It is the day before the Stockholm Half Marathon and I decided to visit the place where my running journey started.
First of all I had to pick up my racing bib for the race. I am a stickler for getting things out of the way asap and not leaving it to the last minute. So in true Shane fashion I was one of the first people there.
I was surprised to see that they have put a British flag next to my number. I feel very proud of that but this also means I can’t let the country down now
I soaked up the pre race expo for a bit and decided to move on. Too many shiny objects here like energy gels and running gear. I have to stick to my golden rules of not running in or on anything new during the race.
Even with all the mind games and personal psychology it is still hard not to get a little nervous. I keep telling myself this is a good thing because it wards off complacency and shows I have respect for the event and for my fellow runners.
I decided there was only one thing for it and to head down to Årstafältet, where I used to live and my spiritual running home. Why is this working class southern Stockholm town my running mecca? It is where this whole crazy journey began.
I remember the day vividly, I strolled down to this common land thinking I would easily notch up 4 or 5 miles. The result? One minute, just. I was in agony, coughing, wheezing and my legs were in bits. After only 60 seconds.
Whilst I had never been an elite athlete at school, I was always able to complete the cross country race distances. Not now, I was no longer 15 with the physique of a greyhound. I was a fat slob.
That was the ‘aha’ moment, that failure was what prompted me to change my life for good. Through the power of eating and drinking more veggies (juicing for weight loss) and moderate exercise.
So how did I go from not even lasting a minute to flying back here almost 4 years later to run a half marathon?
I owe the training regime to the free running program called Couch Potato to 5k. It is a run/walk program designed to get you running 30 mins non stop (or 3 miles) in 8 weeks.
This is workout 1 on week 1:
Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes
So it meant I ‘only’ had to run for 1 minute and then a breather for 1 and a half minutes. Nice. It was still tough for me to do this but it was tolerable and the running was in small chunks. By the end of the 8th week I could run 30 minutes non stop. The body really is an amazing machine.
The Stockholm Half Marathon is important to me because its the first race I targeted. I used to dream about running that race. I registered for it and I was frightened of it. Then as is so often the case in the corporate world, I was selected for a prestigious training academy which was run over 5 weekends. Yes one of those weekends was the Stockholm 13.1 so I never got to run it. (I wanted to keep my job and my promotion prospects alive.)
So now I return in 2013 to finish a race I wanted to run in 2010. The trip down memory lane really helped me. I sat and observed the fields and remembered those early runs. The pain, the anguish then the pride, completing one mile, finishing a 20 min non stop run.
I got up from the park bench, took in a clean breath of Swedish air and said ‘I am ready.’