#TeamCrusader Paula is about to complete an absolutely incredible feat – a whole year of running at least 5k every single day! Before her 366th and final run tomorrow, Paula has kindly written about her experience exclusively for the FCRC website. Congratulations Paula and GOOD LUCK for your marathon tomorrow! #unstoppable

I love running. There, I said it. Proper madly, deeply, can’t get enough of it, love it. But it didn’t always used to be this way; in fact I used to hate running. My old netball teammates think it’s hilarious that I am even running at all considering I used to play GS and insisted on lobs into the circle so I could just turn and shoot rather than having to actually move and run. Jump and reverse pivot maybe, but RUN? Hell no.

So what made me change? Well it started 2 years ago on Christmas Pudding Night when I (bravely) decided to turn up to club for the first time. I was put into a team with 5 people I didn’t know & was made to run around in the dark, in a place I didn’t know and shout “Pudding!” at anyone that moved in order to collect Christmas anagrams. It was silly and felt mischievious and was just the best fun! From there I was hooked.

A year passed involving many races from road to trail to OCR’s (Obstacle Course Races); it didn’t matter what I just wanted to run and enjoy. The club’s monthly Strava Challenge helped me to explore new places and discover that hills really can be our friends – as Martin Yelling says “every slope is an opportunity of hope, right?!” Plus the views at the top are pretty special.

Views from Butser, Harting and Old Winchester Hills along the South Downs Way.

Where does the runstreak fit into this I hear you ask? In that October I badly rolled my ankle playing netball and although I wanted to do an advent streak in December my ankle still wasn’t 100%. I decided I would try in January (or Runuary) instead. Paul Pickford from the club joined me and we’d message each other daily to call each other “Streaky” and “Bacon” and to moan about how much we ached. To know that an experienced Ultra marathoner was also struggling was reasurring to say the least! By the end of the month Paul bowed out (he was training for a 100 miler) and I decided I’d see if I could keep going with no idea of when I’d stop. And now we’re here – coming to the end of a whole year of running! I’m still surprised I’ve made it to be honest. I’ve learnt so much that I can’t share it all here but maybe a top 5 will do…

1. You’ll never regret a run
The hardest thing has been actually getting out the door and running. I’ve 4 kids and luckily a supportive husband (he’s also now on over 160 days of his own runstreak) who have at times literally verbally abused me until I’ve gone. I’ve had to get up at 5am to complete long runs so I can be back before the kids’ rugby training at 9, leave family meals early/arrive late and do some runs at 11.30pm on a Friday night because the kids have been ill/hubby’s worked late; it’s been hard. BUT once running, and after that first mile of ‘urgh’ it’s been fine. Or more than fine – some of my best runs have come from really not wanting to go at all. Just lace up, get going and you won’t regret the run.

2. Mental training is just as important as the physical (we’re stronger than we think)
Our Captain last yr (step forward Mr Neil Smith) wrote a fantastic blog about mental training and it’s all true. We need to train our brain to be more positive so we don’t limit our bodies. Most my runs had no training type planned and were all about completing the miles (because I’ve genuinally felt tired a lot of the time), but by doing this I’ve freed my mind and just run to feel. Consequently I pulled some fast runs that made me realise how we perseave a run can have an affect, either positive or negative, on it. Like the ant in this video – don’t limit yourself physically by your mental attitude.

3. Variety is the spice of life
In the first month I was already getting bored with the same routes or slight variations of them. It’s so easy to get stuck in a running rut of the routes we already know, but mixing it up can really be the key ingredient to unlocking a bit more speed or just enjoying your running more. For me I’m happiest on the trails. They’re easier on the joints, build strength through the varying terrain, splashing in muddy puddles feels naughty and some of the views are just breathtaking. But if road is your thing you can still explore new areas and get that thrill of a hidden gem be it a view or a path that just lets you run like a child at breaktime. The wonderful Saturday 5k phenomenon called parkrun is a perfect way to do this with a little tourism. Go. Explore. Enjoy.

4. Rest & recovery is so important
A crazy statement from someone who’s run everyday right? I’ve learnt the hardway; by a mental and physical burnout in October. I completed Bournemouth marathon in a PB time, the following Saturday I PB’d at parkrun and then the next day I PB’d at Solent Half. I’d completed months of running so why shouldn’t I be ok? The intensity is why. Running every day is fine, but after hard sessions you do need to recover. Your body needs it and you don’t realise that your mind needs it too. A recovery run does wonders (I’ve been doing them all yr!) but if you keep pushing it constantly something will give. Mine was a back spasm that affected my medial glute and hip. I’ve had regular therapy which has also has been key – if you’ve a niggle get it checked out.

5. Support breeds success
A support network has many strands but they’re all key to making you run happier. As mentioned my family have been very understanding of the time it’s taken to complete this challenge. Friends have understood when I’ve left nights out because I’ve a run/race the next day. Where possible I’ve run with as many different groups of people as possible because runners understand runners and are a wealth of knowledge. Many organise runs within your local area because they love to run – you just need to tap into the resource. I’ve been very grateful to SheWhoDaresRuns for her weekly sessions, Kiernan Easton for his tours of the trails at Queen Elizabeth and my local running store Absolute Running for their product advise, races, arranging group runs & general encouragement.

But most of all the biggest support has been from my local running club – the reason I’m personally on this adventure. If there weren’t so many inspiring runners within our club who support one another I wouldn’t have made it this far. Everyone runs for a different reason, and although we line up against one another at races, we are in fact only trying to be a better version of ourselves. We have a common goal that drives us forward therefore why not support each other in the process? We seem to do that so well at FCRC. The comoradery at club sessions and races can be so strong that it’s almost overwhelming but it can also spur you on when you’re struggling. I’ve used it at races where there has been no Crusaders – just the thought of them has been enough to motivate me. I know others feel the same about their club; if you’re not in one yet I can’t recommend it enough.

#TeamCrusaders at Twixmas 10k

So as you read this I have one more more day to go to complete my runstreak for 2016 – 366 days of running a minimum of 5k. Tomorrow I’ll be completing my 8th marathon this year in Kent. It won’t be a PB, or anywhere near because I’ve learnt my lesson about needing recovery, but it seems a suitable finish to what has been an amazing year – all because of the inspiring and awesome people of my club that started me on this journey. Thank you all and here’s to 2017 being even better. With you guys (and our running community) you truly make me feel #Unstoppable

Stats (according to Strava)

Average runs a week – 8 (because 7 clearly wasn’t enough *facepalm*)
Average time per week – 6h 12m (that’s nearly 2 solid weeks worth of running this year)
Average weekly mileage – 42 miles
Total distance – 2159 miles + (hopefully) a marathon
Elevation Gain – 65,032ft (told you I liked hills)
PB’s in all distances from 5k – Marathon
6 new pairs of trainers (4 road, 2 trail)
I’m 1 of 40 people out of the millions worldwide who use the app Strava who have logged an activity every day this year

Biggest running achievement in 2016: Running my 1st marathon in February and the next day running my 2nd (only slightly faster)! For this I still love & hate my club mate Sharon Gwynn!

 

 

My 2016 race haul including my 1st ever finishers trophy – 3rd Senior Female @ PJC Summer XC