The art of the possible?

I love my running. I started this year at the end of Easter and by wk5 I was hooked. By the end of the course I was both hooked and amazed at the progress I was making.

It is now 4.5 months since I completed C25K and I am now running at an average pace of 6:25 per km. I can run 5km in 29:40 but have not yet managed 10km in under an hour. My longest distance is 14.5km @6:35 / km. I run 3 times a week and have signed up for my first HM in March next year. I am 46yrs old and weigh in at 103.5kg which still makes me obese albeit with a radically changed body shape.

This is all really good and, looking back, I can see the progress I've made, but what I would really like to know is a bit more about what the future could look like. I see all these wonderful people on this forum (juicyju, Misswobble, poppypug, Bazza, gettingfitter, etc) and I cannot help but wonder 'how was it for you?'. How long have you been running and what improvements did you notice in your endurance and pace along the way? Do you feel that you are reaching, or have reached, a plateau and if so, did you manage to push through it?

I realise that everyone is different but you guys inspire me and I would love to read more about the art of the possible in running.

With a heartfelt 'Thank You'.

Mark

36 Replies

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  • Well done Mark. You are right that everyone is different. I started running nearly thirty years ago but had a long break (nearly twenty years) until I came across C2k in 2013. Family circumstances prevented me graduating then but I achieved that this Easter. With our son also starting to run we entered a local 10k in July and the Oxford HM earlier this month and I am finding the whole experience very similar to how it was back in the 1980s. Every completed challenge is followed, after the euphoria, by some dismal, unrewarding runs. My answer is that a new challenge is required. My "coach" back then said that once I had done the initial "fun run", a hilly seven miles, I would believe that I could do ten on a flatter course, then HM, etc. from an unwilling start in 1986 I ran the London Marathon in 1990 and again two years later and enjoyed almost every minute. An injury left me poorly prepared for Oxford but I still finished in 2.11 much faster tha I expected and am already looking forward to getting inside 2 hours next year. You should find that the improved endurance and faster times come with the newed challenges as they will cause you to look for more demanding training runs, intervals, hills, etc.

    Good luck for the future. Alan 65 and still getting better.

  • You are so right Alan. I was out running through a forest trail last weekend and absolutely loved it just for the fun of being out there. I completed 14k and was feeling I could have just carried on without stopping. Now I am looking to get up to 15 or 16k in my next 'long run', but the strange thing is that I only actually realised that it was 'quite a long distance' when I went out and cycled it with my daughter and wife puffing along behind me :) .

    I would like to think that there will come a point when a HM, or even a M, doesn't seem such "a huge impossible distance" but I guess that until you've actually run it then it will always seem beyond one's capabilities.

    My ultimate goal is to run a M. It's on my bucket list.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • I'm really just out there enjoying the fact that I can run at all. So many rich experiences - splendid views, finding a herd of Highland cattle in the wood (this weekend), listening to great radio podcasts. I find Realfoodieclub's six weekly Quests very good for motivation. I have ticked off the 10k, expanded into swimming (ticked off 1k), cracked a sub 9minute K (not very often... but then I am not on tarmac), graduated from the NHS Strength and Flexibility podcast programme, taken up a daily morning yoga practice.

    I am not really interested in taking up running as a 'hobby' any more than walking my dog is a 'hobby' it is just what I do.

  • That's really interesting GM. I will investigate the quests and the podcasts. Normally I listen to music when running but a bit of variety can't hurt. I've never really tried Yoga, but I'm willing to give it a go if it can improve my core strength and flexibility. Sadly I find that swimming long distances gives my bad cramp in my foot. Probably I'm not doing it right.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Swimming was really, really grotty for me to start with. I could only do 2 lengths to save my life so strictly speaking I shouldn't have been allowed down the deep end but no no-one fusses if you are a middle aged woman not wearing arm bands and I built up my stamina. My shoulders and knees clunked and ground audibly, my back hurt. Getting to grips with goggles (gently nagged by better swimmers) has been really important for making progress, I have a much better (and thus less painful) style now.

