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My Journey to a sub 20 5k

No doubt you have seen in the media the amazing running barrier that was broken recently. What are you talking about the marathon!? I mean about how I ran 5k in under 20 minutes!

When I started running I had a goal that was so high I was unsure if it would be possible. Recently I achieved that goal, to run a 5k in less than 20 minutes.

When I started couch to 5k in 2016 I could barely run for a minute, handy because the first week of Couch to 5k (C25K) you only run a minute at a time. The first time I ran 20 minutes non stop was the last run in week 5 (yes couch to 5k is magic). I got just over 3k in that time and collapsed in an elated and exhausted heap.

My first 5k took me over 30 minutes and that was after weeks of training. The speed I would need to run a sub 20 was a dead out sprint, you can see why I thought it might never happen.

I remember getting under 30 minutes on the treadmill for the first time. My first parkrun took me 28:14 and I was done for.

I was still quite confidant though, and threw myself into training. I improved very quickly through a lot of hard work but the returns started to diminish. My 5k times started to plateau.

In fact, my 5k Personal Best (PB) of 20:34 would stand for almost a year.

I wasn’t too worried about this though. At the time I got the PB I hadn’t done much in terms of long distance running. I was thinking of doing a marathon and increasing my mileage rather than focusing on 5k and over this time big improvements happened in my 10k and half marathon times. I was gaining endurance.

My next 5k PB was exactly 20 minutes in august last year (2018). This was my first sale sizzler, and I really enjoyed it. I was super happy getting a 20 minute 5k, still it left me with just 1 second to knock off for a sub 20.

Not long after this I did the Great North run, one month later the great Manchester half marathon, then a month after the Bolton abbey half marathon, then soon after that got a place at the 2019 London Marathon so again my focus was pulled away from 5k.

So it was another year went by without getting under 20 minutes.

This year after doing the London Marathon I wanted to focus on 5k. I signed up for all 4 of the Sale Sizzlers. They are held 2 weeks apart, the same course in the summer and usually live up to their name of being sizzlers.

The first one was my benchmark, I hadn’t really tried speedy stuff at a parkrun but I thought I could get under 20 minutes.

Sizzler 1: 20:15

Not too bad, I wasn’t worried, it was about 22 degrees, one of the first hot days of the year and I was close. I also forgot that I had entered as a non binary runner, it was the first time they had included this category and I am proud to be the first runner to finish sale sizzler in the non-binary category.

I put in my notes that this was the hardest I had run a race, I remember feeling like I was too deep into oxygen debt at 3k and somehow just kept going, no doubt because of the marathon endurance. Different distances are painful in different ways, this was a lung buster and lactic acid nightmare.

Sizzler 2: 20:12

I wrote in my notes “Nearly 2 years training my 5k hasn’t improved”.
So you can probably see I wasn’t happy with the performance at the time! I couldn’t believe that after 2 years I hadn’t improved much. And all the marathon training hadn’t seemed to speed my 5k up. The London Marathon did have an effect though. Despite not being as fast as I was the distance felt like I had barely started and I was 3k in.

I felt extremely demoralised. I could sulk about it or I could throw even more at it and beat it. I sulked. But only for 12 hours then I joined the gym and threw everything I had at it. Used the frustration as fuel. I vowed to get under 20min at the sizzlers and under 19 this year….

Here are my strava notes from the next day after joining the gym and doing 1 hour on the crosstrainer.

Yesterday was the most demoralised I have ever been with my running. Joined gym again, sub 20 at sale sizzlers and sub 19 this year, fuck you 5k
New goals are sub 20 at sale sizzlers and under 19 by end of year. Image of my park-running shows why I am pretty upset. I went from 27:45 to 20:34 in 6 and a half months in 2017, getting 9 PBs in a row at parkrun at one point. All the running between now and then and I haven’t removed the 35 seconds? I was doing more back then as I was losing 2kg a week, so I am starting the cardio up again and doing more running. Sorry for the bad language BUT!….. FUCK YOU 5K!!! Its a war!

The war was on. The engine that had been idling since I lost weight was switched back on. I had 4kg to lose and a sub 20 and 4 weeks to train and all this is getting rather dramatic!

My friends interjected at this point to remind me that running isn’t all about speed and times, it’s about enjoying it first. And that is true! There are 2 ways running rewards you, the most common for me is the sheer joy of being able to do it. I couldn’t run for a bus – LITERALLY – a few years ago. I love running, it gave me the confidence to transition.

The other way though is the injection of adrenaline and reward for getting a PB. I wasn’t in a place where I would give up running, but I wanted to kick my own arse.

