Something of a landmark week for me, with C25K graduation on Thursday and my first Park Run this morning! I am a natural Eeyore, but I will not focus on the fact that I only managed to run for 3k all in one go, and walked the rest, or on the fact that I came 819th ... out of 826 (hey! I wasn't last!) Instead, I will look at the positives, and there were plenty of them. It was a clear, bright, sunny day; there were runners of all ages, shapes and sizes, some with dogs, some with pushchairs, some in what must have been incredibly hot onesies, even a lady with her tiny baby, only a week or so old, in a sling on her front (she beat me!); there were musicians and extremely encouraging and supportive marshalls all the way round the course. There was a fantastic atmosphere and I am determined to make this a more regular feature of my fitness routine, even though it was harder than I thought it would be.
When I go out for my C25K training, I am usually out for 45 - 55 minutes because of the walk there and back, and I cover around 5k+ during that time, so I shouldn't be too disappointed that today's Park Run took me 52 minutes exactly. My rookie mistake (and I should have known this!) was that I started too fast. I found myself near the front of the pack - where all the hardened speedy runners were! - and as they shot off I found myself trying to keep up with their pace, when I should have just run at my normal slow jog-shuffle. I didn't have any music playing - my usual C25K playlist helps keep my pace sustainable - so by 3k I had to slow to a walk. I did jog a little bit after getting to the top of a steady incline, but I really was struggling by the end.
Those who have been following my progress on C25K will know that this weekend's Park Run was the big 'reveal' to my brother, who had no idea that I was doing C25K, and who has been banging on about my health/fitness/lifestyle for years and nagging me to do Park Run since he first started a few years ago. Let's say that his reaction was totally underwhelming. He did say, 'Well done, keep going,' as he passed me on his way to the finish line - as I was just starting my 2nd loop of the course - but that was all. He came to walk with me for the last 200 yards and, as I broke into a light jog as I approached the finish line, said, 'You might want to invest in a sports bra.' I still had enough puff to say, 'Stephen, I am WEARING a sports bra!' So, not exactly the joyous reaction I had been hoping for but, after all this time, more or less what I should have expected! He is smiling in the photo below, though! He's on the left. I'm the red-faced one in the middle. The gorgeous slender blonde on the right is my niece Stephanie (brother's elder daughter - she was on cheer-leading duty) and behind me in the blue top is Steve, her boyfriend, also a veteran of Park Run and - most important from my point of view - FASTER THAN MY BROTHER (but half his age).
The biggest and loveliest surprise was that a colleague turned up at the end to cheer me on and presented me with a bottle of prosecco as I crossed the finishing line. I had no idea that she would be coming to watch, and it really made the run for me.
So, for anyone planning their first park run, take it slow and steady. If you've never been round the course before, try and walk it in advance (I was thrown by the inclines, having only trained on the flat). Most of all, though, enjoy it, it really is a lovely inclusive and encouraging experience.
Good luck with whatever week you are on in the C25K programme, and don't let Christmas get in the way of training! Who doesn't need a break from all that eating and drinking and so-so relatives? And what better reason to get away than, 'I'm in training - I have to go out for half an hour.' ?
Merry Christmas to runners at any and every stage of this marvellous, life-changing (no exaggeration) programme. Here's to continued and improving health and fitness for the rest of the year and beyond!