Why I started running…and how I keep motivated


For some very stupid reason quite unbeknownst to myself, when a couple of my friends suggested doing something that I really didn’t want to do, I said yes.

That something was the Spartan Beast.

For the uninitiated, this is what’s known as an OCR, or an obstacle course race. A trail run with natural obstacles in the form of lakes, hills, and variable terrain, and manmade obstacles including monkey bars, log carries, and spear throws. It’s a fairly new sport which is becoming increasingly fashionable and well known (the most infamous being ‘Tough Mudder’-a contentious race that seems to divide opinion within the vibrant and growing OCR community).

A couple of years ago, after my sister had been bitten by the OCR bug, myself and a couple of friends signed up to run the ‘sprint’-a mere 5k plus (that ended up being closer to 8k) that took us a couple of hours. We entered a later (and therefore slower) heat and took it easy. It was a fairly enjoyable way to pass an afternoon. The next year, we decided to step up to the ‘super’-a 15k plus race (clocking in at an estimated 17k-see where this is going?). With tonnes of water to wade through, loads more obstacles, and longer trails, this took us over four hours, and was less enjoyable. We hit some pretty bad times during that race. Underprepared and  unfit, I vowed never again to take part in something so genuinely, and thoroughly, unenjoyable.

When this year rolled around and the same friends suggested taking on the ‘beast’ (advertised at 21k, so who knows how long it actually will be…). I brought out my best list of excuses, but nothing stuck, so I coughed up the exorbitant entry fee (swelling the coffers of mega corporation Reebok at the same time) and made plans to train sometime in the future.

Well time inexorably stravaged on, as is its wont, and I found myself starting to panic about my non-existent fitness levels. I had signed on to run the equivalent of a half marathon (up and down hills, no less) with the added complications of substantial lake swims, obstacles, or even worse,penalty burpees-all thrown in for good measure.

With about four months to go until the race on October 2, I started a popular running programme called Couch to 5k. It’s a genuinely excellent series of podcasts that will get you running in next to no time-quite literally from one minute at first, to 5k (or 30 minutes) about nine weeks later.

The first couple of weeks-despite being the ‘easiest’ in terms of the running to walking ratio-were actually the hardest. It was still quite cold, and each outing felt like it took forever with its stop-start tempo. However, once the running periods became longer, with fewer walking interviews, it quickly became easier and more fun. There is a really excellent and supportive C25k community online, and it’s satisfying to tick each run off the list once it’s done.

Having ‘graduated’ the C25k programme, there is an additional series of podcasts to follow-speed, stamina, and ‘stepping stone’ which builds on the accomplishments of the previous nine weeks. I have been using the ‘speed’ podcast which uses interval training, to try and become a little faster. In addition, I am lucky enough to have a 5k trail run next to where I work, so I spend my lunchtimes jogging. I have yet to beat 29 minutes-but if you are going to tackle a trail, it’s worth bearing in mind it is harder work and slower than road running.



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