Looking back, what had happened was I had transitioned and it started to feel unsafe to go outside. I feel fine when I am running but my huge long walks had stopped and I barely even left to do shopping. I was running a lot up to 60k per week but other than that I was sat down. The increased mileage was good for the London Marathon, I am very happy with that. It wasn’t doing my speed any good though because I spent a disproportionate amount of time sat down.

I put on a small bit of weight which wasn’t a problem, it was just there to lose. Another way of getting faster.

Over the next 2 weeks I lost 2kg spending an hour a day on the crosstrainer, as well as running normally and walking a lot. When I focus on losing weight I am focused. 2 weeks had passed, it was time to try again.

Sale sizzler 3: 20:45

What happened?

It was 30C. It was the hottest day of the year. It was one of those hot days where its like youve stepped off a plane in a hot country and you immediately thing, oh blimey the plane is hot, before quickly realising that is just the temperature now.
The organisers of the sizzler said anyone who drops out gets 2 free flapjacks.
I channelled Blue and I went for a sub 20 minute 5k.

Here is Blue. He was once caught pretending to be a surgeon at Airedale hospital, he had done 7 open heart surgeries before they caught on to him. He was my inspiration.

So I didn’t do it, third time unlucky. I bloody enjoyed it though. The heat slows me down but I will take it over cold.

2 more weeks, the training continued, I lost another 2kg and had my last chance at the sale sizzlers.

Sale Sizzler 4: ????

I was lucky Nick Taylor was able to get a photo of me on this one. I was super happy and exhausted, this is about 3-4k in. I was enjoying it.

Keeping the suspense.

Well, I needed a bigger improvement than just a little under 20:00 and I smashed the bugger!

19:36

I really felt like I had a super power! I still do, it hasn’t worn off much. When I started running this goal was absurd. This was faster than my sprinting pace.

The challenge over the winter will be to keep going outside despite the cold. The hardest bit for me is how cold it is in my flat. It makes it hard to just get changed in order to go out. I am hoping to get that sub 19 this year, I need to target a saturday and go for it at parkrun. I feel like me speed has increased since the sizzler, I’ve continued training hard and even after 10 miles I seem to be able to hit sub 20 pace.

Hope everyone is OK, it’s good to be back. My next race is going to be the Bolton Abbey Half Marathon on 10/11/19. It is super hilly and muddy so wish me luck. Maybe I will get some video of that one.

The London Marathon: The Race

My alarm was set for 5:30 – this is the earliest alarm in my phone, now whenever I have to scroll up that far, it is a reminder of what happened in London.

I changed into my running gear that was carefully laid out next to my bed, including 4 gels in my running belt. At this point making the decision not to carry my GoPro. It was a shame but I didn’t want to risk it in my belt where it might fall out or cause my belt to slip, spoiler alert, one of my gels did fall down a portaloo at the start. I also didn’t want to use the chest mount which would obscure my name.

Steve and Christine moved their things into my room which we had booked for an extra night so I would have a place to get a shower and we had somewhere to leave out bags.

The car park at Gravesend train station was almost empty and about 5 other runners were on the platform with their friends. There was a cold wind blowing which got me really anxious about being too cold. In my minds eye, there I was frozen stiff at mile 10, icicled hanging down my nose and elbows. All I was wearing on the run was my LGBT foundation vest. I knew that it would be warm enough when I started running but the anxiety was kicking in hard. I remember wanting the train journey to never end.

We got off at Maze Hill near Greenwhich and there were maybe 50-100 runners on the train, not many given the train was eight carriages long.

There were three starting areas for the marathon, Green, Blue and Red, above each area there was a coloured blimp, I was in Green the smallest area. We walked up the hill to the start zone and waited for a while before going in. I was nervous of taking off my coat and trousers but had brought a spare one to throw away at the start, the discarded clothing is all collected and given to charities. At this point we were stood between a person running as Big Ben -who would later be in the news for not fitting under the finish line – and someone running in a tent (tent man). There was also the rhino.

It was at this point I was missing my coffee, I had been too distracted to make one in the morning and I could feel its absence. Once I got into the start area however I saw a tent “for virgin staff and guests”. I wasn’t sure but went to the people at the front and gave them my name and they let me in. That was lucky, I wasn’t aware of this before but knew I might be a guest as our places were organized by virgin money lounges, who had given 2 extras to the LGBT foundation.

Inside I found fruit, lucozade, water and….. COFFEE!!! I couldn’t believe it. It was like being a VIP.

Whilst inside I rang my Mum and we talked for a while, we were both watching the various starts, wheelchair and elite women. Whilst talking I saw a lady wearing the trans pride flag I managed to talk to her after and she was running for Mermaids and a dementia research charity.

At 9:30 our start pen opened, there were 8 zones and I was in zone 2. Two ladies started talking to me which was really nice, there were helicopters buzzing around and at around 11 minutes past 10 I was across the start line.

