Running For Trees: Weeks 7 and 8 – The BERLIN edition! #Treeathlon

The training has continued to go well, even though when I plugged myself in to Week Seven’s podcast for the first time I  gulped when I heard the friendly female voice say “This week you will be running for 25 minutes without stopping”. In the end I managed to do just that three times, the last time at 11pm at night. I finished packing for our trip to Berlin and headed out for my first late night run around my estate. I discovered that at 11pm most people’s lights are out, and that the trees overhanging the path create patches of darkness despite the streetlighting, which for some reason I’d never noticed in the same way on coming home from a night out. Running definitely gives you new perceptions on well-known places.

Week Eight has been my best, and most enjoyable week for running- I ran three times, each run for 28 minutes, and I did it in Berlin. Berlin! I ran the same route each time, more or less, while my friend looked after Sam.

What a great way to get a feel for a place. From Falckensteinstrasse, where we were staying in Kreuzberg, I ran down Schlesische Strasse, up to Treptower Park, then back down, across the Oberbaum Bridge and along the East Side Gallery– part of the Berlin Wall which remains standing and is home to some great street art.

Now we are back from a wonderful week away in a city that has captured my heart (sorry London) and I am about to begin my last official week of training on the NHS Couch Potato to 5K schedule, which has got me running and loving it. Then I have one more week before I run in the Trees For Cities Treeathlon on Saturday 15th September. I am raising money for this excellent organisation- please help me reach my target!

Running for Trees: Weeks Five and Six #Treeathlon

If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I would be getting up on a Sunday morning and going for a run around Glastonbury, including a march up  and down the Tor in the middle of that run, I would not have believed them. But that is exactly what I did yesterday morning. My son and I stayed the night in a B&B in town with a friend and her little girl, and whilst my mate minded the kids I was able to go out for 45 minutes of running with a brief stop at my favourite place in the world in between.

We had driven to Glastonbury the day before, on the Saturday, and taken the kids to the free Children’s Day at the Chalice Well which offered all kinds of activities for children to take part in. These included: yoga, tai chi, gamelan workshop, thank you-boat making, face-painting and tree lore amongst many others. And all of which took place in the environs of the peaceful and beautiful Chalice Well gardens. It was a hot, sunny day and the place was packed with families enjoying the surroundings, the cool healing water of the well and the general feel-good vibe. In true Glastonbury style we bumped into friends down from Wales which made it particularly joyful and meant the kids got to experience the gardens as part of a gang. Perfect!

The run yesterday morning was my last of my Week Six training schedule, and I have really started to notice an improvement in my fitness during the last two weeks. In Week Five the length of time I was running suddenly increased and the length of time walking in between the runs decreased. I have managed to complete all the runs successfully so far which has been a real boost to my confidence. I am, however, sure my walking pace is faster than my running! And I am not running 5k in the training runs, although I hope I will have reached that distance by the end of the Week Nine which is the last week of training on the excellent podacst series, Couch Potato to 5K which you can download for free from the NHS.

The Trees For Cities Treeathlon which is what all this training is for,  takes place on Saturday September 15th in Battersea Park, and looks like it will be a really fun day out. After running 5k I will get a chance to take part in a 100m barefoot run. Trees For Cities currently holds a world record for this event! And the third part of the Treeathlon is the opportunity to plant a tree.

As well as commencing Week Seven of running this week I will also word-wrestle with my dissertation and pack for a trip to Berlin, where I hope to continue my training.

Running for Trees – Weeks Three and Four #Treeathlon

I’ve been so busy with my dissertation and my son finishing his first year of school. I have had enough time for five runs in the last two weeks but no time to blog. But here I am at the beginning of Week Five to report back on how it’s going.

Two weeks ago, at the start of Week Three I decided to go for a run in Richmond Park. I was very excited at the prospect of this, Richmond Park is one of my favourite places to be, and I felt like I was moving up a level. Most of my runs have been around the estate I live on, purely for the reason that it is the most practical and time-saving way of training.

I parked at Pembroke Lodge, changed into my running gear and plugged myself in to my ipod, scrolling through the menus as I walked along. I was looking for the Week Three podcast on the excellent NHS Counch Potato to 5K running programme the NHS provides as a free download. I realised I had downloaded every other week except Week Three! What to do next? Go for another Week Two run or live dangerously and skip stright to Week Four? I went for the latter and, feeling slightly daring as I set off, wondered if I would make it.

I decided I would do as much as I could but if it proved too much I would stop and go back to the week before. I needn’t have worried. Running through the Park was a revelation. It was a warmish, cloudy day, wth the sun peeking through the clouds, but still cool enough to wear my comfort-blanket waterproof.

