I finished the “Couch to 5K” running journey tonight. Apparently running 5 kilometres without walking at all is “graduating”.

It’s funny - I got signed up for this damn fool escapade to support Miss 19 in her efforts to do something - or rather my other half’s efforts to make her do something. Notice I wrote “I got signed up” - I didn’t sign myself up. Of course I went along with it, because I thought it would be a good thing to do together - in the same way that parents all over the place end up doing things purely to spend time with their kids - and of course to get them outside, in the fresh air, away from YouTube and Netflix.

We should have guessed at the outset that the chances of our family making it through 10 weeks without injury, illness, accident, or general mayhem rampaging through our plans were slim. Through some kind of miracle we made it to about the fifth week before the idiocy really started - I think I’ve run perhaps three times since. Taking a month out with a cold and then a cough really wasn’t in the plan. Neither was visiting a physiotherapist with Miss 19 to discover that sitting on her foot was preventing her from running.

Anyway. After receiving a wonderful email from one of the girls running the Couch to 5K programme last week, I promised to do the graduation run without my daughter - really to see everybody else finish what we had all started. The coaches knew I could run the distance anyway - we had talked about my lapse at week 5 - when I ran on my own one night and decided to test my body out.

Tonight was interesting. For the first time the group were free to run at their own pace - with seasoned runners matching pace, and accompany the groups that formed. This left me in a bit of a pickle - knowing that I could go with the front runners, but not wanting to be “that guy” - especially as a few people knew why I had been there, and that I had run in the past.

I ended up staying in touch with the lead group - and smiling to myself as they went through the first kilometre significantly faster than they had gone before. Over the next couple of kilometres I slowly reeled them back in (read: they slowed down), and busied myself with making conversation with fellow runners along the way. I saw a couple of people drop out after the first kilometre or so, and wondered if I should stop - but then noticed the coaches peel off to check on them. I’m guessing some people paid the price for starting so fast.

It was fun - and seeing everybody finish and in such high spirits kind of made the night for me. We all returned to the club house after the run, received certificates, a running shirt, and an energy bar each. A huge deal was made out of it, with all of the club members present applauding each person receiving their goodies.

I might have bought a pint of cider.

It’s funny - in the past I’ve always seen running as a solitary activity - something to do on your own, as an escape from normal life. Tonight I saw another side to it - a group of friends have formed over the last 10 weeks. Sure, it might have taken us until tonight to really start talking (the British are famously reserved), but most of the conversation over our drinks was about where we might cross paths next. If only we had all gotten over ourselves a little earlier.

Before the planned park runs, and charity events, my focus has to turn back towards my daughter - to keep her running. I’m guessing we will head out on Thursday night and do some intervals together - and then perhaps repeat those intervals at the weekend as we run around town dressed as Father Christmas, along with several thousand other Father Christmases (yes, you read that right).