My running adventure: from 0 to 15k

A little less than 4 years ago I moved to London and was inspired by all my healthy and sporty colleagues to start running. Up to that point I had never loved, or even liked to run.

As a kid I would often be the slowest runner of all of the girls and I found the school system horrible: you would get marks for how far you could run in a certain period of time. I remember giving everything and still ending up with 5 or 6 out of 10. A horrible experience for me. And then one day the sports teacher brought in heart monitors, but didn't change the system, so when it turned out that I had to run even slower in order not to force my body, I would have failed the test...

I went through my university years without almost any running at all. Without any sports actually. Whereas up to my 18th I loved ballet, jazz dance, anything about dancing, during those university years, the combination of studying and partying seemed to be perfect. Who needs sports anyway? Luckily I walked and biked a lot, so still maintained some sort of shape...

I did sometimes try to go running but I would be exhausted after 15 minutes, losing my breath and just being very frustrated about the whole experience.

And then, almost 4 years ago, 3 elements came together:
- my Belgian colleagues gave me an ipod shuffle as leaving gift before I moved to the UK
- my new English colleagues all seemed to be so fit and sporty
- AND, most importantly, I downloaded the START TO RUN series [Dutch] http://www.start-to-run.be

And with those 3 elements, all I needed to do was committing to going running 3 times a week. The series made me go from 0 to 5k without a lot of problems. I learned how to breathe in the right way, how to run for 2, then 5, 10, 20, and finally 30 minutes without stopping...

I did my first run, the 6k Santa run in London. And I made it :) I felt pretty weak afterwards though and it took me 9 months until my next run: I had moved to Paris and after a long break without running, redid the 0-5k and then ran La Parisienne, a 6k female-only race along the Seine!

So now I could run 5k, but how to keep going and progress to another level?
Enter 2 additional elements:
- my parents noticed how much I seemed to love running (much to their surprise) and bought me a heart rate monitor for Christmas. HIGHLY recommended: I noticed I still ran too quickly in order to be able to run for longer periods of time. Slow down and you'll run a lot longer, feeling better
- I signed up for a 10k on my 27th birthday, to make myself proud on a special day

And off I went, now with the KEEP RUNNING series, which takes you from 5-10k with 3 training sessions a week: a short run, an interval session and a long distance run. This series is a lot harder and it took me a lot longer to get to the end of it. But, on my 27th birthday, I ran 10k, in 1h and 7 minutes. The girl who was horrible at running ran 10k and actually enjoyed the entire race. Plus it got me a very flashy yellow t-shirt, which I love.

So then I moved to Cincinnati and it seems to be all about running here: people get up before 6 to go and do their daily run (really...) and before I knew I signed myself up for a 15k. Random factors in the sign-up process were that it was the same price as the 5k and that they didn't offer a 10k... On top of that, doing 15k would allow me to start with my husband, who would run his 4th half marathon...

So I decided to go for it and essentially just followed the same model as the Keep Running series: 3 runs a week, with the long distance run being between 10 and 15k.

And today, I did it, I ran 15k and enjoyed it so much. It felt so good being able to run, not having to walk, beating those hills.

Do I run fast? No
Was I surrounded by walkers for most of the time? Yes
Did I looked very red for most of the race? Yes

Was I smiling? Yes, all the time, because I knew how proud I could be of myself. Yes, because I ran at my own speed, checking my heartbeat. Yes, because today I ran 15k!

So what's next?
- Rat Race 10k in April
- Flying Pig 10k in May
- and then... building up to 21k? Why not? If I have learned one thing from running it is that when you set a crazy objective and train in the right way, there's a big chance you may actually meet that objective and be prouder of yourself than you ever thought was possible!

So just try it!


Did you know that in Cincinnati...

people stop for STOP signs, even when there are no cars around?

you can bike on the sidewalks and people will smile at you and step aside?

a car honking means that people closed off their car, that's all! People hardly ever honk when they are angry!

all girls drink beer when they go to a bar. Asking for a wine is fancy and cider is likely to be non-alcoholic

men wear t-shirts under their work shirts (really?)

people cut their food and then only use their fork in their right hand to eat it up

cats are considered to be indoor animals and are very often declawed

German beer is "cool" because people here are often descendants from German immigrants

Belgium is mainly known for their waffles and beer (not really for chocolate, fries or mussels)

it's normal to drink bloody mary's and mimosa's for brunch and margaritas when you go and eat Mexican

people get together before sport games to drink and eat barbeque and that's called "tailgaiting" (because the back of a truck that you can open is called the "tailgate")

it's normal to have lunch at 11h30 and dinner at 6pm which means that you can have an afterparty or "after-drinks" at 8pm ;)

people go to bed at 10pm at the latest and get up at 6am at the latest (...)


I love it here :)


Dropped into an American movie...

This week, I had 2 experiences that made me feel as if I was dropped into an American movie. Literally.

The first one was a basketball game we went to see. Cincinnati bearcats UC against another college Marquette. It was a great experience - the game was sold out, UC won, the atmosphere was amazing!

But remember those American movies about life at their universities (colleges)? Well, turns out that it's all real: we saw cheerleaders and the dance team, as well as the marching band. And of course I knew it all existed, I just didn't really realize it really did. That may not make sense but that's how I felt. I guess in my mind it was all part of a distant American world of which I would never be a part. And suddenly I was sitting there, watching the cheerleaders being thrown up in the air and the marching band playing their tunes. I loved to observe, but at the same time I was so grateful that I didn't go to an American college. I can just imagine the stress it would take to try out for the dance team and then not make it for example. Because don't be mistaken, all of those cheerleaders and dancers looked as perfect as the girls in the movies. The top of the top I guess! I'm pretty sure I would have been part of the nerdie book club :p

The second -more serious- experience this week was the tornado alarm. This, again, is something we all know can happen in the States. Who hasn't seen "Twister" after all? But when you move to Cincinnati, no one tells you that there may be tornados there. So imagine my surprise when on Friday people started talking about tornados in Cincinnati... Around 4pm an e-mail was sent from work saying that we'd better go home. Turns out I just left with some colleagues to have a drink in a closeby pub. I asked them if we'd better go home but they were very calm and said that we were very safe in the pub because it is a concrete building. It seemed to make sense that that was safer than walking (or even driving) home. So I believed them and stayed there until the danger was over. After about an hour, a bright sun came out and the danger was over. It seemed almost stupid to have worried about it. Until I saw the damage the tornado had made and the lives it had taken.

It's fair to say I'd never thought I'd live somewhere where tornados aren't that weird...

But to all those who are worried about me: be sure that I'll always go to the safest place possible (even when that turns out to be the local pub ;))