Today was parkrun day, so an easy choice for RED January. I completed days 17 and 18 with interval running on the 17th and a swim/water Pilates on the 18th. Nothing very exciting, but I got it done.
Today was expected to be cold, with some possible light rain. When I arrived at Minehead, the rain had passed, there was no discernible wind, and there was even some blue showing through the breaks in the cloud. But it was, indeed, cold.
As I began to run, I had the usual doubts; why am I doing this? why would anyone choose to do this? what am I trying to prove? what difference would it make if I just stopped? why not just walk? Yes, why not just walk, I asked myself. A 5K walk is still good exercise – nothing wrong with that. But I kept on going.
These doubts and questions manifest far more strongly at parkrun than when I run alone. I suspect that this has something to do with feeling under more pressure – not that parkrun is particularly pressurised. Minehead parkrun is actually extremely friendly and supportive. But there are other people there, and perhaps that’s what makes the difference.
After a while, as I passed the Jubilee Clock for the second time, I realised that I’d been running for 15 minutes. I remembered how hard it was to run for one minute when I first began this journey. And when I moved on to running three, or five, or eight minutes, each increase in time felt almost impossible. Now, the first minutes slip by quickly – even with the negative voice in my head. I hardly notice them at all. They are easy.
But fifteen minutes of running still feels hard, as does half an hour, as does 5K. So, at this point, I developed a burning question; does running 5K ever become easy in the way that running for a few minutes has become easy? I recently signed up, and began training, for a 10K race. I did this hoping that, if I can run 10K, then 5K will become easier. Is this true? Or is it nonsense?
I look at the many faster racers whizzing past me. They look like they are working really hard, pushing themselves to new limits, always reaching for the next personal best. Perhaps it never gets easy, because we keep wanting more from ourselves. Two weeks ago I couldn’t run the full 5K. last week I could, but my time was slower. This week I really want a new PB.
I plod on, driving my leaden legs forward. I tell myself that I can do this. I know I can. This week I ran 5.5K, so there is no reason to struggle with the (much flatter) 5K course today. I begin to understand; my body knows what to do – I have built my fitness sufficiently to cope with this. But my mind is messing with me, messing with my body.
As I run towards the finish, I have a final push. Determination takes over from fatigue. I get that new PB. Now I am all smiles – negativity forgotten. I am elated.
Why do I do this? So that I can keep getting better.
Why would anyone do this? For the way it makes us feel afterwards.
I warm down with a relaxing walk on the beach. I’ve earned it.
But the question remains: will this ever feel easy?