Run 1000 Miles Ambassador

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness… so I can’t quite put into words just how excited I am about this. I’m jumping up and down squealing kind of excited and a little choked up and overwhelmed. But let’s go back a bit. In November Trail Running Magazine asked for expressions of interest for becoming an ambassador for the 2019 iteration of their Run1000Miles challenge. I paid no attention. Kath commented on the post saying she nominated me, I still paid no attention because, come on, it’s me. I’m no running ambassador. But there were lots of positive comments and ‘likes’ and encouragement so I thought what the hell and sent the email.

I didn’t expect to get picked. I am not the obvious choice when you think ‘running’ so not an obvious choice for promoting a running challenge or for encouraging others. I’m not your typical running role model or poster girl for physical activity. I thought that maybe I could be a good ambassador precisely because I’m not what you might expect in that role and it seems that some agreed. So let me tell you a bit about the challenge, a bit about me and the challenge and a bit about why being an ambassador for it means the world and confirms everything I love about the challenge and the group.

The challenge is simple. Sign up, join the facebook group, run, track your miles, post about your runs, share pictures, encourage others, be encouraged, see where you get to, done. Some will reach 1000 miles before Easter, others won’t get to 500 in the year. It doesn’t matter, it’s about the journey (sounds nauseatingly cliched, I know but it’s true). It’s about having a great running year however you define ‘great’. It’s about getting outside, enjoying being out, about encouraging and being encouraged, about learning and sharing and most of all about enjoying running.

I first joined Run1000Miles in 2017. Kath had joined and she kept saying how lovely the group was and that I should join. I just thought it wasn’t for me – it’s a 1000 mile challenge by Trail Running Magazine – not for me. 1000 miles was so far beyond my imagination and trails were and often still are scary things that cause me to fall over and/or freak out. But then curiosity got the better of me and I joined and lurked in the Facebook group for a bit and I realised that the group of people were my kind of people. I’d found my running tribe. They welcomed me, slow, ploddy, fat, scared of trails me into the group and they were (and still are!) prepared to share my little successes and wins, help me through my tricky patches when it seemed me and running were going our separate ways and share their experience and knowledge to make me a better runner. With their help and encouragement and, frankly, their belief in me I pushed myself through a tough 7 miler on News Years Eve 2017 to finish the year on exactly 500 miles. 

I was excited to sign up for 2018. I really wanted to try and run more miles. I won’t make 1000 but I’m going to get closer than I ever thought possible. 1000 miles was my wildest dreams goal, my ambitious but possibly realistic goal A was 750 miles (I had B and C goals to but they don’t matter now!). I’m less than 5 miles away from achieving the 750 now. I love the group on Facebook. There is a notable absence of arrogant, patronising, rude or all of the above twats. There is a genuine understanding and acceptance that we are all at different levels and that my lightening fast run pace might well be someone else’s slow recovery jog; that a mile can be a huge challenge and covering it a big win; that miles and pace and hours are just numbers. I am in awe of some of the runners in the group – some because they’re fast, some because they can go so far, some because they can go so high (and come back down in one piece), some because they deal with mud like it’s nothing, some because they get up every morning and despite (and sometimes because of) the demons we all have pull their trainers on and run. Most of all though I have valued the the stories, the encouragement, the support and the inspiration and I have loved being able to be a part of that. 

Having me as a 2019 ambassador confirms that I was right about the trail running community and particularly the community we have built in the Run1000Miles Facebook group – it really is for all of us. It doesn’t matter where in our running journeys we are. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow we go, how much we walk, where we run, whether we can run far or not, whether we can run vertically up and back down, whether we splash through puddles or slide through mud, get stuck in boggy moors or stumble our way through woodland tree roots. What matters is that we all run and get outside and that is somehow important to us in and that we understand that and that we support each other and celebrate each other’s successes. I don’t have any sort of sporting memories that go anywhere near that so I’m making new ones and maybe as ambassador I can help others re-write their relationship with exercise and running in particular. 

Join me  – sign up here and then join the Facebook Group and see for yourself – try it, you might just surprise yourself by running a whole lot more than you thought you could. 

20 Miles

At one point this post was going to be called ‘I hate running’ and it was going to consist of just that one simple sentence. But let’s start at the beginning. Because of various bits and pieces like the hilly Simon’s Seat adventure or the run we cut short last weekend, the most distance I have covered has been 17 miles. It wasn’t entirely successful either. According the the plan I should have been at 23 miles now but even with the modified plan I should be at 20. I wasn’t. I now am. That’s the good news.

