Running with Kingfishers

Isn’t it funny how things get in your head. I don’t remember being particularly bothered by the man on a bike incident yesterday. It was irritating but I found it almost funny yesterday but it seems it got to me. It seems it got into my head and stole my running mojo, shattered my confidence and confirmed everything I should bloody well know by now: I can’t do this. I’m too fat to run. I’m unfit. I have no place parading my wobbly bits out in public. I should go back to the sofa with my packet of biscuits.

I woke up terrified of our long run. The last time I was this anxious about a run was, actually I’m not sure. Disney Paris half marathon maybe. I actually felt like I might be sick. It’s idiotic. It was a gorgeous morning, the planned route was flat and a point to point run. There was absolutely nothing to be scared of. It’s a little further than I have been recently but only by a mile and a bit. We had time, we planned to run/walk, there was no pressure…and yet I was terrified.

I had my slice of toast with peanut butter and a drink of water and then we drove out towards Skipton to drop our car off to be serviced. Once that was sorted we found a path onto the canal towpath and set off. We ran/walked the first two miles using 2 minute run/30 second walk intervals. Almost immediately we saw 2 gorgeous herons in a field IMG_6866on the other side of the canal. They were stunning and a few steps further on we found 2 heron feathers (now a little worse for wear after spending the next 2 hours in our pockets). In spite of the herons – our good run omen – I couldn’t settle. Both knees felt niggly, my feet felt like they were moving too much in my shoes, my left shin felt tender. The phrase ‘you’ll have to run faster than that’ kept popping into my head. I kept pushing it back. It changed to ‘I don’t know why you bother running at all’. I pushed it back. Then I got ‘come on, you’re part of an online running club for fat women – they can’t run and neither can you’. I got a bit cross at that because those women are bloody inspirational and amazing and brilliant runners. I pushed it back but my mind wasn’t having any of it. ‘You’re such a disappointment, look at you wheezing after less than 2 miles’. I wasn’t wheezing, well not until I thought that anyway. By mile 2 I was mentally exhausted and my tummy was gurgling ominously too.

I suggested that Kath ran on and I’d just walk. I felt awful for ruining her run and generally just pretty crap. I was losing the battle in my head and was beginning to firmly believe that running just isn’t for me, that I had no business being out there in my marathon T-shirt which I don’t deserve anyway because I walked most of it. Kath wouldn’t leave me. I was furious and relieved at the same time. I’d resigned myself to walking home sobbing my way through the remaining 6 miles and I really really didn’t want to ruin her run. We just kept walking. I thought about how disappointed all the lovely people in the Run1000miles Facebook group would be. They’d said such lovely things about my running and progress recently and now they’d realise that it was all just a fluke and that I’m just an imposter. Not really a runner, not even any good at pretending to be a runner. I wasn’t breathing.

As I walked and listened to nothing but my footsteps my breathing got easier and deeper and I realised I’d stopped thinking about anything. My mind was quieter. We’d been walking for most of mile 3. Kath was still there with me having refused to leave me behind. I wondered if she might help me run a little bit, just a little bit to see if I could do it mentally or whether everything would start screaming at me again. We walked past some dog walkers and then had a little jog to the next bridge. It felt ok. We crossed the road and then set off on another little jog and I felt ok. So we kept going, slowly and steadily. Then we saw the familiar yet often so elusive flash of blue – a kingfisher darted out of a tree and flew down the middle of the canal. It landed in a tree further ahead and then we saw a second one. They were catching up and leapfrogging each other, sometimes flying a little loop around each other, sometimes coming quite close, sometimes staying further apart. They both dived into the canal with hardly a splash and re-emerged looking magnificent. Eventually we lost sight of one of them but the other was still flying ahead, waiting for us, showing the way. I was still running.

Then there was a sudden unexpected movement just to my left, a thud and then a weird, and I mean really weird, noise as Kath tripped over something, hit the floor and somehow deflated. The noise and her staying down for an unusually long time really worried me but she was fine. In an effort to protect her garmin, she’d lifted her wrist up and got her elbow underneath her into her ribs, deflating and winding herself in the process. Like a true runner though she’d stopped the garmin before she even hit the deck. She’d been watching the kingfisher rather than where she was going. A little more carefully we kept following the kingfisher for a while longer before it flew a loop over the field opposite and headed back towards its mate which was now somewhere behind us. We’d been running with them for just over half a mile.

After having run a mile, I walked a bit to give my tummy chance to settle again – it was getting ‘unreliable’ with running. I was beginning to feel better. I was better at pushing the negatives back. I was making progress. I reminded myself that there was a time I couldn’t have run any of this. I took time to note that the slightly muddy and uneven terrain wasn’t bothering me whereas once it would have sent me into a meltdown. I noted that I was recovering from running segments much much much more quickly. I ran a bit of the 5th and 6th miles but we also took the opportunity to walk and chat about work we want doing on the house and holidays we’re planning (how to spend money basically). Then I ran the 7th mile and at about 7.5 miles Kath crossed the canal to head home and I carried on to go get milk. I didn’t run much after Kath left. It felt a bit lonely all of a sudden and I knew that my running form had gone. My hips were tight and the niggle in my shin I’d forgotten about was back.

Another blue flash, another kingfisher. I watched it fly down the middle of the canal until it went out of sight. It was stunning. I decided to run in short little bursts between landmarks and really concentrate on maintaining good running form for those short bursts. After the first two short bursts my phone rang. The garage  – they wanted to let me know that the car was done and they were on their way to drop it off – so the car got home before I did – luckily Kath got home before both of us. Once I’d stashed my phone again I had another short little burst and that’s how I made my way to the post office where I bought milk and some “Green Machine’ juice (apple, banana, kiwi, pineapple, spinach and some other green stuff) because I just really really wanted something other than the water in my little bottles which tasted like rubber left out in the sun for too long. Then I walked up the hill home.

I don’t know what to think about that outing. 9.1 miles, 2 hours 22 minutes. I am disappointed but I’m not quite sure with what. I’m ready for my rest day. I need it physically but maybe more importantly, I need it mentally. I have seen amazing things today. The herons at the start were just fantastic, they were walking in the field and some lambs were having  good look at them and then the herons flew off showing off their pretty spectacular wing span. There were swans and geese and ducks – all with young ones. Close to home there were cows with calves in a field on the opposite side of the canal and the calves ran along the canal bank with us for a bit. And we ran with kingfishers. Maybe it’s a good outing after all because running with kingfishers is pretty special – whatever else is going on.

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