“You run like a girl!”
How many times have you heard that Utterly Hilarious and Not At All Sexist jibe? Even from P.E. teachers at high school, the idea of women just popping on some shorts and heading off for a jog hasn’t always been the norm.
In the Olympics of the ancient Greek era, women even caught watching the athletic events could be executed – not a chance of any #fitspo there. And it’s an attitude that continued right through even to the 1980s – before which there were no races for women longer than 1500m. I mean, my daily running-stupidly-late rush to the train station is longer than that!
But time and time again, women have bucked the trend and fought to prove that we belong in long-distance races just as much as the dudes. From Roberta Gibb – who hid in the bushes at the starting line of the 1966 Boston Marathon and finished the race in an impressive 3:21:25 – to Paula Ratcliffe, the British woman who holds the women’s marathon world record at a breathtaking 2:15:25, you may be surprised to hear that women CAN run…and run…and run.
Learning to embrace the pain
I’ve always loved the idea of becoming a runner – heading off on a Sunday morning as the sun rises, coming back all glowy-faced and lithe-limbed to a luxurious brunch. You know, all the realistic stuff. Unfortunately, I’m not built like Ms Ratcliffe – I may hold the world record for World’s Most Disproportionately Short Legs – so it doesn’t exactly come naturally to me.
But living in London last year and after a little bit too much of the old European diet (bread – wine – cheese – not much else) I decided to give it a crack, huffing and puffing along the Thames, Regent’s Canal, anywhere with a nice enough view to make me forget the lactic acid leaving my legs in agony after only seconds of trotting along.
But I persevered, folks, and I learnt to – well, not love it, but tolerate it until the post-run endorphins hit and I feel like Superwoman. I ran the Nike Women’s 10km while still living in London, and cracked the City2Sea in Melbourne last year.
But onwards and upwards, as they say, and it’s time for the next challenge. I’ve decided to get my first real long-distance race on the board, and it’s coming in the form of Run Melbourne – a half-marathon in July that winds the streets of inner-city Melbourne at the gloriously wintry time of 7am. Deeeeelicious.
I am, to put it mildly, terrified that I’ve signed up for this, but seeing as there’s no looking back I’m determined to smash it out as best as my (very) little legs can handle. I’m running for charity too, a good incentive to do well, and I’ll be raising money for the Australian branch of UNHCR – the United Nations’ refugee charity. (any donations are greatly appreciated, they do amazing work to help refugees and asylum seekers all over the world and I’m genuinely proud to be running for them – you can donate here!).
Apart from the donations and fundraising of it all, the next challenge is training: how to go about building up to that elusive 21.1km mark by the end of July?
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
I downloaded more training plans than you can shake a stick at, read endless blogs about other people’s running experiences – but realised that really, when it comes down to it, cookie-cutter plans that don’t take into consideration my lifestyle or previous training/sport experience are probably not going to be the most helpful in the lead-up to the race: so I’m creating my own schedule.
It’s a loose training plan at the moment, but about six weeks out from the race my weeks look a little like this:
2-3 gym sessions, with a program created for me by my amazing trainer Amy to strengthen the muscles I’ll need to push through the half marathon
1 short (5-10km) and one long (15-20km) run per week
1 Reformer Pilates class/ballet class/yoga and stretching session
1-2 rest days
It’s probably not perfect, but I find it’s a good balance of strength and cardio training, and a good variety of exercise to keep me from getting bored.
In the lead-up to the big day - conveniently just before the Rio Games - I’ll be looking to some of Australia’s best marathon runners for inspiration and motivation to get out on that track (despite the dreary weather!). As for my training, I’ll be sure to keep you updated as I get closer to - and more terrified about - the race.