“If you want to improve you need to try and run three times a week.” So said our Bristol & West Athletic Club Run Leader one Monday evening. Now that I was officially deemed an “improver” rather than a “beginner” at the weekly recreational running group, I was going to have to up my effort in order to see further improvements in my stamina and times.
Well at least Monday evening’s plod with the improvers running group along the Bristol to Bath cycle track or round Eastville Park could count as one session – and parkrun on Saturday morning could count as another. So when and how to do a third?
Combining one’s exercise with the commute to work always feels particularly efficient, so I decided I would try and do a run home one evening a week. As luck would have it my workplace is almost exactly 5km from where I live – so the same distance as a parkrun, which I now know I can run. Less fortunately, this being Bristol, the route involves a 100 metre change in elevation i.e. I have to run up a bloody big hill – well actually two bloody big hills!
In addition to the daunting prospect of running up steep hills, there was also the daunting prospect of organising the logistics for doing this, i.e. making sure I had all my running accoutrements with me (running belt, hair band, sports bra, running gear, etc). My plan was to walk to work in the morning and to avoid having to carry too much stuff with me, I brought most of my gear in the day before – just walked in my trainers and carried my shoes to change into.
Come the end of the day it was into the toilets to emerge as “Running Woman”. Colleagues looked on with what I liked to think was a mix of admiration and awe at my intention to run home, but was more likely disbelief and horror that I was seriously thinking of running up to Kingsdown.
To track my run I had downloaded the Strava running app onto my phone. There are several others that do a similar task (e.g. Map my run or Runkeeper) which all use GPS to track your movements and tell you how far and how fast you’ve run (and how steep that hill was).
Running out of the city centre was a little daunting. Obviously being middle aged and new to running I am not very fast, so can’t deny I felt a little self conscious running past those walking to the bus stop or making their own way home on foot. The other issue of course is the traffic and getting across busy roads (although quite frankly I was grateful for the opportunity to stop). And then there was the first hill!
Before I even started it I knew I was not going to be able run all the way. I just set myself a target of doing about a third by which time I was gasping and panting so hard some passersby were reaching for their phones to call an ambulance! I was soon reduced to walking and even once I got to the top of it and the road flattened out I had to stop for a bit to get my breath back. My route was then a little more undulating for the next kilometre before the second hill rose up before me. I set my eyes to the first junction and ran to that, but had to stop and walk thereafter. There is, I have decided, no shame in walking up the hill!
The good thing about hills of course is that what goes up eventually has to come down and the latter part of my run home was a breezy descent down quiet suburban roads. As always the arrival home came with a nice sense of achievement that I had once again proved to myself that I can run.

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