I didn’t work up in London forever, not even for the six months it would have taken to pay off the bike in the end. I was painfully aware that ninety minutes of commuting each way in addition to an eight and a half hour work day meant my little boys were spending much too much time at the childminders and not nearly enough at home with me. In addition to this, even without the Tube tickets, I was actually spending more money a month than I was earning, with the high cost of my mainline train tickets. I looked for another job.
I found one 11 miles from home. Unfortunately this put it outside of the “ride to work” distance for me at the time. The route went up the North Downs which made for a very steep hill and, having managed to cut down my childcare by two hours a day, I wasn’t prepared to push it back up again by taking the extra time to cycle. In retrospect I may have been able to ride the route in an hour on the way in plus time to shower, less on the way home, but it would still have pushed the childcare back up by over an hour.
Unexpectedly, this left a strange hole in my life. I had never really exercised regularly before I bought the folding bike, beyond the occasional month of enthusiasm on taking out a new gym membership, but I had become accustomed to 40 minutes, five times a week. I knew the feeling would pass if I let it, that I would relax back into a life of vague sedentary discontent, but I found I didn’t want that. I considered taking my bike into work one day and heading out at lunchtime for rides but there was nowhere really to store a bike where I wouldn’t feel it was in the way.
The answer came from facebook. I started noticing that a lot of my friends were running. Not necessarily my lithe, fit friends but my friends who were like me. They weren’t necessarily posting huge distances or fast times but they were posting regularly, and they were proud about it, celebrating these achievements and their changing lifestyles. I borrowed my boyfriend’s iPod and downloaded a Couch to 5K podcast series of the sort a couple of my other friends had done. I had impressed myself with my ability to stick to the cycling in London, I could do this too! The Couch to 5K (C25K) programme consisted of 3 half hour podcasts per week for nine weeks, designed to get anyone (or at least anyone who could walk for half an hour) to the point of being able to run solidly (if slowly) for half an hour. It talked me through a five minute warm up walk, around 20 minutes of walk/run combinations then a five minute cool down. It was encouraging and friendly with jazzy music in the background.
I started a C25K group on facebook for friends and friends of friends; runners and runners’ supporters and it took off, filled with posts along with the occasional comment along the lines of “I’ve invited [friend name], hope that’s OK” to which the answer was always Yes! Everyone who would be supportive was welcome but it was a haven from posting to my entire facebook “world”. It’s wonderful having that support group: When you feel you’ve done well they celebrate with you; when you think you’ve done badly they remind you that you’re doing so much better than someone who’s not doing anything; when you’ve done nothing, you look at other people’s posts and it makes you get up and out so you have something to post about; and when you’re injured and can’t do anything they count the days with you until you can. I strongly recommend surrounding yourself with friends like these, they are worth their weight in the precious metal of your choice!
I made it to week eight before I had to devote more time to studying and had to put the programme on hold. Then, after just three months with the company, I was made redundant. Bad financial planning… Last in, first out…