I am running in two Race for Life one of which is in the town where I live and the other is in the town of my birth but this is NOT an appeal for sponsorship this is my story or some of it at least and I post it so that others will realise that there is life without cigarettes and that anyone can learn to run and enjoy it too!
THIS IS LONG - ACTUALLY IT'S VERY LONG - AND I DO SO HOPE THAT YOU DON'T FIND IT BORING BUT IF YOU DO THEN PLEASE ACCEPT MY APOLOGIES AND STOP READING IMMEDIATELY!!
Once I'd paid my money and had confirmation by e-mail that I was entered in not just one race but two, my first thought was "What have I done now!"
Someone on the Health Unlocked C25K forum keeps telling me that I have a way with words - that I have a gift that I should use more. I have never ever thought of myself as gifted but as I do not know what to say or do to persuade anyone, especially people who are, in truth, total strangers, to sponsor me, perhaps my written words may work just a bit of magic so that I achieve my target.
My story actually begins back in August, 2013, when I told my husband that I had smoked my last cigarette. His reply was the usual, "yeah , right, I believe you" because like most other smokers, I had tried and failed previously to stop - some attempts had lasted a day and others a couple of months but unbeknown to him, this time I meant it and so my journey began.
It was not easy - ask anyone who has stopped cold turkey - and I don't intend boring you with the details but there were consequences to stopping and if we skip forward to January 2014 when I went for a health check at my local surgery you will, I hope, understand my horror when I was told that I had gained 49 lbs (3 stone 7 lbs) which averaged out at near enough 10 lbs per month for the 5 months that I had been quit!!
I can, in all honesty say, that as that information didn't send me straight from the doctors to the newsagents next door to buy a pack of cigs, I knew then that I would never, ever smoke again but how the hell did I go about losing all the extra weight?
The answer was quite simple - I needed, no, not a miracle (although that would have been rather nice!) but a fool proof diet that worked because it doesn't take a genius to realise that instead of having a smoke, I was having something to eat and whilst a little of what you fancy does you good or so they say, I was eating a lot, lot more than a "little"!!
Boredom was also a problem as in jobs around the house and a lot of other things didn't take as long to do as I wasn't having "reward yourself with a smoke break" breaks so what does one do?
What saved not just my quit but my sanity too was the NHS Couch to 5K Plan (C25K) and I can, in all honesty say, that it was the best thing I've ever done.
I avoided running at school. Actually, I'll rephrase that - I avoided any and all sporting activities at school and when I started C25K, I was breathless after a minute of the warm up walk so believe me when I say that if anyone had said that I would run 5K never mind 10K just 9 months ago, when I had stopped laughing I would have more than likely started singing "To dream the impossible dream".
So, come with me, yes, I do mean you so you can stop looking around you wondering if there is someone behind you because there isn't! Come on, let's you and me go running - you never know, you may just like it and even enjoy it!!
Come with me on this morning's run and then you can decide whether or not my friend on the forum is right and whether in fact I do have a gift and/or a way with words.
Enough talking, let's get going.
It's 3.50 AM - yes I did say AM so, just so that you get it, it is ten minutes to four o'clock IN THE MORNING - and I'm awake and just making the most of the few more minutes I have in my nice warm bed before I carefully and quietly get up and get ready to go RUNNING!! I don't even set the alarm as it's not necessary as I think I have an in-built clock which not only knows the time but also which day it is as on non-running days, I don't wake until 5.45 am.
Right grab running togs and glasses (very important as I need to be able to see where we are running) and carefully, very carefully, close the bedroom door without waking either (a) the husband or (b) the two dogs. No lights on as I do this so often I could probably do it with my eyes shut which, as it is still pitch black outside, is probably not that far from the truth. Bathroom done and now to the kitchen for a nice (half) cup of tea - not tempting providence as there's no loo on this route or any of my routes come to think of it and oh yes, half a banana. You can have the other half as you will probably need the carb boost as we're doing 10K today. Oops, sorry, don't choke on that bite of banana - here have a mouthful of tea!
