Sunday, 2 May 2010

"Be gentle, it's my first time..."

I guess it's important to set the scene. Genesis, if you will. Great band. Eh, moving on, this is primarily a running blog, after all (with the odd diversion every now and then).

It's important to talk about my first running experience. Well, not the very first, I did play football for Aberdeenshire at this point in my life, so I was used to running around a lot (and losing 36-0, we didn't take it all that seriously). But this race was the first time I've ran in a race, against the clock.

I might need to check with my mum on this, but I'm pretty sure it was December 26th, 2005. Here I was, a 15-year old with no clue about running whatsoever, about to take part in a pretty darn' hilly 5k race. Needless to say, I sprinted off like a jackass, and stopped about 2 minutes later, out of breath. Off I set again, (slower the time), got faster, and had to stop again. Into the sprint finish and I damn well nearly threw up at the end. 29:31 was the final time (it's funny how these things stick in your mind), and I realised A) I was hopelessly unfit and B) I hated running. Typical of my attitude at the time, I had never done something before, I didn't do well so I hated it.

Let's skip forward 4 years. Same day, same course. Now a fully-fledged runner and in half-marathon mode, on an ankle-deep snowy course, and after the king's share of food and alcohol at the dinner table the day before, I finished in 20:47. I didn't throw up. Although I was passed by a 12-year old who I later found out is one of the top XC talents in Britain (I beat her up the hill though).

4 years, and 8: 16 quicker. What changed?

Football eventually gave way in 2007. I'd had enough of losing 20-0 each time we had a 2.5 hour round trip to St. Cyrus simply to make up the numbers. I'd keep playing for fun, but my competitive days were over. Hell of an age for retirement, 16. Anyway, the Academy Rugby team had started and I fancied a shot at that. Given that I was the quickest guy in the team, I was put at fullback, which worked out pretty well - I scored a few tries at least. I was really enjoying myself and I was planning to take it up at St Andrews (which I had been accepted to in Fall 2007).

We got word in January 2007 that a Sevens tournament was to be held in Edinburgh that May. Seeing as Sevens is notorious for being very demanding, I decided to try and gain some level of fitness for it. I dusted off the ol' treadmill (how I laugh now), and began.

I started off with 20 minutes a day, whenever I could be bothered - normally 3 days a week, sometimes 4. I remember getting up to 7.5mph at one point and thinking "Jesus!". I took part during this time in a one-off 5k race at Aberdeen Beach - which is snooker-table flat. I did 23:30 (you'll see soon, I seem to finish races either xx:00 or xx:30) and remember being very happy with myself.

The Sevens tournament went well - quarterfinals. Soon after, I left my Academy and running kind of stopped over the summer. In September, I fled the nest to Fife.

I joined the rugby team, and all was well - for about 3 weeks, until I realised that A) I was shit, even compared to the C team, which meant that B) I never got to play, and C) The whole team were/are a bunch of condescending, posh twats.

So Rugby died. I remember now, I was running occasionally - about 4.5 miles a time, probably 3 times per week. I had a friend in a car crash in November - he went head on into a tree and was in a coma for about 3 weeks - so I stopped exercising until almost Christmas. My mum (who's a very keen runner) mentioned there was local 10k on just after New Year. I decided "What the heck" and entered. I did no running over Christmas at all.

My mum (training for the Paris Marathon) ran it with me. I remember hurting the whole way through and finished in 53:30 (again, 30!). Unlike the same time almost 4 years ago, I loved it. This was my rebirth, in a way.

I started running more and more - about 5 miles per day, roughly 4 times per week. I was still dangerously naive at this point, and did too much, too soon - the beginners' curse. I got injured (ligament problems) and was out for about 2 months.

I managed to return in time to do the Aberdeen 10k in May. I ran 48:00, and 3 weeks later improved my time to 47:00 (I'm not joking, I think every race I had done up to this point had been xx:30 or xx:00).

A few weeks previously, I had decided (on a whim) to enter the Glasgow Half Marathon in September. Over the summer (doing the worst possible training, neither easy or hard, but moderate) I managed to get some consistent training in and on race day (aiming for a conservtive 1:50) I ran 1:43:30. As I crossed the line I thought "Ok, what next?".

I was now getting into the technical aspects of running. I started doing consistent hard sessions (mostly tempo runs and VO2 max intervals - which, with hindsight, were probably wasted time) and improved a substantial amount - helped by the improvements I got from Glasgow.

I ran an icy 44:58 10k on December 20th, and then the 20:47 5k on Boxing Day. 2 more months of hard training (not put off by the bloody snow) and I ran the Silverstone Half Marathon (as an F1 fan, a dream) in 1:33:45.

On the (indirect) advice from RW forum member Moraghan, I began aerobic base building soon after. 6 weeks later, here I am.

So, as I thought when I finished my first Half, what next?

I have two 10k's, two 5k's, a Half Marathon and the Scottish Kilomaton this year. Sub 40:00 10k is on the cards, as is a sub-19:00 5k in winter. I should be able to get well below 1:30 for the Half and I'm going for about 1:53 at the Kilomaton.

My problem so far has been ambition. I was thinking about the marathon next year, but I've decided to scrap that. I'm going to cut back, and get my 5k and 10k times down to a good standard before going back to Halfs. I don't know about the marathon yet. I might be a better track runner anyway. I just don't know.

Anyway, here's to the future.

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