‘Everyone is at exactly the pace they are meant to be’

Well, honestly, I have been struggling a little with running post marathon. It feels like a huge effort and while it has sort of been nice to be out, I haven’t massively enjoyed it either. This morning was gorgeous though and it seemed like a good day to head to Bolton Abbey and do a little loop. Kath went further to get her miles in (she has a half marathon in mid June which I am not running) and I decided I would do the Barden Bridge loop using run/walk. I wanted to enjoy it and not worry about huffing and puffing my way around.

Bolton Abbey was perfect for running this morning. It was warm enough to be comfortable in short sleeves but the trees provided cover from the sun. It was also very very quiet. After the usual pee stop I said bye to Kath as she set off in the opposite directions and plodded my first 2 minutes. That felt a bit like hard work. I was grateful for the walk break. I tried to consciously look around, note the green ground cover from the wild garlic, the odd patches of blue from the bluebells, now at the end of their glory and the comings and goings of lots and lots of little birds. I tried not to think, just react to the beep of my watch – run – walk – run. Don’t think, just be.

I watched the river gently make her way, nudging the ducks to where she wanted them and giggling softly as the ducklings tried to resist. I felt content. I hit a mile and glanced at my watch. Wowsers I was going super slow. It felt like I was working so much harder than the pace would suggest. I felt disappointed. I carried on. I was now conscious of my breathing, I seemed loud, I seemed heavy footed, I could hear my heart beat and the blood rushing round. I could also hear the negative chatter. For the next mile I concentrated hard on ignoring the noise, on watching a dipper and a wagtail and on putting one foot in front of the other: Beep – walk, beep-run, beep-walk…

I briefly stopped at 2 miles – on Barden Bridge where I saw the first human since leaving the Cavendish Pavilion. I let two cars cross the bridge, took a couple of photos and continued, feeling slightly grumpy about being slow and now struggling to enjoy the run. It felt like all I could hear was my running noise and chatter about how crap I was. I don’t know what drew my attention but it suddenly occurred to me that there were so many far more positive noises I could be tuning into. Whatever it was, it made me listen and suddenly the bird song grew louder, the gentle breeze was singing in the trees and next to me the river was gurgling and sounding content.

‘Hello’, the river goddess Verbia whispered to me ‘how’s the running love?’ I don’t know why she has an accent like my grandma’s but she does – very West Yorkshire with slight hints of Lancashire in the vowel sounds from living so close to the border all her life. ‘Oh, it’s nice but it’s slow and feels so hard’ I said – not out loud I don’t think. ‘Oh, but why rush?’ She gurgled. It was rhetorical of course ‘ Look around, everybody is just at the pace they are meant to be’. She was gently teasing me I think. Nudging me along, letting me know that I was ok but as with any goddess, you just never quite know, there’s always a mystery, always an edge. She seemed all knowing and a bit bemused by me as she made her way slowly along the familiar path. But I did look around, I saw the cows in the field lazily chewing the grass, I watched some sand martins (I think) play around me seemingly flying high, swooping down and looping round for the pure joy of it. I giggled, Verbia gurgled back.

I saw a very speedy runner with a dog come towards me. She was past in a flash and briefly I felt crap about being slow and so laboured. ‘But you’re not her’, I glanced at the river and understood. Me and the other runner were each running our own run, with our own thoughts and our own battles. I smiled, I was enjoying the run again, the pace seemed unimportant now. I nodded a thank you towards the Wharfe as I turned very slightly left to go past the aqueduct steps and onwards into the woods.

I saw Kath. We stopped briefly for a quick chat and then continued on our ways. I had about 1.5 miles to go now, she had about 3. There were a few more people about on this stretch, not many though and mostly I ran in glorious solitude with time and space to notice the different greens, the changing feel of the footpath, the nobblyness of the tree roots. I ran the intervals as they fell, no cheating and it felt hard but my head was in the right place. It wasn’t even that I used mantras or tried to drown out the negative with positive chatter. It was just that after my little ‘chat’ with Verbia it felt like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing this morning. Like this was my time to run, my time to be at each point along the way exactly at the time I got there. Just as the Wharfe meandered along with a calm inevitability, so did I. I felt slightly disappointed when it was over. I even briefly considered going on in spite of feeling physically quite tired and being a bit of a sweaty mess but arriving at a gate and the bridge back across the Wharfe to the Cavendish Pavilion which seemed busy with people had broken the spell. The magic had gone even if some of it has lingered all day.

Testing the chest and the vest

Quick trip over to Bolton Abbey this morning to go for a little run out and take Kath’s mum for breakfast before the crowds (well most of them) arrived. This was my first run since last Monday where it was more of a walk because of my cold. I felt much better today and if anything hay fever-ish rather than cold/cough-y.

So the plan was to have a little plod and test the chest and lungs and also wear the marathon vest to make sure it fits ok for running and doesn’t rub anywhere or ride up. It’s a little shorter than I’d like so I was worried it would quickly be up round my boobs.

