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. 

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.

Splish Splash I was having a….

Run. I was having a run. No that sounds wrong. I was running. Well sort of. I was out there putting one foot in front of the other at varying paces. It looked like it was going to be another of those days where it just doesn’t happen. I have a ton of marking to do – the kind that takes forever because it’s formative so needs even more detailed feedback, we went out for lunch and that took longer than we wanted it to and the weather – urgh.

Anyway, I had ordered some new trainers ridiculously reduced – some Inov8 Roclite 305 gore-tex ones for under 50 quid. I mean it would have been rude not to. So I set myself a target of 5 more essays and then I could/had to go run. I put long pants on – yep time for big girl pants, too cold for 3/4 now I reckon – a long-sleeved top, my rain jacket and then because light was fading fast, a bright neon yellow t-shirt over the top. I looked a right plonker but I wasn’t about to be cold! Then I put the new shoes on and set off.

I can’t really do a proper review because it was only a short plod and I walked the uneven, muddy, trail-y bit because I couldn’t really see where I was putting my feet and my ankles were quite stiff and I am terrified of injuring myself. But  – why the hell did nobody tell me about gore-tex trainers before? I had so much fun not avoiding puddles and splish sploshing around that I started searching  puddles out to jump into them – and I still have dry socks. I can do puddles and have dry feet. It’s magic! I never had gore-tex trainers before. Getting some somehow always felt like a step too far – they’re for proper runners. I don’t really go anywhere where I need them, or for long enough that wet feet really matter… so the complete crap would go in my head.  I tried some once and they felt really tight and inflexible compared to the non gore-tex version so I presumed they were all like that. I was wrong. Love these. Bring on the puddles!

Happy running and splish splash splashing about!

Grumpy Grouse and too many miles

So last weekend we were due to run the Bolton Abbey Half Marathon in the Run for Manorlands event. I was not as nervous about it as I thought I might be. I felt good after the kingfisher miles when I woke up and thought that actually it might be ok and I would worry about the remaining miles to get me to the 20 it said on the plan after the event. However, Kath was struggling. It was clear that doing an organised event with people, a fixed time and fixed route was not going to work or be good for either of us. We decided IMG_2851not to go and run round here instead. Soon it became clear that that wasn’t going to be healthy either. A long run was too much for our fragile brains. We did manage to get out in the afternoon for a short little run and walk and even got Kath home for the start of the rugby while I toddled along to the co-op. I saw a very pretty duck on the canal if I remember my days properly.IMG_2886

I then actually managed to run twice during the week! On Monday and Thursday I dragged my butt round roughly 4 miles. I don’t really remember anything much about Monday’s run – it was along the canal and it was in the morning I think and it was promising to be a beautiful day. On Thursday we went up. Kath went ahead and she picked me up on her way back down. I plodded my way up Ilkley Road towards Ilkley Moor and saw pheasants and inquisitive fluffy cows and a kestrel. Just as I was beginning to long for enough breath to be able to swear at the hill something caught my eye – red kites circling above me. I stopped to watch them for a while, got my breath back, marched up the hill and saw Kath. We stood together and watched the kites a while longer before making our way back down.

 

We moved the weekends around so this weekend then became our long run weekend. Yesterday the plan said 8.5 miles walk. We vaguely toyed with the idea of getting the train up to Haworth and running to Top Withens but as we went to bed on Friday we were talking about plans and agreed that Kath should just get out and run if awake early and ready to go. She did exactly that and was back not that long after I’d woken up. I had actually planned on going back to bed for a bit but Shackleton had other ideas and was curled up in the warm patch I’d left. So I sat on the sofa a while cuddling our Ernie-Cat and when Kath got back we had breakfast and then did sort of nondescript Saturday IMG_2950things for a while and then I set off on my run. I was planning on taking it really easy and do a 1 minute run/1 minute walk with more walking if needed. I wanted as much as possible in the tank for today.

