Sofies Couch to 5K: Introduction

I want to tell the story of my C25K experience, including how much I weighed the routes I used and how I felt during and after. Fortunately I recorded most of this using GPS and forum posts so I can look back and see what was going on at the time.

To start with, I am 5’11” and weighed well over 105 kg when I started C25K, I was incredibly unfit. I point this out because so many people see me and say I must have always been a runner or fit. That’s a compliment and fine but I feel like a lot of people try to rule themselves out of running by mentally editing my history. And I feel like I worked hard back then so I’m not going to let people forget. Even my family who knew me as unhealthy most of my life say I have always been fit, well this is a photo of me in 2016.

I was working at the Manchester Royal infirmary at the time, I had the best job in the world, which is one that you want to do. I was a research assistant on a project hacking the Kinect, a gaming device, to make it track breathing rates of patients in the hospital. A proof of concept type of study and as a physicist into medicine I loved it. It was strange then that I was suffering from depression, and it was getting worse.

I used to walk the 4 kilometers into work everyday, and enjoyed it whilst listening to a podcast or audiobook. But the depression made this difficult, I would rather stay in bed for 20 more minutes and get a bus. This was one change that seemed to happen without me noticing, and when I did it forced me to think about things. Another was finding it harder to put my shoes on because my belly was just in the way making it hard to breathe. Walking up stairs to my flat left me breathless and sweaty. I kept having to buy larger clothes to stay comfortable. I remember deciding to walk home one day and finding it had become much more difficult, to the extent that I was shaking. Looking in the mirror I would see someone else looking back, this wasn’t me, it wasn’t fair.

I remember sometimes coming home and seeing females running past and becoming sad and depressed. “I will never be like that” I thought and I meant it in two ways. I meant it in the way that I will never be a runner again. I also meant it in the way that I wish I was born female. At the time I focussed on the running aspect, I honestly believed all men wished they were born female, it never crossed my mind that I could be transgender because all I knew about that was that you are born in the wrong body. Well, I was in for a surprise on that front and so was everyone who knew me, but that was for later. I had become resigned to being unfit and unhappy, I had tasted the world and didn’t want anymore of it, I wanted things to be simple, I wanted to be drunk. I was the loneliest person on the planet.

This carried on until the end of March 2016, I found myself in a mental health ward. It was an observation ward, with 4 of us to a room. I think I had gone to A&E because I was feeling suicidal, I had started to self harm again, cutting my arms but after 2 days they let me go, it was on April fools day, haha.. I had to make the decision between ending everything, or trying to get better mentally. With the stakes so high, I thought I have to at least try something, I might aswell right? The main thing I wanted to do at this time was to stop drinking, It had become a crutch to cope with life but I knew if I could ditch that I could make other changes too, drastic changes, but ditching alcohol would also mean facing my thoughts.

Stopping drinking was very hard, I had no brakes because I was suicidal. When you are only thinking a day, week or maybe month ahead you don’t really care about alcoholism. Contrary, actually I just wanted something to come along and kill me. I would drink most nights, I didn’t get drunk on nights before work and could do drink free days but it was getting harder. I had also began self harming again by cutting my arms. If you wanted to find me those days, my hobby was getting blackout drunk in the pub, reading comics. Somehow just by being surrounded by people in the pub I felt less lonely, even if I never talked to anyone.

I could see many benefits of not drinking, I was spending a fortune on alcohol for one thing. It would mean saving a lot of money, I was spending £50 some nights on alcohol. Dieting and losing weight, I was consuming 1,000s of calories through alcohol alone, and even more via obligatory kebabs. Along with this, I could be more active instead of drinking, I could go out for a walk instead of being hungover, burning calories, instead of consuming them.

Once I was free again I looked on-line for a way to start running, there I found the Couch to 5k programme and a lovely community of people who had completed it or were on their own journey through it. And so, about a week before my 28th birthday in April 2016, I ditched the drink and started Couch to 5k. This isn’t a complete success story, I did finish and I did lose a lot of weight, but the alcohol came back. The transformation that happened during these few weeks were incredible however, and it gave me the base fitness to start running again when I once again found myself deeper into a mental hospital almost 8 months later.

This is a brief section of my life, it wasn’t the first time I had tried to get into running, but It was a big lesson for me, and at that time the longest time I managed to stay off alcohol since I was 18.

In future posts I will tell you the details I put on the C25K forum and some of the notes I took on how my dieting was going along with how I remember it. As you can see below, eventually through running I found myself, I am still finding pieces here and there.

I am doing this in the hopes that it encourages others to try C25K as you can tell I really enjoyed doing it, and even though I fell off the wagon, it really helped me start running with just the knowledge that I could still do it. As a very large person, it gave me a lot of self confidence, along with being an overweight runner I also had plenty of scars along my arms that I was extremely self conscious about.

I have seen people in their 60 and 70’s starting and loving C25K, falling in love with running in the process, ant they all believed they were never able to run. If you are thinking of starting it, then why not join in?

Lots of love to everyone,

Sofie xxxxxxx

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