Some time ago, on a cold wintery day in February,  in what now seems like a moment of madness, I signed up for Broxtowe Councils’ 5K run at Bramcote Hills Park on April 19. Not for charity, not for competition but for personal challenge, for me. That’s easy I hear you scoff, its only 3 miles. Now bearing in mind, I’m not a young chap, 42 this year, edging the 15 stone point and developing some serious man boobs. I haven’t exercised since….well, ever. Anyone over 40 signing up for such things should be sense checked first. Then again, challenges are not meant to be easy. You did know the male mid-life crisis usually happens between the ages of 35 and 50 and can last for up to 10 years? I’m at the prime age. I’m screwed.

Nick Cook Broxtowe 5K
The look of anguish, relief crossing the finish line.

I received my confirmation through for the run so I’d best start doing something about it. Got myself a little training programme in the form of the NHS Couch to 5K programme. It’s a series of weekly podcasts with a graduated programme designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5K in nine weeks. Its designed for new runners, tried and tested by thousands of others. Tells you when to walk, when to stop, all to music and some gentle encouragement. Apparently I get a day off in between runs. Something tells me I’ll be needing it.

In all honesty, I’m dreading it, I can’t sleep and it’s taking over me. Time to bite the bullet. The best thing to do is to go straight out after work and not let anything distract me. Dressed in a pair of Mizuno trainers I got ages ago with the intention of getting fit, Ron Hill tracskster pants, a tee shirt, an ancient Fred Perry hoodie, gloves and a beanie hat. I look like Rocky Balboa gone wrong.  In fact, I look like a man who’s having a mid-life crisis and decided to start running and signed up for a 5k race.

Week 1 starts with a brisk 5 minute walk then alternates 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. My bum had better be looking peachy after all this.

  • Week 1 Run 1 – I venture outside, its pitch black, freezing cold and there is a nasty biting wind. Time to pound the pavement. Each step feels like I’m making a mini crater in the pavement, each foot strike the force of TNT. Not even a blast of Rocky’s Eye of the Tiger from a wound down window on passing car can spur me faster.  If I can motivate myself to get out in this weather surely that’s a good thing. But I do survive and I’ve gone further than I thought I would.
  • Week 1 Run 2 – I’ve been sat in the car for 4 hours in a traffic jam and I’m home very late, surely this is a good excuse not to go. No way, dump the suit, change into the running gear and head out again on the same route. The bottom of my legs are feeling it, slowing down to the walk feels like hell, some numbness feelings.
  • Week 1 Run 3 – Its Sunday morning and I’ve been wide awake for hours, mainly ‘cos I’ve been thinking that its run day. Its also wet, miserable, grey and chucking it down with rain. Today though I’ve taken a different route and misjudged the distance and have a longer route back. Its not a pretty sight me running, think the exact opposite of a sex face. A real horrorshow. But it’s all done and completed while Sam is in bed.

I survived week 1, lungs bursting, muscles tightening and I guess there’s supposed to be some sort of sense of accomplishment. Maybe I’ll feel that after I’ve finished dying on the couch. Bring on week 2.

Finally, after nine weeks of graduating hard work, running every other day, each week no easier than the last, have finally resulted in being able to plod on for 30 minutes 3 times a week. It feels like a miracle getting here. I just hope my knee’s can cope. I just hope every other body part can cope.  There’s been derisory comments, mocking tones, encouraging remarks, the full spectrum from abuse to adulation. Facebook though, that just seems to be awash with bollocks, “I just ran 50 miles in 25 minutes” type posts etc, some of these buggers should be competing against Mo Farrah. Apparently, 5K is the perfect distance for beginners. I’ll just be happy to cross the finishing line alive and hopefully in an acceptable time

Race day is finally here. 10 weeks from sitting on the settee, quite successfully I might add, to running my first ever 5K race at the Broxtowe Sport Run. This is truly some sort of madness, a mid life crisis at the age of 41, a chubby gut lord cutting down on pork pies and picking up trainers instead. Here I am, standing, waiting, wearing race number 51 on my shirt, a chip around my ankle and I’ll admit to a few pre-race nerves. Its not helped by standing in the toilet queue with Prima Donna in front of me saying she did it last year in 23 minutes and Action Man behind me reckoning he’ll do it in 15 minutes. Both of ’em look like they’ve never eaten a bag of crisps in their lives.

I started out near the back, on the premise that this way I can’t be overtaken. This was a mistake as it increases your race time. But then everybody bolted out at the start, race fever infection had taken hold. Like a slow lumbering Dr Who monster, I make my way through the course, up some killer hills, finally realising why the place was called Bramcote Hills Park. The look of anguish on my face is not dissimilar to the scene at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark when that bloke’s face starts melting. Swearing to myself I’ve never going to do anything foolish like this again.

Medal from Broxtowe 5K
Medal from Broxtowe 5K

But I did it and completed it in 35:02 with my name called out as I cross the line. I’m really happy with that, it’s a faster time than I thought but not faster than any time I’ve done so far. I’m still pleased as punch.  Now wearing my medals and proud of them. So that pace isn’t going to set the world alight, the sound barrier is still intact and I’m probably not going to be giving tips to Mo Farah. Chariots of fire, more like thunder thighs of fire. Roll on the next race. Personal challenge completed. I did say last year about ticking off the bucket list rather than kicking the bucket. Send tapplause, new knees, card from the Queen this way.


Nick Cook. Amateur astronomer, space, history, nerd, extreme dog walker, cat slave, severe tinnitus sufferer. 13.7 billion years in the making - not that much better for it.

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