We decided that we would put in a 20 miler today. No back to back running or anything, just a 20 miler instead of the 6 on the plan. We both felt ok and not still tired from last week. We decided to run Sunday rather than Saturday because the weather forecast looked better and it turned out to be the right call – Saturday was windy and wet, today was lovely, sunny and dry. We woke up at 5.30, had a cup of tea and a bagel with butter (much better than with peanut butter – fuelling is the same I think but the peanut butter repeats). Then we slowly got up and organised and set off.

We ran down the hill the long way round and when we reached the bottom road we dropped into 2 minute running and 30 second walking intervals. We had decided to go along the road to mix things up a little – it was early so there was almost no traffic and it gave us a little more light than the canal towpath would have done while we were waiting for daylight to take hold properly. It was all fine. We ticked off Crossflatts, Bingley, Nabwood and then Saltaire where we dropped down onto the canal. It was all fine without any problems at all until about 6 miles. At 6 miles I had a little niggle in my right hip, tightness more than a niggle really. It never went away again but it wasn’t too distracting

We went along the canal to 8 miles, saw a kingfisher just beyond Salts Mill and then turned round to avoid the section in Shipley which just isn’t that nice. Somewhere around 9 miles I got  quite a sharp pain in my right foot, just below the ball of my foot. I ignored it to ten miles and then we walked an extra interval and I stretched my feet and then my hamstrings. The pain was still there but it wasn’t too bad so we kept going. We saw a heron at the bottom of 5 Rise Locks. Miles 11 and 12 weren’t easy but ok and Kath suggested that to re-set a little and make sure that the doubts that were creeping in didn’t take hold, we could walk up the hill at Morton Lane and then go back down Swine Lane and continue along the canal. That made sense to me so we did that. 

Half marathon covered and onwards. I was struggling with the two minutes. My hips had set tight and my foot hurt. I wasn’t doing that well mentally, too much negativity. After another mile and a bit of struggling through 2 minute running intervals we changed it to 1 minute runs. That felt a little better. Now coming to 15 miles and for a couple of intervals it felt like I was going ok. We had to go past a series of options for going home and it was so tempting to sod the miles, walk up the hill and soak those aching legs, hips and feet in a hot bath. I lost it. 

We walked on and I tried not to cry. I stopped and we had a brief chat and Kath wanted to know what was going on. I didn’t really know. I just knew that I wasn’t sure I could keep putting one foot in front of the other. We walked on a bit and then I asked Kath if she’d walk the rest of the road with me towards the ‘bottom road’ so that I could reset and then we could maybe pick up run walk again. As we walked I was trying to breathe and not cry and then Kath said that she knew it would sound harsh but that I either needed to get my head together or we needed to head home because walking along like I was wasn’t healthy. At that moment I felt utterly abandoned. I was trying so hard to get my head together and my breathing was getting better and I had just asked for help which I don’t find easy. It felt like a complete betrayal. I told her she just didn’t get it and I never wanted to run with her again and walked off in the opposite direction (Yep, I do drama well!). She called after me to stop being pathetic which just felt like more evidence that I shouldn’t even bother trying with this running thing. As we agreed on later, as far as running meltdown tantrums go, this was one of my better ones.

Anyway, we figured it out (and continue to) and I repeated my plea for help and we kept going. We ran for 1 minute and walked for 30 seconds and somehow made it through 16 miles, then 17 and eventually 18. There were some additional walk breaks but we kept moving. 19 miles came and  we were now closing in on the last canal bridge I would have to see today. I was willing it to come and it did and I continuously ran the last bit to it and then we walked the hill home. 20.38 miles in the bag. We had a Tailwind Rebuild recovery drink and then did 15 minutes of yoga before having some food. Then we had a bath. I am tired. I genuinely enjoyed the first 10ish miles. I feel confident about the first three Dopey runs. Half marathon distance is ok. I’m not sure how I feel about the 26.2. I’ll do it. I hope I can enjoy it, or at least more of it than this run would suggest and I hope I can do it without taking my emotions out on Kath.

The best thing about having done it? Well obviously hot chocolate from my moomin mug curled up on the sofa with our Ernie-cat. 

