If you read the first installment of my training diary for Nike's Go More Get More Challenge, you may have had a chuckle at the complete meltdown I generally experience at the thought of anything over a hundred meters and faster than a brisk power-walk. I wouldn't blame you if you had an even bigger, disbelieving chuckle hearing that the end game of the challenge is to run the half marathon at Run Melbourne later this year. Even I was sure I'd ultimately fall back on the shorter options available (there are five kilometer and 10 kilometer options on the day, so everyone can get involved in the amazing buzz of the event).
But, just a few months on and I can safely say that even a "non-runner" can be converted. I'm one of those all-or-nothing people who doesn't like doing things gradually, so I'd say I was a bit premature in calling myself a non-runner simply because I couldn't run a marathon straight away. Let's be honest, I really hadn't given running a chance to show me why it's such a global phenomenon. But the past few months have really shown me that some things are best built up to slowly.
We've been so lucky to have a structured training program from Nike coach, Dave Ridley, but have also been relying heavily on the NRC App that has set us different distance challenges each month along the way. This month I'm aiming to get in at least 60 kilometers over the four weeks of May. Once upon a time that would have seemed impossible, but I'm already well on my way and ready for more!
Rather than my former method of increasing my distance dramatically, adopting the "wing-it-then-be-unable-to-walk-for-a-few-days-afterwards" model, the past few months have involved very slowly increasing each run and also combining straight runs for a certain amount of "time on feet" with lactic threshold tolerance interval sessions that are shorter (and more deathly), but which have produced noticeable results in speed and comfort in the longer runs afterwards.
My biggest learning has been to trust the process and give your body time to adapt to a new form of physical activity. If you're like me and haven't run much before, you won't have muscle memory to fall back onto, so of course a new distance (or any distance) will feel quite uncomfortable when you first start. I never really understood what the "runner's high" was because I'd never pushed through those first few less comfortable runs to actually get there. Now that I have, I am totally hooked and find nothing as refreshing and releasing than a good, sweaty run.
I started off with three kilometer runs a few months ago, which felt like a marathon at the time but slowly found my body adapted to that distance without any nasty shin splints or stress pains that come from doing it too fast. I then increased to five kilometers and went through that same process of adaptation. Seeing how good it feels when you do finally start to adapt to a new distance, I recently gave the 10 kilometers a crack and honestly enjoyed it so much! I find my body takes about a kilometer to find its rhythm, but then that rhythm takes over and I start to thoroughly enjoy the surroundings and environment. I've done a few 10 kilometer runs since then and am just about ready for the next one.
21 kilometers still feels a lifetime away, but if I have any advice at this point it's that things take time, so give yourself enough of it. Also learn what you need at each stage and do it until you're ready for what's next. I really needed distraction for the first little while so listened to crime podcasts to distract myself from how long I'd been running. Now I can do it without any audio at all and simply enjoy the world around me. I've also learnt to pull back if my body isn't feeling it, and to push further when I'm feeling good. Massages and stretching have also been really helpful as my body gets used to this new world.
I cannot wait to see what happens over the next little while. Who knew what the body is capable of when you give it a chance. There's still plenty of time to join us if you're keen, so let's do this!