My plan was to aim for 8 minute miles or 5:00/km, ideally starting with a 3hour 30 minute pacer and staying with them as if it was a club run. Unfortunately there were NO pacers in our starting block, I considered going back but after asking someone next to me they said they were aiming for 3:30 so I stayed put. Two ladies in the start pen started talking to me too, I think they could tell I was nervous, they had both got in through the good for age entry, which is v impressive. We talked about being nervous and cold.

Start -5k: 24:09

I stayed with one of the ladies for around a mile but slowly we drifted apart. The London Marathon starts from 3 different locations which then merge onto the main route. It was still impressive how many people had come out to cheer on just this start. I was about 100m behind Big Ben at this point, because he was going for a world record I didn’t think I would be able to keep up.

It was interesting seeing the other waves join us like tributaries. I was hoping to join with a 3:30 from another wave but only saw a 3:00 pacer so let them slowly drift ahead of me.

I was indeed finding it hard to slow down during the first 5k. Having tapered and carbed up this pace felt easy and it was my fastest 5k split in the marathon [24:09]

It might be surprising then to find out that I thought I was going to have to bail out at this point. After about 2k a pain started growing in the tendons of my left foot. I remember a run recently I had to cut short and rest for 2 weeks because of a similar feeling. My mind was in trouble because of this and I cant say with confidence that the pain really got worse or I just imagined it did. I remember seeing a medical tent at 4k and wondering if I should quickly get a paracetamol, maybe if I knock it on the head now it will prevent it from stopping me from running. I fully intended to walk the rest of the marathon even if I had to hobble. I passed the tent by.

5k-10k 24:30

There were some good signs on display, one that stuck in my mind, I saw a few times “Keep going! You are running better than the government”.

I was watching big ben pull very slowly ahead of me, maybe 300 meters ahead now. The pain in my foot seemed worse, I was also running awkwardly to try and minimise and protect it. This is never good as running awkwardly just gets you an injury elsewhere. It wasn’t that the pain was bad, it was the worry that it could get worse.

I remember the advice from Didsbury runners, to be mindful and enjoy the event. I may never get to do it again. Distracting myself was pretty easy to do given I was running the London Marathon and looking at the landmarks, runners and crowds of supporters really helped take my mind away. I even saw some of the landmarks I had looked up before the race, but mainly the insane people cheering us on. I have talked about my experience at the great north run where people were laughing at me, but here I was getting a tonne of “Go Sofie!”. Every now and then I would make eye contact to the people cheering that and it was super nice. This was where I realised leaving the camera was a good idea, the “go Sofie” cheering was repeated all the way to the end I am so glad my camera wasn’t obscuring my name.

One of the main bits I remember from the start is running around the cutty sark. The crowds were amazing. Although the pain/worry was there I was finding it easy to take my mind away. As well as some television cameras on giant arms there were a lot of bands too and the drums would give me a real adrenaline boost.

I was getting emotional every now and then and almost crying, the support was so great and it was beginning to hit me that I was running the London Marathon. The thing I have watched so many times through my life and been inspired to do what those people on TV were doing. After a number of years of also being depressed seeing those people and wishing I could do it, drinking away my feelings. I was here, doing it, inspiring people. It was emotional.

10-15k 24:33

OK I wanted the pain gone in the marathon and now I am writing this I want it gone here too, so I will show what is going on and let you know that after passing the London bridge, it was gone completely.

Here is a graph of the ground contact time balance, the ratio of how long my left foot was on the floor compared to the right. You can see that red dip near the start. My left foot was only down 47% of the time because I was compensating to protect it. Its quite a useful graph because you can see where the pain was during the race.

I remember hoping that I could run the race free of injury and deciding to just take my mind away from it so that hopefully my form would return to normal and as you can see on the graph, it did.

I think it was on this stretch, nearly at 10 miles that I passed tent man, the bananas in pyjamas accompanied me instead. I was holding steady compared to big ben too, he was still about 300meters ahead of me.

Generally through the whole race, people were overtaking me. Not whizzing past but I was definitely slightly slower than the crowd. I was OK with this and tried not to block the route. I would find 2 people running together and follow them. Some time later I would be on my own. I would find some other people to follow. Its surprising how in a crowd of 1000’s of runners, you don’t often come across people running the exact pace you feel up to. But it was nice, I felt like an island or a cruise ship, sometimes out at sea, sometimes docked up taking in the landmarks.

15k to 20 24:42 to halfway (21.1k)

There was a marker at every kilometer and every mile and at the 10 mile marker someone who looked like a body builder and sounded like a personal trainer shouted “10 miles now everybody remember to fuel up, take a gel”.

