First park run

When I started this running lark in January I had no ambition to run real distances.  I didn't want to run a marathon but I did think I would like to run 5k, maybe, if I could.    Going from being unable to run at all to running for thirty minutes, using the wonderful Couch to 5k app, was amazing.  I never thought I could run for thirty minutes without stopping.  In the early weeks I was daunted by the idea of running for five minutes!  But I did it and a few weeks ago I found I was able to keep going.  I was astonished.  I was delighted.

But I am slow, the original snail runner.  When I completed Couch to 5k a few weeks ago I could indeed run for thirty minutes (yay!) but I was running just over 3k in that time.  I have got up to about 3.7k  but I had never run for 5k (actually I think I might have once, when I was about twenty nine, so around thirty five years ago) when I arrived at Bodelwyddan Castle this morning to do my first park run.  To be honest last week should have been my first park run but I bottled it.  I just didn't think I could do it.  But this week, with Ian along too and encouraged by my running daughter to take the view that I could walk if I liked, lots of people do, I got up at 7 o' clock, put on my running gear and had half a banana for my breakfast.  I had suggested last night to Ian that we should just drink a bottle of wine that evening and have a long lie in the following morning but fortunately he knows me well enough to know that I didn't really mean it, by the smallest of margins.

We were a bit early.  It was bright but cold.  I just wanted to get on with it.  Volunteer marshalls were all over the place, welcoming and encouraging.  It was clear that there were lots of people there for whom the run was a regular thing but quite a number of first timers too.  The run was two laps of the course.  There were over a hundred people of all ages and sizes - young and fit, slim, not so slim, children running with parents.  I couldn't see many women my age.  Clearly this is not a sensible thing to do.

We started and runners streamed past me.  For the first few minutes I simply felt like a fool.  More and more people came past.  There was no way I could go any faster so I just let the stream whirl by.  What on earth was I doing there?  Then the crowd thinned but a long grassy hill opened up in front of me.   I tried not to look at it.   It was better now that I wasn't being overtaken by nine year olds.  I knew the only way I would possibly get up the hill was by running even more slowly so doggedly I edged my way up.  It was hard.  I had not found my breath or my legs but now I know it always takes ten minutes or so to find my stride.  I chugged on.  It got better.

By the time I was half way round the first lap I had moved from thinking I would stop after one circuit of the course to being pretty sure I could complete it all if I walked some of the second lap.  As my breathing settled I focussed on listening to the birds, looking at the trees, feeling my legs and lungs working.   I heard the swift even sound of a runner coming up fast behind me and realised that the quickest of the runners were lapping me.  For some reason this seemed very funny.  The last stretch of the first lap was a long grassy slope down towards the castle.  That felt actually enjoyable.  I would go on.  I could always walk some of it.

So in front of me the grassy hill rose up again.  This time round I knew there were two hilly stretches: this one and a shorter one on a metalled track about half way round the circuit.  I thought how wonderful it would be if I did manage to run the whole 5k and that this was too early to walk.  Maybe I could keep running if I went slowly enough.  I pushed on.  I was passed by someone who was walking the hill and I knew there were not many people behind me but I didn't really care by that stage.  I had fallen into my usual mindset when I run by myself of caring only how I felt.  If I got to the top of this hill without stopping I knew the next part of the run was flat and rather lovely, running through the trees.

Listen to the birds.  Feel the ground beneath your feet.

I was tired now.  I thought I would have to walk when I came to the next hill but when I got to the bottom of it I knew this was the last quarter of the circuit.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could run it all.  I decided I would run the hill for the length of time it took me to count to one hundred.  When I got to a hundred I could see the top where the track bent to the left, not too far away.  I kept on.  A marshall shouted encouragement.  The grassy downhill slope opened up in the front of me and the castle spread in the cold sunlight.  I could do it.  I could do it.

At the very end the track rose gently but there were the marshalls and the Finish sign and beyond Ian waiting for me.

It took me 46 minutes which is a long slow time for 5k but I did it, I ran it all.  I was 128th out of 136 runners so there weren't many people behind me but I wasn't last and even if I had been I wouldn't honestly have cared!  I was just so amazed and delighted to have run 5k, without walking, without stopping.  Who would have ever believed it.  I was even second in my age group I found, although looking at the statistics there were only four of us, but what the hell, we were all out there doing something for our health, pushing ourselves, looking after ourselves.

I was on such a high afterwards.  Thank you to Ian and to Emma for encouraging  me.  Thanks to all the marshalls for giving their time and encouragement so freely.

Gosh it was hard.

I think I will do it again.


  1. Yes! Well done you’re a real runner now. Sounds like a lovely course. B x

    1. It is a really lovely course Barbara. I still feel I am too slow to be called a runner but I suppose I must be! thanks for all your encouragement. I am hooked now I think!

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  2. Well done Elizabeth. Be proud👍 and you definitely deserve a glass or two tonight.

    1. Just finishing a very nice Gin and Tonic Jane!!

  3. Congratulations on completing your first park run.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while but this is the first time I’ve commented. I’ve read your Couch to 5K posts with interest and they have inspired me to do something similar, although joint problems mean that for me it will be walking with the aim of eventually joining the local rambler walks. Thanks for inspiring me x

    1. Oh that is wonderful to hear Eileen. I am so glad. I really have become an enthusiast for getting up and moving! We lead such sedentary lives these days, even in comparison with our mothers. My mother walked a lot every day. She never learnt to drive. Now it is so easy to spend such a lot of time sitting and that is not what we were designed to do. Enjoy your walks. Joining a rambling club sounds great!

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you ! Find it even harder this morning to believe that I did it!

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    Love your two concluding sentences.

  6. What a great achievement. You're an inspiration. Well done

    1. Thank you. I'll take being an inspiration in the "if I can do it , anyone can" sort of way!

  7. This is marvellous! Huge congratulations. Only four of you in your age group just shows how brilliant you are.

    1. Oh thank you! I'm still not quite believing I did it!

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Just catching up -- belated Congratulations!

  10. Well done! Really impressed. I can't even jog as my feet and ankles keep hurting even when walking - don't know why.

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