When I first started running, I was obsessed with wanting to complete a 5k run without stopping. As a new runner, I wasn’t overly fit, I was an ex-smoker and probably couldn’t run for longer than 3 or 4 minutes without feeling like I couldn’t cope with the lack of oxygen! But I kept going and kept turning up.
I had a 5k route, that looped from my front door and back to my front door. I always knew where my finish line was. I ran this loop over and over again. Stopping as frequently as I liked, or more like as frequently as I had to. On this route, I probably knew every single paving slab, every brick in every wall I ran past (or leant up against), every man-hole cover and every single lamppost. All very boring and repetitive. But those lampposts in particular became my markers. My goals. Each run, I wanted to run to just the next lamppost before I stopped. It wasn’t about time in the beginning, but more about having the endurance to get just one lamppost further each time. Finally, after about 4 months of trying, I did it. I ran that route continuously, without stopping. Then my next focus was the 10k. Again I was back at square one. Plenty of stopping whilst I built up my endurance until my first event, which was completed without stopping, and just 8 seconds over my target time (grrrr!).
Then came the half marathon distance. I trained for 20 weeks for my first half marathon. I thought I could do this without stopping, but mentally, it got me at about 12 miles. I had to stop for a walk before finishing ‘strong’ (it was my first half. The photos at the finish look like I was in good shape, but I was done in!).
My second half marathon was the London Landmarks half, and I wanted a sub 2 hour time for this and trained my backside off for it. I knew all I needed to know to get this time, and having started in my wave, I got caught behind everyone and the first mile took me almost 10m 30s to cover it. I was well behind my target time. And, in hindsight, I rather stupidly chased my time! The next 3 miles I ran hard to pull my average pace in to target pace but come mile 11, running along Embankment, I was spent. I put too much in too soon and left myself empty and split the last 2 miles shuffling, running, walking to the finish. My target time disappeared but I still PB’d. The turn for the final km was a welcome sight!
My most recent half, was the Run Gatwick half. Prior to this event, I had some issues with my left leg and had decided that this time, there was no pressure at all to complete it in a certain time. I was just going to run comfortably, enjoy the race and collect my chunky medal at the end. As it turned out, it was my most enjoyable half to date. I completed it in 2:07:00 whilst taking it easy AND it was the only half I’ve completed without stopping.
I then became a little bit obsessed about not wanting to stop whilst I was running. I got it into my head that the run didn’t really count if I stopped or walked. I pushed myself to keep going on every single run. I used to run hard all the time, but only because I didn’t know any better. But then came a commitment to something I always said I’d never do….. Run a marathon! And with that, came a coach for the first time. NewEra Running has introduced me to new ways of running and the benefits they bring. Run slow?! For 12/13/14 miles? What?! Run Park Run at 80% effort. But why? There are benefits to every style of training run. It doesn’t change things over night but continuing to plug away and ‘Trust the Process’, you 100% see results in what you’re doing.
I also joined a running club, Richmond Running Club. And the thing with a running club, is not everyone is capable of running 9 minute miles, but they are a part of the club! We’re all in this together. So sometimes, you don’t run at your pace, you hold back and help and encourage others at their pace. And if you need to stop, then stop! There is absolutely no shame in needing to stop or walk to recover. I’ve done this in a few events I’ve entered, and I used to hate slowing to a walk during a 10k. But this is something I’ve finally started embracing whilst marathon training. I don’t think for one minute that I’ll be able to carry myself for 26.2 miles without stopping or walking. I’d love it if I could, but regardless of how long I take, I will cover those 26.2 miles, something I said I never wanted to do.
So, I’m a runner, but can I stop whilst I’m training or running in an event? Absolutely! Do what you need to do. Just do you. There will always be someone who will try and encourage you along, but if stopping for 30s in every 9 minutes of running means you hit your goals, then do it! You still covered the distance yourself, in the time you set, and no one can take that away from you. It 100% doesn’t warrant your run as void, and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, smack them in the nose with the medal you’ve just earned! (or maybe don’t, but you know what I mean!).