I remember thinking, that person must be shouting the same thing every 20 seconds or so. I was grateful and did obey though and had my second gel, or third if you include the one that fell down the portaloo in the start area.

The closer we got to 20k the louder the support was, I was still crying at parts but around 19k you could no longer hear individual names being called, it was constant cheering and banners and people.

About 100m from the 20k marker I heard someone shout “almost halfway now come on london bridge just ahead”. I was approaching a moment that will be stuck in my head forever.

We turned a corner and london bridge was ahead of us. The cheering got louder, I was now on London bridge and it was a roar. I started crying on london bridge. I was mindful, I looked at the bridge itself, realised how unlikely it would be to get to run down the middle of it again. How nice it looked. Heard the roar of humanity urging us on. This must be the feeling you get in the olympics when a stadium of people if urging you on.

I was smiling my head off.

Halfway to 25k 19:46

Just after the bridge you hit the half marathon point. It was here that a few vans passed on the other side of the road going in the opposite direction. I looked over a few moments later and there was Eulid Kipchoge. He was looking over at us as we cheered him on. The look of concentration in his eyes was so inspiring and the reaction from everyone including the runners was crazy. I wasn’t running now, I was flying. Anything felt possible.

25 -30k 25:51

This is where I could see the wall approaching. I tried to run through it like harry potters platform 9 3/4. It almost worked.

Spotting Phil and Laura after hearing a Sofie brought me some more speed. Thanks both for coming and offering a place to stay as well as showing us the start area in greenwich.

I was feeling tired. When running long distances I tend to settle into it, and it can be a bit like sitting in a chair, your legs just do the work. This was true since the pain went. I was looking around a lot and seeing the sights and taking the crowds in. But now I was also thinking about the end.

I was actually glad to have gotten to 30k before getting tired in some of my slower training runs I had felt this way at 21k. What had happened was my muscled were coming to the end of their glycogen stores and I was transitioning to fat burning to keep going. I was becoming necessary to shift gears to eke out whatever I had left. This was the wall.

Again I spotted a trans flag and there was Christine and Steve cheering me on

30 -35k 27:32

Difficulties were kicking in and I was wanting it to end. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the energy, although I was tired. Instead my muscles were just not responding and that was causing me to run with bad form and slow down. This is what seperates the marathon from any shorter distance for me. In a shorter race I slow down because of a battle wit lactic acid buildup, or I have reached V02max, or I have run out of energy. In the marathon my muscles just stop responding, they don’t care if I feel like I can go on.

I knew this would happen however and my strategy was to enjoy where I am and what I am doing. The support was awesome, the sights were awesome and I knew so many people were tracking me at home and from Didsbury Runners. So thank you all because this stopped my pace from falling off a cliff.

35 – 40k

Almost there, as I passed the 37km marker I told myself “just a parkrun left, I can do a parkrun any day”. I had to be totally focussed on not stopping at this point. I am really happy how I kept my pace at 5:52 per k. This was my slowest pace during the marathon. It could easily have been below 6:30. The crowds were still amazing and I was really digging in. I didn’t have the presence of mind to appreciate my surroundings at this point, focussing on just running and not stopping was all I could do.

40-42.2k

The last bit.

I was almost there.

My muscles were on fire, I was heel-striking badly because I couldn’t lift my thigh up, the muscles above my knee were red hot.

Somehow I sped up instead of slowing down to 5:45/k. I don’t know where that came from.

Everyone was going crazy at the side of the road. I could see famous london landmarks and couldn’t figure out what they were. I would be lost if I wasn’t penned in on all side with thousands of people to follow.

Once we turned onto the final few hundred meters I knew where I was. I remember seeing this on TV so many times and trying to will my energy from the couch into whichever runner was finishing. It was emotional. I was doing this. I saw someone being wheeled off on a chair, also a number of people being helped across the line. I can’t imagine getting so far to run out just before the end.

I used the rest of my energy ready for a sprint finish, but there was nothing left, I’d used everything.

Finished 3:38:20

Over the line.. Stopping was such a weird thing to do after running for 3:38:20. It was welcome though. One of the medical staff followed me and kept asking if I was OK. I felt faint and all my muscles seemed to take a rest, even the ones I hadn’t used. I kept telling her yes and smiling at her and thanking her but she followed me a while. I must have looked as faint as I felt. Through a funnel I went, picking up my medal and goodie bag.

After that I got emotional, it was as if everything I have been through over the past few years hit me. Fortunately I was too exhausted, so then did what I do after any good race, went and got lost. Faster than you could lose a pen or a hairbrush, faster even than I lost that screw bit one time. I had to ask for directions, my legs were failing, my temperature was plummeting, even though it wasn’t that cold. My other superpower is freezing to death in reasonably warm temperatures.