I had a lovely run out. I stuck to the intervals all the way with the odd longer walk or longer run to let people pass or to get past them. At no point did I find it hard, at no point was there a mental battle, I was just out enjoying the autumn sun. I stopped the watch after 8.5 miles and then walked the remaining half a mile home. It felt good to have had a positive outing and to have completed a full week of the Dopey Plan.

IMG_2953Today was the big one. We were supposed to cover 20 miles. We’d already said we would probably not cover the entire distance because we wanted to go to Bolton Abbey and run there and go up to Simon’s Seat on Barden Moor. Anything over 16 ish felt ok in my head given the terrain we would cover. I felt up for it this morning, perhaps a little anxious but generally fine about going. We parked in the top carpark because there are still roadworks blocking the road down to the Cavendish Pavilion. We set off from there and made our way down to the stepping stones and crossed over the bridge. We stayed on the bottom path and ran/walked until we started going up, then we more walked/ran and eventually just walked. So the elevation profile gives you a sense of our adventure today:

Screenshot 2018-11-18 19.27.26

Basically it was a hike with a little, tiny little bit, of running thrown in. To be honest, the up was fine. It was hard and I am so totally not hill fit but it was fine, it was a challenge and one I knew I’d rise to – might just be a matter of time but if there is a hill I will get to the top of it eventually. I could have run some of the bits along the top – particularly for example the ridge line between Lord’s Seat and Simon’s Seat but the path is flagged and the flags were wet and I’m a wimp and also I was conscious that I had a very very long way to cover still. we reached Simon’s Seat. No really, it’s there.

 

We’d been running in a mixture of low cloud and mist and that easterly wind they talked about on the forecast – yep it was there. Still it was somehow lovely. There were no other people for a start. It wasn’t a menacing wind, just a wind and the mist and cloud felt like it was hiding us from the world beyond, keeping us safe from the hustle and bustle. There was a hint of magic in the air interrupted only by the chuntering of the grouse.

Anyway, the problem with going all that way up is that at some point you have to come IMG_2973back down. I’m not a fan of down. It took me longer to get down from Simon’s Seat (about a mile) than it takes me to run 5km on the flat. It pushed a whole load of buttons and took a huge amount of mental strength. The views were pretty good when I remembered to look and we had some giggles on the way down. More grouse – they must the grumpiest bird on earth. They sort of go from a slightly surprised but more irritated alarm call to a grumble to flying away chuntering like they are muttering grouse profanities under their breath. We did get really close to one which grumbled but refused to fly off – though I am now muddled as that must have been earlier between the two Seats.

Anyway the down. A few times Kath reminded me to just keep moving and that it is actually harder if you stop. She probably has a point. At one point though she called back saying ‘just keep your momentum through this bit’ as she glanced back she just saw me perfectly poised balancing on one leg saying ‘yep, too late’ as I ungracefully flung myself forward, slipped on the mud, wobbled, caught myself and whimpered. We dissolved into fits of giggles before moving on. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, we were down, on a proper lane. I set the run/walk intervals and waited for Kath to re-tie her shoelaces. I felt drained. It had been a physical challenge in the sense that  the up is pretty brutal when you’re actually not all that fit and that my ankles and core most definitely got a workout on the way down and it had been mentally pretty tiring. I really wasn’t sure I’d have another 10 miles or so in me. Kath read my mind (usually does) and suggested that we could split the run. So rather than turning towards Burnsall, we’d simply head back towards Bolton Abbey and then head home and go out again later in the day. That sounded like a more manageable plan and would still justify the medal the Run for Manorlands team had so kindly posted us.

