I have been honoured to be trusted to help Heather reach the start line of the Great North Run after a non running injury threatened to prevent her doing so. I am very proud of the patience and determination she displayed in overcoming her set backs and thrilled that she was able to not only start but finish the event and enjoyed the experience. Heather has generously written a blog post (below) for me to share describing her experience, thanks Heather and well done!!
Where it all began
I started running as a complete beginner when I took early retirement in 2019 at the age of 56. Although I ran regularly with Ogmore Phoenix Runners pre pandemic, I had few race experiences before covid got in the way, in fact just Porthcawl 10k, Richard Burton 10k and Llanelli Half. Once things opened up again, I added three more 10k races and another half marathon.
I asked Steven to coach me in January 2022 with a couple of goals in mind; I wanted to improve my half marathon time and I was thinking about the possibility of running a marathon. I had four half marathons booked for 2022, two in the Spring and two in the Autumn. The most important was The Great North Run which I was running for Asthma and Lung UK.
Training began and I was loving it! The variety of sessions during the week made things really interesting and most importantly the planned rest days ensured my “older” body was having a chance to recover.
How plans changed
In March, disaster struck! An MRI scan revealed a fractured pelvis, not an injury caused by running. I had never previously broken a major bone so this was a huge blow. The only walking I could do was with crutches and I could not sit down or travel by car. Frustration was immense and training was suspended. Two half marathons were aborted. I can’t tell you how disappointing it was to be at one of them as a supporter on crutches!
It took until the beginning of July before I could run enough to restart training. Definitely cutting it fine for the Great North on September 11th!! However, the flexibility of the training plans and regular feedback gave me some belief that it could be done. Every single run was a worry though . Was I healed enough? Would a run make anything worse? Confidence was very much lacking. However, with fundraising underway, failing to start was not an option. Steven completely understood so goals were changed: 1. get to the start uninjured, 2. get to the end uninjured 3. Run most or all of it. At this stage the third goal was aspirational, I was prepared to settle for a very long walk!
Training was based purely on effort level. We agreed that this had to be kept low in order to increase distance sufficiently in the time available. I was meticulous about feeding back after every session. Being absolutely honest was key. On a few occasions, feedback suggested I needed more rest days than planned and that is what we did. The patience needed was immense! Finally, ten days before race day I successfully ran 11.2 miles. This was the point at which I was confident that I would at least start.
I was so nervous!!! Steven had far more confidence in me than I had in myself. It was an incredibly long day with a lot of waiting around. However the race was just amazing, It began with the complete silence of 60,000 competitors to commemorate the passing of Her Majesty the Queen which was incredibly moving. Then the race began, the atmosphere was electric from start to finish with amazing supporters, charity cheering stations, street entertainers, bands and djs! It wasn’t always easy to run from my position towards the back of the final wave so when everyone else started walking on a hill, I didn’t have much option but to do the same. I did try going round people (so much so that I did 13.5 miles in total!) but it wasn’t always possible. However, I ran most of it, more than I even dreamed of! The preparation and training was spot on. The highlights were definitely The Tyne Bridge and the first view of the sea at South Shields.
I was so proud when I crossed the finish line, even more so when I realised my position was in the top 50% of finishers. Yes it was slower than “pre injury” but I finished it and I enjoyed every minute. Best of all, I raised over £500 for Asthma and Lung UK (Fundraising Page here)
Working with Steven definitely got me there and I am totally indebted to him for believing in me and supporting me all the way.
So is this the end of training? No!!! I have no injuries from the race so it’s Cardiff Half in three weeks … and I’m daring to dream of my first ever marathon for my 60th birthday next year. Steven is already planning on how to get me there!