I found Christine and Steve and as I started to put my shoes back on I was stricken by the worst crampsatan could devise. I very nearly screamed and fell over, it went up my whole leg and then the other. I had to limp around and keep my legs moving to fend it off. Eventually we got the train back to gravesend.

I have come a long way and am almost not the same person.

I want to thank everyone who donated, which is what made this so amazing, raising money for the LGBT foundation, including Stafani who donated offline as well as all those below. Thanks also to the Virgin Money Lounges Manchester and Jennifer Quinn for giving places to the LGBT foundation for the London Marathon and providing lots of support with fundraising. Thanks to Solomons bar on Wilmslow road, Mary and Archie bar of Burton road Manchester for hosting collection boxes and being extremely nice as well as everyone who donated that way! Everyone who has supported me, Didsbury Runners and Cafe Diagnosis.

Thank you to all the staff and volunteers at the LGBT foundation for all of your support you are all amazing.

It was a long drive back to Scunthorpe, and then to Skipton.

The nicest thing was seeing an increase in number of runners down the Mersey after the London Marathon. If you have been inspired to run by the London Marathon, I can recommend trying couch to 5k.

Thank you for reading and waiting, fortunately I got all the details down after the race, it then took me months to finish off but hopefully it has been worth the wait.

London Marathon: 1/2 Getting There

Wow, I ran the London Marathon! I was there! I will spit this up into the lead up and then into the marathon itself in the next post. It turns out writing about the london martathon is itself a marathon. I think splitting it up is quite helpful.

In the weeks leading to the marathon I began to get nervous, nervous about getting there, getting my race pack, getting to the start, running a marathon. I stopped going out as much, stopped eating properly. This is something I have always struggled with. The idea of getting to London and doing everything was scary.

I was really helped by the encouragement and donations from friends, I got lots of lovely messages, even from people I have never met. Didsbury Runners has been such a great group and a few weeks before the run I was featured in a runners spotlight which so nice it made me cry. I also just want to thank everyone who donated, it meant a lot and kept me going when things got tough.

I was incredibly nervous about getting to london so fortunately my brother and sister in law decided to come with me and support on the day. I met up with them in Scunthorpe and we drove down to Gravesend on Friday. We stayed in a hotel in Gravesend so that we had plenty of time to go to the running expo and pick up my race pack on Saturday. I was as nervous as I get, as if I had a job interview or exam.

We got the train the next day and ventured to the running expo. I picked up my running number and we wondered around picking up free things, including some deep heat I just gave to my mum and a bottle opener, some shoe laces, some Vaseline (I think!) and the marathon news.

We meet up with my friends Phil and Laura at a pub in Greenwich, it’s very nice to see them and after having the nicest veggie burger I have had, we head out to see the Cutty Sark, and wander through the maritime museum on our way to the Greenwich observatory. You can also see the start on the map below, I was in the green zone. You can see there are three starts to the london marathon and I will merge with blue around one mile, then with red around 3 miles.

On the marathon itself you run around the whole ship around the 10k point. As you can see the weather didn’t look too great the day before and the barriers were going up ready for the race.

Being in Greenwich was handy because it is where the marathon starts the next day. My main worries at this point it that I will be late, or I will freeze to death while running the marathon. It is quite windy but supposed to be calmer the next day for the marathon.

After getting back to the hotel fairly early I start worrying. I have some more of the pasta my mum had made, a good idea as you don’t want to risk much with food before a race and don’t want to eat too late if it is early the next day.

I then start to worry about whether to bring my gopro on the race or not. I realise if I wear my chest harness it will cover my name on my vest, but if I carry it in my belt I might lose it or drop it and it could become very annoying if it starts bouncing about. A little annoyance can become a big problem before 26 miles. I go for a test run with it on my chest.

I head out of the hotel and up a path I had seen, then just happen to find a nice running route behind the hotel. Theres a feeling I get before a race when I go for a run, I feel like I am completely unfit and unready. Because this has been so common and predictable since that first Manchester 10k 2 years ago. It no longer worries me too much, in fact, I am expecting it. I feel fine however. I don’t take this is a good or bad sign. There was another runner I am slowly catching up to and overtaking. As I do he talks to me and asks how I know the route. I explain myself. He seems really impressed I am doing the marathon and asks for advice getting into longer distance stuff, and says I look like an athlete! It is the first time I get a glimpse at what I am doing from the outside. He seemed really happy and inspired and I thought that is great, maybe I am inspiring people to run more. Since I started couch to 5k one of my missions has been to get people to start running. Especially those like me who have gone through life without trying it outside of school.

