A little while ago some fellow #Run1000Miles runners started what has now become a fun little running game of taking their dinosaurs out for a run and taking a picture. Kath and I thought we should do that for a bit of fun too but it turned out we didn’t have a dinosaur. I mean come on, how does that happen? How do we not have a dinosaur? Then Kath found a dinosaur while sorting out a box for the loft but I never made it out for my longer run yesterday because of a rather dodgy tummy and the day before that I had some other random excuse. In short, the #DinoRun still hadn’t happened.
Today I decided I would get out. Kath and I made beetroot chocolate cake and I took some to drop off at Kath’s Mum’s with a gentle run/walk so as not to turn the cake into crumbs on the way. We had a quick chat, obviously at the requisite distance. After that I walked up the hill passing a couple of dog walkers and enjoying seeing the views from a different vantage point. I don’t often go that way and when I do, I go the other way round the loop I was on.
It somehow felt wrong to take Kath’s dinosaur so I nicked her idea instead and took the closest thing we thought we had to a dino – a platypus. She sat happily in my pocket on my right thigh looking out, every now and again reminding me to perhaps at least try to go a little faster. About half way up the hill we had a little break and look out over the valley before continuing on. I walked up the hill. I’m not actually sure that I could have run it even at my fittest but today was not the day to try. I just wanted to enjoy the warm sun and cool breeze and being out.
When I got to the top I crossed over the road to stay the required distance from a couple walking and once crossed back started run/walking – fairly half heartedly to be honest. I didn’t quite trust my tummy and I was enjoying being out without worrying about effort. I ran/walked for a little stretch. Stopped to look at a sleepy lamb and take platypus out for another look around. She was quite insistent about sitting on my shoulder and I had to negotiate hard to get her back into my pocket.
I carried on run/walk and was just thinking I might manage the next little up slope before enjoying a longish flat and down when I suddenly caught sight of a little lamb gang bouncing around in the field. I briefly thought ‘ooooh look lambs’ and was still smiling as I hit the tarmac and wondered how the hell that had happened. I landed with an oomph and just stayed still for a minute. Then I think I swore. I picked myself up off the roadside and brushed off the worst of the gravel and dust. There was a cyclist who came past me without making eye contact as I just started walking on. He must have seen me fall and pick myself up. I shouted after him: ‘I’m fine thanks’. There, always feel better for a bit of pointless passive agression.
My left hand felt bruised, my right was grazed and my left knee and shin took a bit of a battering too. I called Kath to explain I was hobbling home and to ask her to run me a bath so I could clean myself up and pick the gravel out of my hand and knee. So my planned 6ish miles didn’t quite go to plan. Because my tummy wasn’t quite playing ball I had already decided to cut it short and then I threw myself on the tarmac because I was distracted by lambs. I literally tripped over nothing – I checked – I fell on the most even part of tarmac on the entire stretch of road. Muppet.
Anyway I shall have to try another #DinoRun or rather #PlatypusRun that is worthy of the platypus. And I need to make sure that next time I fling myself at the ground I do it somewhere more forgiving than tarmac. Trails are definitely safer! I’m also going to have to find some of the yoga sessions which do not involve downward dog or anything like that because my hands are quite sore.
In 2017 it took me to mid April to reach 50 miles, in 2018 I’d done it by the 24th January, in 2019 I hit the 50 miles mark less than half way into the Dopey Marathon on 13th January. This year, well April fools day it is. Still ahead of 2017. I am amazed. It is of course easy to get disappointed and grumpy about those stats and I do absolutely miss the headspace I found when running 80-100 miles a month. That seemed to be a sweet spot where running was lush but not too tiring. At least that’s how I remember it. Anyway, be that as it may I actually feel pretty good about things as they stand.
I didn’t even reach the 50 miles running but having set off on a run/walk up the hill with the plan to walk up to the moor and then jog back down. Because of more sitting and generally moving less during lockdown everything feels a bit tight and grumpy so we were both hoping that walking up would be a good warm up and would loosen everything and then we could have a gentle jog down just to keep things ticking over. Nice and easy. We didn’t run down. Kath’s knee was niggly and I had a kit malfunction – well not really. My pants just wouldn’t stay up. I think I need a half size smaller for them to stay up. A size smaller would be too small I think but as they are I can’t run in them for more than a few steps without having to retrieve them from round my ankles – and they don’t have a draw string or anything. Unfortunately I didn’t know that before we set off as I haven’t worn them for ages. They will now be relegated to at home yoga pants.
