I think it’s worth introducing myself to the 3 people who might be reading this; them 3 being my Mom, my Line Manager when she stumbles across this awful attempt at blogging through the development side of the website, and hopefully one random stranger who is extremely confused. Well, for you three, my names Cody Harper, I’m currently 19 years old, I work as a Digital Communications Officer for the CCG, and this Blog is going to seem completely unprofessional, and for that I say that any views expressed in this blog are entirely my own and not those of my employer.
With that being said, I believe that this topic is quite relevant to the NHS as a whole, as it could act as a method to promote an active & healthy lifestyle, and might help motivate complete running novices to give it a try. Anyway, here’s Part 1…
"If I could run 4.2km, I knew I could run further, as I was still alive."
So, this is going to be a brief introduction to my aims over the upcoming months and a look at my progress over the last 6 weeks(ish), and therefore I think it’s best to start at the beginning.
Ever since I was 15/16, I have been glued to watching Content Creators on YouTube, almost always choosing to watch either ridiculous or informative 10 minute, haphazardly edited videos over mainstream TV. The Chase has recently became an exception to this, however I do sometimes end up watching ‘The Chase: Highlights’ videos but that’s to be explained on another day. Either way, a group that I became very fond of on YouTube are called ‘The Sidemen’, and back on the 10th of February 2019, one of the individuals I like to watch uploaded a video that inspired me, despite that not being his intention whatsoever. In the 20 minute long video, he explained that he and his mates were planning on setting a challenge for the subsequent 30 days, whereby they are strapped up to ‘FitBit’ like devices across their chest that measures your heart rate, amongst other fitness related statistics. Then, the app that is connected to this device records your data, collates it into a leaderboard and ranks you against your friends. My eyes lit up with the excitement of this technology, and it was something I instantly went on to research on amazon..
The ‘MyZone Belt’ was £107.50. I was startled, so I had to go and look for alternatives. To shorten the next frantic hour of my life, whilst I tried to accommodate my sudden desire to challenge my friends, I eventually concluded on the ‘FitBit’ app. The watch itself is around £120 depending on Spec, so that was also out of the question. But, the app is completely free and, as long as you keep your phone on you at all times, it tracks your steps throughout the day, enables you to track your runs with impressively accurate, basic statistics for each run, and finally also allows you to log any exercise that you do without your phone on your person. (I think this is an important time to mention that this is NOT a sponsored Blog post from FitBit, although I’m sure if they knew that I had a total of 3 readers then they’d jump at the chance).
The next day, Monday 11th of February, I took it upon myself to go on my first run as shown above. Just over 4.2km in 26 minutes was what I managed, and looking back, I was incredibly proud. In the past, whenever I have tried to do any form of street running I would hit a wall very early on and I found it incredibly hard to carry on after 10 minutes or so. My brain would gravitate to the pain and fatigue I was feeling in my legs, my lungs would struggle to cope and honestly, boredom would play a huge factor. Minus the boredom element, due to my extremely high motivation levels, the exact same things happened on this run too; my muscles in my legs felt incredibly tight and by the time I had completed the impromptu circuit, I was breathless. However, when I opened up the app and saw that I’d ran 4.2km, all of the pain didn’t necessarily disappear, but it suddenly felt worth it. That was it. I knew I could run 4.2km. And I wasn’t dead. Therefore, I thought, I could probably run 4.3km. Or more.
Over the last 6 weeks that’s been my thought process when thinking about my runs. If I could run 4.2km, I knew I could run further, as I was still alive. This set me up for my first aim; I couldn’t really set one prior to this session as I literally had no idea how long or far I could run for, but I decided on 5km to start with. A nice round number, famously the distance for the majority of the lower tier charity run lengths. It was something I knew I could do and I was prepared to do it. I did in 2 runs, within 12 days. Here are them two runs, and the next two over the space of 2 weeks…
As you can see, I made great progress over the 4 weeks from when I first started. Keeping that mentality of, “Now you can run 5km, and you aren’t dead, you can definitely run 6km”, meant that I was constantly striving to improve, and the reason I was able to run further wasn’t necessarily a physical improvement; let me explain. I was almost certain at this point that I probably could have run 9km when I first started, as I didn’t particularly feel much fitter. Now I know this doesn’t make sense, and also it wasn’t true, I was definitely fitter (I was playing football quite often in between the weekly runs), but at the time, it all felt like the main improvement I was making was in my head. I knew I could reach the next milestone. I knew I could run further, because I’d pretty much already done it. I just had to push myself that little bit further each time. The background improvements in my fitness, such as my lung capacity increase and the longer time it took for my legs to fatigue due to an increase in lactic acid tolerance, were a massive supporting factor, but it was all in my head. So I kept pushing. 10km was next, and I was raring to go.
I hit the 10km on my next run, and then went on to complete 12km a week later, 3 times the distance I decided to run when I first started. I’m not writing this to read back and feel smug, but to show myself and anyone reading how much your mental willpower can really impact whatever your task at hand is. If you use Stowe Pool as a reference, the jelly-bean shaped body of water visible in all the screenshots of my runs, then you can see how much extra I decided to run each time. And that’s honestly all it was, a spontaneous decision to just run further, supported by that mental motivation of the fact that I knew I could do the previous distance, and I didn’t die, so the next distance wouldn’t be too much harder either.
My final thoughts over the past 6 weeks (11/02/19 for 4.27km to 20/03/19 for 12.36km) is that it’s not going to remain this ‘simple’ to progress. I’ve, on average, increased by 1.3km a week, and it has came with it’s physical issues. My feet have began to remain sore for a more prolonged period post run, and the weather is getting slowly warmer meaning I tend to crave water a lot more than when I first started. However, if I can maintain the same mindset I’ve been working with for the past 6 weeks, I’m sure I’ll be at 15km in no time. And then, well I know a half marathon is 21km, so that would be quite cool I guess…
"That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going."