In other news – Sunday weigh in. I have lost roughly 5 pounds since I last posted about it I think and the 2 pounds since last week just nicely drop me into the next stone bracket. Ernie cat is continuing to put on weight so we’re all going in the right direction

Rainbows into gorgeous nothingness

I am as always late to the party. Kath ordered me some rainbow laces last year and today, after they have been lying around in our hallway for over 12 months I finally got round to putting them into a pair of my road running trainers. It was of course a displacement activity – I’ve been unfocused all day. I have felt crappy. The beginnings of a cold I mentioned the other day is still here and I have my period and it’s getting towards the end of term, it’s dark and cold…

So I just wasn’t feeling it at all. Running just seemed like such an idiotic thing to be doing on a day like today. Just not something I would do. But then I had just spent a stupidly long time getting my rainbow laces into my shoes. So I decided I would go anyway – the plan just has 45 minutes on it and I didn’t even have to run it all… 

So off I went descending into the fog. We’ve been above it for most of the day as you can see in the pictures and it’s just been hanging in the Aire valley. I plodded the first mile assessing any residual stiffness from the weekend – nothing – and then settled into the second mile.

The canal was an eery sort of stunning. Visibility was very very low and ahead of me all I could really see was a silver sort of nothingness. Stunning, inviting and just very slightly unsettling. I was going comfortably fast but the slight sick-y feeling I’ve had all day lingered and when I started feeling really uncomfortable just before two miles I decided to run to 2 miles and then walk home. I pushed the pace a little and finished mile two in 11.29.

I walked back the way I came for a bit enjoying the silence fog brings and wondering how long it would take for me to be able to see the bridge I’d just run passed again. It seemed like it should be right there but it wasn’t, not for a long time, just gorgeous silver quiet nothingness. A bit further on, where the fog was being pierced by lights from the houses, I bumped into one of my mum’s neighbours walking her dog. We walked a little stretch together chatting before I headed up the hill home. 

I’m glad that’s done, ticked off and I can now spend the rest of the evening sitting on the sofa eating more than my share of Terence the Turtle jelly sweets I had in my advent calendar this morning. 

Day 4 of Dopey Simulation- Worrying about Ernie-Cat

So today was meant to be our 20 miler. Well that wasn’t to be but the drama wasn’t really about running. Neither of us slept very much because Ernie-cat was really struggling to breathe and was all wheezy and sneezy. We were worried about him. We know that he’s not getting better and that how long he’s still going to be with us can probably be counted in days or weeks rather than months so we had to wonder whether this was it, was this him suffering too much?

It was early, we had a cup of tea and porridge in bed and cuddles with the cats and then we got up. I felt a bit grotty – the beginnings of a cold which have been the beginnings of a cold since Thursday. I also felt emotional – it’s Rachel’s birthday today. It would have been her 40th. I miss her. And then there’s our Ernie-Cat. So getting out for a run was not a given –  it was tempting to curl up in bed and try and sleep or at least hide. We decided that we would change plans slightly – rather than running all the way to Skipton we’d run a little bit that way and then head back in the other way with lots of options for coming off the canal and finding other ways home if we needed them.

We made it out the door and kept plodding along mostly in silent togetherness as we ticked off the 2 minute run and 30 second walks. Occasionally we’d walk longer to have a drink but mostly it was just one foot in front of the other, lost in our own thoughts. Mile 5 came fairly quickly and then we hit the muddy path as we made our way through Silsden and towards Skipton.  I kept thinking that if I could just nudge us to 8ish miles in that direction …

Just after 7 miles comes a stretch of canal towpath that goes very close to the road and is noisy and not very nice to run along – we turned before that and headed back. The mud was zapping my energy but we kept moving. All the way my mind was all over the place. It pinged between Rachel, happy memories and things left unsaid, the random joy of moving, the effort, our Ernie-cat as a pot-bellied kitten, his operation and his journey back to fat cat status over the last weeks and that horrible noisy he made in the night trying to breathe. And then, at maybe mile 8 ish I blurted it out ‘ I don’t want Ernie to die’. We walked a bit.

We made our way to 10 miles. It was a relief to get off the mud at 9 miles. I just didn’t have the energy for it. At 10 miles we both gave up trying to be brave. We had a little cry and talked about our Ernie – like the first night him and Shackleton spent in our house, in the bedroom with door closed and we lost them. We spent about an hour looking for them until a bowl of food brought Ernie out from under/behind the bedside drawers which, it turned out, didn’t have drawers going all the way to the back leaving a kitten sized gap. Anyway, from 10 miles we just walked back home. Arriving 3 hours and 17 minutes and almost exactly half marathon distance after we left. We had some food and a bath (ouch – chafing) and are looking forward to a Sunday roast at Kath’s mum’s later today.

