You might recall my post about completing my first ever race here in Singapore last year – infact, it’s almost exactly a year ago that a dear friend encouraged me to run with her. You can read it here. It was the start of a new journey into the world of running. Now, I’m not a natural athlete by any account. Yes I spent a lot of my childhood swimming and that probably helped me keep a fairly good level of fitness into my early twenties but life, children, work all sort of got in the way of finding time for me to regularly exercise. I know I’m not alone, having a lack of time or perceived time is the number one complaint amongst my girlfriends.
Running is something I watched on the television. The London Marathon always amazed me and I was lucky enough to attend the London Olympics and witness first hand the sensational Hussein Bolt in the men’s 100 metres – very awe inspiring. But it never really fell on my radar as something to think about doing before. New is scary, new is being in that place where you’re on the first day of your new job and you know nothing about how things work, where the stationery’s kept, how to transfer phone calls and it all feels well a bit overwhelming. So running (let’s be honest it was more of a shuffle at first) was a completely blank new book. I should add at this point that my husband is an ex marathon runner from major events across the globe, London, Tokyo, Boston…no pressure then?! The race is called The Green Corridor and it’s a global movement with races around the world – The Green Corridor Run in Singapore is 10.5km in distance and follows the trail of the former KTM rail line.
Here are my top 3 things that no-one tells you before you start training for a race:
- You will ache in places you didn’t know you had
- How much you sweat – no seriously, I had no idea where it was all coming from on my first proper run I looked like a drowned rat after only 5km
- You will have days where you just hate the very idea of putting on your running shoes
So last November time I downloaded an app onto my phone called Map my Run – it’s free and seemed to do the basics of recording times, routes and logging these so you could keep track of progress. I committed to giving myself 3 nights a week to run with the addition of one longer run at the weekend. This might not sound a lot but I was starting from a low entry level or only one or two sessions a week and one was normally biking with a friend.
The weeks rolled by and each run became slightly easier. I started putting interval training sprints in some sessions to build up my speed and tried wherever possible to keep to the plan. Yes some weeks it wasn’t so many but this lovely little app kept sending me updates showing me what I’d done each week and it was a great way to see if I was slipping back in frequency of sessions. I found running at night after work was the best time. It was cooler, there were still a lot of people around and it helped clear my head of the day’s events ready for a good nights rest. Infact, I look forward to plugging in my earphones and putting on my shoes, it’s become somewhat of a ritual. I know my playlist and can see how far I’ve progressed by the song that’s playing. Foo Fighters means I’m 2km in, Paramore kicks in at 3.5km, Pharrell Williams is carefully placed around the 5km marker and so on. For me, running without music is tough – I get distracted and find that I start concentrating on how far there is to go instead of just enjoying myself. I’ll get to the ultimate running playlist later but for now back to the training prep.
Something wonderful started to happen one month in. I was running further, feeling great but noticing the benefits of regular exercise. My skin was glowing, I felt overall a lot happier, clothes were no longer fitting as my little love handles were melting away and the overall comment from friends and family was just one of positive re-enforcement with “you look great”. Infact, I felt great and I still do. I’ve taken the time out of what is a very busy life to look after me. No guilt, no worrying about how long I’ve been out running, just prioritising myself which I honestly haven’t ever in my adult life before. I was hooked.
The big potential hurdle for me was the approach of Christmas. The season of over indulgence, too many drinks and parties and temptation to eat the wrong food all around you. But I had already built up a nice little weekly routine with 2 shorter training runs through the week and one longer run at the weekend and I was not going to be parted from my new regime. So with some smugness I ate and drank my way through the season whilst still running and for once did not feel those dreaded pounds hitting me in early January. So I welcomed the New Year with a commitment to carry on the good work and enter another race.
