This is a story of a talent lost and a long slow journey to get running fast again.
As a teenager I was quick! I am not talking super quick but the quickest kid in pretty much every football team I played in. Running was just something I did whilst playing football and to a lesser extent cricket. I remember having a real ability to run 400 and 800 metres fast and PE teachers telling me I should start taking athletics seriously and I would be able to run for the county. To cut a long story short I wasn’t interested, I just wanted to chase a football around.
When I moved to London over 4 years ago I quickly realised I was piling on weight and not living a particularly healthy lifestyle. This coupled with my Dad being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease prompted me to sign up for a half marathon. At this point I couldn’t even run 5k without stopping. So I signed up to do the Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2010, I did fair bit of plodding running and definitely achieved an ok level of fitness.
Well the half marathon was a disaster, my knee was in terrible shape and I had terrible shoes and an awful running style. I dragged my arse around in 2:17, fading badly as blisters covered both of my feet. Poor preparation and injuries left me feeling crippled. I just couldn’t face running again. About 6 months later I started cycling and this replaced running as the exercise to keep myself in shape. Around this time I started trying to run again but again I was plagued with injury and couldn’t get into any sort of routine.
In February this year I decided to head out for a run. I plodded around huffing and puffing but I did 3.7 miles. At this point I decided I had to improve this situation and started going out for 4-5k runs a few times a week. Around this time I joined a great running/volunteering project called GoodGym. I found this to be a really inspiring community of likeminded people, who enjoy running and helping their community.
Sadly after 6 weeks came down with an inflamed Achilles. This felt like a disaster. A month went by and I saw the good work of the previous couple of months slip away- around this time I decided to go and see a sports physio called Helen at her clinic Fix. This was eye opening for me; it revealed how I was essentially carrying my left hand side of my body and showed me how much weaker my left hand side of my body was.
I then embarked on a slow recovery that mixed strengthening exercises with gradually starting to run again. Around this time I read a number of books including ‘Born To Run’. After seeking advice from my physio I purchased a air of Nike Free 5.0 and started to learn to run without my Brooks moonboots. Gradually I have built my fitness back up and I am really starting to see results. I have been running again for 2 months and I am injury free (see a full blog on this here) And I am running faster than I have done in 10 years. Running in neutral/minimal shoes has worked really well for me. I love feeling the ground when I am running it has led to me developing a much stronger technique and slowly I have started to trust my body again.
Highlights in the past couple of weeks have included the GoodGym 5k race along the embankment which despite steps and dodging tourists I managed 23:35 coming 3rd overall in my race and I was the fastest Hackney runner. Then this week running 6.31 miles (just over 10k) in 46:13 followed the next day by 3.91 miles in 24:06.
However yesterday I went out for run and really struggled with an average pace of 8:15 min per mile over 3.39 miles. I suppose that will happen sometimes. The two really pacey runs this week followed a fruit breakfast and carb light lunch with a 2 hour break before setting out for a run in late afternoon.
I am currently paying really close attention to how I perform at certain times in the day. I have also just started making fruit smoothies for breakfast. I am finding these great for ensuring I am getting enough fruit in my diet. I have found that my increased fruit intake in recent weeks has led to me feeling more hydrated than usual. Has anyone else experimented with fruit only breakfasts when training and if so what have the results been?
I am also doing my first Park Run this week and I will be delighted if I finish in the top 10.