I’ve been feeling a little helpless lately. Once again I’m unemployed, far away from my friends, and stessed about money and major decisions. My one concrete life goal that I hoped to achieve before turning 25, climbing Kilimanjaro, is looking financially out of reach. So, to get my spirits up (or, as the British say, keep my pecker up*), I decided to set myself another smaller (read: more affordable) goal: I’m finally going to run a marathon.
I have my sights set on running the Copenhagen Marathon on 21 May 2017. Actually, I wanted to aim for the London Marathon at the end of April, but it turns out I would have had to register for that one almost as soon as the 2016 one ended. I can’t financially commit to a marathon yet, so consider this my official sign-up for now. You can all use this post to hold me accountable to my goal.
I have a long history with running, but I would say I started jogging regularly about three and a half years ago, when I was living by myself for the first time on exchange. It so happened that back then I did not know how to prepare a healthy meal for myself (and the care packages full of chocolate and going out to drink three nights a week didn’t help) and I needed some form of exercise to help counteract all the junk I was consuming. I came across this beginner’s guide to running a 5k on Pinterest, which motivated me to get up and going around the end of March 2013.
By the time I was back in Canada in August, I still hadn’t managed to get past the week 3 workout. When classes started again, I signed up for a charity 5k with my university faculty and bought new running shoes. At the end of September, a week before the 5k, I still couldn’t run very long without getting a stitch in my side and having to walk it out, but I was determined to run the entire five kilometres without walking. A few days before the race, I switched up my practice route to one that was a lot flatter and straighter and, to my utter surprise and joy, I managed to do more than 20 minutes of non-stop running. I ended up running the whole 5k race that weekend, despite getting a cramp within the first kilometre, in 36 minutes – I was one of the last finishers on my team, but I was just happy I had completed it at all. Plus, I still beat my personal best 5k time of 57 minutes.
After that I was a lot more excited about the possibilities of upping my non-stop running time. My favourite pasttime in the winter was to run around the track surrounding my university’s ice rink and occasionally watch the teams practice. Soon I was doing 50-minute runs that I only ended because I didn’t want to wait for the next bus home.
I’ve had periods where I didn’t feel like running and focused on other exercise instead, I’ve battled with injuries and illnesses, and I haven’t really committed to any sort of concrete improvement plan. The weather in Germany is often too hot and humid for me to run very far, having grown up in a dry place, so it was hard to keep my momentum going when I moved abroad. Eventually, I got into the rhythm again, and starting running between towns. There are usually 2-4 kilometres of path between towns around here, and I use the church towers as checkpoints to motivate me to keep going.
Sometime in March 2015 I managed to run an hour non-stop, and at the end of April I took part in my first ever 10k. I stayed home sick the entire week leading up to it, but I was still determined to finish it. I was second-last out of the whole group of runners and they were already taking down the road barriers during my final lap, but again, I was just happy I did it at all.
I haven’t progressed much since then. A couple weeks later I ran 83 minutes without stopping, which continues to be my record. I kind of gave up running long distances after moving to the Copenhagen suburbs; biking almost 25 km each day made me too tuckered out to attempt anything more than a 30- or 40-minute jog.
At the beginning of October I started again with 20-minute sessions, and I’m slowly increasing the time. My current schedule has me running three times a week, and the weather is just right for it: cold enough that I need to run instead of walk to stay warm, but not so hot that I want to shed my skin by the end of it. I do two sessions of the same time, and then increase it by five minutes next time.
My next run will be 40 minutes non-stop. I don’t think I’ll be able to do a marathon faster than 4 hours and 30 minutes, so I’ve still got a long way to go. I know the weather won’t stay this ideal forever, and I know it’s getting darker earlier and earlier. While I have endless farm roads to run on right now, I don’t know where I could run long distances in Copenhagen without having to worry about traffic lights. There will be a lot of obstacles on my journey, but for now I’m taking it one step at a time.
Also, it turns out I can run from my house to the French border in about 30 minutes.
*No, really. I just learned this this week while I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the first time as an adult, and was rather scandalized seeing George Weasley use the term. I had to look it up because I couldn’t imagine such blatant phallic references appearing in a children’s book, and I discovered it’s completely innocent in British English.