But it’s not all great, oh no. To date, I’ve managed to break both big toe nails badly and boy does that hurt. Suffered a few blisters whilst experimenting with finding the right running socks – believe me it’s a brave new world standing in sports stores reading carefully the backs of labels in as much detail as I do with food items! But having the right gear does seriously impact how you run and whether you run happy or get injuries or feel pain. The later is never really a good sign. There are the post running sore thighs and calves to get through and getting used to drinking a lot more water, something I’ve always been a bit slack about.
January passed and as we entered February it was another milestone. A month to the start of the race. I carried on my weekly routine and tried to build up the speed training and intervals whilst still aiming for the longer distance run at the weekend where time allows it. The week before the race I took the husband with me and we did a trial run along part of the route to check out the terrain. I didn’t fancy going alone, especially knowing the number of snake sightings along the race route as we would be running along the old train line from Singapore to Malaysia. Sure enough, he spotted one on this run which slithered quickly back off the path as he was approaching!
So a glorious blue sky greeted me at the starting point for the race – the old Tanjong Pajar railway station. It’s platforms providing much needed shade as at 9am it was already steadily climbing up to 32 degrees and we hadn’t even started running. Great atmosphere as people from all ages and cultures were preparing for the start. We were in the second wave behind the first group so wouldn’t be setting off till 9:20 but the warm up tunes were pumping out of the PA system and it felt great to be with all these strangers sharing the run together. We milled around and stopped to take some photo’s for other runners and chatted to one another till it was time to line up. I set up the app and waited for the start and we were off.
Running through gorgeous lush green forest along the tracks and paths was a true adventure. Water stations were set up at 3km, 5km and 7.5km so I knew we would be able to get plenty of water as we ran but I had not really taken into account the effect of running in such hot conditions. Previous races had started a lot earlier normally not long after sunrise and 3km in I was already struggling with the heat. We kept on and I threw a whole cup of water on my head and neck at the water station and we carried onwards. Greg was running beside me and keeping an eye on me, pacing myself is still something I need to get to grips with as I have a tendancy to set off too fast and then can’t sustain that speed for longer distances. The grass passed under my feet and we had reached a nice shady part of the course which involved running underneath a few roads – the shade was a welcome relief. This mid section also started to separate groups of runners so there was a little more space around us. The slight breeze was thankfully coming straight at our faces and in between the sunshine and shade of the trees the combination helped get me through to the next water station. By now, my legs were holding up brilliantly after a few niggles with my knees (running on concrete is not great for that) but my heat coping abilities had taken a turn for the worst so after taking on more water I was forced to slow to a fast walk for part of the next section till I could summon up the speed to run again. From the 7.5km to the finish was the best part of the race for me. We could hear the music in the distance from the end of the race and the volunteers marshalling along the track where high fiving and shouting “c’mon guys you’re almost there” and “keep it up you’re amazing”. These positive words and smiles really helped. We got to the last 1km and were on the homeward stretch with the end in sight. My legs were on auto, we crossed the line hand in hand and I felt euphoric. For someone who only came to running less than a year ago this was a brilliant feeling. I should say at this point that my lovely husband was my motivational coach all the way through the emotional ups and downs of the race and kept it together when I was really struggling till the end. He trotted off to get me a banana and some sports drink whilst I stretched out on the grass a big sweaty mess! Funnily no photo’s of this bit ;-).
I mentioned earlier about music and how important it is for me when running. If you are stuck for inspiration, then try searching on Spotify for playlists uploaded by users. Hit shuffle play and off you go. There are thousands to chose from and you can then select your favourites and save them to create your own playlists. I’d love to hear what your inspirational running tracks are so please leave a comment here. Love finding new artists.
So what have I learnt from all this? That anything is possible and from not being able to run for 10minutes before stopping to running for 1hr 25mins and not collapsing, it’s been a journey of self discovery and enlightenment as I’ve found a new passion which clears my head and keeps me healthy. Biggest investment is time other than that a pair of trainers is all that’s between you and the open road.
Im making my word of the week: Achievement in so many areas.
Remember, adventure is out there!