaning to write the story for ages, but I guess you might call it ‘fastpacking’. Basically I wore trainers and ran some of it but was pretty much walking the entire last day because my feet hurt.

ParkRun Wisdom

While I was doing my first ParkRun (it was quite hilly but I did it in about 28min) I was complaining about the endless puzzle: how come I can walk really well but suck at running? Why can I walk 20 miles a day every day forever, but barely keep running a few minutes – unless I’m running so slowly I can walk faster.

My wise trail running friend said, “You’re using completely different muscles.”

This struck me like a cartoon baseball bat. Well duh. It was so obviously true but not something I’d ever considered before. Legs are legs. Mine work when walking and fail when running. But not, actually, it’s just my body has very efficient walking muscles and has barely used its running muscles since primary school. Except for running downhill… which might explain why I can do that bit.

Suddenly, I felt a whole lot better about my incompetence. Get better went from abstract thing measured by times and distances to: use running muscles more to make them better. Ooh!

Have we mentioned the OMM?

I’ve told my Adventure Squad, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it to you yet, publicly: I’m doing the OMM in October. The Original Mountain Marathon is a two day sufferfest, this year in the Lake District. You run both days of a weekend and have to sleep in a tiny tent that you carry with you during the run. The checkpoints are a bit like orienteering, small and hard to find. The weather in the Lake District in October is notoriously lovely.

Doing the OMM was kind of the impetuous to get on and become a running person. Because I’ve been half-heartedly trying for ages. The OMM is run in pairs and no one has ever been silly enough to ask me before. Lots of my friends did it at university and it sounded epic. When finally someone asked me, I knew it was unlikely that someone would ever ask me again. So I said yes. And I’m filling in the gaps as we speak.

So I guess the test at the end of this running experiment (or at least the first stage of this experiment) is whether I survive the OMM. Okay, I’m fairly confident I’ll survive – I’m good at battling bad weather, navigating under adverse conditions and looking after myself. But if I can feel like I ran and also had a good time, then that will be a success for me. Most importantly, I don’t want to let my friend down.

There will be more in the future about all things OMM related – like kit and trainers and running with a rucksack. But right now I’m focussing on being able to run 5k on flat ground. (And yes I’ve already had, “But there isn’t any flat ground in the Langdales, Emily!”) If you’ve got any OMM related questions, do ask away in the comments! Or any advice for newbies.

And so on to more running…

The twist in this story is that actually right now I’m not running. Actively not running, in the way that I can be engaged in the activity of not writing sometimes. I’m staring out of the window at the June rain, convinced I’ve woken up in October. Everything is soaked or having a horizonal cold blowdry. And I’m considering that I ought to be running, ought to be picking up where I left off on Couch to 5k before I went away. To find out whether 3 weeks of carrying my life in a 60L rucksack, with two of them above 2000m, is a suitable alternative to short bursts of running.

Oh and did I mention I’ve got cuts on the top of my feet? Maybe I ought to wait for them to heal? Although running in a downpour is probably great practice for Langdale in October. Oh but wait, my phone’s not waterproof and I can’t do it without Laura telling me what to do. Though it would be a good test of the Shokz waterproof rating. And walking in the rain is very fun… Come on Emily, are you going or not?

Running, but not a runner yet.

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