IMG_2975We ran walked a lot of the way back. It was ok. In fact some of it was actually fun and I felt strong and positive and there weren’t any major battles going on in my head. I was tired and my back and hips were tightening but it was all ok and the scenery was stunning. We made it back to the Pavilion, Kath stopped at the loos and then we did the last push back to the car. We drove home and planned to go straight out again. As we got home Kath wondered whether maybe actually we’d done enough. We’d been out a long time and we had worked hard. I should have listened – that was the sensible call. At the very least we maybe should have had a longer rest. But no. In my head the 12.6 miles we’d done were nowhere near close enough 20. In my head I needed to go out and do more. So we set off. About half a mile in I decided that actually it was good to have made myself go out again. At a mile I knew it it wasn’t. I had nothing left. There were people, too many people and it felt like Kath was running really fast and I couldn’t make myself go any faster. Then there was some traffic noise and I physically flinched and then there were more people and I could see more ahead and I couldn’t run and I couldn’t stop the rising panic and I couldn’t find the words to explain to Kath and we got our wires crossed and I just wanted to be somewhere else, somewhere quiet, maybe with the grouse. We walked home. Another 1.85 miles added.

As we got in the house I started crying. I’m not even really sure why. 14.45 miles will have to do for today. It’s not 20 but there are no ups or downs like the ones I tackled today at Disney. I had a lovely time out there – I shouldn’t have gone out again, not straight away anyway, but we live and learn. I don’t feel broken now, tired yes, broken no. Every time I close my eyes I can hear the grouse chuntering and see that one suspiciously watching us as we made our way past. We saw herons and dippers today too and for the first time realised that the pretty birdsong we couldn’t place belongs to a dipper. It’s been a good day and the 1.85 mile meltdown doesn’t change that.

Sunday weigh in – I’m the same and Ernie cat has put on 400grams which is awesome news!

IMG_2963

Kingfisher miles

The Dopey training miles are ramping up and with that my anxiety levels about whether this might just have been a really stupid idea. But today was one of those outings that reminded me that it actually doesn’t matter. If I don’t finish Dopey, I don’t finish Dopey. None of this is really what it’s about. It’s about the time out there, enjoying the autumn colours, the air and the things that I would otherwise just not get the chance to see. If I don’t finish Dopey I will, of course, be gutted but I will nonetheless have runs like today. Runs that I probably would not have done had it not been for Dopey training.

I didn’t want to go out this morning. I was sleepy, still tired from a silly week, sleep deprived and a little anxious generally. 8.5 miles also seemed like quite a long way. But then we got sorted and set off. I couldn’t back out or postpone because we’d agreed to meet Kath’s mum for breakfast at Salts Mill. I didn’t really like the idea of having to get there roughly by an agreed time but there we were. We set off on the start of our sheep loop at 2 minute runs and 30 seconds walk. I felt sluggish but to be fair I was still waking up really.

The first mile came and it was all fine. A little through the second we saw 3 deer skip off into the distance on the former golf course. They are so graceful and gorgeous. Then we dropped onto the canal towpath – home for the next 6 ish miles. The autumn leaves had come off the trees in last night’s winds and the November morning sun was shining onto the water creating a playful mystery of light, colours and silver nothingness. And there it was: movement, a flash of orange and a streak of metallic blue. The kingfisher (well a kingfisher) was with us. We played tag with it for over a mile and on one stretch stopped to walk. I was probably close enough to take a picture but it just never occurred to me. I just watched it as it once again took off and flew straight down the middle of the canal until it disappeared into the sunlight. I realised I was smiling.

My achilles felt tight. It was making my feet feel odd. So we had an extra walk through the next running interval and then it all felt better so we continued the normal intervals. I had a little mental wobble shortly after we left the kingfisher behind (or it left us, who knows) but then we were through half way. Kath saw movement to our left. Another three deer (definitely different ones) hopped over the wall into a field of startled sheep. we stopped briefly to watch them. I was smiling again.

When we were nearly at 5 miles I realised that there was no mental battle. I was just doing it. Slowly and happily doing it. A little further along – probably somewhere in mile 7 – I had another longer walk to try and relax my feet and then we ran/walked the rest to Salts Mill. I asked Kath for help because I was suddenly concerned I wouldn’t make it. Silly of course, I had less than a mile to go and I did of course make it, comfortably. It was a good run! Breakfast was good too as was the leisurely wander round the bookshop.

In fact it has been a good day, afternoon nap and all!