Every run I do is a Personal Best…

The Hyde Park 5k – women only, one park loop, over 17,000 participants, and something I have done since 2003 without fail.  But until now, as a walker.When I started off 2009 I signed up for the Women’s Challenge with the aim of doing the full course running.  Not jogging, not walking, but running.Well, life often throws up challenges, and this year I have had to contend with the reality that learning to run again is not going to be easy.  In addition to the shock to my knees (a recurrent theme throughout May and June, with swelling, twisting, and my adjustment to this new activity not as easy as I had dreamed), I have also had to face facts.When you have a condition that slows down the way nerves communicate with muscles, getting the muscles to move is, well, a challenge.  It is perhaps my greatest frustration!  I say “move quicker legs” and my stride is, well, kind of like my walking stride, but with a little more bounce and shuffle.  It is just going to take time and patience (and patience is not my strength!)…Since May I have been slowly increasing the time I am spending learning to run.  I started off with a whole 30 seconds of jogging, followed by a minute of walking.  Now, you may think “30 seconds is nothing!” – but, for me, every single step I make when learning to run is HUGE.  I have not done anything resembling running since I was about 9 or 10.  I distinctly remember when I was 9, and doing the summer fun relays, and coming third, and feeling frustrated as my speed just petered out and my legs didn’t move as fast as I told them to.  I think that’s when I last took running seriously.  Funny how that feeling “move legs move” but no movement is still one of my greatest frustrations today!I have done all of my training on the grass paths at the parks near my house (so much nicer than pavement on bad joints!).  Slowly but surely, I have been increasing the time I spend running, and as a result my distance, and I come back from each session amazed that I am actually learning to run.  On my last training day before the Hyde Park 5k, I did 10 minutes jogging followed by 1 minute walking.  Repeated twice.  It felt good!So when I was on The Tube to the 5k on Sunday, I went through various options on how I would approach the day.  So much of it was going to depend on how I would feel…  * How was my left knee feeling? (I have wrapped it since June until I feel that the joint has more stability).  * How was my right ankle feeling? (I wear an ankle orthotic on my left ankle to control roll due to weak ankle muscles – I don’t wear one on my right, but that ankle rolls a bit too and it is causing me tendonitis.  I will be getting another ankle orthotic, but have not gone to the National Hospital to claim it yet, and so didn’t have it for Sunday)* How was I feeling in general?  Fitness?  Heart rate?  Breathing?I decided that depending on how I felt, I would try to string together the full 5k, the first time I would try to put all the elements and the distance all together.  And probably also the first time ever doing a complete 5k.  Ever.  My fallback if I wasn’t feeling great was to revert to 8 minutes jogging, 1 minute walking, until I was done.  Based on my jog-walk at the London Triathlon I estimated that I would be able to get around in about 40 minutes.  About twice as long as a good 5k runner, but I figure that 40 minutes may be a sensible target for me – they say that people who have CMT have to work their nerves twice as hard to have the same results as a non-CMT person.  So twice as much time for the run (to avoid a complete state of exhaustion) seems in line with the 2x rule.I was surprised by how I felt.  This was my first pavement run since May, and it was not as comfortable as I had hoped.  I went through phases of feeling comfortable, then getting caught in crowds, slowing down, and feeling less good.  I decided to revert to my 8×1 strategy.  This enabled me to really enjoy the day.  It also has given me something to keep striding toward for the rest of 2009 – a continuous 5kLots went through my head during this race.  Here are the not so positives…* Why isn’t anyone smiling?  * Why don’t the supporters on the side cheer on each runner (they only focus on their own charity runners)?* Why don’t runners support each other on the course?I think that a mass participation 5k is a whole lot different than a triathlon 5k.  There are a lot of really generally unfit and unprepared people on these runs.  I saw some people in shoes I would never ever walk around in, let alone do a 5k in.  I had conversations with a number of women who said that they had not done any preparation.  In some ways this reminded me of the Moonwalk walking marathon I did in 2004.  My key lesson from that?  Unprepared women become unhappy women, and unhappy women are not a very supportive bunch.  I decided to just be happy in my own head.  I decided to smile the whole way around, encourage folks that I thought needed it, and to be the supportive participant that I know I appreciate.And my attitude is what made my race.By being supportive, I wound up having the most amazing conversation.  Toward the end of the 5k (I knew I was going slow) I managed to find a fast walker to jog alongside.  We got to talking, and it turns out she had been diagnosed with ME (chronic fatigue) earlier in the year.  This was her 6th Hyde Park 5k (mine too!) and she was walking it this year, just for the joy of being able to participate.  She was raising money for autism, as her two children are autistic.  For the last kilometre, we chatted and shared experiences on what it means to have a sickness which is “invisible”.  I was in awe.  Her whole attitude and approach were so INSPIRING.  I gave her a big hug when we crossed the finish together – and once again I want to thank Debbie for making my overall 5k experience so positive.  I think I finished the 5k in about 46 or 47 minutes, walking for about 6 or 7 minutes.  Yes, this is slower than mud.  Yes, many people can run 10k in my 5k time.  And yes, I was really frustrated that the unfit women wearing silly shoes probably did better than me in the time stakes.But you know what?  I feel incredibly pleased with my result.  Every run I do is a personal best.  An odd-beater.  A way to push my boundaries.  A way to measure how I am getting stronger.  It keeps me strong. I learn something about myself each time I get out there.  And on a good day, I find inspiration in others.  Sunday was that kind of day for me.So how do I feel today?  Besides a little stiff in my hamstrings and hip flexors, I feel inspired, pleased, and optimistic.  I can’t wait to do it again!Note:  I want to give a special thanks to everyone for all of your support over the weekend (Twitter, Facebook and emails alike).  For those interested, I am doing a 6k in Paris on Sunday the 13th…  Another chance to see what distance feels like – this time along the Seine!  I will write a bit more about La Parisienne on Wednesday, as I am wearing the Women for Women logo to raise awareness for that awesome organisation (charity Wednesday blog).PS:  I also totally want to give a huge congratulations to Richard Jeggo (@redraj on Twitter).  I spotlighted Richard’s participation in the Vitruvian half-ironman distance triathlon in aid of Leukaemia Research a few weeks back.  He did amazingly well!

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