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Guest Post: Learning to Run

11 Nov

Team RFBR Training Week 1

The problem with publishing a book about running, and banging on about how brilliant it is to anyone who’ll listen, is that there inevitably comes a time when you have to put your money where your mouth is. For me, that time has come.

I am not a runner. I am also not a swimmer, kick-boxer or gym-er. I instinctively distrust anyone who claims to enjoy exercise and I have spent a lifetime trying to get away with not doing any. On this, Charlie Brooker and I are as one. When he wrote in the Guardian this week about his alarming conversion to the cult of running, the following line really rang true for me

I always hated healthy outgoing types. Really despised them. And when they smugged on about how physical exercise gave them an endorphin rush, I felt like coughing blood in their eyes.

Exactly.

But, back in March, I received a submission for a book that would set me on the path, slowly, to a change of heart. I knew immediately that this was a project that would go straight to the top of my reading pile – for a start, it had a sit-up-and-notice-me title: RUN FAT BITCH RUN. Secondly, it was accompanied by a call from the author’s lovely agent, Alice, who explained the concept to me with such glee that I knew she had sent something special. I read it straight away and was, as Alice predicted, immediately hooked. The author, Ruth Field (aka The Grit Doctor), is passionately pro-running in the same way that I’m passionately pro-sitting. She believes that running is the best way to fundamentally transform your body, your fitness and your mind. She accepts no excuses; she tells no comforting lies. If you are overweight, admit it. If you think you’re too busy to exercise, you’re deluded. Just do it. (Haven’t I heard that somewhere before?)

Before I knew it, the book was mine. Run Fat Bitch Run was the latest addition to the Sphere non-fiction list. I had managed to persuade Alice and Ruth that we were the publishers who could make the book the success it deserved to be. Mostly with the help of this picture, which was included in my pitch . . .

(I would like to point out that my legs are not actually that short. It’s a weird trick of the camera. Honest.) Furthermore, I was so inspired by Ruth that I started plotting out my own running route, which is the first step on her foolproof 8-week beginners’ programme. I even walked it (Step 2). And then . . . I don’t quite know what happened. Well, I do – it was what Ruth calls Motivation Meltdown. Life intervened and I never quite made the transformation from couch potato to runner. (This is no reflection on the book, more a testament to my extremely sophisticated excuse-making mechanisms.) Work on the book continued apace: we had an amazing cover, Ruth and I worked hard to add in lots of extra motivational material to the text and we started this blog. And I didn’t run. Not once. Basically, Ruth had a fraud for an editor.

And then it was time to kick off the marketing and publicity campaigns. And that’s where the trouble started. Like me, everyone was really excited about working on the book and full of ideas for fun things we could do to promote it. Like running. In a race. An ACTUAL RACE. Only a fool would try to deny that that was a great idea. And obviously, as Ruth’s editor, there was no way I could not take part. We began to formulate plans last month with a view to running in a 5km race at the end of January. Ruth was up for it, as was Alice. I was . . . panicked. FIVE WHOLE KILOMETRES? It didn’t matter how many times people tried to assure me that 5k really isn’t very far – I didn’t believe them. (They were probably the same people who lied about enjoying exercise, after all.) To make matters worse, we were going to have to take part in lunchtime training runs. With colleagues. In public. The horror.

As is so often the case, it was the fear that finally motivated me. I sort of thought I’d probably be able to run/walk/hobble 5k by the end of January, but the thought of running alongside colleagues before then was terrifying. So I pulled out the RFBR proofs, reminded myself of The Grit Doctor’s methods and set off on a cautious run one Saturday morning. I walked for ten minutes, as she suggests, then broke into the slowest run ever. I can’t say I enjoyed it – I was wearing a mad combination of uncomfortable workout clothes (any time I’ve ever bought clothes with the intention of exercising in them, I’ve failed at the exercise part and the clothes have ended up being incorporated into my extensive collection of lounging-around outfits) and I’d brought my stupidly large bunch of keys with me, which banged against my leg as I ‘ran’ – really annoying. I also got lost. (Didn’t plot my route properly. The Grit Doctor would not be pleased.) And then I stopped for a coffee . . . So, all in all, not the best start. But I went again the next day, more appropriately attired and with a clearer idea of where I was going. I ran, slowly, for ten minutes, which felt like a real achievement. And I went another few times during the following week . . . and I didn’t hate it. And I found it relatively easy to extend my distance a little bit every time, so that before long I was running for twenty minutes. That’s my max at the moment, but considering I started from a big fat zero less than two weeks ago, I reckon that’s not too shabby. At this rate, 5k by January shouldn’t be too tricky. I hope.

And yesterday was our first group training run. I’ve been so delighted by the response to the book and am thrilled that Team RFBR has fifteen members . . . all equally anxious about the race, but totally committed to training together and running together come 22nd January. Here’s a few of us just before we set off:

We started out walking along the Victoria Embankment from our office (just by Blackfriars) and broke into a gentle run just before Waterloo Bridge. Running across the bridge, with a view of St Paul’s to our left and the Eye and Big Ben to our right, was fantastic and a vast improvement on jogging through the dark and uninspiring streets near my house. Then it was back along the Southbank, stopping ten minutes later in time to walk back over Blackfriars Bridge to the office, praying as we did so that our faces weren’t too hideously red and sweaty.

There’s a long way to go for Team RFBR, but we made a terrific start yesterday. We all dredged up some inner grit and you could practically see our virtuous haloes as we sat at our desks, scoffing massive (and calorie neutral?) lunches.

Next week, The Grit Doctor herself will be joining us, which is both exciting and slightly terrifying. We’ll also be extending our running time to twenty minutes.

Look out for more updates from Team #RFBR on Twitter and here on The Grit Doctor’s blog as the countdown to our race continues. And if you fancy having a go yourself, look out for Run Fat Bitch Run which will be available from 5th Jan, just in time to help shift those extra Christmas inches. May the grit be with you. x

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