I turn around and come back, saying goodbye to my new friend. The purpose of this run was to get my legs to remember running and make sure nothing was aching, I had been in the back of the car for a long time coming here. It was also to see how I felt about the camera. I decided in the end to leave it and just focus on the run. This turned out to be the best choice as I found out the next day. Covering up my name on my vest would have been a bad move.

We were aiming to wake up about 5:30 the next day, I got all my stuff ready for just rolling out of bed. No need to worry about forgetting my race number or shoe tag, all my gels in my belt. I go to bed at 11 and lay there for 3 hours until I fall asleep.

So thats it, next will be the marathon itself. I have already written it up so it will be up tomorrow for everyone.

Circles: The Manchester 10k

First to say I am still writing my recap of the London Marathon. I think I am a bit like an Ent from lord of the rings, a lot of time passes me by quickly. I have it all written but its quite spaghetti, like this paragraph. It is coming.

In short I am still fundraising for the LGBT foundation. Despite running a marathon PB 3 weeks ago, giving a pint of blood 1.5 weeks ago I am hoping to get a 10k PB on Sunday at the great manchester 10k. Where in some ways it all began. The LGBT Fdn are helping me with transitioning and my mental health please do consider donating here. Today is also International Day against Homophobia Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) so your donations will be extremely well timed!

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SofieLewis

The Great Manchester 10k

Two years ago I was released from mental health hospital where I was sectioned feeling suicidal. After getting out I quit alcohol and started running. I signed up for the great Manchester 10k.

I rose money for Mind. At this time I was overweight and male. But I wanted to help others with their mental health problems.

I remember ironing onto my vest the three letters JOE, I was secretly hoping the E would fail so I could run as Jo. Also the person representing Mind at the race was called Sophie. I didn’t know at the time why I felt the way I did, but she is one of the Sophies I have met in my life that proved Sophie was an awesome name. It surprises me and saddens me still how I covered up these feelings even from myself, my whole life. At this time, hoping the E wouldn’t stick, and wishing I was a Sophie, I didn’t think beyond the fact it cause me a lot of sadness. Despite knowing trans people I couldn’t be trans and that was all there was to it.

The race was a huge day for me. My family came over to watch, it was the first time many of them had seen my self harm scars. I had covered them up and hidden them for years in shame. I wanted to run the great Manchester 10k in just my Mind vest. It took a lot of courage. In the end I was also super happy with my time

Since that day I have mainly worn short sleeves, especially when its warm. Indeed most of the time I forget I have scars. Sometimes I have met friends who haven’t seen them and only remember afterwards that they might not have known. I put that change down to this run alone and the fact that my family supported me.

On Sunday I am running it again, this time I am combining it with my fundraising for the London Marathon to try and raise more money for the LGBT foundation.

I called this post “circles” because in a lot of ways things have come full circle. I was referred for therapy through the NHS over the last month or two as things have been difficult. An absolutely lovely lady, Meninda, from the mental health services has been contacting me and organising help and she rang yesterday to ask if I would like to get that help through the LGBT foundation as they provide the same NHS mental health services, despite me accidentally playing Fatboy Slim down the phone because I was running with it in my belt at the time… Facepalm

I intend to try for a 10k personal best. Currently my 10k PB is from the great north run:

Officially 44:17 however I want to beat what my GPS thought it was: 43:44.

I believe I can get close to 41 minutes but I wont be able to perform at peak condition for two reasons:

1: I ran the London marathon 3 weeks ago

2: I gave a pint of blood to the NHS 1.5 weeks ago

I am interested to see what I can do though but if it isn’t as fast and I feel slow I wont be too troubled. I do want to get that PB for the LGBT foundation however.

Lastly thank you everyone who has donated money to these amazing two charities over the years. You have helped them and myself and many others.

Love you all

Sofie XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Coming Out the Other Side.. Or Not: a Marathon Training and Mental Health Update

I have been in a terribly dark place the last few weeks. Thinking bad thoughts. The media has indeed gotten worse in its anti-trans agenda. This includes famous athletes dehumanising us, one of whom was my interview answer for person who most inspires me. Also a famous runner, Paula Radcliffe.

Last Sunday (07/04/19) the times alone had 4 anti-trans hit pieces, targeting the only NHS service and the only charity for trans adolescents.

The economist questioned weather eugenics of trans people was a good idea.

As the we in the UK become serfs to businesses and billionaires who don’t pay tax those running things want to focus our attention away from them. They do this by getting us to fight each other. “We aren’t the problem, transgender people are the problem, muslims are the problem..”

I have on top of this had the DWP interview, which added a lot of stress. I’ve been seeing doctors and trying medication. Anti depressants left me unable to run and with nothing left in life. I got annoyed at myself for being talked into them so they are not an option.

Talking about running..

I have been doing a lot of it!

