Thursday, 19 May 2011

60 Seconds To 6 hours

Welcome back to and a guest blog from a regular reader, Amy Worrall. You may remember that Amy ran the New York City Marathon with me in 2009 (see "Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants", 23 November 2009 - Amy's running has gone from strength to strength and anybody who has known her since before she became a committed runner will have seen a transformation.

When I first met Amy in 2006, she told me that she'd agreed with her now husband, Mark, that if she ran the NYC Marathon, they'd get married. Sure enough, they got married in New York (see photos, below) and Amy kept her promise in the marathon, even though that meant running with a dislocated bone in her foot! Many thanks to Amy for preparing this blog, and for all her kind support for fivemarathons. Run strong!

Whilst doing circuits around Manchester Town Hall a couple of months ago, I got speaking to a taxi driver. Granted it is a bit odd to see someone running 20 times around Albert Square, so it was only fair he should ask why. I was of course doing some speed work because I'd missed a club session, and it's hard to find places to run in Manchester which resemble a 400m track.

Amy and Mark in Central Park, NYC

"Why do you run?" he asked. When I replied "to lose weight", he said, "don't be ridiculous, there's nothing on you". And then it dawned on me! He didn't know I used to be overweight! I was making this new acquaintance with someone, without the constant strain and pressure of trying to hide my weight. I'd done it! I'd achieved my goal.

You see, when anyone ever asked me why I took up running, I said it was to lose weight. I was introduced briefly to running in 2003 by my then personal trainer, Ken Laird. He told me the only way I would shift the weight was running, and so it began: 5 mins, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, up to a full hour on a treadmill in the gym, with Ken there, chatting and generally distracting me. I felt so proud of myself, until I tried to run outside! It was a disaster. I could only manage, at most, intervals of 10 minutes, and I was devastated by my performance in my first 5k race: 36 minutes, after 11 months training. Shortly after I gave up the training, entered a few 10ks (had a baby) and continued to put weight on.

One day I had a madcap idea. Regular training was what I needed and the only way I would stick to it would be to enter something which, without the training, would be impossible. So, in October 2008 I decided to run the 2009 New York City Marathon. The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that this gave me 13 months to train, but boy did I need it!

Amy keeps her promise: crossing the line in Central Park, 1 November 2009

I decided to train up through the distances. Clearly I couldn't just embark on the marathon plan with 16 weeks to go, so I started small with the "couch to 5k" running plan. I had it pinned on the notice board, and clearly remember looking at week 5, where it promised I would be able to run for 15 minutes without rest. The first session, I could only manage 60 seconds' running, 2 minutes' walking and it took me 54 minutes to get around a 3 mile circuit. Over the weeks I did improve, flew past the week 5 target, and before I knew it, I could run 30 minutes. I gradually trained through the spring to 10k and started on the marathon training plan 16 weeks before the race. Training was good, hard, a big time commitment, but it soon became part of my life. I sustained a stress fracture in the 20 mile run, 4 weeks before the race, so unfortunately my race time was not what I hoped, but that 6 hours 29 minutes and 31 seconds was some of the most emotional time I have spent. It proved to me how determined and strong I really am.

But what of the weight loss? A comfort blanket of carb loading before all of my training sessions meant that I was still 2 stone overweight after the marathon! That, combined with a very sore foot, led me to question whether I wanted to run ever again.

Then I met Dunk's coach, Laith. Regular readers will know all about him and how he has helped Dunk perform his amazing achievements. We met at Dunk's fivemarathons celebration dinner. Something which I was in two minds whether to attend, so ashamed was I of my own time in New York.

I asked him whether he could coach me to be a better runner, a quicker runner, like he had with Dunk. He said "you don't need a coach, you need a running club". I disputed this. No way was I going to a club, with competitive runners, only to make me feel silly. He said it wasn't like that. I didn't believe him! What followed seemed like a job interview, at the end of which he agreed to coach me in the New Year.

I scheduled my first fitness test session with Laith in February 2010. I took my husband for moral support and began the test on the treadmill. Despite having run the marathon only 12 weeks earlier, I felt so unfit. I tried to convince myself that the test would just provide a starting point from which to measure my improvement, but it was hard to do. On the way out of the office, Laith and I discussed the results. He said there were some very obvious things to work on, but it was important I did some speed work, and that meant running at a track. AT A TRACK..........

The first night at Trafford AC was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. It was not the running necessarily, but being outside of my comfort zone. Everyone there was (and still is) quicker than me. But I kept going, week in, week out, through injuries and colds, and gradually my times, and my weight, came down. In 2010, my running goal was to get under an hour for 10k, which I did on the 5th September at the City of Salford 10k (59:55), thanks to Laith and his confidence in me. I also got to my target weight in August, and for the first time in my life, size 10 jeans!

I now train with Trafford twice a week, and Sally Howarth, my new coach, is a member there. I am maintaining my weight loss and speed. So why am I still going? The answer is really quite simple. I used to run to lose weight - it was a necessary evil - but now I live to run! I am a runner. Granted the first five minutes is still awful - I think it always will be, and the session never get any easier, but my sense of accomplishment at reaching another goal is such a buzz that it keeps me going back for more (4 times a week!).

Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see

Noel Bresland - Bliss -

Rebecca Gilbert - Kids ( -

Marco Giannini – Christies –

View fivemarathons photos at

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004