    It is quite a puzzle to me now why I'd never done yoga before but the way in for me was short free clips on YouTube. I don't have the stamina for long classes, an actual show-up class would be too gruelling.

    I have all sorts of goals now in my life - most of them quite small or one-off. Eg I have a list of places I'd like to go, books I want to borrow from the library and I am finding that by setting goals for doing x number of them over a quarter, it actually happens.

  • Hi. My experience is not that different to your own. I hadn't run at all until I started the programme in June 2013. I too can run under 30 mins for 5k when I'm in the mood and my 10k time is also just over an hour. Furthest distance is a half marathon, but only the once! My advice for that is pretty straightforward. Build up to the distance slowly, adding a little more each time. Just last weekend I did 14k in 1h33, so thats 6m41 pace and I find these longer distances less frantic and more enjoyable. Although I find I constantly glance down at the ol' Garmin, pace isn't everything..... but i do admit that when I'm having a good run, it really is something!

    Keep it going!! Rob - 51 and ninety-something kg....

  • Thanks Rob. I completely agree that pace isn't everything and I am certainly going to keep going. Some days things just 'click' and your have a good 'ol time just being glad to experience the fresh air and the countryside. I think it is important to maintain that love of running just for its own sake because the moment it becomes a trial to always improve pace and distance then it turns into something else altogether. That's not necessarily wrong. It'so just different with a different set of motivations...

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Great blog and wow you have achieved so very much, and I apppreciate the mention :)

    So- answers on a postcard:

    1.How long: I started C25K in Feb 2013, graduated in April, 10k by September and first HM in October. I set myself some tough goals but I knew I wanted to achieve them....

    2. Improvements: more energy, lost 1.5 stone, I am now fitter than I ever was in my 20's/ 30's ( I am 44 now).

    3. Pace: started at around 10.44/ mile for short runs ( 5k), peaked at 8.53/mile, and since my injury I have now built up to about 9.40/ mile and I'm working on that. For long runs its about 11 min/ mile, which again I need to work on!!

    4. Endurance: I am a very determined person and I always make myself finish what I set out to do. Prior to my injury I was training for a marathon and I really struggled to get past 14 miles. This is where I am now again and i manage my fuelling better ( on a long run, every 2 miles), and then I get dips at 8 and 10 miles so I have more...Its also about having a strong core and better overall fitness so I swim too and always do a mile but I will be setting new challenges shortly.

    5. Plateaux: Yes as above but I think the mountains get bigger and its not as easy as just climbing up them...you have to do different challenges to get to the top and there are a number of plateaux's on the way, its then you need to look at it differently and be a bit creative...

    I'm sorry I really have waffled on and I hope this helps you on your journey....my advice is to set some realistic short and long term goals and chip away at them....and well done, I think you are doing just great.

    Happy panthering too :)

  • Hey Juicyju, I think you have the wrong tag on this forum. You should be called something like 'manic-motivational-nurse' or 'missdetermined' or something like that. :). I knew a nurse back in the UK who ran 5k and then taught the Bodypump and Bodystep classes right afterwards. While the rest of us had our legs turned to jelly she was yelling at us to get our knees up!!! Beware of nurses!

    Seriously you are a real inspiration. I may be two years older, and clearly a lot more overweight, but I hope at some stage to be able to match your times and by then of course, you'll be doing Ultramarathons or something equally extraordinary.

    Happy running and thanks for sharing!