Anyway, the walk was gorgeous. As we set off there were lots of garden birds like blue tits, blackbirds and robins. Further up there were some goldfinches and then we were treated to our first lapwing arial display in a field just above one of the farms. As we carried on up the hill we saw fewer and fewer garden birds and more and more lapwings. Then we could hear the curlews and then we saw them and as we stood and watched and listened everything was perfect. There were other little birds that we couldn’t identify but we looked them up later and there were meadow pippins and possibly stonechats. The higher we went the more grouse there were too. First we just heard their grumble and then they started popping up everywhere. Love grouse.
We turned round when we ran out of road. It was tempting to go up the path to the trig point but if there were other people on the path we wouldn’t be able to pass each other at a safe distance. We were already slightly irritated with other people because in spite of the very clear instructions to not drive to somewhere to exercise, several cars had passed us with people doing just that – there’s nowhere to go, the road ends so there’s no other reason to drive up it.
So, I said I was pretty happy with things in terms of the running. I am, as unlikely as that might seem given my tendency to be really critical of me. Since the lockdown started I have got out more. In fact 20 out of my 50 miles have been covered since the 24th March. I am no longer grumpy about running or my lack of fitness but instead am looking forward to getting out and just doing something. I am walking lots but that’s fine. When I run, I run slowly and that’s fine. Somehow the mindset has shifted and the pressure is off. I am enjoying it, whether that it is a nearly 5 mile walk with one or two jogs or a quickish mile with a walk home as I did a couple of days ago. Any training plan is out of the window really. I presume the two races we have booked will be cancelled anyway so it’s not like I have to be ready for anything. And if they don’t cancel them, well let’s worry about that as and when it plays out.
Sometimes you just need a reason. Kath signed us up to the Relief Run – the bushfire fundraiser with all the money going to the Australian Red Cross. She signed us up to do the half marathon distance as a team so running together we needed to cover 6.55 miles. That’s a pretty long way on my current (total lack of) form.
It was really frosty this morning and there was no way I was heading out on the slippery roads and towpath. Just no. I may be a wimp but I am a wimp with all limbs intact! So we postponed our run til later and went for a walk at Harlow Carr Gardens instead to have a look at the Japanese Art exhibition. We decided we would run when we got back. When we got back we both felt hungry and a little flakey so we decided we would run once we had eaten and let our lunch settle… our day had all the hallmarks of never quite making it out the door. I felt really tired and like a nap might help…
Eventually we got our act together, decided that this was important, it meant something, it was an actual reason to run that was beyond the ‘it’ll be good for us’ stuff. So we wrapped up warm and headed out. Intervals were set for 30secs/30secs to keep me vaguely honest. I was ok-ish for mile 1, ready to pack it in throughout mile 2. Having a reason and not wanting to let Team Dopey down kept me going to about 2.5 miles when I settled a little more and it all seemed ok until about 4.2 miles. Then we walked a little extra to let my tummy settle – it was just having a funny minute or two.
We walked up what was the golf course and then didn’t run much more really. I made myself run down the trail from the wood just to practice the terrain and then we run/walked until we met chocolate labrador puppy Buddy and his humans. Kath had met him before and told me all about him. After a puppy cuddle we carried on but mostly walking as my feet were a bit achey and then on the last downhill bit my left calf tightened loads. We walked from there and it turned out we had actually calculated distance pretty much spot on and didn’t have to walk/run laps round our estate!
I found this run hard. I didn’t want to be out there. I went out because there was a reason to, a good reason, a reason that matters more than me. I am glad I went. I had a recovery drink after and have been curled up in front of the log fire but somehow the run has left me emotional and tired and I’ve also not been warm since we got back – although I wasn’t cold on the run. I’m having a bath next which will hopefully warm me up. Well, it’s 6.55 miles. I got there. It wasn’t pretty but I got off the sofa and did something.
