Saturday 28 February 2009

Back in the Running

Cycling is my main activity and this blog is mainly about all things two-wheeled, but every now and again I like to stray off the designated path and do something else. So, for once I actually did something that didn't involve a bicycle.
Well, I rode my bike to get from my office to the race in Hyde Park. But after that, it was all about the feet.

Once upon a time I was a runner - and not a bad one at that. But then, age and injury set in so I had to find something else to do. That was when I discovered cycling (via triathlon and duathlon), and so over the last few years it has been mainly about the bike.

Now, over the last few years it has been a ritual of mine to send off an entry for the New York Marathon - and just as everyone around me said would happen, I get rejected. But as I have been rejected 3 times on the trot I have now struck it lucky and have a guaranteed place. So, that means cripes - I've gotta start running again!

Ok, so the race is not until November, but I need to give myself time to adjust mentally and physically to the whole running thing. I have run 26 and bit miles before - I've done the London Marathon twice. But then I was a thirty something. Having a FV40 beside my name might mean that my legs start protesting that bit sooner, or my childhood asthma might return. Who knows. Anyway, I like to think that the 8 months I have left should be long enough to prepare myself and identify any potential pitfalls along the way.

My first step has been to find out exactly where I am as a runner. So that's how I ended up on the start line for the Last Friday of the Month 5km race at Hyde Park. I wasn't starting completely from zero, as my perpetual habit of jogging 5km twice a week (to keep the weight down) ensured that I would be able to cover the distance.

So, on a sunny lunchtime I set off with the 200 or so other runners. In running terms, this race is described as flat. In reality when you're pelting along at 85% intensity any slight rise of the tarmac is painful - and there were a few of these in Hyde Park. It was also pretty warm considering the time of year.

Fortunately for me, none of these factors affected me. As I this was my first race since 2005, and I was just getting over tendinitis I would be taking it easy and running on perceived feeling - no watch or heart rate monitor.

I felt comfortable as I tapped out a regular rhythm with my legs and my breathing, while following another lady who seemed to be of a similar pace me. We crossed the line within a few seconds of each other. Out of interest I asked her what time she had recorded for our run, and she said 34 minutes. Ok, I thought to myself. Not very fast, but then I was taking it easy.

However, when I got back to my office, 10minute ride away, the time was 1.15pm. But the race had started at 12.30pm and I had spent around 10 minutes chatting and warming down after the race. Could I have mis-heard her and she'd actually said 24 mins??

Serpentine running club, the organisers, being highly efficient texted me my result later that day. I actually did 23mins 43 seconds! Quel Surprise! I had only wanted to do an easy run on half an hour! Ok, so it's not the fastest time I've done for 5km and I only finished 147th out of 200 runners. But I couldn't complain. I was not feeling 100% on par, I haven't raced for 4 years, haven't done any speed training, and I am getting to be a slightly old codger!

This has given me confidence to re-start my running and do a few more races. I'll even renew my Serpentine Running Club membership.
Of course, I won't ditch cycling just yet though!

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