The first steps are the hardest…

I did it.  It was not pretty.  It was not fast.  It was not long.

It was hard work.  My heart raced and pounded.  It was sweaty.

And it was not half bad (for me anyway)…

I tried running. 

Not once, but four times (so far).  Four times in 9 days.  The is four times more than I have done in about 15 years, and before then I averaged maybe 4 times a year, except for my junior year in high school when I was grounded and housebound and it was the only way that I could escape.  And I had a crush on a guy named Eric who ran, so I decided to run too so that I had something to talk with him about in the mornings (sad, but true).

More background…  I have really bad knees, so I wondered if running and I could ever become friends.  You see, when I was 12 I dislocated my right knee.  Then I did the same again when I was 13 (this time to the left).  I have really really loose joints.  When I was not even 14 the doctors decided to try to manage my trick knees through release surgery, but it only *kind of* worked.  My knees still occasionally “twist” so I am scared to do things that might cause stress on them.  That is why I have chosen to walk the run section of the last two London triathlons.  I have vague memories that my jogging circa junior year did not feel great.  So I have always been wary.  But this year, I decided that with good sense, a plan, and regular checks with my physiotherapist, I could learn to run.

So on a sunny Saturday, with all this background noise *running* through my head, I ventured outside.  Not wanting to push my luck, I had read up on how to get from “couch to 5k”.  All the programmes started with intervals consisting of about 1 minute running followed by 30 seconds to 1 minute of walking, repeating about 10 times. So that’s what I did.  On Saturday, Sunday, Thursday, and again on Sunday.  Four times in 9 days.

Four times in nine days!

So, what did it feel like?  Was it really as bad as I had feared?

The first day felt ok, until the evening.  Then my hip flexors started to feel tight.  I stretched and stretched, took a hot salt bath, but on the second day my hips felt tight.  Even so, I still tried it again.  It was hard – I felt like I could barely lift my legs – but I survived.  Of course, walking up and down stairs later was a different story entirely!  Thankfully by the third time, I had figured out how to loosen up my tight hip flexors, and I thought “hey, I might be able to do this!”  Try number 3 and I was out the door at 6.15 in the morning, which is unheard of for me, and I felt awake, alert and like I had started the day on the right foot!  The only drawback was the location – I went around in circles near my house.  The location was definitely not to my liking, nor was the hard concrete paving.  So for my fourth time I ventured out of my house and decided to walk to a park to do my intervals. 

I live in East London, so parks are not really plentiful.  In the worst case scenario, I figured that if I could not find anything close to home I could always head up to Victoria Park.  My first stop was Allen Gardens.  Picture the scene – 8 am on a Sunday, a beautiful morning, a park just off Brick Lane (an interesting part of town known for its relatively unpoliced nightlife), and it was early enough to still run into the post-nightclub clubbers.  Lo and behold, a couple was in the process of continuing their nightclub embrace right in the middle of the field, so I decided to move along.  Heading in the general direction of Victoria Park, I remembered a place called Weaver’s Fields – but how to get there?  I wandered and found it via a circular back route, and it seemed perfect!  A dirt track worn into the perimeter of the fields with some early morning joggers already doing laps.  I took a deep breath and had a small survey of the land (no unseen holes and fairly even ground) and then set off.  1 minute 30 second run, 30 second walk.  10 times.  10 times!

So within 10 days, I went from not having attempted to run for at least 15 years, to trying it 4 times! 

I admit it, it was not pretty, it was hard, my knees feel a little “oogie” (a bit sore, a bit tight, a bit puffy) but I think this might be normal.  It may be that I am just going through the normal fits, starts, and pains of someone who is learning to run.  But I took a deep breath, I took my first steps, and I started.  I have a plan, I have a goal, and now I just have to take it slowly and carefully, not pushing myself or my body beyond what feels comfortable. 

I *will* take this one step at a time, and each step *will* be one step closer to running a 5k in 2009.

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