Great North Run diary pt 1 – “What I lack in fitness I make up for in determination”

WHEN thinking of who would do the Great North Run, I’m pretty sure I’d be one of the last people to spring to mind for anyone that knows me, writes guest blogger Helen Russell.

I have never been a runner, I am not into fitness, I am slightly overweight and I love pastry and Prosecco. I also have my hands full looking after my two daughters, Molly, aged three, and Alice, aged one.

So it was the cause of much hilarity among my nearest and dearest when I announced that I had been allocated a place in this year’s Great North Run. Even my best friend of 15 years said to me “I didn’t know you were into running”.

Well that’s because I’m not.

I vividly remember last October, not long after Alice’s first birthday, my father-in-law, Mick, talking about the charity he manages in Spennymoor.

Called One-To-One, it helps adults with learning disabilities by pairing them up with ‘befrienders’ who visit them on a weekly basis and provide one-to-one support with activities they would otherwise struggle to join in with.

There are so many success stories from the scheme, but it is a charity and relies solely on grants to keep it going.

Mick loves his job and talks so passionately about the charity, but he often says “because we’re not a fluffy or cute charity, no-one is interested in raising money for us”.

I’ve often thought “I’d love to do something to help… but what?”

“The first time I went on the treadmill I accidentally programmed it to 40km per hour instead of 4km.
I didn’t realise my mistake until it started moving at the speed of light and only just managed to maintain my dignity with a muffled yelp.”

I don’t know what made me think of the Great North Run, but fast forward to early January and I’m at home with the kids, feeling bloated, lethargic and hungover from festive over-indulgence, when I receive an email saying The Sun’s early ballot has opened for the GNR.

There are only 3,000 places available from a possible 70,000 so I thought my chances were slim but I’d apply anyway – I’m a great believer in “what’s meant to be”.

So four days later, as I was heading into work, when an email arrived on my phone from said ballot with the title “congratulations, you’re in” I nearly collapsed on the spot.

I haven’t exercised since going to a weekly Zumba class for six months before my wedding in 2011.

What I lack in fitness, I make up for in determination.

The day after receiving the confirmation email, I started training, following the NHS Couch to 5K plan, which lasts for nine weeks.

I don’t feel ready for pavement-running just yet so I’m currently sweating it out in the safety of the gym.

I felt incredibly nervous the first few times I stepped inside and found myself concentrating really hard on trying to look confident when actually, I felt far from it.

Helen Russell with proud husband Sean and their daughters Molly and Alice.

Helen Russell with proud husband Sean and their daughters Molly and Alice.

It was a huge struggle to cycle for longer than five minutes on the exercise bike, the rowing machine made my biceps burn after barely three minutes and the treadmill…. The first time I went on it, I accidentally programmed it to 40km per hour instead of 4km.

I didn’t realise my mistake until it started moving at the speed of light and only just managed to maintain my dignity with a muffled yelp.

Two days later I went swimming for the first time many 15 years.

As I set off on my first length, I realised that, while my low-cut swimming costume was fine for splashing about with the kids in the children’s pool, it wasn’t suitable for proper swimming.

I was ‘exposed’ and couldn’t do anything about it because I was swimming down the middle lane of the pool so couldn’t reach the side!

Now it’s early March and I’m halfway through week six of the plan and I can feel myself making some slow progress.

I can run for 25 minutes non-stop on the treadmill and I can complete ten minutes on the rowing machine just as a warm-up.

And I now have a sensible, high-neck swimming costume.

Next on my list of training goals is to pluck up the courage to do some pavement running and think of ways to collect sponsorship for One-to-One.

If my progress on the treadmill is anything to go by, I am currently able to complete one tenth of the Great North Run.

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