Running scared? Gently does it, the 5k way

On track for the Great Pink Run in the Phoenix Park

Champion runner Catherina McKiernan (centre) sets the pace with the Royal College of Surgeons running group. Photograph: Ray Lohan/RCSI

Champion runner Catherina McKiernan (centre) sets the pace with the Royal College of Surgeons running group. Photograph: Ray Lohan/RCSI


Eight weeks ago, I committed to running a 5k for research purposes: namely, this article. Born with two left feet and an innate inability to participate in any kind of team sport, running a 5k seemed a suitable challenge. So with blind optimism I set the date as August 30th, the Great Pink Run in the Phoenix Park, in aid of Breast Cancer Ireland.

I’ve become rather disgruntled by the fact the 5k is consistently referred to as a “fun run”. Fun run? There’s been nothing “fun” about donning my Lycra and attacking the treadmill three times a week in an attempt to break free of my tubby shell.

Smashing my five-minutes-in-a-row mental block was a huge achievement for me; after three weeks of trying, the shock and disbelief of getting there was a feeling that kept a smile on my face for the week.

I’m up to eight consecutive minutes now. I know that with a little more courage, I’ll get there. I’ve been using the Couch-to-5k app and the Map My Run app, both of which really motivate me and keep me on track. It’s good to have a goal in sight too, because without the fear of not finishing, I don’t think I’d have stuck to this for so long. But my experience does seem to pale in comparison with the other women I’ve spoken to.

Gráinne McDonagh works in the dean’s office of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, which has a lunchtime running group called the RCSI Breakers. The group aims to complete the Great Pink Run in August, and McDonagh is on her way to achieving that goal.

She started to run with the group on May 13th, running for one minute with a one-minute break for 20 minutes. Five weeks later, on June 6th, she went for a half-hour run with the group, with only a one-minute break after 12 minutes. “I was a complete beginner when I started and I was finding it hard, but I’ve stuck at it so far,” she says.

When we last spoke, McDonagh had been running the full 5k in under 37 minutes, and had decided to register for the 10k race just in case she was feeling up to it. “I’d be very happy to do the 5k, but if it was a cool morning I’d say I could do the 10k,” she says.

She also sees the benefits of running as a group. “There’s no pressure and we’re all in the same boat. I don’t think I’d have got this far without them,” she says.

On the other side of town, St Michael’s House on Green Street has two very experienced women in its running group, “Mighty Mná”. Paula Carroll and Nicole Redmond attend the Work Options service here, and take part in the Flora women’s mini-marathon every year, training with other service users in Mighty Mná once a week. Carroll has completed the mini-marathon for the past seven years, and Redmond has been doing it for almost 20. Both were involved in the Special Olympics and have admirable determination. Redmond says: “I want to keep going for as long as I can. I enjoy it and I always feel better after I do it.” Carroll agrees, saying:“I like to do it to lose weight. I go to Weight Watchers on a Tuesday and I’m a gold member now. I like to go walking with my sister Ann, too.”

Another motivation, says centre manager Lorna Grendon, is the women’s fundraising; they donate the money raised to a St Michael’s House centre of their choice. “They come in with their cards and they’re very proud of what they’ve raised. Everyone in [Carroll]’s neighbourhood would know her now because she comes around with the sponsorship card every year”. Carroll also takes great pride in having collected seven medals.

Sitting with these women makes me feel as though I haven’t achieved very much. But Redmond’s advice gives me confidence: “Drink plenty of water and don’t overdo it. If you need to stop, then stop. You just need to get out there and do it. When you cross the line you’ll feel good for completing it all.”

“You’ll be smiling too,” says Carroll. See To sign up for The Irish Times 5k and 10k running courses, see getrunning. Follow us on @IrishTimesRun and find us on irishtimesrunning

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