Early in 2016, my big sister (affectionately referred to as the Little Big Sis, being of the vertically challenged persuasion), happened to mention that she and her family were seriously considering getting a pet dog, and as such she would need to put some effort into getting fitter to keep up with it. Initially she was going to do a bit of walking, until I sneakily shoved a Couch to 5k plan under her nose and sent her a link to her local parkrun.
The LBS is naturally quite a strong and athletic person. She used to be a dancer, and was bloody good at it as well, until an Achilles injury in her early teens forced her to stop. Life then got in the way a bit, and as a result (I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me saying) she had basically done not much exercise for a substantial while. She is also heavily asthmatic, which doesn’t help.
Armed with her 5k starters orders, she began running round her village a couple of times a week – a diminutive demon in a woolly hat – until we headed out together to her first parkrun in March. A few walking breaks were needed but she did it, and by early April she was running the whole thing non-stop and looking really strong. I’m openly smug to say that I knew she could do this if she gave it a go. She’s a determined person, my LBS, and she doesn’t give up if there’s something she really wants. On that first parkrun I noted with mild annoyance that although we were not breaking any land speed records she has really good natural form – if my feet landed that evenly I’d be off like a rocket!
Back when she thought she would manage three sessions a week, she had signed up to run our annual club 10k with me in early May. The day was fast approaching and the longest run she had managed was about 3.5 miles. It was also forecast to be 25 degrees on race day – not ideal! The plan was to aim for 30 seconds off PB parkrun pace for the first 6k, and then take short walking breaks when needed. I was determined that she should have an encouraging experience for her first ever race. It was so amazing that she was coming to do this and I was not going to have her put off keeping up with her running by pushing too hard.
The big day dawned, and off we went to Gunnersbury Park. The race village was ready to go and we picked up our numbers and went for several ‘just in case’ portaloo visits with bags of time to spare. The early morning cloud broke ominously just as we were pinning on our numbers and the sun came through. Eventually the temperature was to reach 27 degrees that morning, however the wonderful organising committee had arranged an ice cream truck right next to the finish line, so that became our motivation. After a bit of nervous arm waving to warm up right at the back of the pack, off we went, nervous but determined.
The first 5k or so went really well despite going out a bit too quick in the first mile, with only two very short walking breaks needed (one of these was at the top of a grassy uphill and therefore doesn’t count) and pretty soon we were up to 4.5 miles. We had even overtaken a few people and the tailrunners were nowhere to be seen! This was way beyond how well I had thought this would go given the heat. We tackled the last mile and a half at scouts pace (a side note here to register surprise that several of my running friends had never heard the term scouts pace before. We thought it was a pretty common term, but then we were raised by a scout master so that may be why!), doing quick 50 pace running bursts followed by matching bouts of determined striding. This approach meant we didn’t really lose any time to speak of, because the bursts of running were at a respectable sub-12 minute mile pace.
The miles felt like they ticked by quickly all the way round, which may have been to do with the fact that it’s nice to spend a bit of increasingly more rare time with my sister on our own without husbands and kids around (no offence family!), and we were soon headed towards the home straight. We slowed down a bit to make sure that there were no walking breaks where anyone was watching and crossed the line triumphantly together with the exact same time of 1:31:02. This was only a couple of minutes outside the best possible outcome, which on the hottest day of the year so far was no mean feat.
I’m really proud of my LBS for sticking to her guns and completing her first 10k. As a teacher with two small children she doesn’t get a lot of time to herself, and it seems like getting a run in when she can has really opened up some space for her to unwind. She’s enjoying the training and seeing herself improve. Off the back of training for the Eagles 10k she has joined the Run Mummy Run community and signed up for two more races, so there may be guest posts coming in the summer to report how they go!