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Taking it in my stride: becoming a runner

ASICS London 10K 2023, featured, runners, SpecialEffect

I’ve started to take running more seriously over the past few months.

It’s an activity I’ve done on and off for the past 15 years. I think it originally started when a flatmate asked me to take part in a Race for Life event for Cancer Research UK with them. We easily walked the 5K route around Regent’s Park, and I came away feeling as though I could easily have finished faster.

I began to participate in other similar events occasionally. Sticking (mostly) to the assigned training plans meant I was accomplishing something physical to maintain my fitness level, and I enjoyed the atmosphere of being in a crowd of people supporting the same cause on the day. But it was all just a bit of fun. I can’t say I really ever considered pushing myself harder and taking these runs further.

Meeting the SpecialEffect team at an expo in 2013 and hearing about their work encouraged me to start signing up for races more often. I was able to take part in the ASICS London 10K for the charity a few times before joining the virtual team during the UK lockdowns; and I managed to complete 200-miles on my treadmill during a two-month period for StrideQuest in spring 2021.

Fast-forward to September 2022 and I was volunteering for SpecialEffect at EGX. I had a conversation there with Events Fundraiser Maddy and she’d persuaded me to put my name down again for the ASICS London 10K by the end of our chat. This would be my first in-person race since COVID-19 so I was a little nervous, about both being among so many people and trying to fit in the necessary training around the work needed for my Data Fellowship apprenticeship.

I achieved a time of 01:06:49 on Sunday, 09 July 2023. This was slower than the hour I was originally aiming for but slightly faster than my last in-person attendance at the event, so I was pretty happy with the result. Two other positives came out of day. Someone who’d seen me at the beginning mentioned my form hadn’t changed at the end so my running must have stayed consistent. On top of this, a very kind volunteer succeeded in getting a photograph where I’m not pulling a funny face for once.

Training normally stops after a race like this until I’ve registered for the next one, the motivation for which could take several months to get to a level where I’m ready to proceed. However, I’ve already signed up for something so the running hasn’t stopped. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly great at it and it’s unlikely I’m ever going to get quicker. But there’s something addictive about getting into that state of mind where the only thing you’re thinking about is putting one foot in front of the other. I guess it’s a kind of meditation.

This is also relates to the hardest part of the activity for me: the mental endurance needed to continue for longer distances. On particularly tough days, I’ll find myself constantly checking the clock and counting down the minutes until I can stop. Lining up something interesting to listen to (or watch if I’m on the treadmill) definitely makes it easier, and running through new locations means there are different sights to provide a distraction.

Having a support network also helps. I’m very grateful to Tim from Timlah’s Techs for setting up a Fit As F**k (FAF) group at the beginning of the year so we could keep each other updated on progress towards our fitness goals. We’ve since been joined by Pete, Ellen from Strength in Sarcasm, and streamers Darkshoxx and DaveAfro. My fellow FAFers are always there to offer a few words of encouragement and celebrate achievements, so it never feels as though I’m trying to push through any challenges alone.

I’ve been toying with the idea of joining a real-world network alongside this digital one by applying to become a member of our local area’s running group. I like the idea of being able to train with more experienced people who might be able to provide some guidance, although seeing their photographs online makes me worry that I won’t be able to keep up. It’s something to think about for after I’ve completed my apprenticeship this month when I’ve got a little more headspace.

As mentioned in my post at the beginning of August, I’m looking forward to writing about a wider variety of subjects here at the latest version of Later Levels. A post about my next running event specifically is planned for September and I’ll share occasional progress updates in the future. I’ve been experimenting with pre- and post-run snacks recently too so who knows – maybe there’ll be some articles containing recipe details and photographs from the kitchen.

Here’s to sharing more stories as I put one foot in front of the other. And if you have any running tips you’d like to reveal, I’d love to hear them.

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