The Controlled Shuffle: The story of a non runner who ran a marathon.

Charity Wrist Bands

I’m not going to lie to you: I hate running, I can’t run, I don’t have time to run, I’m really slow, I lose my breath really easily, I get asthma if I try to run, it hurts my knees, it hurts everything, I’ve never been sporty, I’ve never been really fit, my boobs are too big to run….and the all time classic, “I can’t run to save my life”.

Well clearly, some of the above is actually true, and some of it’s a crock of shit, because on several occasions now I’ve made the choice to stop using these excuses, and, well, run.  Way back in 2009, in the year I turned 40, I was dragged kicking and screaming into my first 5km Chicks in Pink, and since then have done two more, plus two 8km Mothers Day Classics, and two 10km Bridge to Brisbane’s, one 10km Twilight run, one 10km Clem 7 run, one Gold Coast Half Marathon, and one, full, 42.2km Gold Coast Marathon.  That last one is not a run, it’s a day trip.  So, how does a non-runner become a long distance runner in three years?  By getting real and being honest, that’s how:

True bits:

  • I really do have a wee bit of asthma, but once you start training, regularly and sensibly, it can be overcome.  My boobies are not exactly gigantic but I certainly don’t cut a typical runners profile, in fact from certain angles I can eclipse the sun, but I bought a good training bra which flattens and contains them well enough to avoid black eyes, and after a LOT of long distance running, managed to go down the alphabet by one cup size for my boulder holders.
  • I really am pretty slow, even over the short distances, anywhere between 6 minutes per kilometer on a good day and 8 or 9 on a bad day.  Over 42kms, that really stacks up.
  • My knees do hurt a bit, and until I got into the right pair of runners at In Training I had a shin splints from my “Peculiar Gait” – their words, not mine.  In my defense  I was born with dislocated hips and spent the first six months of my life in splints…..I was lucky to even be able to walk because they’d brought in the test that detected it just a few weeks before I was born: I shouldn’t grumble so much about the running really.
  • I’ve never been sporty, though I was quite good at swimming for a while.  This is not running.
  • I’ve never been really, really fit, like Michelle Bridges (but then who the hell is??!), my natural inclination to be lazy prohibits such magnificent calves.  I once stood next to her at the Mothers Day Classic in Brisbane and was too intimidated by those legs to even say hello, which is a shame, because people who do communicate like normal human beings with her say that she is lovely.

Falsities (the false bits, not false titties, we’ve completed the boob talk section).

  • If a T-Rex was chasing me down the street I’m pretty sure I would actually run to save my life.
  • You can make time in any busy schedule to go for a run and even fit in 50km’s of training per week when you are doing a full time degree – you’re just going to have to be really, really, organised, and get used to starts, even on a weekend, and sometimes running in the cold and the dark on a night…..until you buy a home treadmill, which makes the training schedule a whole lot easier.
  • Sometimes I have hated running, but sometimes it’s not been so bad either.  I’ve realised now that I’m  on a break from running  just how good it was for my stress levels, and my health, and my diet; because to run a long way you have to fuel your body properly.  This is not to say that I didn’t run an entire marathon on a bag of jelly snakes and energy drinks…just that I don’t recommend it.

The Big Truth –

My husband calls my running style “a controlled shuffle”.  Rather rude really when you consider how much effort it takes to get off the couch and do something that you have no natural ability or inclination for.  However, he is entirely correct.  The Gold Coast Marathon still has the link active for my video shots, and seeing how I share everything else with you I thought I might as well share this humility as well.  The girl in pink in front of me at the 21km mark has really perfected the shuffling style, and I think you’ll realise on witnessing this vision that it’s of no surprise that the man carrying AND playing a giant French Horn, also beat me.  You may not realise that this is the result of five months dedicated training; that I ran the first half quicker than I’d run the half marathon the year before, and that it well and truly broke me, physically, emotionally, and mentally,  and then put me back together again by the end.  There were many sections were I just walked, and felt like giving up.  It can be a long, lonely road out there, but if you keep on shuffling you can make it to the end, however hard the journey, and whether it takes you 6 hours 10 minutes or not, you can prove that you’re not a quitter; you’re a marathon runner, NO EXCUSES!!

Brace yourselves, here is video footage to prove the point, it says “Low Quality Sample”, and I was.  Behold, The Controlled Shuffle in all its tragic glory:

Video Link To The Controlled Shuffle

(If you have a look at me finishing, there are three men just ahead of me; one is blind, two ran as his guides.  You see some amazing people at these events; whether its 5km or 42km, there are very few people who genuinely can’t run).

My top ten ‘non-runner’ tips:

  1. Start by walking regularly, even if it’s just 10 minutes, three or four times per week.
  2. Incorporate a run to the end of your street when you are ready, try imagining there is a T-Rex bearing down on you if you need extra motivation.
  3. Be consistent, even if it’s only running to the end of your street three times per week.
  4. Don’t make excuses:  It’s not the days that are easy that count but the days when you really don’t want to do it that will make the difference.  Trust me, on the day of a race it’s very likely that you will feel like you don’t want to do it, so you need to train your mind to deal with that possibility.
  5. Set a goal, like a charity fun run OR walk, you often get a t-shirt, meet inspiring people who are more unfit than yourself and yet are still having a go, it’s for a good cause (both the charity and your health and well being), and it might give you a taste for a bigger goal or just motivate you to keep it up as a permanent lifestyle change.
  6. If at all possible, run outdoors and get some fresh air, treadmills are boring and the view is often rubbish as well.
  7. Buy decent trainers; if you buy cheap inappropriate ones you’ll get injuries and won’t want to keep it up, buy the best you can afford, you’re worth it, and some chaffing powder…….trust me on that one, unless you are super, super, slim and toned, parts of you will flap around, and you will need it, possibly in surprising and unexpected places.
  8. Hydrate, eat well, warm up and stretch out when you finish, if possible add a yoga session a week at home or in a class, your new running body will thank you for it.
  9. Mix up your training lengths – once you start training properly you will encounter all sorts of weird and wonderful terminology, like Fartlek.   I seriously thought this was “Fart Leg” at first.  It’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds and is instead a kind of interval training that powers different muscles and improves your speed.  Also, have some runs that include hills, don’t just run on the flat (even the Gold Coast, which is billed as the flattest marathon course in the world, has some inclines).  You can download lots of training schedules from the internet, and often from the websites of charity fun runs.
  10. The best advice I ever read or heard was this: Running is 90% mind, 10% legs.  And: You don’t train for climbing Mt Everest by climbing Mt Everest every week.  This last one basically means that you put the mileage into your legs over a period of many months; some runners get close to knowing whether they can do the distance they are aiming for on race day, but many of us simply can’t, and really shouldn’t risk exhausting ourselves or risking injury before the ‘big day’.  The furthest I ran without stopping before the marathon was 27km, and then we had three weeks of tapering so I had to trust in the expertise of Pat Carroll who devises the training schedules for Gold Coast entrants, and use my 90% mind to believe I could get through the remaining 15km on the day.