Right, check list - running gear on, hi viz headband on, fanny pack complete with tissues (soft and gentle so you don't get a sore nose!) and mp3 player and plugs - click, now on. Tissues in running pants pockets, yes! Water bottle filled and ready another yes; hi viz string vest on and lastly, hi viz gloves on! Right, now the tricky bit, quietly as you can please running buddy. Door keys - yes - slightly draw back door curtain and insert key. Turn key slowly, ever so slowly and quietly and depress handle - after you - careful of the steps. Thump!!?? You OK? You're a bit like I was in that you have a fair amount of padding to the rear!! No harm done as you haven't woken anyone up so that's good news. Thanks for not shouting out - very considerate of you. Right, close door, again quietly as is possible and carefully lock it - keys in fanny pack and pull zip closed.
Yeah, it is a bit eerie knowing that we're the only ones up at the moment but there's usually one or two cars on the roads but not enough to bother us so we can just concentrate on running. Right, we'll walk for a few minutes and then when I say go, we'll start with a nice gentle jog so that we won't have to change pace when we get to the first hill
Oops!! Sooo sorry but I thought I'd mentioned that I live near the top of the Pennines so it doesn't really matter which way you go, there's at least one hill in every direction. Never mind though, look on the bright side because if there's an uphill then there has to be a downhill!!
Errr, no sorry this isn't the hill, this is just a little gradient! Well, it may look and feel like a hill but I can assure you it isn't. Believe me this is easy peasy compared with what is to come. Oh dear, perhaps I shouldn't have said that, oh well, never mind onwards and upwards (no pun intended) as they say.
You look a bit perplexed - problem? Spit it out if there is. Course you can ask a question although I can't guarantee that I will be able to answer it. "What's the white stuff on the pavement and cars?" Oh that's easy - it's frost which means that one of the roads we're going to be running on may be a bit ummm "slippy" as it's not on a bus route so doesn't get gritted. Sorry, but what do you mean when you say "what's frost" surely you've seen/experienced it before? You haven't? Where do you live? Central London - ahhh, that explains it then. Well frost is when the temperature drops below freezing which occurs quite regularly here in the north but not as much as in Scotland. In some ways white frost is good as at least you can see it but as this morning is quite mild compared to a week ago that is, there shouldn't be any black ice which you can't see even when you've gone a**e over t*t on the stuff!!!
Right, on we go. Round this bend and you can see that we are starting to climb so this is your first taste of a northern hill - oh,your first hill anywhere? My you are a lucky person - must be lovely to not encounter any hills at all!! Now, if you look over there, you will see a light in that house window. I see that every time I come this way but I don't think anyone's up so I'm guessing it's a child's night light.
Could I ask if you're going to moan all the way round? Cos if you are, I'm gonna put my mp3 player on and turn the volume up to loud!!! This hill is not that bad really compared to some round here as at least there are a couple of small flat parts. Do you know, it could be a darn sight worse - at least it's not raining or snowing on us and the wind isn't too bad today either.
Right, we've done it - the country part that is - sorry, did you think I meant we'd done the whole 10K? Oops - again!! Well at least we're back in civilization now, with houses surrounding us. No, I don't get lonely - I've done all my running from W1R1 of C25K on my own so I'm used to it but for you, I suppose with the hustle and bustle of city life, not to mention never being out at this time in a morning before, it does seem very weird and daunting. Actually, the opposite applies to me, having you along seems strange as usually I don't see anyone or anything at all until a good 30 minutes into my run.
Right, well at least you're not cold any more - amazing how quickly one warms up when running. Now, as I mentioned before, for every up there is a down and we are no approaching our first down. Keep to the same steady pace - don't try to go too quickly or you'll be doing somersaults. It's not easy I know trying to run slowly downhill but you can do it - just keep telling yourself "steady" or even "whoa". Yes, all this downhill stretch we do on the pavement but do be careful as some of it is cobbled as opposed to tarmac so watch your step as the cobbles will be, well a bit treacherous with the frost, so go careful!
Now you see, that wasn't so bad really, was it? What's the matter? Oh, yes, I do understand it can be a bit frightening the first time you run downhill - I am sorry I should have realised because it did make me feel a bit queasy the first time but look on the bright side, there's only one more down hill this way round and it's minuscule honestly it is! There is however another little gradient, ohh, sorry that should be two gradients and a bit of a hill but don't worry, they're not for a while yet and you'll do them easily I'm certain. (Bit of tongue in cheek there I think!)
