I was never a runner. It was as though my whole life my body tried to discourage me from this particular form of sport, whenever I tried it: I was short of breath, tired, and needing to stop and rest after what seemed like just a couple of steps. If I went running with friends, it was worse, as I watched them overtake me effortlessly at a pace that I could never attain, or so I thought.
The reason I am writing this is because some weeks ago, I ran my first 12 kilometres, after nearly a year and a half of training. I think that if someone had told me that one day I would travel to the moon and back, I’d be similarly shocked, but that would still have sounded more plausible than the idea that I would ever run 12 km, mostly because I thought I was biologically unfit for running.
With this in mind, I want to share with you some personal thoughts about how it became possible for me to go from 0 km to 12 km in a year and a half :
- One cannot beat physiology.
After weeks of training, when I still could not run even a short distance, I finally dragged myself to a doctor’s office and had blood tests done. The doctor saw the result and immediately ordered a three-month double-strength iron treatment. It turned out that I had a serious iron deficiency – anaemia, a condition that prevents the body from getting oxygen properly. My performance improved significantly shortly after I completed the treatment.
- I joined a group of beginner runners.
The leader of my running group is the main reason I have just run 12 km. Not only is he a running aficionado, going on ultra trails and marathons, he is also the most devoted coach I could have wished for. He has waited for my group two days a week at 7pm for the past two years and has not missed a single session since he started the class, come rain, frost or thunder. When he goes on holiday, he gets someone to run the class.
Deeply engaged in leading and motivating the group, he is actually personally disappointed if a ‘regular’ does not show up for a session.
- I ran a race – a professionally organised road running event.
That was in autumn 2015 and I walked most of the way. But I loved the atmosphere and I understood why thousands of people were so crazy about road running. The event was one big party – there were tunnels turned into nightclubs with blaring music & DJs, rock bands at each new kilometre and hundreds of happy runners wearing identical colourful T-shirts.
- I started focusing on distance, not on time.
Honestly, I did not care how long it took me to run those first kilometres; the most important thing was that I ran them. I also alternated a lot between running and walking.
I will never forget when I first ran 4 kilometres without stopping – it was as though I had won a major victory.
- To fully enjoy running, I had to lose a little weight.
There is a certain weight above which running simply felt less comfortable for me. I had to change my diet, pay attention to what I ate and reduce the quantities. I did not have to lose a lot, just a couple of kilos, but that certainly made a big difference to my running comfort.
- I ran when I felt like it.
I did not force myself to run, nor did I follow a predefined programme. But I got my body used to hitting the road twice per week. The important thing is to be regular about it; within a couple of months, I started to feel the effects.
So, when the 12th km popped up on my Nike+ Running app recently, I raised my hand in victory and smiled.
I thought of my coach.
But that is not the end of the story.
15 km, here I come!