Total running since last update: 276.3k (172.6 miles)

This includes the most running I have ever done in 1 week 85k (53 miles). Also my second third and fourth longest runs ever at:

2nd: 34k (21.1 miles)
3rd: 32.5k (20.3 miles)
4th: 30.2k (18.8 miles)

I have been getting much stronger during the long runs as my endurance increases. At first it was a real struggle after the half marathon point (21k) now I felt strong up to 30k despite not eating on the run. This run was on quite a nice day and I had to stop into weatherspoons for a pint… of water! As my friend Matt says, just don’t make it a full breakfast.

So training is going well. I may or may not do that last long run, it isn’t too important wither way as I am getting enough mileage.

I wish I was able to update this more frequently but obviously I am not up to it. As I was writing this more things happened so I had 1.5 good days and I am getting tired of feeling suicidal all the time.

It is my first birthday as Sofie on Friday, so if anyone wanted to please donate to the LGBT foundation. That is why I am running 26.2 miles in 2 weeks.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SofieLewis

Sofies C25k Journey: Week 1 – The beginning

I will talk about my body weight a bit in this series, its one of the things I focussed on at the time and that got me through. I just want to say, there’s nothing wrong with any body shape or size and the world would be a better place if people didn’t judge each other on such petty things. Losing weight was one of my goals for doing C25k, and probably for many others too, running became something else though, something I now can’t deal without. Weight loss (or now just being able/needing to eat a lot) became a secondary benefit. So I recommend running for everyone. Don’t let people who judge, have any say over how you live your life.

Week 1

It is the 12th of April 2016. I am working as a research assistant at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. About 2 weeks ago on the 1st, I was released from hospital. I had been sent to SAFIRE ward because of feeling suicidal and self harming. That was my first experience of being in a mental hospital (although I had previously been hospitalised for mental health reasons) it was scary, with four of us to a room. I remember a nurse saying “it’s a mixed ward but all males at the moment” although I couldn’t tell why at the time, the fact it was mixed comforted me a lot.

When I got out I stopped drinking and was determined to lose weight. I think they weighed me over 110kg at the hospital. I remember them asking if that was normal for me, and me being embarrased and thinking, this isn’t me! You aren’t seeing me!

I am about 5’10”-11″ (1.8m) in height which puts my BMI at 34

I started to diet and exercise, this included getting as many steps as possible, I wanted to get all the weight gone as soon as possible. I have an extremely strong will when I am determined to do something and I was losing weight rapidly. Although by this point hadn’t bought weighing scales, I was researching them online and finding that there was no good set of weighing scales to my dismay.

My researching online had also made me aware of an NHS running plan called Couch to 5k (C25k). I had become a serial Lurker on the health unlocked forum, where I read of the inspiring stories of people doing the program and becoming runners. I was immersed in weight loss and getting into running. When you drink too much and then give up, you end up having a hole in your days and nights. That hole is called living. I become ultra obsessed with one thing in order to fill it, since society these days is so obsessed with DOING, over the much neglected and denigrated SOOTHING (reading, painting by numbers, knitting – non goal oriented things). I set about DOING stuff, having goals, numbers of steps per day, steps during lunch break, weight loss per day, weigh loss targets per week and month, running goals anything I can measure!

So today, a reasonably warm day, around 10C, I do run 1 on C25K

Week 1:
For your 3 runs in week 1, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then alternate 1 minute of running and 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.

Run 1:

Unfortunately I didn’t track this run. I wanted to get down to the river before the first run interval so that it wasn’t messed up by crossing a road. I can’t remember how I timed things, for this 1st session maybe I just used a stopwatch on my phone. Once I got to the river I started the 1 minute run…

OH MY GOD!! Running for 1 minute was hard. I was questioning myself, “can I do the next 7 of these? Is running a good idea for me? Maybe I just go home now.”

Now I am more experienced, I know I was running too fast, that was the simple answer to my problems, I didn’t know that back then. I ignored my gremlins, I did up to run 4, turned around so I would be closer to home by the time I had finished. During the last four of these my lungs were on fire, I was overtaken by a runner, I was seriously looking forwards to this being done. I pushed on and finished. I got home and felt super proud I had finished, I trusted the program and knew I had made my first steps to 5k. This was it, this was the start, if I continue I will get there.

Run 2:

Since my last run I downloaded an app which tells me when to run and walk, also lets me play my own music. I actually started recording partly for this very reason, 3 years later I am able to look back at what I did. Also I simply wanted to know how fast I was going. Beware however, I don’t believe the top speed in this case, although averages should be fairly accurate. I think I was pushing for 12kph because I remember running that fast before, and averaging 10 (6:00 per k) during the running sections. These are only 1 minute remember, so I was sprinting to get these speeds. This entire C25k journey will be me doing it wrong and telling you to slow down.