Now this bit is OK as it's basically flat you just have to avoid the cars and vans that are parked on the pavement - especially the door mirrors. Ouch! Oh that must have hurt but never mind just carry on running and you'll soon forget about it as you'll be more concerned about carrying on breathing - in .. and .. out, in .. and .. out. That's it - you're a very quick learner. Now lengthen your stride a bit so that you're covering more ground quicker and see how many lights there are on in the houses now - people are waking up and getting ready for the day ahead.
Careful crossing here as the camber is quite sharp - OK you're doing really well. Errr no that 30 mph sign is NOT flashing at you to tell you to slow down, it's flashing at that car that is fast approaching it! Been caught myself thinking that I was reaching speeds which are way, way beyond me but it does make you smile to think that they might be for you!!
Right, go behind me please as we've to run on the road for a little bit and single file is the rule. Right, under this viaduct - don't worry that's a train going over and no, it's not going to fall on you. Up this slight incline - listen to me this is NOT a hill, it is nowhere near to being a hill, it doesn't even warrant the word gradient! See, told you so, now that wasn't so hard, was it? OK, now we have a downhill stretch to those traffic lights and we are going to turn right. Pardon? Oh no, silly, we don't have to wait for the lights to go to green!
Now then, we are approaching the next gradient and just so you know, there is a slight right hand bend about half way up. It's not too bad honestly it isn't but it does last for a while so perhaps it's better if we both concentrate as it's dustbin day so the pavement does get quite narrow in places. Tackle this in the same way as the hill - small steps DO NOT try to break the land speed record as we are about half way through our 10K so take it easy there's still a way to go.
Phew! I'm always glad when that bit is done - it is extremely deceiving and quite draining but it's virtually all flat now from here on - what do I mean by virtually? Well let's just say you will understand what I mean when we get there!
Right, on we go and under the railway bridge - yes, this is the same actually, it's a continuation of the viaduct but nowhere near as tall but I do think that this it is a little wider and needless to say, as you can see from the puddles, even when it isn't raining, water does drip down but where it comes from I have absolutely no idea and funny as it happens, not one single drop has ever landed on my head until today!! Oh well, can't be lucky all of the time.
Oh! there goes the Royal Mail wagon on it's way to the local sorting office so it must be about 5.15 am so you are doing extremely well considering that you've not done the C25K programme.
Now then, on here can be a bit difficult as the pavement is quite narrow outside these houses and if there are people waiting at the bus stop, we may have to run into the road to get past them. Oh my that's handy, the bus must be a few minutes early today as it's picking up it's passengers now so that means we can stick to the pavement albeit in single file.
Now steady on because we have to cross this turn off from the main road here and whilst cars and/or vans can not come up it, as there is a "no entry" sign at the bottom, as is usually the case, cyclists reckon that no entry signs don't apply to them as I nearly got knocked over/flying last time I came on here. Told you - two cyclists going the wrong way on a one way street and having the nerve to tell US to get out of the way! Talk about cheek of the devil.
Right, we can run side by side now as the pavement widens here and it sure makes it easier to talk to you. How are you enjoying it so far? Well, running is definitely different and not something everyone wants to do but in simple truth, I personally, think that you either love it or absolutely hate and detest it and yes, I'm one of the ones that absolutely loves it and I just wish that I had known about C25K years ago. For me, the simple pleasure of going running whether it be for 15 minutes or an hour I find truly unbelievable and would never have thought it possible that I could enjoy it so much. I am so very lucky and I do count my blessings as I can run (my opinion as others might not see it as such) whilst others would love to run but can't even walk due to illness or disability.
Sorry, didn't mean to go on so much but the problem is like with writing, once I start there's no stopping me - you could say the same about running because there are times when I have to force myself to stop.
Once we're past these two high rise blocks of flats, we're well on the way to completing the course. There are still lots of leaves on the ground and when they're damp or wet can cause you to slip so please do be very careful. If you keep to your left, you will miss most of the overhanging tree branches which can be a nuisance as they are quite difficult to see as they have no leaves on at the moment.
