The first session with my new running group took place last Thursday.
It was a fantastic turnout with runners of all ages and abilities turning up to support me as I train to become a coach in running fitness.
I’d planned it in advance. I’d detailed what I would say and what I would do. I’d filled in the relevant UK Athletics coaching documents. I’d bought a PE whistle. I’d checked out the ability of each athlete and planned a session accordingly. Everything was planned to perfection. Of course, it all went out the window when I was faced with 15 runners eager to get on with it.
Coaching is a tough job. Everyone has their own style and running technique. Everyone runs at different speeds. At the front I’d got sub 18-minute 5k runners. At the back I had 30-minute 5k runners. I tried to support everyone, running from the back to the front and front to the back in an attempt to be the most supportive coach that ever existed. I blew my whistle and shouted encouragement.
I hope the runners enjoyed it. They seemed to, but it’s really hard to tell when people are running. There was a lot of huffing and puffing. Some turned red. Others went white. Someone said they might have a heart attack. Thankfully, no-one did.
I’m pleased to say that they all survived.
Everyone worked really hard. In fact, I was really impressed at just how hard they worked and how determined they are to improve. This is a good thing really as I’ve called my group the Improvers Group. We are all on a mission to improve. Let’s see what week two brings.
Alastair Campbell was part of a discussion about Lance Armstrong, the disgraced hero. I was driving home from a sports massage at the time. After a few tough training sessions I needed Jude, my massage therapist, to put me back together again. She did just that. I drove home feeling excited about my race at the weekend. It’s going to be a tough race, especially because I’ve only just returned to running after a few weeks of being injured, but I felt ready for it in both body and mind. I felt in a positive mind-set.
The discussion on BBC Radio 2 interested me because it focused not just on Lance Armstrong, but on the mind-set of athletes. Alastair Campbell’s new book, Winners: And How They Succeed looks at what it takes to win. This is something that has always fascinated me. For the top athletes, sports psychology is just as important as the training. A positive and healthy mind-set can really make a difference to how you perform.
As readers of my blog know, I am in no way an elite athlete, but I do like to compete at local club level. I like to compete against friends I have made from other clubs, and I like to beat the times and targets that I have set myself. For me, winning a box of Miniature Heroes is akin to winning Olympic gold.
More often than not, I don’t win anything. But when someone beats me in a race, I know that I will have given it everything. They were just stronger and fitter and better on the day. It’s quite a healthy way to think. I will, however, train harder so that next time I will, hopefully, be stronger and fitter and better on the day.
Whether you’re elite or a beginner, I really believe that mind-set is important. And it’s not just in running. A positive mind-set is important in every part of life.
Campbell’s book interests me. It’s fair to say that I share his fascination about what it takes to win – not least because I would like to win more boxes of Miniature Heroes. In fact, it has interested me so much that I have ordered a copy. Look out for my review. In the meantime have a listen to the interview.
The first weekend in June is always important for my running club, Kingstone Runners. It’s the weekend we take part in a 73-mile relay race around the Barnsley boundary.
And they’re off! Chris is there somewhere.
It’s a fantastic event with 10 stages varying in distance from four to 11.5 miles. The race starts and finishes at Cannon Hall, an 18th Century stately home, and takes in some spectacular scenery along the way.
This year Kingstone had four teams taking part. Our A-team won the mixed-team event for the third year while our B team came third. Our Nifty at Fifty team of veteran 50 runners came second in their category, only 40 seconds behind the winners.
Dan Jarvis presenting us with the mixed-team trophy
With Chris at the end of leg one
But it’s not just about the winning (or losing), the Barnsley Boundary is a fantastic event with a real sense of camaraderie. It was the third year I’ve taken part and I absolutely love it.
We were up early for Chris to run the first leg. He broke the course record for leg one, but lost out to a twenty-something from Kimberworth Striders who’d been up partying into the early hours. ‘If that’s what it takes to win,’ Chris said. ‘I’ll be out every night from now on.’
After that we watched the runners on leg two before driving to the start of my leg in Brampton. It was my first race after injury and I was nervous, very nervous. I didn’t want my knee to explode. I wanted to make it to the finish in one piece. I didn’t want to let my team down.
I set off cautiously. I didn’t want to get carried away on the two-mile canal run only to lose my strength for the last three miles, which are all uphill. Unfortunately, I lost my strength anyway so it probably wouldn’t have made much difference if I’d set off like a rocket. A chap from Kimberworth caught me as we started climbing. ‘Well done,’ I said as he went past, thinking I’d go with him and try to annihilate him in the latter stages. I thought wrong. He started pulling away. My legs were going. I felt dreadful. I wondered what on earth I was doing. I decided I was never, ever, ever going to race again. I was going to withdraw from my next two races. That was it. I was done.
I plodded on. My legs were getting heavier and heavier. I got slower and slower.
This is not the bad photo. Although it’s bad enough. The really bad pic is locked away – never to be seen again!
And then came the hilly finish. It’s not just a slight incline but a half-mile beast of a hill. I ran through the last gate knowing what was coming. It was going to hurt. When I turned the corner I knew everyone would be standing at the top of the hill watching as the runners struggled to make it to the summit. By that time I was on my knees but I wanted to at least look the part. I took a deep breath. I straightened myself up. I turned the corner. And I ran.
I ran like my life depended on it. I put in so much effort that when I made it to the top, I looked like I’d had a stroke. I know that because my friend took a photo.
‘I’ve got a bad photo of you,’ he said. ‘We’ll have to delete it.’
He didn’t. He showed lots of people and then sent it to me. I showed it to my mum hoping she would feel proud of how hard I work at being an average runner.
Much hilarity followed. ‘It doesn’t even look like you,’ she said. ‘You look like an old woman. And what’s happened to your arm?’
Thankfully, other friends took photos that turned out okay (ish). There’s one where I’m scoffing an energy gel before the race and one where my head is bent to one side, but apart from that they’re ok.
Despite the heavy legs and dodgy photos, it was a brilliant day. The best thing about it is driving to the start and finish of each leg to see our teammates come in. We always take sandwiches and go on a road trip. I love it.
We’ve just returned from a holiday in Northumberland. We stay in the village of Craster, which overlooks Dunstanburgh castle. The scenery is spectacular. It really is a fantastic place to unwind.
One of the best things about the holiday is running along the coastal path to the castle. We go early. I always enjoy the peace that running in the morning brings. There’s always a calmness to the world. In Craster, running in the morning is even better. With the castle in the distance, the sea to the right, and countryside to the left, it really is the most beautiful place.
I love listening to the waves crashing onto the shore. I love the refreshing breeze. It’s one of my favourite places to run. And after a holiday in Craster I always feel energised.