Ah the joy of winter running. No sweat dripping into your eyes. No exposing of too much flesh to an unsuspecting general public. No beetroot red face.
Unfortunately it’s also no feeling in my fingers, no chance for shoes to properly dry out between runs, and no chance of avoiding mud or ice.
Despite this, I’ve managed a few runs in this January’s torrential rain and freezing cold. I feel slow, heavy and unmotivated. I slipped over on the ice at one point when I stopped to take my hat off (“I had a fall!”) but I’m getting out and that’s all that matters at the moment.
9 years after I ran London, my daughter’s boyfriend is this morning lining up on Blackheath getting ready to start. He will be way quicker than I was (he’s just not getting his money’s worth), but apparently was still nervous this morning.
Despite the difference in speed, some advice remains the same – all the usual old chestnuts like “nothing new on race day”, and “the halfway point us at 20 miles”still apply. I thought I’d pass on some of the best advice I was given 9 years ago , by a very experienced runner. He said “ Remember – Easy, Easy, Easy”.
Start off easy. You feel great, you’re excited, you’re anxious to get some miles under your belt. Before you know it you’re on for a 5K PB. Slow down and enjoy the mile you’re on.
Be easy on yourself. If you feel your sock starting to rub, or a leg that feels stiff, stop and sort it out. Your body will thank you in the later miles.
This is easy. You’ve got this. You’ve done the training (that’s the hard bit!), you’ve done the fundraising (even harder!), now you just have to enjoy this last long run.
Helpful or not, I don’t know, but I do know the mantra “easy, easy, easy” has helped me in many a race and long run.
So half marathon training is going well. After 6 miles on roads on Monday, I rewarded myself with the promise of 3.5 miles back on lanes and footpaths.
Everything is much more overgrown than last time I ran here, but the lushness of last month has turned into a seedyness that speaks of cooler, damper days and the reminder that autumn is on its way. The field of wild flowers has been cut and bailed, which led to great relief when I realised the large brown things on the other side of the field were bails and not cows.
As I headed up the last, steep hill home I was greeted by a small face with a loud meow. Convinced I was hallucinating I looked more closely – nope, definitely a cat. I have never seen a cat here, certainly not such a loud and pretty cat that was so demanding of my affection.
What followed involved dithering and cat cuddling whilst I tried to work out the best thing to do. I decided to head home (just over a mile), encourage the cat to come too, so I could feed it and take it to a vets to see if it had a chip.
After a couple of minutes I changed my mind, turned around and headed back down the steep hill to see if the cat lived in the house at the bottom. Nope, apparently he didn’t, but the nice man I accosted suggested it was a farm cat and probably perfectly fine where it was.
I headed back up the steep hill, found the cat again, and explained it should go home because that was what I was doing. I think he understood.
What followed next shows that social media can be a force for good, as I posted on our local community page about the cat. Through various posts, pages and messages I found his owners who lived several miles away.
I jumped in the shower, jumped into clean clothes, rang the cat’s owners, told them where I’d seen their cat, and then shot back out the door to walk back down to see if he was still there. He was, but wandered off when I didn’t have any food. His owners turned up, and after about 10 minutes of calling we heard a loud meow and the cat appeared! He swerved his owners (obviously didn’t want his big adventure to end) so I grabbed him as he rubbed against my legs and handed him over.
Turns out he did this a few weeks ago, and ended up further up the lane in one of my neighbour’s gardens. I shall be keeping my eyes open for the beautiful Simba in future, and his owners will be trying to attach another GPS tracker to him to keep an eye on where he goes. Wonder if he’s on Strava??
I hate road running. It’s boring, too many chances for altercations with other road users, and fewer opportunities to take photos. And it’s boring – did I mention that?
Now I’ve got that out of the way, the reason I was road running this morning was that yesterday I had an email from the organisers of the Bournemouth Half excitedly telling me it was “8 weeks to go!!!” Ah yes – 8 weeks to go until a half marathon I entered early last year, as a push to do something a little different towards the end of 2020. Naturally it was deferred, and I have been in complete denial since then about it.
Now I have 2 courses of action. I can wimp out, lose the money on the race place and the coach ticket I’ve already purchased and continue pootling around our lanes and footpaths. Or I can pull my big-girl-running pants* on, do some training, and run this thing.
Okay – let’s unenthusiastically do this thing!
I set off to run 6 miles purely on road. No sneaky footpaths, no little puddles of mud to splash in, no stiles to hang around on- just roads. I can report that my fears were confirmed and it was mind numbingly boring. And hard. Tarmac is hard underfoot.
I actually pushed on to 6.23 miles so at least I could say I’d run 10K, and I surprised myself by running it in 64 minutes. Not bad off very little training. Maybe I can run a half marathon again …
* Running pants are built for comfort, so it’s goes without saying that they are generally huge!