The ground was earthy and soft, springy and pleasant to run on. The rain had held off and there wasn’t much mud around. And anyway, for most of the run I was under the green canopy of the trees, currently in their full-on showing-out summer glory. I felt energised as I jogged along, excited to be running in this beautiful place, and amazed to be keeping up with the Week Four podcast at the beginning of my Week Three of training! In fact I had no problem completing the run which was a great boost to my confidence- I am not as spud-like as I thought I was.

I completed three runs that week but decided to be sensible and continue with the Week Four podcast in Week Four, rather than get too far ahead of myself. On my fifth run the podcast came to an end with the usual five minute walk to warm down but I wasn’t ready to stop. I scrolled through to find something that would keep the pace up (see below) and continued running for another four minutes, even speeding up, purely for the joy of continuing.

I am getting hooked on running, enjoying feeling fitter and accomplishing each small goal towards the 5k target. I am also calmer and my writing is benefitting from the mental time-out which running provides, especially with the current pressure to write my MA dissertation. The combination is a winner and I have already decided that although my first big goal is to run the Treeathlon for Trees in Cities on 15th September, I won’t stop after that.

I hope to go for another run in Richmond Park again soon but until then the estate where I live is just large enough to accommodate a half hour run. It’s a quiet leafy suburb estate, with grass verges, not yet wiped out by parking although sadly diminishing year on year. There are also still plenty of front gardens which have not been paved over or used for parking (again this is happening at a scary rate) which have trees in them. The other day I noted ash, yew, a couple of silver birch and rowen trees amongst others. I think I will try and see how many species I can spot as I continue to run round my estate.

This neatly brings me to the point of the Treeathlon- to raise money for Trees In Cities. What would a city be like without its lungs? Because that is what trees are, and they provide lots of other benefits too. Trees In Cities have lots of information about this very subject here. Each time I run locally I do a circuit which includes a section of the A3, the massive artery road into London right next to where I live. There are no trees on this road, apart from those in people’s front gardens, where they provide a vital screen from the exhaust fumes and constant noise. I run this way on purpose at the moment, especially after the run in Richmond Park, as a meditation and a reminder of what trees do for us. We cannot and must not underestimate their importance.

Trees feature in my writing all the time, they creep in like ents when I think I am writing about something else. I like it that way…

Running For Trees – WEEK TWO #Treeathlon

Last Monday I plugged myself into Week Two of the NHS Couch Potato to 5k podcast. I had managed two out of three of the recommended runs while listening to the Week One podcast the week before. I also swam twice in that week so felt confident about stepping up the pace.

Going from running for one minute to one and a half at a time, with walks for two minutes in between was more difficult than I thought it would be. In the last three years, since passing my driving test, I have probably done less regular exercise than ever before in my life. Before motherhood I was cycling to and from work and also still going clubbing regularly, dancing for hours every week. When my son was a baby I would walk everywhere,  for hours every day, pushing his buggy in the vain hope that he would eventually sleep, which occasionally he did. Now I am becoming a Mum’s Taxi driver, approaching 42 and feeling out of shape. It’s very motivating to have a challenge with a positive focus like the Treeathlon for Trees In Cities to get fit for.

Going running seems to be good for my writing- on my second run of the week I had a Eureka! moment about one of the major themes of the dissertation I am writing, and feel much happier about it as a result.

I completed all three runs in Week Two and went for a swim where I upped my number of lengths from 20 to 24. I can’t wait to start seeing and feeling the difference.

Slow and steady…

Week Three begins tomorrow!

Running for Trees – WEEK ONE #Treeathlon

I’ve signed up for the Treeathlon being held in support of Trees for Cities in September in Battersea Park. Trees are the lungs of our cities, providing oxygen where it is most needed, and as a city dweller (well, suburbanite) with severe asthma, and a lover of trees and cities, how could I not sign up? Well, I could have easily not signed up but I am aware of encroaching middle age spread and the fact that after driving for three years I have never felt so stiff and unfit in my life. So the trees and cities win if I can raise some money, and I win by getting fitter.

Last night I ran/walked/ran/walked for half an hour and it felt great. Following a recommendation from a friend I am using the NHS’s fantastic podcast of their ‘Couch Potato to 5k’ programme. Download it for FREE (SAVE THE NHS!) and then listen to the podcast for each week which gives you clear instructions on exactly what to do.

I am officially considering this WEEK ONE as I have now started listening to the podcasts. I have already been running a couple of times and am trying to add in some cross training by swimming at least twice a wekk as well beacuse it is especially beneficial for your lungs if you happen to be asthmatic.

I’ve got two more runs to complete this week and am intending to update my progress weekly here.