The morning is English grey and drizzle. In twos and threes, Lycra-clad women and sinewy short-short-wearing men arrive purposely under the tree.
It’s New Year’s Day at Ashton Court and this combination of the young and old, the blurry-eyed and caffeine-fuelled are about to run that iconic Park Run 5k.
I’ve stood in almost this exact position many times. Same bone chilling drizzle, same kids (mine) snapping round my legs. Except the last time I was here I said I would definitely never ever, in a million years do the Park Run. ‘I’m just not built that way’, I said, ‘I’m not meant to run’, I said.
But one of those caffeine-fuelled women is me. Keenly scrubbed and hangover free in the middle of damp field on the first day of the year. I set myself a goal of running the first park run of the year back in October when I completed something I never thought I would do – the This Mum Run’s Run30 programme.
You see, I’ve never run. Like, ever. Not cross country at school, not on the treadmill in the gym and certainly not ever for fun. It was something tall, fit people did. People who had their act together. People who ate quinoa. People like The Alpha Husband and His Alpha Mates, who churn out 10ks the same way they drink coffee. People who plan training camps as fun holidays for all the family (also my husband).
So I’ve spent a lot of time cheering from the sidelines. I’m a really good cheerer. Captain of the Support Team. Dashing off between checkpoints to be at all the key cheering stations at the exact right time. Laughing in peoples faces when they ask if I will ever do this.
So, you might ask, how on earth did I end up totally eating my words? Well, I blame Miranda. You might not know Miranda, but you’ll know a version of her. A lovely friend, just like you, who you bump into one day looking all bouncy and fit. ‘I did the This Mum Run’s Run30 course’, she’ll say, ‘and now I can run.’ ‘yeah, but you could run before, you’ll say, ‘I mean, look how bouncy and fit you are’. But it turns out not. No, she totally learnt to run on this course. From nothing. From a minute to 30 in 8 weeks.
It really was that one moment. Okay, so I’d been feeling increasingly down about my wrecked post-baby body and there’d been some light nagging from Alpha Husband, but I hadn’t really expected to throw myself into the course quite so fully. I hadn’t, but I did. Even though long and inflexible hours from the other half of the team (yes, I’m looking at you, Alpha Husband) meant that I did all of the homework runs on my own, often in the rain. The 30 minutes crept up on me, like all the best characters in a horror movie and seriously, I couldn’t quite believe I was running. Correction. A runner. And a really competitive one at that (hello, Strava!). Alpha Husband was so proud that I’d come over to his way of thinking that he bought me a very expensive and impressive running watch for Christmas. It was a silver lining I hadn’t even expected.
So, having come this far and with that newly discovered competitiveness, I didn’t want Christmas to ruin all my hard work. Fresh from my win at The Birdies, I immediately signed up to the Run60 course. It promised to make me faster, stronger and, most importantly, make me a runner for life. Who can say no to that…?
Kelly Pike, TMR Bristol Mama