My first recorded C25K run W1R2 https://www.strava.com/activities/1197337482

Run 3:

https://www.strava.com/activities/1197337099

This time I turned around a bit later so that I would have a longer walk back home. I think I was enjoying being outside and with the river. I would often see people canoeing down the river too. By run 3 the 1 minute runs were tolerable. I again have to say don’t do what I did, I had done all 3 runs on consecutive days, but I was obsessed as I described above, this was filling the gap.

At this point I am well over 105 Kg (somewhere over 16.5st) I will finally buy some scales in a week (my birthday present) after much researching. I am doing over 20,000 steps per day, using the crosstrainer for an hour at the gym, walking on my lunch break. Also limiting my calories, this wasn’t a healthy diet it was just calorie limited. Burn off more than I put in = weight loss.

I still remember how I felt on these runs, sometimes through a race where I am absolutely pushing myself I get the same thoughts “maybe I should stop running” “maybe this isn’t for me”. It reminds me of how I started and the willpower I used to keep going. If you experience that on a C25k run, slow down, you are going too fast!

Beginner runners have one thing on their side, and that is diminishing returns. Sounds funny but it is true. When you start running you get 90% of the benefits and rewards (increased fitness) with only 60% of the effort level (OK I’m not sure on the exact numbers but you get the idea). You can push for the extra 10% but you are increasing 2 things in my opinion.

1: Your injury risk sky-rockets, your body isn’t used to running yet, your joints are unstable. It isn’t worth it

2: Even worse in my opinion, you wont enjoy it. Why is that worse than an injury? An injury might stop you from running temporarily but if you really despise these first runs you might shelve it completely for the rest of your life.

If you are like me your experience of running was in school, coming last every time, hating it. I missed most PE lessons I got a medical note I hated it. Running isn’t like that. It is like walking, you don’t go on a walk and push yourself to go as fast as you can possibly walk, you go and enjoy yourself. Treat running the same way.

I again recommend everyone to give this a go, give it another go, go easy on yourself, whatever you manage is better than nothing. The weather is getting better and you can graduate in time for summer!

Love you all

Sofie xxxx

Sofies London Marathon Week 10 Training Update: Shelter

I am running the London Marathon to raise money for the LGBT Foundation, please consider donating here:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SofieLewis

Total Training: 410.9k (256 miles)
Week 7: 34.8k (21.75 miles)

Only 3 runs to talk about this week and once again I didn’t fit the long run in so hopefully I will fit that in this week.     

It has been a horrible week, the transphobia machine screams louder it seems. There was a story about a transgender prison opening up where all transgender females were to be held. This later turned out to be fake. There was a story about moving transgender females from female wards in NHS hospitals, also turned out to be fake. And british sport stars have continued their transphobic attack.

Being transgender is having this daily barrage of hate and fear. I think I find it worse because I am on twitter so I see all the BS. Most people don’t know a transgender person, so their knowledge of us is from people who hate us on the news.

I was feeling suicidal so went home. My stress levels were so high I woke up one night and had to throw up. I was eating one meal per day and not feeling hungry. I wasn’t sleeping and that all meant I wasn’t recovering from the running, so I cut back. I could feel my legs were still too sore and I think pushing this week would lead to overtraining and getting injured. Much better to be undertrained than overtrained for running.

While I was at home I finally ran my favourite walking route. I even videoed it so you can all join me on the whole run and see why I love running to much.

Here is just a segment from the top. You have seen this and more if you watched the above version.

I did a lot of it in 4K and caught some amazing bird murmurations in skipton. So When I can I will edit those and upload them. It is like snow but with birds, never seen such a large murmuration. Problem with 4K is you need a good processor to edit it, so its going to take me a while to get through.

Also in running news I am now in my favourite running magazine Like The Wind http://bit.ly/LtWmag19 with my story about being sectioned, losing weight and finding myself. It has been a while since I wrote it so just read it again and really happy with it. They also did a section on non-binary runners.

“So perhaps it’s not surprising that running is breaking new ground in its inclusion of those who do not identify according to traditional gender norms. In this issue, we’ve talked and listened to runners and activists about how our sport is accommodating non-binary athletes, plus one transwoman tells us how running turned her life around.”

Although the only tiny bit I disagree with is I am a trans woman, not a transwoman. Which isn’t a big mistake. It has been quite interesting to read about non-binary runners and how they wish to be included in races. Unlike the mainstream media it isn’t sensationalist piece, just stories from us humans who happen to like running.

It’s tuesday and I still haven’t had a run this week. So wish me luck, I find it hard to go outside.

Love you all!

Sofie, xxxx