  • Thankyou so much...I just run because I love it!!! And yes...nurses are a hard core breed, your friend sounds SCARY!!!! I'm at a turning point in my career and may have to lose it but I really don't want to... been a bit nostalgic about it lately, especially Tommy's. At the end of our 7 nights on we would head off to the pubs at the meat market for a mega full English with pints of lager at 9.30 AM!!! happy days :)

  • I think your first sentence says it all, Mark. Just do whatever it is that means you maintain that attitude. Initially I set myself targets and built up my distance to 10 miles and increased speed. Going on towards a HM seemed logical, but after doing a 10k race I concluded that I don't want to run with other people and certainly not on the roads. Consequently I settled into just doing a couple of 5k during the week and a 10k each weekend, which I love and Parkrun every couple of months. The times kept tumbling and I informally announced on here that I intended to start training for my own HM. I was about to set a date when I injured my achilles. With a month of no running, a month of one run per week and now I intend to get back to three runs this week.

    I am enjoying getting back to running and when the achilles is fully sorted I may set a date for my personal HM. Then again I may just continue to run for the sheer joy without setting targets, relishing the new found ability to run.

    Keep running, keep smiling.

  • Thanks Iannoda. Clearly a injury like yours can put you back quite a bit. I am not sure whether you had any 'warning' that your Achilles was about to go. Luckily I've never had that problem, but I agree on the need to pace oneself and listen to your body.

    I wish you luck for your personal HM and look forward to reading about it. Thanks for sharing.

  • This is really inspiring to me, a new grad. Well done :)

  • Thanks Karen. I know when I graduated there was a time when I kind of asked myself "what now?", but the interesting thing is that I carried on running and the reasons for running changed. No longer was it a case of "I'm going to complete the course" but more of "I want to run 5k in under 30mins" or "I want to run 10k without stopping" or whatever it is that just keeps you motivated.

    I spend a lot of my time running alone and it gives me time to clear my head of all the weekly 'gunk' that builds up there. It means that when I actually do run with others I get a real kick out of it.

    Whatever tickles your fancy :).

    Happy running.

  • It's really interesting reading everyones replies here!

    I've never been an active person, always overweight and always trying to find an excuse to change my ways. I used to drive home from work and secretly envy all the runners I'd see on the roads and in the local parks. I wanted to do that but always felt my weight held me back. I weighed around 110kg at that point so not massively overweight.

    I'd looked into running before - it was a free thing. No gym membership, no driving to a place to do an activity. It was literally step out the front door and go! I bought myself an iPod shuffle, loaded it with the C25k podcasts and then found an excuse for another 18 months.

    And then my first-born came along. I didn't want to be a dad who couldn't run around the park kicking the ball with my little boy so one Sunday, I went for a walk. I walked & walked... and then found a quiet side street and decided to have a go at running. I wobbled along for literally 15 - 20 seconds before almost collapsing but the feeling of running was great!

    The following Monday, I found my old iPod, charged it up and started W1R1. It was hell. My trainers were wrong, my clothes were wrong, everything was wrong... but I wanted to do it again. I ordered some proper running trainers and technical shirts and it went from there.

    That was two and a half years ago. I've been running (on and off) since. I love the thrill of it, the challenge. I've completed a few races and I've also plateaued.

    Earlier this year, I took a pretty bad tumble whilst snowboarding and damaged ligaments in my knee. Whilst it's all healed now, it did take nearly 5 months to get back to fitness and in that time, my running has really died down.

    At the moment, it's 2 or 3 times a MONTH that I run... Poor poor form but I struggle to find time to get out and enjoy. It's either 5am or 9pm - and nowhere in between :(

    In all the ups & downs, running has been awesome. I've learnt a lot, a lot about me! It's all changed me as a person. I'm generally a lot fitter, a lot happier, a lot leaner, I now weigh around 85kg and that's all down to the running!

    My longest run has been about 17km and that was one of my greatest runs every. My most enjoyable has been running the coast line in sunshine last year. That was beautiful. Current average pace is 6:30/km (10min/mile). 5k's are generally done in 32minutes, 10k's are 1hr 6mins (i've yet to crack a 10k in less than an hour).... fastest 5k was 27:45. That was a good day!

    I'm sitting here writing this and kicking myself as to why I've made so many poor excuses *not* to go running...

