So I decided to sign up for the Wellington Round The Bays half marathon in February. I’ve even got my own bib number. At 7.59am on Sunday 26th February I’ll be milling around with thousands of other people in Frank Kitts park, admiring the beautiful weather and feeling eager to get started. A minute later I’ll be off on my 21 kilometre journey round the Wellington waterfront, round Evans Bay, Shelly Bay, to Scorching Bay, and then back to Kilbirnie Park, where I’ll be cheered over the finishing line by hoardes of my adoring fans. I have goosebumps already.
There is just the small matter of fitness, and being physically capable of running all that way. I’m no gym bunny and my training for this event pretty much started from scratch. Well, not totally from scratch. I’m not exactly Biggest Loser material (although I would LOVE to have Bob cheering/shouting me on). I am reasonably healthy, have plenty of energy, and have stayed slim into my late thirties. No medical issues. But I definitely couldn’t go out there and run 21km right now! I’ve spent far too much time sitting around in the last few years. Training also has to fit around shift work (including night shifts) and looking after two small children, which means I only ever have small windows of opportunity for training sessions. I know I can do it though. And why not?
One question I should probably answer is, why do I want to do this? The answer is simple. I want to get fit and be more active, and the Round The Bays run is a tangible target I have set myself on the way to achieving this aim. A few small things I’ve noticed over the last year have spurred this desire: Trouser waistbands feeling tighter, a leaden flabby feeling around the midriff, getting out of breath when running around with the kids, and a belly button which seems deeper and sweatier than it used to be. Basically a fear of middle age setting in before it should. When I first moved to New Zealand from England in 2004 one of the things I hoped was that the general sporty/outdoorsy culture here would rub off on me a bit. I guess it’s just taken 7 years for that to happen! Besides, as a guy, if you’re not interested in some sort of sport or outdoor activity then you pretty much don’t exist here in New Zealand. So as well as getting fit and trying to stave off middle age, in a small way it’s part of my slow integration into kiwi life.
So, just under 15 weeks to go until the big day! What’s the story so far? Well about 6 weeks ago I hired a treadmill, got it installed in the garage, and started training on it. The reason I started on the treadmill was because I knew I was unfit and felt too embarrassed to go out running in public. I wanted to build up a certain level of fitness before I went out in daylight and I think this was a good approach. I decided to alternate training days and rest days so my body would have a chance to recover. I started off with fast walks, was soon doing a ten minute run, and two weeks ago I was easily running 6km on the treadmill (in about 40 minutes). By “easily” I mean I wasn’t especially out of breath by the end of it. It wasn’t a big challenge, although I’ve noticed that my shins have been sore. The furthest I’ve run on the treadmill is 7km, and my shins were particularly sore after that. It’s struck me that building up fitness and strengthening the body are two different things. I thought they would go hand in hand but obviously it’s not that simple.
(Image courtesy The Simpsons/Fox Network)
Last Friday (11/11/11) was my first run out in the open and I did about 4km without stopping on the Wellington waterfront, had a break, then ran about 1km back to the car. Not surprisingly it was a lot more effort than treadmill running, and again my shins were sore, but I felt like I got my breath back pretty quickly afterwards. So I’ve reached my first milestone already: Get fit enough to run in public without making a fool of myself! Saturday was a rest day, then I went out again on Sunday and did a 5km loop around Johnsonville, Newlands and Paparangi. I think the loop run is going to become one of my standard runs in future, as it’s a very convenient course and is “relatively” flat. Okay so there are no flat runs more than about 500 metres in the northern suburbs, but it’s easier than a lot of possible routes! I didn’t manage to run all the way round the loop and walked about a third of it, and it took about 40 minutes. My shins ached and it was quite a bit of effort to be honest, but I made it and it was my first taste of a 5km run. Despite the aches and tiredness 5km didn’t seem all that far. By Christmas I’ll have nailed that run.
My biggest concern at the moment is conditioning my legs and particularly dealing with the shin pain. From what I understand there’s a slim muscle that runs down the front of the lower leg that connects the knee to the top of the foot. This muscle and the tendons which attach it to the bone are prone to tears and inflammation, especially for beginners and especially when increasing workload too quickly. I didn’t think I’d gone too hard out, but obviously I’ve overdone it somewhat. I wouldn’t call it a serious pain and it goes away after the rest day I take between runs, but it comes back again with the next run. My right leg is the worst. I’ve noticed my right foot rolls from right to left when it hits the ground, so I wonder if some new running shoes or insoles might help. Anyway I’ve decided on the following course of action for the next week (today is Monday): swimming instead of running on Tuesday, swimming again on Thursday, a 4km flat run on the waterfront on Friday morning, and if all is well then another crack at the 5km loop run next Sunday morning. In general I think I need to put more emphasis on swimming (my choice of cross-training) and do shorter runs over the next couple of weeks, so I can improve my fitness but take more time to build up leg strength.
So what’s my next milestone? Sunday 4th December will mark exactly 12 weeks to go, and by then I’d like to be running 5km on the flat without stopping. That’s just under three weeks from now. A slow run is fine. Some slight aches and pains is fine. A bit of breathlessness is fine. I just need 5km under my belt before going any further. I have the Round The Bays half marathon in my sights and I’m going to finish it, no doubt about it!
This is going to be a regular training blog about my preparation for the run in February, and hopefully it’ll stay interesting, fun and not too technical. If you have any thoughts or comments to offer I would love to hear it! Being a total novice I welcome your advice. For instance, I’m not sure what sort of diet, if any, I should stick to. Can I still eat fishfingers? And I will especially love any encouragement you have to offer…
Finally – Music.. I almost always listen to music while I’m running. I’ve found it makes a big difference, just keeping me going, keeping my mind off feeling tired, lifting my mood. When I started on the treadmill 6 weeks ago it had to be fast and uplifting techno – I couldn’t handle listening to deep house, I needed something that could give me an energy boost! I know I’ve got fitter since then because I can happily listen to slower, deeper music without flagging. This week I thought I’d share the mix I listened to a lot when I started. It’s an energetic techno mix – Good, uplifting Detroit style techno and the like. I actually recorded it over a year ago for my partner, as she wanted a techno mix to work out to. I don’t have a tracklist, but there’s music by Alexander Kowalski, Funk D’Void, Underground Resistance, Takaaki Itoh, Agoria, Umek and Carl Falk. Hope it gets you moving :)
Liz Techno Mix
Mixed by Olaf Quintessa 19th Jul 2010
59 mins. 320kbps MP3 (136MB)