This morning I went for a 5k run. It’s nothing to brag about; I’ve run that far many times before and for millions of runners far more talented, committed and athletic than myself, that distance is little more than a warm-up. However, this was a really special 5k which is why I’m writing about it: the wwwp5k, an invitation to join in something a bit different with the WordPress community. The challenge is to walk, run, hop, skip, swim (or whatever) a distance of 5k at some point during December as a grand celebration of reaching the 2020 finish line. I’ve never taken part in anything quite like it, but as I’ve been downright lazy all through autumn where running is concerned, it seemed like the proverbial kick up the rear end I needed so I signed up, laced up and went for it.
Regular readers will know that where running is concerned, I tend to blow hot and cold. Actually, on reflection, perhaps lukewarm and cold would be a more accurate description. Despite being married to a keen and very talented runner, I had no interest whatsoever in doing it myself until at 46, my doctor recommended running as the best (albeit also the most difficult and painful) way to fix a herniated spinal disc. I thought the man was completely bonkers but since the alternative was to see a scalpel-wielding orthopaedic surgeon, I decided to give it a go. In the beginning, I couldn’t run for 30 seconds without stopping and the pain was so excrutiating, I cried most of the time. It was awful. I hated it. Every last minute of it. That said, by the time my appointment with the physio came through eight weeks later, I was 95% fixed: good medicine, indeed.
In the intervening eight years, I’ve run many times over distances up to half-marathon (21k / 13.1 miles); I’ve taken part in races in the UK, France and Spain, some for fun, some for charity, some very serious and competitive (not for me, you understand: I just faff about at the back chatting to like-minded folks while the true athletes do their stuff up front); I’ve run up hills and down dales, through towns and cities, beside estuaries, along promenades and seafronts and muddy country lanes, across fields, beside rivers, on beaches; I’ve run in a pink tutu, sweltered in the lightest of vests and shorts, frozen in many layers, wrung water out of sodden trainers; I’ve been escorted to the finish line by a police motorbike in Villaviciosa and was overtaken in the last few metres of the Mayenne 10k by a giant Lego man. I’ve met some incredibly wonderful and inspiring people and I’ve learned a good deal about myself. Yes, it’s certainly been an adventure!
I’m not a natural runner and I still don’t really enjoy it but I persist (on and off) for two reasons:
(1) I think it’s good for me and that is backed up by a fair bit of scientific research. I believe passionately in doing what I can to take responsibility and care of my health and well-being, and running is a fairly simple* way of ticking many boxes. (*By ‘simple’ I mean it’s not complicated; it certainly isn’t easy!).
(2) I always feel better after a run. No matter how reluctant I am about putting on my trainers and getting out there ~ and anyone who has ever experienced a cat or dog stubbornly digging in their claws when they don’t want to be moved will have the right mental image here! ~ I’m always glad I did it afterwards. A favourite mantra for reluctant slowbies like me is that ‘every run is a win’ and it’s that psychological boost as well as the obvious physical benefits that make it all worthwhile (I think).
That said, I have a terrible tendency to ditch the running habit during the autumn months; it’s becoming a bit of a repeating pattern and as we slide into winter where dark days and wet weather present themselves as easy excuses to stay by the fire, I am happy to hibernate and vegetate unless something comes along to spur me back into action. Last summer, I pushed myself uncharacteristically through ten weeks of hard training, determined to finally break the sub-hour barrier for running 10k that has eluded me for years. In the event, at the Ribadesella 10k race in September, I missed it by seven seconds and went into an almighty running sulk until the chance to run in the brilliant Castrillon 8k just before Christmas shook me out of my apathy. I mean, who wouldn’t want to run a tough race in torrential rain and 50mph winds, especially as the 8k is a misnomer and the actual event was a fair bit longer? To be totally honest with you, the main draw for me was the amazing slap-up feast afterwards!
After Castrillon came the Luarca fun run for San Silvestre (New Year’s Eve), a 3k dash round the town under the Christmas lights (at my best race pace ever) and then in February, the La Fresnada ‘Gran Cita de los Runners’ organised by our friend Jose Jorge Fernandez of Asturias SportNature, where I ran a 5k, lumbering in second from last but setting a personal best time. I was on a roll and determined to get that wretched sub-hour 10k business over and done with at a very local race by the sea on 21st March, where the prizes are piles of crabs and Asturian cider! Roger had done it the previous year, so we spent a very happy morning walking the route to help me plan my campaign and enjoyed some fantastic scenery into the bargain.
Ten days before the race, I went out on a training run in torrential rain, willing myself to run each kilometre faster than the previous one; I returned home soaked to the skin and very tired but chuffed with my times . . . only to hear that a State of Alarm had been declared in Spain, the race was cancelled and we were heading into seven weeks of total lockdown. After spending the best part of two months doing all my running in the barn, which was both mind-numbing and knee-numbing exercise, I have to admit I’ve never really found any proper motivation to get back to it regularly; once the initial euphoria of being released back into the fresh air and wide open space was over, I’ve been finding far too many reasons not to bother.
Cue a post on my WordPress reader about the wwwp5k which I totally dismissed at first, as is my wont; however, a persistent little tickle in my hindbrain had me eventually going back to check the details and realising that this was, in every way, a gift. I generally run 5k in around 30 minutes so the chance to get out into the beautiful ~ if scarily steep ~ local countryside again and spend half an hour or so enjoying moving my body in the mild weather to the sound of cow bells and birdsong (they never stop singing here) seemed like a good one to take. When used properly, the internet is a wonderful thing and I love the idea of connecting with the WordPress community in this global, all-inclusive, just-for-fun activity. I get a huge amount of pleasure from writing my blog, even more from reading other people’s and I have to say, whenever I’ve needed technical support, the WP team have been amazing . . . and no, I’m not being paid to write that! Blogging is creative, inspirational, sometimes challenging, always enjoyable and completely enriching so it felt like a real privilege to be able to take part in such a challenge. The only hurdle for me was the request to take a selfie at the end and post it because we don’t have a smartphone and I could hardly run with a chunky camera swinging around my neck. Enter my pet running star and erstwhile long-suffering coach who offered to do the entire route on his bike ~ after his own much-longer-than-5k morning run, of course ~ and take photos at various stages. I ran from home but opted to start the official 5k in the village as it meant finishing on a long sweeping downhill instead of the impossibly steep climb up our lane (yes, I’m a wuss). So, here we go . . .
Wow, even I have to admit that was great! To anyone else planning to do the wwwp5k, best of luck and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. To everyone at WordPress, thank you and maybe see you again next year. Finally, to any other bloggers or their family and friends (including mine, of course ~ you’re all invited to participate, too) who are toying with the idea of having a go . . . there’s still plenty of Decemebr left! 😉 Have fun and happy fives to all!