As I struggle to put one foot in front of the other, my breathing has become shorter, my chest tight and the pain searing through my stomach is enough to make me want to scream. Giving up is not an option, fighting through this ordeal is the only way... no, I have not been beaten up or fallen off a horse – although those options may possibly be less traumatic... the feeling I am describing is the result of, wait for it, running!
In a slightly demented moment – over a large glass of red wine I have to add – I allowed my fellow, so-called friends, to persuade me in to thinking that running a half marathon would be a good idea. At the time it genuinely did seem like a genius plan to me and my competitive spirit rose to the challenge. Now the wedding is over I felt the need to get my teeth in to something else and by doing all that exercise it would mean I can eat as much as I like completely guilt-free! However in the cold, sober, light of day reality hit like a smack in the mouth when I realised what I have potentially signed up for.
In theory it seems less daunting – in practice – the thought is truly terrifying. As I battle through the first mile I am filled with horror at the prospect of just one more – never mind 13! I am told that it will get easier and that I too will soon be the slim, toned, athletic one striding out boldly at the front of the group – the only things keeping me going are this aspiration and the mince pies waiting for me at home! The smug runners at the front of the pack who actually choose to run further than we have to smile at me with a look of pity in their eyes – perhaps soon I too will be able to get on my high horse and offer a patronising pat on the back to weaker members of our team, but for now I remain very firmly at the rear!
You only ever see good runners out on the roads and I now see why! They seem to look so relaxed and effortless as they stylishly cover the ground, in streamlined leggings with their iPod’s strategically placed and those water bottles thingies you can put your hands through! I however, resemble a red faced, sweating, grunting excuse with my Primark leggings, husband’s hoody and very old, 80’s style silver trainers! Oh, and last night I completed the outfit with a pair of rather fetching turquoise leg warmers – it was definitely more Fame than Paula Radcliffe and that is the very reason I am sticking to running in the dark (with a rather fetching head torch I may add) because I am too ashamed to show my face in the daylight for fear of someone recognising me and laughing!
It is possibly the worst time of year to be starting – not only has the delightful English weather provided a rather unappetising offering of rain, rain and more rain, squelchy trainers and soggy t-shirts are not the most motivating reasons to get out and about. As well as this being Christmas it seems that everyone is doing the exact opposite to me – sitting in the warm, cosy, safety nets of their houses – eating lovely big dinners, chocolate and drinking mulled wine whilst watching trashy films. However on a positive note I can eat as much turkey and Christmas pudding as I like without piling on too many pounds and if I can get over the mental marathon of training in December I should be able to keep my legs going for 13 miles!
The only experience I can liken my running experience so far with in horsey terms is probably throwing myself on to the floor repeatedly and having my chest stamped on over and over – only then can you imagine the pain I am in right this minute after a run last night - even typing is an effort! Despite the pulling sensation in my calves and my inability to walk, I do appear to be getting bitten by the bug. I get cranky if I haven’t been out when I planned and the buzz and adrenalin when I achieve something that just two weeks ago seemed beyond expectations is addictive. I have also felt an improvement in my core strength and own fitness which has in turn benefitted my riding. I feel stronger in my upper body and those that say exercise is like a drug are starting to become less like weirdoes to me. It has made me realise how importance fitness is in our sport and how enjoyment levels are improved when you feel fit and strong in the saddle. It doesn’t have to be running – just exercising a couple of times a week seems to make the world of difference.
On a more serious note I have decided to run for Spinal Research (if they will have me!). The work they do is enough of an inspiration for me to push through the training and grin and bear the insignificant suffering in comparison to those affected by spinal injuries. Their role in the equestrian world is most definitely vital and if I can give back just a teensy bit of what they put in I would feel so proud.
As published on www.manage-my-horse.com in December's eMag