  • Really enjoyed reading your post. I find it very motivating to read what others like yourself have achieved, and enjoyed. I'm on week 8 of C25K, and it's great to hear other great goals which just might be achievable ( and fun ). :)

  • Thanks mrqwest. I read your story and see a lot of similarities. I too looked longingly at other runners and thought "I wish I could do that" never realising that I actually COULD do that! Strange how the mind works...

    In my case, I moved to Germany last year and the house I rented is at the bottom of a steepish hill which I need to climb to get into town. I was finding that I would get to the top heaving and puffing like a steam train. Part of me said to hell with this and then along came my sister who is 10 years older and who signed up to C25K. The rest is history.

    You are completely right that running makes you learn a lot about yourself. In some ways you are training not just the physical muscles, but the mental ones as well!

    Thanks for sharing. :)

  • It's taken me just over a year from couch to half marathon, never having run before.. You sometimes feel that you're going backwards and you'll never stop dragging your feet but you do.

    Kingy, I would do some yoga, it's great! I just bought a DVD and do it at home. Anything that can make you more supple has to be a good idea. Supple might be the wrong word. Ok then "less stiff", might be better. I have to take a fish oil capsule every day as my joints are so creaky.

    As you chew up the miles you'll notice your weight coming off, your legs toning up, your belly should certainly reduce. Combine your runs with a healthy diet and you're well on the way to becoming the new you; if that's what you're looking for.

    If you enjoy it then all to the good. I can't imagine doing it if you don't enjoy it. It's hard at times and no fun when it's pi**ing it down but you get out what you put in.

    When I got home from my half the other day I had a look at my splits and was really taken aback. Was that me???? Were they my times?? I would have thought it impossible for me to run those times over that distance but I did. It just shows what you can do if you put your mind to it.

  • You're so right misswobble. (And again I think you and juicyju need to change your tag name :) ).

    I am finding the weight already coming off although it didn't at first. It was only when I combined it with the 5:2 diet that I really started to see improvements. I am now losing 0.5kg a week and loving it!

    It isn't just you looking at your HM times in amazement - I was doing that as well. I am really looking forward to the Weymouth HM in March. I am a bit nervous to be honest but determined to complete it and if I get anywhere near your times I am going to be delighted!

    Thanks for sharing and thanks also for all your inspirational posts.

    Mark

  • Thank you Mark for posting this. I have just had a lovely little morning boost of inspiration from reading your story & that of all the other more 'seasoned' graduates. And I totally agree with your comment about juicy ju, her grit & determination just jumps off the page/screen & I find her truly inspirational. What I took away for all of this is that everyone has their own story & their own 'race' if you like. It's important not to compare to others too much but to set our own realistic yet challenging goals to kept us running. It's also important to encourage & support each other as we do in this forum. Look forward to hearing about you conquering your next challenges Mark x

  • Thanks MarlyParly. I agree that everyone has their own race to run and I am truly enjoying hearing about it.

    I will be sure to share my progress going forward - whatever that turns out to be.

  • Hi kingfisher , your doing great ! After reading all the replys I think I must be the worse of the bunch ! I started around the same time as misswobble and she puts me to shame . I've been on off with one thing and another mostly injuries but I'm still plodding on and most importantly still enjoying it and fitting in it in with work , family etc . Keep up the good work and well done

  • Thanks Rockette. I don't know about the others but I really don't feel that there is a "worst", or for that matter "best", of the bunch. We all have different challenges, and for that matter different bodies, and so I do not carry around any guilty feelings about not matching up to anyone else.

    I guess the only person we ever really let down by not being active is ourselves but then we get to set our own targets so that is as it should be.

    Many thanks for your kind comments and happy running.