Because I’m a complete nerd, I decided to add up my totals for this summer’s ‘thon. Because I’m also a geek I put it in a spreadsheet which I present to you below:-
Overall I’m happy with my ‘athon. Obviously if I’d been more organised I would have done my sums earlier and managed a little more effort to up my miles and hours to more pleasingly round numbers. Notwithstanding this, I’m happy. Roll on Janathon!
The final stretch! Day 22 was my usual Tuesday cycle commute of 5.59 miles. Beautiful weather for it, but my legs always complain after a day of standing up.
Day 23 – hours tai chi lesson. Still haven’t managed to do the complete form with needing a prompt from our teacher. One more week …
Day 24 – a day trip to Oxford to take the in-laws to visit their granddaughter. Forgot to start my Garmin so I didn’t measure it, but we walked for a fair few miles (and ate some lovely vegan food along the way!).
Day 25 – 5.59 mile cycle commute again.
Day 26 – Walk of 0.98 miles (how annoying!) near the highest hill in Wiltshire, spotting more orchids and then at least another mile around Avebury.
Day 27 – a 3 mile walk around the village in the rain.
Day 28 – 3.77 mile run with my run buddy
Day 29 – 5.59 mile cycle commute again for me today.
Day 30 – made it to the final day! To end with a flourish I finally managed (once) to get through the complete form in my tai chi lesson on my own with no prompts. As an encore, I cycled into town for a bonus 9.3 mile ride.
I had to collect a parcel, so merrily set off with my trusted panniers* on my bike confident in my load carrying capabilities. The nice man in the office found my parcel, and handed over a massive box (which I knew only contained a few, small items). Wielding all the charm I could muster, I persuaded him to let me open the box, take out the contents (which fitted easily into my panniers) and then hand back the empty box for him to recycle. Result!
I cycled on into town and made it a practice “Coffeeneuring” ride.
*Technically they’re my husband’s trusty panniers, but they’re on my bike now so, possession … 9/10ths of the law etc.
And so the month, and the weekly pattern, continue.
June 14 – 5 mile hot run. It’s amazing what grows in the woods near here …
June 15 – 5.59 mile commute on the bike
June 16 – an hour of tai chi
June 17 – an hour’s off road run with a diversion to have a look at the orchids. 4.7 miles.
June 18 – 5.6 mile commute on the bike again.
June 19 – short walk of 2 miles through a miserable wet wood, which smelt really bad (like fetid water bad). Got home and had to immediately wash my trousers and trainers to get the smell out. Wish I hadn’t bothered, but hey – Juneathon!
June 20 – ran out of time, so decided to attempt a proper, full press up. Started in the plank position, started slowing lowering myself to the floor, reached the floor to the relief of my trembling arms, and then was stuck. Not enough strength to raise myself back up, so managed to roll over and do 30 sit-ups instead.
June 21 – 3.8 mile run with my running buddy. Apparently, according to Strava, we’re still “trending faster”. I’ll take that.
Whoops – knew I’d forgotten to do something! A quick catch up of my Juneathon activities from the last week.
Monday 7th June – work, so a round trip bike commute of 5.5 miles.
Tuesday 8th June – run with my friend of 3.75 miles (although Garmin had a blip and reckons it was 3.94 miles).
Wednesday 9th June – an hours tai chi lesson.
Thursday 10th June – running again – just over 7 hot, hilly, mainly off road miles. Within the first mile I met overly-interested cows and decided to retreat, retrace my footsteps, and go round by the road. Not a great start, but the rest of the route was bovine-free and enjoyable despite the heat and hills.
Friday 11th June was back to work, and so another cycle-commute.
Saturday 12th June I nearly ran out of time but just managed to squeak in 20 minutes of tai chi practice before midnight.
Sunday 13th June – knowing this day was bound to go the same as yesterday, I enthusiastically took myself off for a short walk before going out for the day. As I left the shady shelter of the trees I realised I should have applied sun cream and worn at least my sun glasses, if not a sun hat as well. 2 1/4 miles walked down and up a hill in 40 minutes.
A lovely, sunny Sunday stretched ahead me and before I could slope off and simply potter the day away I decided to go for a run. As a change from my usual plods I thought I’d see how close I could get to a 30 minute 5K (just in case parkrun ever returns).
Despite stopping to take photos along the way, I was impressed that my “moving” time was 30:29. Much faster than I’d hoped.
One of my running club colleagues, Frank, was taking part today in an Ultra race, the Suffolk backyard ultra. In this unique race, entrants have to run 4.16 miles every hour as many times as they can. Winner is the last runner still going. The course record is 41 laps – do the maths! Why 4.16 miles? Well it’s the distance to cover every hour in order to complete 100 miles in 24 hours. The day was warm and humid, and I was tired after 5K but in a nod of appreciation to Frank’s amazing challenge I decided to run on a bit further. I ran past my house, and ran another 1.2 miles (I had mis-remembered the distance).
Frank did so well, and finally stopped after 116 miles. He had struggled with the temperature, and eating and drinking. To think I was tired after 1 lap!