So off I went as Kath disappeared into the distance for her slightly longer loop. I made my along the easter trail (I took pictures last time) and this time I managed to run the stretch up to the Strid and felt a little laboured but generally ok. The vest seemed fine, my lungs felt a bit tired – that’s really the only way I can describe it. I tried to distract myself with bluebells – they were spectacular!

I got to the Strid and walked up the slope and then I plodded on to the aqueduct where I crossed the Wharfe. The river was really low and I took a moment to watch some ducklings and a dipper. I bounced down the steps and ran the first half of the next slope. Then I walked a little bit and struggled over the next section with a little more walking than I really wanted to but I was struggling to breathe. I walked my nemesis hill and then jogged down the hill and just kept putting one foot in front of the other slowly huffing and puffing my way along. When I got back down to the river I stretched my legs for the final little bit and got to the gate at the end just as Kath caught me.

It was good to do it and get out. I’m clearly ok to run and with another few days before the big day I’ll be fine. I have adjusted Goals B and C a little based on how I felt today to make sure that they are realistic (A is just as it is – to make that happen everything has to align and work so that goal stays). I’m looking forward to having another couple of little plods this week but essentially I think I’m ready and the vest works -no riding up and no pinching or chafing risk anywhere. Happy.

Two short runs

Well what a week! After last weekend’s incident I headed to a conference. My favourite conference in fact. The Association of Law Teachers. I was the Chair of the Association until I handed over at the AGM but more importantly than that, the Association’s members and conference delegates are my academic tribe. It was also great to be in Leicester where I did my undergraduate degree. So when I woke up on Monday morning I was excited to see that I still had plenty of time for a little run. It was just starting to get light. There were a few drunk blokes outside the hotel so I turned right instead of left and looped back round rather than running past them. I plodded my way up New Walk thinking about my student days. When I hit University Road I detoured onto London Road to run past the pub I used to work in.

Then I looped round Victoria Park and onto Leicester University campus, had a look at the Law School, took my usual crappy selfie and looped back. I had planned to take some more photos on my way back down New Walk but it felt good to be stretching my legs. I felt comfortable and strong so instead I just kept running and pushed the pace a little.

I got back on Tuesday evening – the usual exhausted but happy post conference delirium. Wednesday I had to go into the office and I thought my hay fever had started – turns out it was the beginning of a cold. I felt proper poorly for two days, then I felt a bit better on Saturday morning but not well enough to run so I volunteered at parkrun while Kath ran 10 miles plus parkrun. Today I felt a bit better again so we stuck with our plan of heading to Bolton Abbey. I had over ambitious notions of trotting round my loop but it very quickly became apparent that my lungs weren’t up for that. I made my way round the loop with little bits of running and stops to look at the bunnies on the Easter trail and lots of walking to just look around.

It may not have been the run I was hoping for but it was good to clear the old stale air out of my lungs and get some fresh air in. It was lovely to see the birds being busy and I spend ages running along watching a dipper in the Wharfe. The goddess Verbia was quiet today. Calm and calming. ‘You’re mind is ready’ she seemed to be saying ‘and your body will be too, just allow it to heal now’.

I crossed the river at the aqueduct and as I took a minute to just be I saw Kath coming along – she’d gone to Barden Bridge. I trotted towards her and then we walked/ran the rest of the loop together. It was lovely. We finished with our Bolton Abbey tradition of coffee and bacon sarnies. We were watched by a robin and a gorgeous female chaffinch.

It was a lovely morning.

Bolton Abbey Christmas Ducks

Before the last Dopey Simulation which we finished yesterday, we had a lovely little trot out at Bolton Abbey last Sunday. We gently plodded our way round the Barden Bridge loop with just a couple of walks up the hills. We were planning on going round the Abbey but neither of us really wanted to so we agreed to call it a day after that loop and bank a really lovely positive run.

We had our usual coffee and bacon sarnie and then got a second coffee to take away and walked towards the strid to look at the lights lining the way to Santa’s Grotto from the Elf Hut and to be near the river and see if Goddess Verbia had anything to say. She seemed a bit shouty and busy – not in an unsettling or stressful sort of way though. It was quite nice watching the Wharfe go about her business.

We walked the bottom path past the sulphur well and as we walked back up to the main path we saw an unexpected duck off to the side (sorry the photo’s a bit crap). He seemed quite jolly, if a little lonely. There was a female duck on the main path who seemed happily going about her business. Eventually she toddled off in the other duck’s direction so maybe his loneliness was short lived.

It was a lovely calm morning and not even hordes of children with obnoxious parentals and grandparents who get in the way could spoil that. As we walked back towards the car we met a group being led towards Santa’s Grotto by an Elf trying his best to keep the little creatures from running ahead by telling them that if they stayed behind him he’d tell Santa how good they’d been. Both Kath and I admired his efforts but couldn’t help laughing because his facial expression rather suggested he had the naughty list all planned out.

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.