How do you fit it all in?

Making it happen on my running journey

by teammarchant athlete Gillian Belcher

Gillian steelworks
Hill training!

Work/life/running – it’s an age-old question me and my running buddies ask each other as we watch the ‘fast runners’ with admiration- how do they have time to train enough to be fast? In reality, they have the same time to run as us.

I started running about 6 years ago. Just a plodder, I always have been! I lived in Asia then and had a demanding career and an active social life. How could I fit running in? Somehow, I did it twice a week, just trotting out around our estate or on the treadmill and signing up for the odd local 5 and 10kms. I didn’t take training seriously. I rarely pushed myself. I was sweating therefore I was working was my thought process.

I signed up for my first half marathon and was wayyyy slower than I imagined. I beat myself up over it but continued to run. We returned to the UK. I was still slow. I blamed acclimatisation, I was used to running in the heat!

I did the Great North Run, I was still slow. Why is everyone faster than me? I’m training!

Believe me when I say I had every excuse going. Plodding around on my own I was not getting any faster and none of my friends run either so couldn’t turn to them. So, I joined a running club – the best thing I ever did for my running.  I finally got a bit faster: I set myself a target of 5km in under 30mins and eventually I got there.

Then beautiful little Beatrice arrived. I was now juggling work, home and now a child. How on earth would I ever manage to fit running in? I am of course not the first to face this challenge but I was adamant that I was not giving it up. So, I stuck with club night and park run at the weekend and anything more than twice was a bonus.

When I started training with Mark in our initial consultation he asked me how many times could I run a week. Three. That’s as much as I could do and would be my absolute maximum. Even then I was wondering how could I fit them all in with so much to juggle. I really didn’t know, two already seemed a struggle! Although now I only work part time I have Bea on my days off so it’s not like I could run then.

Mark sent me my training plan and it was so achievable but the sessions challenged me at the same time.  So: three runs it was plus two strength and conditioning sessions each week. It worked because it was carefully thought out, it took effort in to consideration and I was no longer just running around pretending I knew what I was doing!  The plan was all about running at a certain effort level instead of pace – I can tell you it works a treat and made a huge difference to me.

Thanks to the programme I was set I was now making every minute of every session count – consistency and effort were key. My target at this point was a sub 1hr 10km and I managed to achieve it twice over with a couple of other PBs thrown in there for good measure.

Gillian Tyneside 10k
Another sub-1 hour 10k 🙂

I started my Chevy training (20 mile fell race) in January 2018.  Having never run further than a slow half Marathon and never ran anywhere other than a road 20 miles was a daunting task.  Initially Mark added a bit on to parkrun, run to it or get there early to run before. That seemed challenging at the time and required the logistics that the army would be proud of.

As the months passed so did the miles. My plan steadily moved on from park run to runs in our local woods as I needed trail and incline. My longest run would be in June, 2.5 hours one day and 3 hours the next.  I have met people at some unearthly hours and have run in horrific weather but I just needed to get out there and get it done – no excuses!

Things had to give at times though. Work would take over some weeks and I missed out on route recces because of kids’ parties and christenings. It’s not all been plain sailing or easy, don’t get me wrong! Life continues, it has to!

As the weekend sessions got longer the closer to race weekend we got I turned to evening running as otherwise I’d lose the day with the family.  Always a logistical nightmare, I’d set off at tea time and miss bed time.  I was determined I would never be beaten on effort and would always try my best, so I had to make what little time I had count!

team belcher
Including parkrun in my long training run

So I ask the question again. How do you fit it all in? I am still very much a back of the pack runner in my head but I’m ok with that as I’m achieving my running goals. Having Mark as my coach has made me a more confident runner as I’ve learnt many things on my road/trail to going faster and running longer.

My tips:

Priorities – is your running important to you? If so make it happen! I still don’t have the answer but if it matters then do it! I guess in part my mindset has changed as well as the types of sessions I’m doing. Surround yourself with likeminded people and for me this is the biggie – they will kick you when you need it, they hug you when you need it, they will see you stick on the right path. Whether that’s the support via your friends, running buddies/club or you choose to join teammarchant they will be your support crew no matter whether you run 5km or an ultra!

The rest of teammarchant and Mark in particular have been invaluable to me with this. Mark has commented on every single training session I have done, giving me confidence and security in knowing what I was doing is right and that I can do it no matter how tough it gets. He’s not just my running coach but my sports psychologist too including giving me race day plans I’d never even thought of. I honestly could not be about to embark on Chevy Chase without him and his incredible coaching!

Be organised – At home we even have a separate calendar that we put our different training on to so we know who is doing what when. Marks spreadsheet makes everything clear and I was able to plan with Mark what I could do when and any dates I couldn’t do in advance. Proper planning and preparation prevent poor performance!

Be flexible – I have to be with a toddler! Some nights it would be 9pm before we wrestled her to sleep. Strength and conditioning went out the window those nights! Luckily Mark is a very understanding person and again gave me words of support when I felt guilty for missing sessions. On the flip side I was away with work in Coventry, the flattest place on the planet, and was meant to do a hill session so I improvised and hit the treadmill I wouldn’t recommend it but it was a good compromise!

Don’t compare yourself to others – one famous person once said “comparison is the thief of joy”. Different people are at different part of their training to you….as Mark once told me! And he’s so right (don’t tell him) but don’t let them beat you on effort (Mark also told me this!). At times I still amaze myself looking back to January and what I’ve achieved since then! I never knew I’d be able to do it but I’m so glad I can!

Set yourself a goal – I am training for the Chevy Chase fell race, it will be the furthest I have ever ran and my first ever fell race. I would never have signed up to this without knowing Mark would coach me through it. Whether I make the cut offs on race day or not are now not important as I am a stronger and fitter runner ready to take on the challenge!

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