  • I love running. I'm not fast, and never will be now I'm a Supervet (55+), but with my years of hillwalking and cycling I have stamina and can keep plodding on for hours. I started C25K in July 2012 and sailed through that programme and beyond, running my first 10K race in October 2012. I suffered a couple of injuries in winter/spring 2013, but managed to run a few more 10K races and enjoyed several 10 - 15km trail runs, around lochs or through the forests, throughout summer 2013. I also clocked up about 200km/week cycle commuting from June to September and on the back of that fitness and the long trail runs, I entered a HM in November 2013. I was happy with my finish time of 2:03.

    I ran a couple more HMs this spring and spent this summer training for the Loch Ness marathon. I was gutted to be injured about 6 weeks before this. However, after several sessions with my sports physio my leg was ok-ish enough to try the marathon. I was disappointed with my time (just over 5hrs), but considering I'd not run for 5 week prior to this, it was as to be expected.

    I currently am feeling a little frustrated that I seem to be plateau-ing in terms of speed. (10K PB = 54:30, but subsequent 10Ks were slower; HM PB = 2:03, and slower since!). I'm not sure what I wish to do. I love races, as I find the atmosphere good fun, and a nice contrast to running alone, but I wish I could see improvements!

    I'd love to run ultras, but with my injury history, I can't push myself too much. I'd also love to do hillrunning (my son runs hill races), as I see lots of interesting events locally here in the Highlands. But I don't want to be be pushing myself training all the time, as I love the fun trail runs too. Plus I need to have time (and energy) to fit my my others loves of cycling and hillwalking with hubby.

  • Wow swanscot - you paint a lovely picture of someone running the hills and lochs with a kind of wild and free abandonment! When the weather is fine it must be really nice to run in the Highlands.

    Frankly, at 55+, it is impressive to still be putting in the distances and times that you are doing. I hope I can do the same in 9 years time.

    My running "haunt" at the moment are the Bavarian forests of Southern Germany, but if I look up at the horizon I see the Alps. Now there is a challenge! I am not sure I feel ready for that just yet... It will take hill running to a whole new level.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Mark, you are doing brilliantly well in a very short space of time.

    I am the same age as you. I completed C25K in summer 2013, but for lots of reasons didn’t step things up for a few months. I ran my first 10k in April this year and my first 10 mile race a couple of weeks ago, and I do confess I am properly hooked now. I have been a little resistant to tackling long distances but I reckon a HM is within my reach.

    Progress – it was pleasingly exponential at the start, my 5k times tumbled by minutes. Obviously this slows down, but there are always little milestones to tick off along the way. I have experienced a couple of frustrating plateaus, but you have to believe that if you are patient and keep on working at it (within reason, don't overdo it!), you will overcome them – so far that has proved true.

    Stuff that has helped me improve – joining a running club (I was lucky to find a local one that is really inclusive and encouraging), doing parkruns, interval/hill/sprint training with the club, and signing up for a couple of races. I love the meditative aspect of solo runs, but I also love running with other people – I have discovered I can both talk and run quite comfortably. It’s all about variety.

    As Miss Wobble says, the beauty of running is you do tend to get back what you put in, which makes it much less complicated than many other things in life!

  • Thanks TT. I have been meaning to join a running club for sometime but have put it off because my job requires me to travel and live away from home for most of the week. This is a poor excuse because I am pretty sure that the aforementioned club would still be running on the weekends, so I need to check this out. (I guess I also didn't want to appear the slowest fool when I first joined in...)

    Thanks for your positive comments and I know what you mean about working through "frustrating plateaus". I am not sure where I will end up but for the moment I am just enjoying the journey.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • I do it for the fun of it - it may be hard, some runs are just horrible, but when the 'good one' comes the feeling is longlasting. I am still slow - about 45 minutes for 5 km, but lost a stone since graduation (June)

    Where am I now?

    Yesterday I run 8 k to go and have a coffee with a friend, and a month ago I went to my yearly retreat by foot (70 km in 3 days) - had I not been running all this would not have been possible - I would have driven to the friend's house and to the retreat. For me it's not just about racing...

