For those that don't know me all that well, I often describe myself as having a butterfly mind. I'll start something (a project, book, conversation) and then SQUIRREL! Sorry, where was I? I have at least two books on the go (not to mention the ones that will probably never be finished; I started reading IT when I was 17, and I simply can't get in to Catcher In The Rye) I can't sit and just watch TV or a film; I will always pick up a book or crochet project, start browsing my phone or playing a game on my tablet.
Talking of crochet projects... There's the shawl that's going to take forever that I do a few rows on when I've got nothing else, the project that I usually take on car trips, the blanket that I think I've now finished but has hundreds of ends to sew in (and maybe I'll back it?) and I'm then going to start a new pair of wrist warmers, because I do every winter!
Of course my dogs also have part-trained behaviours; ones that I thought it would be great for them to learn, but then only did one or two sessions and never quite finished them.
So - what is this thing that I actually finished without hesitation, repetition or deviation? The answer will likely come as quite a surprise to many, but I shall start at the start.
In September, The Boss (owner of the dog club that I'm a member of) posted that she was wanting to lose weight, and asked if anybody wanted to join her for some self-help and support. Anyone that has seen me recently will know at this point that I very definitely HAVEN'T finished with losing weight! Another member then came up with a plan of setting up a WhatsApp group to provide a platform for that support. At that point, I responded that in a linked vein I was considering trying the Couch To 5K (C25K) program.
The group was duly set up, and the start date agreed as the week of 1st Oct. In preparation, we all downloaded the C25K app - we used the One You version from the NHS/BBC. You can get this for Android or Apple. We chose our 'coaches' - I picked Sarah Millican. This would be the person that would talk us through each of our runs. I already had Map My Walk on my phone, so planned to use this to track my distance, etc.
And we're off! I was originally going to start on 30th Sep so that I could run on Mon, Wed and Fri, but I forgot my running gear! At that point, my 'running gear' was a pair of leggings, a long sleeve t-shirt and a fleece waistcoat (because pockets) Ripley had his harness to which I could attach a bungee lead, and then add his normal lead which could clip around my waist.
Time to share a bit more about the C25K app. It's a nine week plan to get you from nothing to running for 30 minutes, three times a week. You run three times each week, with your coach telling you when to run and when to walk, and throwing in a few extra tips and bits of encouragement here and there. Each run includes a five minute warm up walk at the start, and another five minute cool down walk at the end. So here's how it went for me.
Week One - 60 seconds run, 90 seconds walk repeated seven times plus a final 60 second run. A total of eight minutes running, with longer walks to give some recovery. Ripley never broke out of a trot... Two days later I did it for a second time. I decided to try some map art to take my mind off the running. This lasted for a good few runs, and I'm sharing my 'best' efforts. I completed the third run of week one the following day. All good so far. By no means easy, but I was going to be brave and move straight to week two without repeating week one (I'd considered that at the beginning of the week. Actually, I considered it at the beginning of every week for at least the first three weeks!)
Week Two - 90 second run, two minute walk repeated five times plus a final 90 second run. A total of nine minutes running, again with a longish recovery walk. Turns out 90 seconds is quite a bit longer than 60 seconds when you're running! I showed some real commitment as it was raining, but I still got out there for that first run. I managed to get my second run in before my first appointment that day so that I went in the pool afterwards - that definitely helps! The third run that week was powered by Lemsip and Pop Tarts. I had a cold, but was still very much committed to staying on track.
Week Three - 90 second run, 90 second walk,three minute run, three minute walk, 90 second run, 90 second walk, three minute run. A total of nine minutes running. This feels like a HUGE leap - maybe because we're now talking in minutes rather than seconds, but also we're doubling the length of some of the runs! Three minutes felt like a long time! By this stage there are three of us that are regularly running and posting updates. One person is one run behind me, and The Boss has restarted at week one.
Week Four - Three minute run, 90 second walk, five minute run, two and a half minute walk, three minute run, 90 second walk, five minute run. A total of sixteen minutes running. The hardest thing this week was the short recovery walks between two relatively lengthy runs! The first run of week four was the last time I did any map art - a few runs later we switched from running around the now quite soggy rugby pitch to sticking to the riverside path. I've also got myself some actual running leggings - might as well look the part!
Week Five - well Sarah Millican had a little surprise for me on the first run of week five! This week each run would be different. I hadn't been expecting that, as I always just looked at the first run of the week. So run one was run five minutes, walk three minutes, run five minutes, walk three minutes, run five minutes. Having done a couple of five minutes in week four I wasn't too daunted and three minutes felt like a lengthy recovery time! Needing to do consecutive days, I checked the app when I got back and decided to do Mon, Tue and Thu rather than Mon, Wed and Thu. Run two was eight minutes running, five minutes walking and another eight minutes running. I got through it, and after a day's rest I headed out for the final run of week five - running for twenty minutes... Rather annoyingly, the app turned off somewhere between ten and fifteen minutes! Thankfully, I had my Map My Walk tracking me, so I knew roughly when I'd run the twenty minutes.
At this point, I managed to attain a proper canicross running belt as the lead around my waist option was getting annoying!
Week Six - Again, three different runs this week. The first one was a now relatively easy run five minutes, walk for three minutes, run for eight minutes, walk for three minutes and run for five minutes. No drama there, having run for twenty minutes the previous week. Run two was two lots of ten minutes with a three minute walk in between. The final run of the week is a full 25 minutes; no more rest breaks from here on in, with every run being at least 25 minutes. At the end of week six Sarah Millican declared that I could now call myself a runner!
Week Seven - three runs of 25 minutes each. At this point I decided to start running at the same point each time, run until the halfway bell and then double back. I'm going to see how much further I can get each time. By the time I do the second run of the week, I start thinking about if I could have kept going and feel that I probably could - a good sign! I'm regularly breaking the two mile mark, but that does include the warm up and cool down walks.
Week Eight - nearing the end! This week, it's three 28 minute runs. I'm confident that I can do this having run 25 minutes three times the previous week. A little trouble with the app, but having had this happen before I'm getting a bit paranoid and checking at key points! By the end of week eight I'm actually excited for the final week; I know the extra two minutes won't be a problem, and I'm proud of what I've achieved.
Week Nine - this is it! The past couple of months have been building up to this. I forgot to bring my running leggings in to work, but not wanting to make excuses I put on some swim leggings and headed out. For the first time, I ran for 30 whole minutes. Wow! Two runs left, and I know they will be on consecutive days, but I also know I can do it. Run two this week was tough for some reason, but I pushed on through.
Who turned the taps on? Turns out the final run is going to be a wet one! Somehow, running in the rain isn't as bad as walking in the rain. I only bloomin' made it! So not quite 5K, but I have run for 30 minutes three times this week.
To round up - if I can do this, pretty much anyone can. I'm built for comfort, not speed, but following this program works! I'm going to keep running two or three times a week - my next goal is to reach the 5K. If doing it in 30 minutes proves to be beyond my capabilities, then I'll work to increase how long I run for.
Ripley still hasn't broken out of a trot...