New Benchmark needed

Running isn’t really happening in the way I wanted it to but this weekend was an 11 mile weekend. After what has been a slightly frustrating time that sort of comes as a relief. I have, so far this year, managed just one 5k run that felt good and where I didn’t struggle. Everything else has been shorter and incredibly slow and not exactly comfortable. There was one outing in Birmingham which was fun but not really a run as I mostly walked. As I was out on my run yesterday I thought about what I might blog, if I might blog and what the focus should be. I was thinking lots about my relationship with running at the moment. It’s complicated but maybe a little less complicated after this weekend, maybe.

Remember when 13 minute miles where forever pace? Remember when ‘only’ and ‘5km’ belonged in the same sentence? I have never been fast, ever. But before February 2020 working towards 5k in under 30 minutes wasn’t laughably impossible, running without walking for an hour or more wasn’t some pipe dream and a half marathon wasn’t actually a huge deal. My lungs worked, they got air in. My legs worked well and were strong and my feet held up well. I miss that. I remember at the time I still wanted to be stronger and fitter and faster but I was also happy with what I could do and I was itching to build on it. Instead I am building from what feels like nothing and it is going so so so slowly.

I set off yesterday thinking that I really needed to get in 6 miles if I am going to have any chance of attempting the half marathon on 1st May. I also set off knowing that I probably couldn’t do that. I have dropped my intervals to 30 seconds running and 30 seconds walking (from 1 minute running) and it is still ridiculously hard. The first mile was basically downhill and I still felt pretty much ready to quit. I had no idea of pace but recently I have got really down when seeing how slow I have been going and then I have just given up, so yesterday I deliberately didn’t look at my watch and changed the display so it wouldn’t show pace. As I plodded onto the canal towpath and into my second mile I tried to focus on now.

But now is quite hard. I am not running as consistently as I want to. I should be patient with myself. The world is still in a pandemic, Kath and I are getting used to living in 2 homes and not always the same one at the same time and I have been settling into a new job. Maybe it’s not that surprising that there has been little headspace or energy for running. Now, plodding along at what turned out to be about at 14 and a half minute miles, the whole running thing didn’t really feel doable or that there was much point. But the sun was shining, the birds were singing and in the scheme of things I was actually doing ok. 30 seconds/30 seconds just felt fairly methodical, harder than I thought it should, but ok. I tried really hard not to think about how far I had to go and thought that maybe if I made it to 2.5 miles I could turn and go back the same way and that would take me to 5 miles. But that would be a lot of going uphill. I just kept going and eventually the 3 mile beep came. Not that long after that I saw Kath coming the other way.

She asked if she could join me so we plodded what we call the farm loop together. It worked out well because we were on the loop before I’d remembered that I had thought about turning round at the bridge before. We saw lambs and listened to the birds and before I knew it really I was 4 and then 5 miles in. And then it got tough. My hips were getting sore and my feet were niggling a little bit. But by then we were heading for home and I had vague recollections of that last mile sort of feeling and the ‘only a mile’ sort of sense. So I made it to the finish line bridge we agreed on. 6.65 miles. Then my feet were in absolute agony walking home. As I lay on our living room floor trying to stretch I thought ‘well here we go, running is really not happening’ but as I stretched everything eased, the pain went away and didn’t come back and this morning I actually felt pretty good.

This morning we went to Bolton Abbey to have a little trot out. Same intervals, same slow but hard feel, same gorgeous sun, birdsong and cold air. It was a glorious 3.5 miles and even though it is so frustrating to be 2 minutes a mile slower trying really hard than I was pre February 2020 running easy, I am running. I can still be outside, I can enjoy the sun on my face. I just need to try and re-calibrate. Pre 2020 is no longer a useful benchmark, I need new ones. For today being within ‘Disney Pace’ was useful. That’s 16 minute miles and both weekend runs were early within that. That will have to do as a win, along with being out, seeing lambs and hearing curlews.

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