I haven't written as much about my running progress as I would have liked - mostly because I wasn't sure how to do so without it getting phenomenally dull: "Today I ran this amount. It was slightly more difficult than last time when I ran slightly less. Blah blah blah."
As a recap though, I have been maintaining my training since January, normally around 3 times a week, and seeking to extend the distance a little every time. I was managing this quite well, but my actual endurance for the run had plateaued at about 15-20 minutes, or about a mile and a half. After that I would have to walk for about a minute or two, then resume running again.
Fortunately, May 3rd was to mark the beginning of the GMFR training runs, organised by Sally Ellis of SE Fitness, a group which also hosts regular group runs for all ages and abilities. I hadn't run with them before - or anyone else for that matter! - so when I turned up on the day I was asked whether I was running or walking the route. Indecisive and self-depreciative as ever, I mumbled that I was hoping to run it but I was struggling to run further than a mile and a half without taking a little break. They made the call for me - I was to run the full 5.5 miles that morning with the intermediate group at a steady pace of 11-12 minute miles. My fate was decided!
There were quite a lot of people at the run, of many different speeds and abilities. Although we all set off together the group soon spread out and runners settled into smaller clusters with those of a similar pace. The main leader for the 11-12 minute mile group offered up various snippets of advice regarding pace, posture and breathing. I got the impression from the pace we were keeping that perhaps I had been pushing myself a little too hard in my solo runs which was contributing to my inability to maintain the pace. Most of all though, it has to be said that the process of running alongside others is extremely motivating and prevented me from falling into my usual pattern of slowing to a walk every now and then. I was able to keep running and maintain a steady pace, steady breathing and even carry on a conversation, and I returned to the meeting point alongside one of the 11 minute mile pacers - a proud accomplishment!
As such I made the decision to continue my training with the group from now on. Even though there was no group meet on the following Monday, my 4 mile solo run was completed at a consistent pace simply due to the knowledge that I COULD go the distance without a break.
Running with that extra boost of confidence and motivation felt like flying. It's amazing what you can accomplish with the right encouragement.