    But then - and I blame this community for it ;) I have decided to go for a HM next May (on the day of my 52nd birthday) - the biggest challenge is not the HM, is trying to convince myself that I can do it in a crowd...

    Running in the Alps... If I wasn't so easily prone to tumbling down I would try that!

  • Thanks Pigivi. I know what you mean about "convincing yourself that you can do it". I think we are all surprised at how far we've come. I know I am. I reckon that people measure it in different ways that are personal to them. I know that if I ran 8k to have a coffee, then I would probably have a large glass of water beforehand :) !

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Mark, thank you so much for the mention, fancy me rubbing shoulders with powerhouses like JuicyJu and Miss Wobble , I mustve been passing just at the right time ha ha :-)

    This is a really fab post, and thankyou for sharing your story with us.

    You have done amazingly well, that is some impressive distances and times you have got there, I would be over the moon at that . Y'see although I am very tortoise-esque in speed, I am very determined in the idea that once I am out , I will not quit, although I have voices in my head screaming at me to stop, I will not let them win, no way :-)

    I graduated the beginning of June , I did a Race for Life 5k at the end of June, then I ran 3 times a week at 30 minutes , just to consolidate for a while. Then it all went to rat sh*t for a while. I was ill and couldn't cope with the heat, I ended up feeling completely rubbish and suffering from sore throats and mouth ulcers.

    I then entered for a place in the 10k Great Manchester Run in May next year, and I am preparing for that although It is months away I am getting in my training good and early for that. I run 3 days a week and follow my training plan to the letter ! :-)

    I cannot imagine my life without running , it took me so long to get started and I just want to make the most of it now . Like you say, it was always something I saw others doing, but never thought I was capable of it.

    I still consider myself very much a novice, theres always something to learn, and this forum and the people on it are truly amazing. The support and encouragement is brilliant.

    Happy Running to you xxxx

  • Thanks Poppypug. I think your determination and support for people on this forum is well known and appreciated. I cannot think of anyone that posts more words of encouragement than you... and I believe that the tortoise did win the race against the hare!

    One of the things that comes across from all these fab posts is the determination that is shown by people. More than the speed or pace or endurance it is the commitment, no matter what befalls us, to keep going and the enjoyment we get from achieving our goals however large, or small, they may be.

    I think I have changed my "measuring stick" today. It is not just about how fast you can run 5k, 10k or a HM in or your longest distance covered, but about where you've come from and where you are going to. It is intensely personal.

    The answer to the question: "what is the art of then possible?" is, within reason, "whatever you want it to be....."

    Thanks for sharing Poppypug. Stay well and thanks for all your support. :)

  • Thank you so much you are very kind xxx

  • I think you are pretty amazing darling xxx

  • Thankyou , you are an inspiration to me and so many others on here xxx

  • As are you... and thanks for the boost......life is so hard sometimes and running is the only thing that makes sense!!!... XXXXXX

  • I'm definitely in the veteran category these days - 57 and counting. I'm another who started running March2013. I did my first Parkrun September 13 with the aim of doing one a month to keep up the running - that seemed to go by the board in January and with a following wind, I should be picking up my red 50 t-shirt before Christmas! I've run a few 10ks and in September this year, ran my first half marathon. All this from someone who managed to blag her way out of every sports day at school and who had never done anything particularly active ever (if only I'd known what I had been missing!).

    I get a real buzz out of running - I'm not fast and never expect to be, but I know I could be quicker than I am just at present and would dearly love to crack that 30min 5k (not there yet, but not so far off). I don't have any intentions of doing a full marathon (at least not until I have retired, maybe, when I might have the time to train for such a long distance). Running combined with 5:2 diet has helped me loose over 20kg and my target is to take off another 5... I haven't felt as fit in years - and I haven't been this shape for over 20! I can't imagine not running now, even though some days it is really hard. I do find having the challenge of a run gives me more purpose - and I do envy those of you who can step out onto the downs or into the mountains to run; most of my runs are on pavements or tarmac.

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