I remember running my first ever three-mile race like it happened just yesterday. It was about two years ago and I signed up through work. I was extremely unfit, smoked 40 cigarettes a week and drank like a sailor. My first thought was: I’m definitely not ready for this.
Set through the City of London, the capital’s financial hub, all the companies were invited. Thousands of runners, including me and my colleagues, were scheduled to dance through the historical streets of London.
I’d never run three miles before, nor had I raced the distance, but I knew I wanted to do well. I gave up the cigarettes, limited my alcohol consumption and bought myself a new pair of trainers. I can’t deny I was excited. But race day was looming and I had to put in the work. I trained a few days a week and took up yoga to de-stress. It wasn’t bad after all.
At this point, I wasn’t at that place in my sporting career where I’d run to the sound of my breath, so I created a Justin Bieber (guilty pleasure!) playlist with the motive that I would run faster to the finish in order to switch it off (lie). And in some ways, it worked but the only way I could finish was to endure the pain beforehand.
When lactic acid fills your muscles and your back starts to ache, we tend to call this ‘Struggle Street’. This is the point where you need to fight mind over matter and sometimes this isn’t always easy, especially when you’re not used to this kind of pain. I know I had completed three miles in training but race day is so different. You’re powered by adrenaline and nerves and you’re pulled along by other runners. Your competitive streak kicks in.
I finished though, with watery eyes, wobbly legs and stiff muscles even sprinted to the finish after dying on the last mile. To say I was proud of myself would be an understatement. I completed my first ever 5km in 31 minutes and 51 seconds. And you’d think I was too traumatised to ever run again but instead, it planted a seed and that seed grew and grew and grew.
I’ve gone on to run four marathons (Berlin, Manchester, Boston and The Great Wall Marathon), a few half marathons and some 10km races. I would now consider myself an athlete. Except I got injured last year and have found myself being transported back to the day where running three miles terrifies me.
A fellow crewmember once said to me: “You should always be training. You should always be ready to race,” and he was right, except I’ve struggled to get myself back to the point where I am fit enough. However, it is down to 1) ego and 2) confidence. I have let my I’ve-ran-four-marathons-so-I-should-automatically-be-fit ego run awry and consequently, not being able to run another marathon, let alone three miles, has knocked my confidence.
The first three miles of any race is always the hardest because that’s when your body is warming up. Once you are past that threshold, your body goes into autopilot where your legs and arms seem to miraculously carry you through to the finish.
The only lesson I have learned whilst being injured and trying to get back to my ‘peak’ fitness level is not to be so hard on myself. Injury sucks and the subsequent low moods that follow suck too, but with that in mind, it’s important to remember where you started in the first place and understand that you can’t just wake up one day and run a marathon. It takes time and it takes effort.
After almost a year hiatus, getting past the three-mile threshold has seemed unachievable but once I kept trying and started to believe in myself, I felt comfortable. Treat it like a goal you would aim for in life. When you’re feeling a bit beaten down by not being able to run a mile, two miles or five miles, just remember that we’ve all been there. Every athlete has had to start from the very beginning to get to the top again, and there will be times where you feel like you’ve been knock down, but you just have to pick yourself up again, and from that, fly. Bask in the afterglow of achieving a goal, be it big or small, give yourself a little hug and be proud of your awesomeness.
Want to get your ass off the sofa and run 5km? Here are some tips to get you started:
- Running is hard but worth it. At no point is running ever going to be easy. It’s the only way you can test yourself both mentally and physically. Whenever you’ve tried something new, perhaps learnt how to drive or learn a new language, I bet you thought, oh my god this is horrific but I’m not going to give up, right? Running is the same. Keep practising and you’ll see improvements.
- Slow is better than nothing. Don’t try to compare yourself to others. That’s the worst thing you can ever do to yourself because it will eat you up. Run for you and only you. If you want to walk, walk. If you want to sprint, you sprint all the way to the finish. Take each step as gently as possible until you feel you’re ready to step it up a notch.
- It is all about the shoes. It’s best you get shoes that are comfortable and won’t have you screaming in pain at the finish, or worse, covered in blood! Find a nice pair that suits your gait. Go to a local sports shop and ask for your gait analysis and they should be able to tell which trainers are suitable. But when in doubt, go for what feels comfortable above anything else. My ultimate go to is the Adidas UltraBOOST X for an experience like no other – you’ll be running on clouds – and I’m not kidding.
- Find gear to motivate. This is my favourite part. I probably wouldn’t run if I wasn’t able to look shit hot in my running gear. Find a warrior outfit that’ll make you feel cool, sexy and fab whilst training. There is nothing better than catching your reflection in a mirror and think, fuck, I look hot. Find something that shows you off, you’ll feel better for it. You’re a bad ass remember. FLEX! Look to Ciele Athletics for lightweight, breathable, brightly coloured hats to stand out from the crowd. Pair with printed leggings from Adidas by Stella McCartney to step it up a notch.
- Set long term & short term goals. So your goal, first of all, is to complete your first 5km, but what about when you have completed that? What next? Don’t let your shine burn out, keep that fire alight. You’ve surprised yourself once, why not surprise yourself with an even bigger goal? There’s plenty of other things for you to check out. Perhaps, a 10km, a marathon or even a bike ride? Have I planted that seed? Good.
Now, go get it, tiger. Your 5km awaits and I’m right behind you.
Words by Jessica Noah Morgan @jessicalilynoah
Images by Adam Corbett @adamcorbettphoto