Saturday, 31 January 2015

Never too old

I never thought that I would run a half marathon. Certainly never in a reasonable time. School sport wasn't really for me. Too uncoordinated for things like gymnastics, completely the wrong build for throwing things, useless at jumping over or across things, couldn't see the point of netball... I quite liked hockey but couldn't be part of the school team because fixtures were on Wednesdays and that was Music Centre evening over at Barnstaple. I also liked cross country but we didn't do that very much, and again any running fixtures were on Wednesdays. Since I had decided from about the age of 12 that music was going to be the thing I did, Music Centre won hands down. During my late teens and early twenties I did a bit of jogging. Nothing much, and never kept it going for long but perhaps there always was a runner trying to get out.

Many years later here I am following training schedules and setting new running goals. Even on occasion buying running magazines, although not often because really they all say the same things all the time and just plug the 'desirable' running body and the latest running gear fashions the same as any women's magazine. It's too easy to get hung up on what you think everyone else is doing/ wearing/ what their figure is like and end up feeling inadequate. But that's another thought for another day. I even have a Garmin thingy although I often don't look at it until after a run. But I do also like running 'naked' (see, if you're not a runner you'll now think I'm really weird!). When training for a specific race I get sports massage twice a month. It's all pretty serious stuff- but fun too, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it.

And here I am having embarked on another journey- karate. That one is really surprising! My children are in their 5th year of karate now and it is wonderful to see how they have developed in terms of confidence and general fitness. As I've taken them to training I have watched the black belts and been in awe of what they can do. It's beautiful- like a lethal ballet. I wanted to do that too, but pre-osteoporosis just thought 'no way could I ever learn that!' and post-diagnosis assumed it was a door that would always be shut. So when Sensei Gareth mentioned he might run a class for adults I was so excited but anticipated him saying no, it wouldn't be safe for me.

He didn't say no. So in October I went to my first ever class, absolutely terrified. There was me, another beginner and a couple of black belts. Despite my nerves I enjoyed the training so much. It was all utterly bewildering- as an adult it's very challenging having absolutely no idea about anything you're supposed to be doing and being not even on the same planet as your comfort zone. In terms of my day job it's extremely useful going through this kind of learning experience as it is a constant reminder to me of how many of the children I work with experience school. And for my own development it's such a boost when I start learning a kata feeling like I'll never get it but with a week's intensive practise coming back and getting it more or less right.

There are things that I'll probably never really get the hang of simply because of my age- I am fitter and stronger by far than in my twenties but those extra years do make a difference. But there's so much I can still learn. Concentration, the focus to keep going even when it hurts or it all goes wrong; finding out just what I am capable of- how to use little pockets of determination or aggression to my advantage.

As adults we get to learn things in more detail from the start compared to the classes for the kids. That can be a source of frustration as much as inspiration. It's great knowing that you're learning to do something at the standard of the higher grades but at the same time it's SO hard putting together all the technical details and getting them all to work! For example you get the stance right- hips in a slightly forward tilt, nice wide stance, core engaged, breathing focussed, but then you forget to turn your wrist at exactly the right moment or make a slightly lazy movement with an arm. Doing all the bits right every time is really challenging. But when all the pieces do fall into place the feeling is amazing! Like running you feel as though you could go on for ever when body and mind are co-operating properly and everything just flows.

And so I now train 2 hours every week as well as practising at home most days. I'm hooked!

Best of all, I'm learning all the time. About what my body can do; about my ability to learn and tough it out; and about having fun. And about how wonderful people are- when it's a bad day I just have to turn up to a club run or karate training and I feel better almost immediately.

Aren't people amazing?

Friday, 30 January 2015

A New Journey

So. It's been a long, long time since I bothered to blog. It's been a busy time; a time of huge changes, new challenges, some great highs and dreadful lows.

After completing that 10k race in July I eventually plucked up courage to join in the local parkrun. I have to say that I loathe running 5k but I do it every week I can because I know it's Good For Me. So far I have just ducked under 22 minutes although last week during an 11k run I did manage 5k in 21:20. As well as parkrun I took the decision to sign up to a running club. It wasn't easy choosing- most of the local clubs train on the same evenings- but in the end I went with the Redway Runners Can't recall why I chose them but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made.

What a lovely bunch of people! It might not be as focussed on 'proper' running training as other clubs but there are plenty of awesome runners to chase and learn from if you're after that. And for the days when you just want to have a nice run with nice people- well you can always do that with the club. There's a place for every sort of runner.

It didn't take long for me to realise that although I'm not up there with the fastest guys, I really am not a bad runner. And over the last 5 months I've been running alongside people, watching and learning from them and now feel a better and stronger runner than before.

Running with the RRs has given me a lot of confidence. I've raced 2 half marathons now. The first was the awesome Dirt Half. A challenging off road race with a great atmosphere. And a hill. Now I love hills but the one going up into Great Brickhill nearly broke me. And it came at about mile 6 or 7 so tackling that at around the halfway point was a real challenge- mental as well as physical. I learned so much about myself as a runner in that race! Still, I finished the race in 1hr 48min. Not bad for my first ever half.
Finally back onto the canal towpath for the last few miles of the Dirt Half.
The weekend after, I ran the Movember 10k in Milton Keynes. Not a pleasant experience- bitterly cold, not a nice course but I finished 3rd place lady and 46th overall. And I had the best mo:
In December I raced another half marathon- the Up & Running Winter Half in Milton Keynes. I'd spent the last couple of weeks before it fretting about the weather- we'd had a lot of icy weather and I was afraid I'd have to pull out because of the risk of falling. Fortunately although it was very cold it was dry. I had a bit of a race plan- because I managed sub 1:50 for the Dirt I reckoned I'd go for 1:45 for this one so aimed to do nice steady 8 minute miles for the first 7 or 8 miles and see how it went. Well I couldn't quite stick to 8 min/miles and upped the pace after about 6 miles. Felt great at mile 8, and pretty good at 9 miles. The last 2 miles were really tough- I had stopped looking at the watch and was just concentrating on keeping going as the last bit along the canal seemed to go on for ever. But just as I was despairing some guy running past me shouted to go for it. So I did! And finished in 1:40! In the top 200 finishers and 23rd out of 466 women.
And as well as running I decided to take up karate. My kids' sensei said he was going to start up a class for beginner adults. As he's my masseur he knows about my dodgy bones and he said since I can run and do yoga I could certainly do karate- he'd keep my bones safe and find a way round some of the contact stuff if/when that becomes necessary. I love the discipline of it, both mental and physical. The emphasis it places on using your core as the source of movement and power has made me a stronger runner. And actually it shares a lot with running- all the stuff I've read about the position of the pelvis to engage the glutes and hip flexors when running ties in exactly with karate posture.

So now I am a karate-ka, have graded twice and am working towards my orange belt.

I'm not going to blog about the downs of the last few months. It's too personal. But running and karate have really helped me get through it all without going into self-destruct mode. I've had a battle with keeping my weight up- for a while it just kept dropping until I was well under 44kg but I've got it back up to around 44.5kg and it seems stable now. I've got into the habit of doing a little more S&C training so I think it's helped me rebuild muscle mass.
Now all I have to do is shift this virus that I've been fighting since the start of the week and which eventually floored me yesterday. Can't be poorly- there's so much running to do and kata to practise!