I first rode a horse at the age of 4, and fell in love with them. 26 years later that love has only strengthened. Aside from their beauty and elegance, it's the freedom of galloping with the wind in your hair, the closest to flying you can feel on terra firma. This is why I love running. Besides the health benefits, I love the freedom you feel out there, the elation of feeling ready to take off and fly. Of course my running speed is so slow I can barely feel the wind in my hair, but after 7 years I am just getting back into running regularly again.
I came across an advert for MedalMad one day, ironically for a medal with 3 galloping horses and the words "run wild and without limits," fitting perfectly with my ideology of running and horses, and this opened up the world of virtual running. I decided to take on the challenge of 25 miles.
My current running route was about 2 or 3 km, which equated to 2-3 laps around a relatively small patch of grass opposite my house. I decided I needed to up my game and try a 10k run with a new route. I had previously only done one 10k event a couple of weeks ago and I'm not going to lie, I really struggled with it. My training had suffered due to having stitches in my ankle just 2 weeks before, hence I was definitely not in my best form!
So I chose the morning; it had been raining earlier on but I waited till around 11am and the sun came out. It was perfect. I set off, telling my husband I might be 10 minutes, or an hour, or an hour and a half, who knows, it depends how far I get before I pass out. The first part was easy going, half a lap around the park and then proceeding onto the road down a long hill. I was aware of a little road that I'd never ventured down and decided now was the time to explore. It was a nice route, scenic, cows grazing in their fields, large ponds to one side and a river to the other, and with the sun shining, it was quite picturesque.
I felt like I had been running for quite a while, so I checked my Strava app, to see how close I was to reaching 10km. My heart sank as I realised I had only run 2.9km. I was exhausted! Reluctantly, I took a swig of water and carried on. I decided I would try and get to at least 5km without walking. I plowed on down a forested path now, leaping over the large puddles that covered the path. At around 4km, panting, I slowed to a brisk walk, which with my snail like running pace, was not actually that much slower. I reached a point where the path rose up before stretching further into the forest, briefly opening to reveal an azure blue lake where Canada geese that had migrated down for the winter were paddling around. I paused to admire the views, take on water and turned to begin the long run home. The result was a breathless mix of slow running and brisk walking for the remaining 5km, the hardest part being the long ascending hill, which on a narrow pavement shouldering a fast busy road, littered like a minefield with wet conkers was not easy to navigate. As I reached the park opposite my house, I realised I was somehow only at 8.1km, and forced myself to lap the park until I reached my goal. Finally, the 10km mark passed, and I gratefully dropped to a slow amble to cool my aching muscles and calm my laboured breath.
All in all, it took me 1 hour 15 minutes, quite disappointing really when my last 10k took 1:08, but I always find the event mentality extremely motivating. Laying in a hot bubble bath afterwards, I closed my eyes and smiled. First 10k done, 30 to go.
The following weekend I was out again, pounding the earth with my trainers. I took a similar route, but going the opposite direction along the river after discovering a new path down to it, and this time I decided to concentrate on mastering a 5k without walking. A large tree overhanging the river became my halfway point where I turned back. I managed most of the route with just a little bit of walking up the long hill, but I could feel my legs getting stronger as they powered me further up the hill than last time. My time was an impressive (for me) 33 minutes 18 seconds.
I continued to venture out the following three weekends, luckily the weather brightened up each time as I am, admittedly, a fair weather runner; I find it much more enjoyable when the sun is shining, birds are singing, and the scenery is way more enticing than gloomy wet clouds and soggy shoes. With autumn painting the trees in its vibrant colours, I ran with a smile on my blotchy red face, feeling the sense of freedom. I did another 5km, before upping it to around 6.5km, carrying on past my usual halfway tree up into the woods, still trailing the river. I found a new halfway point which was the corner of a long strip of railings.
By now I had 6.83km left to complete the medal challenge. So as I set out on my 6th and final run, it naturally started to rain. Not to be deterred, I followed my usual route down to the river, and pushed on past the corner of the railings to a bench, pausing to stretch and admire the view over the fast flowing river, and then turning back. There was a few small inclines on this extra part, so by the time I was back at the long uphill home I was beginning to struggle. This final run was 7km, taking me just over what I needed to complete the challenge, so with a smile I submitted my last piece of evidence.
I have signed up to other challenges to keep me motivated through winter, but as my fitness improves and I can run for longer and faster, it is that feeling of being free, away from the stresses of work and life, being with just yourself and nature, that will always draw me to running.