Great North Run diary pt 5: race day is just around the corner

IT’S September. It’s single-figure days until the Great North Run. I can run double-figures in miles. I have my runner number and I have come as far as I can with my training. And, if I do say so myself, I have come FAR, writes Helen Russell.

“My father-in-law, Mick, who manages the charity, The Befriender Scheme, recently told me that this money will allow them to take on two new clients in East Durham because it will pay for the befrienders’ travelling expenses.”

In nine months, I’ve gone from struggling to run for two minutes, to having just achieved a personal best of running 10 miles in just over two hours.

Never once during this challenge have I thought “I can’t do this”. I’ve dragged myself to the gym and hit the pavements in rain, hail and shine. My mantra has always been “what I lack in fitness, I make up for in determination”.

So I should have the body of an athlete, right? Well, not exactly. Just as I was joyfully planning an August Bank Holiday weekend of indulgence and fun, a stranger with whom I was making small talk, asked me if I was pregnant.

I am not pregnant.

Helen Russell is elated after running 10 miles a week before the Great North Run - her personal best.

Helen Russell is elated after running 10 miles a week before the Great North Run – her personal best.

I’m also not self-conscious about my slightly-wobbly, slightly-out-of-shape body – how can I possibly be self-conscious and ashamed of the very thing that created my two beautiful children? But those three innocent little words “are you pregnant” kind of broke my heart and made me realise that, actually, it is time to shape up. I started following the Harcombe Diet the very next day.

Read Helen’s inspirational Great North Run story so far…

Blog one: What I lack in fitness I make up for in determination

Blog two: A second wardrobe malfunction but the endorphins kick in

Blog three: Pregnancy flashback during the last push

Blog four: Emotions run high as the race gets near

It has been surprisingly easy to stick to the plan, although I won’t lie – the caffeine/sugar/cheese withdrawals were horrendous and made me so grumpy and miserable for a couple of days.

It played havoc a little bit with my training too as I felt quite lethargic and couldn’t face going out running. However, I was really buoyed up to discover I’d lost lost 5lb during the first week on plan.

My mother-in-law once told me that, for every pound in weight you lose, it has the equivalent effect of taking 3lb worth of weight off your joints.

That means there will be more than a stone’s worth less pressure on my joints during the Great North Run, and I am pretty sure that was a big factor in helping me to run ten miles. That makes my sober Bank Holiday of wallowing in self-pity totally worthwhile.

Another contributing factor to the improvement in my distances is buying proper running shoes. But who knew there was such a science behind making such a selection? Running shoes are harder to choose than wedding shoes. And, in my case, more expensive.

“Never once during this challenge have I thought “I can’t do this”. I’ve dragged myself to the gym and hit the pavements in rain, hail and shine. My mantra has always been “what I lack in fitness, I make up for in determination”.”

When I went shopping for my wedding shoes, five years ago, I walked into a shop, spotted a pair of tremendously beautiful glittery high heels, that fitted like slippers, and bought them. They cost £20. A quick, easy transaction. I wore them for 12 hours on my big day and didn’t get one blister. When I went shopping for running shoes, I was asked questions like “are you a heel or toe runner” and “do you have flat arches”. They studied my old trainers to see where they had “worn” most on the sole and made me run laps around the shop to check my running style. (Note to female running-shoe-shoppers – wear a sports bra!)

Purchase number one, which cost an eye-watering £80, really hurt my feet. I took them back the following day. Purchase number two, for a bargain £30, turned out to be perfect. I can’t praise the staff highly enough though, at New Balance, in Dalton Park, where I purchased said shoes. They really know their stuff and are incredibly helpful.

However, I still have no idea if I’m a heel or toe runner.

Helen Russell spent more on her running shoes than her wedding shoes.

Helen Russell spent more on her running shoes than her wedding shoes.

As I celebrated completing my 10-mile run, my sponsorship total hit the £800 mark (including Gift Aid) which will go to One To One – The Befriender Scheme, to help adults with learning disabilities. I’m completely overwhelmed by the generosity of family, friends and anonymous donors.

My father-in-law, Mick, who manages the charity, recently told me that this money will allow them to take on two new clients in East Durham because it will pay for the befrienders’ travelling expenses.

Helen's running number arrives for the Great North Run - it's really real!

Helen’s running number arrives for the Great North Run – it’s really real!

So to everyone who has donated, thank you so much, your money will be extremely well spent. Every donation, no matter how big or small, helps to make life a little bit better for some of society’s most vulnerable members.

And after one too many beers on a night out recently, my husband, Sean, publicly declared that he will shave his head if/when my fundraising reaches the £1,000 mark!

To donate towards One To One (and to see Sean lose his locks), just click here.

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