This is Week 8 of our Get Running beginners’ programme; the culmination of the course and the week in which all the hard work, dedication and effort over the winter months come together.
This weekend you will run for 30 minutes nonstop. You will do it with a smile on your face and confident in the knowledge that you are now officially a runner. Congratulations. Only a short few months ago this seemed well beyond your reach. A one-minute run seemed like an effort. Now you are in a position to run the 30 minutes comfortably and actually enjoy it.
As a bonus, in eight weeks you have also learned so much about yourself. You now know what motivates you to get out the door and how having a plan and a goal can bring you places. You have learned to ignore the voices in your head that tempt you to stay indoors. If you are lucky, you will also have found a friend or two who understand the effort you have put into this challenge and can appreciate your dedication and your achievements.
Most importantly, you now know you are capable of a lot more than you ever imagined. If you can apply what you have learnt in running to other areas of your life you can gradually make progress bit by bit and move in the direction you need to go. Getting a plan, keeping a diary and making small steps each week will move any goal forward.
By breaking up the challenge into eight very manageable chunks, you have made running a key part of your life. Some of you have already suggested to me that you cannot see your future without running. As dramatic as it may sound, most of us are more surprised and delighted by the mental benefits of running than the physical. Indeed you have helped your lungs, heart, muscles and physical fitness move in the right direction.
However, the secret benefits that are hard to describe to a non-runner are the reduced stress, increased clarity, concentration, improved self-esteem and confidence. This running headspace is a welcome 30 minutes in our day and one many of you now don’t want to sacrifice.
There will be days, and weeks, where you are too busy to make the time for running. Try at least to get out once a week. If you skip two or three weeks, it’s very easy to lose motivation and confidence as well as fitness. It is easy to become a lapsed runner: The longer your leave it, the harder it will be to start back. You know so much more about your posture, breathing, technique and pacing in just a short eight-week period. Imagine how much more you could improve in another eight weeks.
Once you can run for 30 minutes, a whole world of running opens up to you. First, take the time to spend a few weeks repeating the 30-minute run. Find a local parkrun or 5k event and celebrate the fact you will be able to run the full distance. Between now and Easter, consolidate the past eight weeks’ work and be confident in the knowledge that on any given day, if you start slow and steady, you can run for 30 minutes.
As we move into the spring, you may wish to set yourself another running challenge. As evenings get longer and warmer, you will see more runners on the roads and paths. Some are training for long-distance events from 10k races to marathons; others are out to clear their head from the day at home or in the office. Whichever camp you are in, make the time to keep moving this spring.
You can use our Get Running: Stay on Track programme to build more confidence and speed over 5k. Alternatively, you can move towards 10k with our Get Running 10k programme. You can start these programmes at any time. See irishtimes.com/getrunning.
Don’t become a lapsed runner. The hard bit was getting started. You have caught the running bug; don’t lose it.