What do you do when you are struggling to get back into running, struggling to run a mile and generally struggling with being heavier and far less fit than you were? Well naturally you sign up for a hilly half marathon. Of course you do. Never mind that it seems totally unrealistic and undoable, you just decide that in 5 months time you will run 13.1 miles most of which are on upward flat sections. Yep. That’s what you do. Yes.
So having established that this is the done thing, I am delighted to tell you that Kath and I have now signed up for the Suzuki Midnight Sun Run in Reykjavik on the 25th June. The elevation profile looks like this:
So I should probably give you a running update and tell you how much progress I have made since the beginning of January. Yes, well, about that. I ran on the 5th January – dragged my butt 6 miles to go have breakfast. And then I carried my running gear across Europe for a few days while I popped in to see Dad in Hamburg and then went to a workshop/conference in Osnabrück. I meant to go run while I was over there. I am normally quite good at running when away from home like that but somehow it just never quite happened. The workshop was pretty intense and they were long days with late dinners and even though I was awake early enough every morning, I felt too full still and it was still dark and I had no real idea of where to run… excuses excuses excuses.
So then I got back and started marking and that was that. I basically didn’t move until I was finished (I still have extensions and paperwork but mostly I am done) and here we are another week disappeared. On Thursday I had a strength and conditioning session. The first one since I gave up sometime in December because everything just felt impossible. I was in two minds of whether to go back but actually I didn’t hate the session. I found it hard but it was good to be doing.
Yesterday I finished marking and didn’t really do anything else other than the odd stretch every 3 or 4 scripts. At some point though, I sort of realised, I am actually going to have to stop thinking about running and actually run. So in glorious sunshine I headed out late morning today to run the sheep loop and pop in and see Mum at the end. It was lovely out. I ran the first half mile or so, then put in a 30 second walk break and then continued on running for a bit. As the ground got more uneven and muddy I dropped into 30 sec/30 sec intervals to protect my calf muscles and feet. That seemed fine.
I walked for a couple of minutes towards the bottom of the former golf course – I have never liked the bit where it switches from muddy path to tarmac and I always feel like it’s damp an slippery so rather than tensing up and making my feet hurt, I just walked through that. Along the canal I stuck to 30/30 again and it wasn’t until right at the end that my feet started niggling a bit. Overall it felt good to be out and positive to actually be moving and doing something.
So, work towards the midnight sun run starts here I guess. I’m mad.
So it might have taken my an hour and a half but with that little 6 miler I have equalled December’s total distance. So I am definitely making progress. This morning’s run was an A-B run with a purpose. Kath’s mum was buying us breakfast at Salts Mill. Kath said she wanted to run there and I quite liked the idea but was worried about how my legs would hold up. After yesterday’s relative success I thought it was worth a shot as long as I left myself plenty of time. I set off at 7.30am and Kath set off shortly after me going a slightly longer route. It was still pretty dark so I opted for running the first stretch on the road rather than canal towpath.
I was running 30/30 seconds intervals and that seemed ok. I wouldn’t call it pain free completely but it was all ok. I was a little worried at about 2.5 miles and at 2.75 decided to walk a little and avoid running up the slope to the canal at Crossflatts and then dodging puddles in the run up to the top of 5 Rise Locks. At the stop I stopped and stretched for a minute or two before walking down the slope. Then I picked up the run/walk again
I actually seemed to settle in more after my walk and stretch and the 6 miles seemed completely doable. It was a little bit of a balance because I actually felt pretty good and kept thinking I could run a bit faster or skip a walk break but whenever I tried my left calf and my right foot quickly pulled me back for a reality check. I next stopped for a quick selfie as I crossed the canal just past Dowley Gap Locks. As I took the selfie I saw Kath in the distance and decided not to wait for her but let her catch up with me. She did as we had just over a mile to go.
The last mile was actually quite nice. My calf was fine and I was now confident that my feet would hold up too. We got to the end and got to the Salts gate just as they opened it so we could go through for breakfast. As we sat down my right foot started really hurting and it took a little while to ease. So, Sunday morning run, breakfast of avocado and eggs on toast and good coffee and a look at a good bookshop. What more could you want?