Now this bit is really weird as it gives the illusion that we are actually running downhill but we aren't! It's the way the road was "built up" a number of years ago when it was all resurfaced. It's a really funny sensation and/or feeling as our head and neck seem to be and actually are on a level with the wheels of the cars going past - see what I mean? So it is actually the road that has the uphill gradient but when you're in a car, you don't actually notice it at all for some reason. Definitely strange!
Here we go, ever so near now to the "finish line". Sorry, but it's single file again after we've crossed this road. What's that smell? Bacon cooking and it's coming from that trailer there in that industrial park on our right. Gorgeous so darn tempting I know but I'll give you breakfast at my house when we've done and that's a promise. I smell it every time I come this way and would never have believed that I could actually want to eat a bacon sandwich at around about 5.30 in the morning!
Back to side by side now and if you look to your right again, that's my place of work. Again, I'm very lucky as I am able to walk to and from work every day so I've no petrol to buy or bus fares to pay and I also go out and walk for 20 to 30 minutes every lunchtime even when it snowed much to my boss's amusement!
Quite a bit more traffic now but as we're on the pavement, it doesn't cause us a problem. Past the supermarket and filling station and then right at these traffic lights and over the bridge - the end is nearly in sight now so take heart that it's not much further. No, the bridge is not wooden or rope, it's a proper bridge. Yes, it is quite rural round here but for your information, we also have gas and electricity and inside loos!!
OK, remember the rule for uphill - gentle jog with short steps - that's it, you've got it! I do agree with you that this warrants the word "hill" and it is pretty steep and quite long but if we go back the way we came, then the down hills turn into up hills so carrying on up here is actually the lesser of two evils and look, we're over half way up it now so come on, we've less to do than we've already done!!!
Great, through the village which at this time in the morning is just coming to life although the paper shop will have been open for a while. "Morning - good run this am as it hasn't rained on me/us - well not yet anyway!" Yes, they're pretty friendly round here and most folk that are up and about at this time in the morning especially so.
Right, down this little gradient and past the fish and chip shop. Left at this roundabout and just this small uphill and great, this corner means we've completed 9.85K, so we'll cross over now and in a dozen steps we'll turn left again. At the end of this road, we'll cross over and just along here and STOP! That's it - you have just completed a 10K run - a very, very well done to you!!!!
Right, home we go. Yes, I do remember I promised you breakfast but it will be about an hour as I take my dogs out first. Why don't you come with me I'm sure the exercise will be beneficial and you may even enjoy it too!?!
OW!!!! OUCH!!! OW!!! OOOWWWW!!! What are you thumping me for?!
So there you have it - my 10K early morning run which in truth does not explain why I'm doing both the 5K and 10K Race for Life but maybe this does.
I know two people who are, thankfully, both in remission from cancer. The first one is a lady I worked with for 20 years some 10 years ago who very nearly lost her leg but thankfully didn't due to the expertise of the surgeon. A doting grandmother who I like and admire very much as she brought up her two sons and daughter on her own after her husband died in a tragic accident. The second is a gentleman that I currently work with who has just become a grandfather for the first time. Whilst he is in remission, he still faces the daily challenge of eating as he had throat cancer.
I'm not a competitor in anything and certainly not in running but when my OH read about the Race for Life and told me about it, I thought to myself "why not?" As I'm pretty certain that the two people I mentioned wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the research already done and the expertise of the medics, even if I raise only a small amount, surely that will help? I like and enjoy running so I get the benefit of running with others (oh dear not sure about that) and hopefully Cancer Research UK will benefit from the money I raise.
How and/or why did I decide on the figure of £60 as my target? Well, come the 25th March, I will be 60 years of age so, in the words of Steven McQueen (he does actually say them in the film The Magnificient Seven) it just seemed like a good idea at the time.
I've never run with other people before so I am actually pretty nervous, but with my hand on my heart, I will say and promise to you, that whether I slow walk or fast walk, slow jog or quick jog, slowly run or fast run, whether I be on my feet at the finish or on my hands and knees, I will complete both the 5K and 10K runs and I pledge that I will give my all and no matter what you sponsor me for, I guarantee that at the end of the second run, I will definitely and positively have earned every single penny of it!
Thanks for reading and if you want to take up running then I thoroughly recommend that you Google (or whatever) NHS Couch to 5k and then read all about it and hey, give it a go, you've nothing to lose and everything to gain.