@ The Saddle
Following on from Steve’s previous article…https://nirunning.co.uk/giving-it-a-proper-go/
As much as running had facilitated a reconnection with old friends, it was in 2017 that I decided to give Queen’s parkrun a try. The first morning I arrived, although granted I did arrive with some cake lol, the welcome I received was overwhelming! Such a friendly, thoughtful and genuine bunch of people, who I am now grateful to call friends! And have since enjoyed many a run, dinner and drink with. One of whom decided to give up his time and pace me in Dublin – and has done many times beforehand and since for myself and others – to achieve my first sub 4 marathon, finishing in 3hrs 58m… I was over the moon!
However, unfortunately just days after this incredible high, came a series of some, personal, extreme lows, which are still not fully resolved and still cause great heartache. But running and the friends I have found and reconnected with through running (Great thanks to them all! you know who you are) have helped me through.
In 2018 I continued to improve times in almost all distances, breaking 1hr 45m in a half was a highlight. I try to strike a balance between running for improvement and running for enjoyment. Although for me, improvement is also part of the enjoyment. So I don’t follow a strict training plan, but I do aim to run so many times a week, and always try to mix it up. Short runs, slow long runs, interval sessions in various forms, sessions where form and technique are simply the focus, and hill sessions… the variety means it never becomes boring, like the gym had done in the past on the odd occasion I had given that a go.
The constant search for improvement in times provided an avoidance of boredom also. When I started achieving times I never thought I would, for example the 1hr 45m half, I said to myself “well, you told yourself you would NEVER do that… and now you have… so why tell yourself that again?”… so now I believe that almost anything is possible, and continue to set new goals. Although I don’t beat myself up about them too much, I just enjoy working towards them, and pushing my body to new abilities.
At the end of 2018, following a good deal of strength and conditioning, I took a gamble and decided to compete in a couple of trail races, which I was always fearful of for risk of knee dislocation on uneven terrain. However, I completed both races comfortably and confidently and was extremely pleased with how things were shaping up for the year ahead.
With the achievements of 2018, I carried another level of confidence, self-belief and self-worth into 2019, targeting 5 marathons for the year (One of which was a 28.2 mile trail marathon) and a PB in EVERY distance (1,500m, 5k, 5 mile, 10k, 10 mile, half and full). In May, with many thanks to a close cousin for their guidance, I completed a 12 week shred and ultimately achieved all! Though my target of a sub 20 5k still alludes me, but I will get there James Loughran! The man who told me I never would… “unless you change how you run and your attitude to running” to be fair… which I have, and continue to.
In the spring/summer months I was able to do a great deal of training in the Mournes. Having grown up in Newcastle I had of course some experience of them but hadn’t veered off the commonly walked paths, now I had the opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do and explore further. This was also a big recommendation in the chi running book, to “run for the hills” and build muscle and strength in the legs.
Not a word of a lie, only a couple of years before I started running, around 2010, I walked to the top of Donard mountain and came to the sad and disappointing decision that I would never do it again, due to the pain in my knees both during and after. Now here I am, able to get to the top, from Donard car park, in under an hour, and beyond, maybe not fatigue free lol, but pain free. I honestly cannot overstate how much running has substantially changed me physically… I feel able to do so much more with ease, in an everyday sense (including just the simple things like getting out of a chair, out of a car, or in and out of my work van) as much as in running.
I’ve also set up a Couch to 5k program and really enjoy passing on my experiences to others, hoping they gain as much from the sport as I have. If you want to find out more and follow my future progress you can find me at www.facebook.com/youcanjogit
I’m now looking forward to 2020 on a running and personal level, making plans, setting new targets, and achieving them… I hope!
My progress to date:
5k: 36mins approx – > 20 mins 20s
5 miles: 60+mins – > 34mins 36s
10k: 75mins approx – > 44mins 10s
10 miles: 1hr 50mins – > 1hr 13mins
Half: 2hrs 27mins – > 1hr 35mins.54s
Full: 4hrs 54mins – > 3hrs 38min