So it wasn’t 20 miles but there are lots of positives to take from that run:

  • We actually left the house and set off
  • 5 miles seemed like nothing
  • My Roclites were great on the mud
  • The 2 minute/30second intervals actually seem to work ok and I can see myself going far longer  – particularly if there’s no mud
  • There was no running meltdown or drama really – there were tears and struggling to control breathing and a bit of a meltdown but none of that was about running
  • We ran 10 miles yesterday and my legs weren’t really that tired today
  • We got home in time to call the vet and get an appointment for Ernie

Ernie cat went to see the vet. He got a thermometer up his butt and and an injection is his neck and we will try and help him clear his sinuses with steam. He’s not getting well again but he’s hanging on for now! After the indignity of the thermometer he came home, had a treat and fell asleep on Kath who fell asleep on the sofa. Isn’t that what Sundays are for?

What Sundays are for!

Dopey Simulation 1 – Miles in the Rain

Today I had a lovely little run/walk at Bolton Abbey and by ‘little’ I mean 10 miles. Nothing happened, nothing at all. No drama, no struggle, no serious tiredness, no pain… So that wasn’t necessarily expected. Long runs often mean some kind of drama and this one came after a 45 minute run on Thursday and a 4 mile run yesterday. So let me tell you about just how uneventful this run was.

We got to Bolton Abbey at 9am, had a pee, set off separately – I wanted to run 1 minute, walk 1 minute to make sure it was nice and easy and I have enough left for tomorrow. Kath did her own thing and I watched her disappear up the slope, got distracted by something and then couldn’t see her anymore. I didn’t know if she’d gone the top or bottom way. I just kept plodding along in the rain, passed a red spaniel with its humans and it said hi and bye. I got to mile 1 and then mile 2 and saw Kath at the other side of the river and jumped up and down and waved but she didn’t see me. I crossed over Barden Bridge and saw two blokes with a black dog which was excited to come through the gate into the field with me.

Half Way Point

Mile 3 came and went and then mile 4 and I was happily running a minute and walking a minute. I briefly stopped at mile 5 to take a half way picture and plodded on. A little after that I met another red spaniel, a baby spaniel (with her humans) who had trouble keeping her excitement under control. I plodded on, mile 6, past the Abbey and up through the grounds and then back down the other side down through the field and into the car park, along the car park and towards the Cavendish Pavilion. There was a split second where I wondered whether maybe the 7ish miles I’d done was enough and the temptation of a steaming cup of coffee was real but I quickly turned right across the bridge to tackle the aqueduct loop the ‘wrong way round’. 

Kath coming down the hill

7 miles. I was just about to walk up the steep long section that usually terrifies me running down it the other way, when I saw Kath coming down it. We had a quick chat and on I went. I wasn’t strictly sticking to the 1 minute/1 minute anymore now. I walked a little more of the uphill and ran more of the downhill rather than taking the intervals where they fell. 8 miles. Then pretty much 8.5 miles as I reached the aqueduct and crossed over – and on I went. I was getting a little tired now but it was all still very comfortable.

I met a couple more dogs and their humans, 9 miles. I stopped for a picture with Rudolph and plodded on. I tried to text Kath to ask her to order me a bacon sarnie so I wouldn’t miss the breakfast serving time but I had no signal. I counted down the Advent Calendar Christmas trees as I passed them and weaved my way round small people and their obnoxious parents who seemed to fill the entire path with prams, bags and swinging limbs. I could see Santa’s grotto. 10 miles. I sped up. I had just a few minutes before breakfast would end. I made eye contact with an elf outside the grotto who tried to stop a family from stepping out of the grotto and into my path but failed and I nearly mowed down ‘grandma’ who seemed to take my ‘excuse me’ as her cue to step further into my path and fling her arms out. We did a slightly awkward little dance and I was through. Just a few more steps and I was done. Tailwind rebuild recovery and a bacon sarnie together with a huge cup of coffee seemed like a suitable way to celebrate a good run

Me and Rudolph

So how are we doing with the Dopey simulation? Well it has all been about the rain – the run today was mostly in the rain. The run last night was all in the rain – it was a plod but  I got out after a day of 6 hours of teaching and the best part of 10 hours at work. Thursday I actually managed to get out when it wasn’t raining. Kath and I happily plodded our sheep loop and just as we got back it poured it down. So there we are, it’s going well. The big one is tomorrow. 20 miles. I’m mildly terrified but also looking forward to it. See you on the other side.