Today, I'm welcoming one of my favourite twitterers to my blog, Posh Bird aka Bryony.
Posh describes herself as a "40 year old mum, wife, animal lover, social commentator, world class runner (I can dream!) and all round good egg!".
But even more than that (and she'll be embarrassed I'm saying this), Posh is kind, thoughtful, funny and supportive and when she calls you "pet", it's like receiving the biggest, warmest bear hug! Okay, I may not have actually met her in real life but her sincerity and genuineness (is that even a word?) shines through her tweets. I heartily recommend you follow her on twitter.
Posh Bird writes a blog called Views from the Lounge Window so pop on over and read more of her thoughts once you've read this post.
And now for the main attraction...
I have been given the opportunity of writing a guest post for a 'Hell of a Woman' aka Rhiannon! Seeing as she is undertaking her couch to 5k challenge, I thought what better than to write about my couch to half marathon experience!
This epic journey (well it was epic for me!) took place way back in 1997, when I was a mere 26 year old new mum to a terrifying toddler. The first Harry Potter book had arrived! I was watching Titanic and dreaming about being in a freezing sea clinging to the divine Leonardo and to be honest, I thought Tony Blair was a hottie! Well compared to John Major, you see my point right?
At the time I was a knackered (no surprise there!) slightly depressed fledgling mum, pretty disorganised wife! and fairly rubbish wannabe runner! To say I lacked motivation and felt overwhelmed with life is a fairly accurate statement. Having my first baby was a total shock to my system and the responsibility felt beyond huge to me, coupled with the fact I was a southerner recently moved oop north! My world had been rocked and I needed to reclaim just a little piece of the old me back again. A piece which didn't involve a confrontational toddler and suffocating family in law. I'm used to them now btw!
I had always enjoyed running, jogging or plodding (well mostly plodding!) and being married to a 'good' runner was bound to rub off a little on me. My hubby and I both joined the local running club and babysitting was organised as a priority twice a week so we could escape the demands of a grisly toddler. We were able to meet our mates, go for a run and sneak in a quick drink before heading home.
These Monday and Wednesday nights became my saviour if I'm honest, and gave me a chance to breathe (even if it was in a gasping fashion as I tried to suck in as much oxygen as possible!). I could be myself again for a while and talk uninterrupted to my hubby. The running was enjoyable for sure as I got to catch up with my friends and gossip. Our rule was that we never ran fast enough to get so out of breath that we couldn't talk! An excellent rule if you and ask me and one which to this day I STILL haven't broken!
We would choose routes of about 5 miles and at a 10-minute mile pace with a warm up and cool down; this gave us an hour's worth of chat. These hours we filled with gossip, advice, laughter, problem solving, parenting solutions, marriage guidance and general bitching sessions if needed!
Our little running group was a diverse mix of ladies of varying ages, backgrounds and life experiences. I knew we could say anything we wanted, were not judged and whilst getting things off my chest I also shifted the stubborn baby weight that was still loitering with the intent of making me look frumpy! I still have a few ounces of it left to this day and my daughter is nearly 17 but I've decided to keep it to remind me of her!
So as the weeks and months went by our chats became longer. I'm not sure how this happened exactly, whether we got fitter so ran more miles, or we just had more and more 'stuff' to chew over; but for whatever reason, I decided along with one other lady, Cath, to run a half marathon.
I knew it was feasible. Others at the club including my hubby had done loads of them. I also knew I only wanted to plod around it and I certainly wasn't bothered about a time at all. It just felt like a challenge I had a pretty good chance of completely and at that point I thought I'd better do it before I got too old!
Oh how young and naive I was back then! My 26 year old self wasn't brimming with confidence or self esteem and as running was gradually improving both for me, I felt empowered by the idea or running 13 miles without stopping. Besides I'd been so very proud of my husband who had run 2 London Marathons and I wanted him to be proud of me too!
Training began in earnest and if I'm honest it was surprisingly easy! I happened to have a great running partner who kept me motivated, was both flexible and reliable when organising runs and she was undoubtedly hilarious. Many a mile slipped by without us even noticing, as we giggled our way along the cold, dark streets of Manchester, looking like 2 neon teletubbies in our high Vis running gear! We didn't need to be plugged into ipods cut off from the world, we simply enjoyed each other's company, nodded hello to other runners or dog walkers and when I ran, my life was simple and relaxed.
OK so it wasn't ALL plain sailing! There were the runs I had to do on my own to keep the miles up, the runs in the pouring rain, the runs when I'd had hardly any sleep and the 8 mile barrier that had to be broken through. I struggled with running even one step more than 8 miles for a couple of weeks, thinking at this point that maybe my body had reached its maximum running distance. Luckily for me however, my daughter was such a bloody pain in the arse one day that I reached for my running shoes as soon as my husband opened the front door and 'ran away' for 10 miles!
With my discman pumping out Oasis, Blur, The Spice Girls, U2, The Verve, No Doubt and Hanson's Mmmbop, I smashed my previous 8 mile brick wall. Well it was either that or throttle my toddler!
I didn't look back from that run and the remaining few miles were added easily over the last few weeks leading up to the race. We even ran a couple of 15 milers just to give us the confidence that we had the distance in our legs. It was the perfect time of year for me too; training over the winter suits me better as I like nothing more than wrapping up on a frosty cold day to run. I even went for a small run on Christmas Day and all that training meant I could eat pretty much what I wanted over the festive season without worrying about gaining extra pounds!
When race day arrived it was freezing wet and miserable and I was both nervous and excited beyond belief! My husband and daughter came with me and cheered me on from a couple of different points along the route. At the time I remember feeling cold and sick and scared about whether I'd be able to run the whole way. I was getting out of breath simply warming up! This didn't feel like the calm, no pressure easygoing training runs! However I soon relaxed into my slow plod of a pace and started to thoroughly enjoy myself.
I ran with Cath until 9 miles but then we separated as she quickened up a little. I will admit this was a tough next mile for me as I adjusted to running by myself, and suddenly tiredness descended and my legs started to fill with lead. It soon passed though as the crowd helped to lift me and before I knew it I was at the 11 mile marker, which cruelly guided us up a hill! From the top however it was a gentle jog down to the finish and I even managed a teeny tiny sprint to the end.
Finishing this is still one of the best feelings I've ever experienced. I was chuffed to bits, had my medal, my goodie bag, my T-shirt and one huge warm bubble bath when I got home! I glowed inside for weeks afterwards with the sense of wellbeing and achievement and even now, years later (and even after I've lost the medal) I still feel proud of going from running a single mile to completing 13!
I still run these days and enter the odd 10k race. I still love running and the buzz it gives me and I know without doubt it helps keep insanity at bay!
So good luck Rhiannon with your challenge. We're all here willing you along your way. You won't regret taking part for one moment, I can vouch for that!