Bushfire Relief Run

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.

Yep, starting again?

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.

Torture Device!

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.

Wonky headband!

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.

I was having fun really!

So, work towards the midnight sun run starts here I guess. I’m mad.

Running to have breakfast

Weird action shot selfie!

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?

Christmas Running and 500 Miles at last!

So that’s Christmas 2019 done. It has been a quiet one. After a Christmas Eve pottering about in the kitchen making oatcakes, the last batch of mince pies, chocolate mousse for our Christmas day pudding and what turned out to be delicious braised red cabbage, Christmas day started slowly. We woke up later than we normally do, had two cups of tea and mince pies in bed before opening our presents from each other. Then we set off for our Christmas day trot – our sheep loop backwards to end up at Kath’s mum’s for bacon sarnies and more presents.

The run was lush. Slow and with plenty of walking because my calves are still playing silly buggers and my feet aren’t much better either but we ran down to the canal. We were treated to an absolutely gorgeous sunrise with stunning colours. We stopped for a photo and as we set off again Kath spotted some deer. We stopped to watch them a little while and then were about to set off again (again) and I saw the blue flash of a kingfisher streaking through the air. It landed on a branch just a little further along the canal and we slowly walked towards it watching it. Such a stunning sight. Eventually it flew off and we went on our way too following it and being lucky enough to catch it take off and land further along a couple more times.

The rest of the stretch along the canal was a pleasant plod as we chatted, said Merry Christmas to the ducks and made the one or two dog walkers we met smile with our Santa hats bobbing along. We crossed the bridge over the canal and started walking up the hill. We stopped to watch squirrels and small birds and then saw a woodpecker. As we reached the top of the golf course we met a dog and his human who cheerily informed us that he had already escaped the kids to the lovely peace and quiet of the outdoors. As we made our way out of the wood at the other end we met some more dogs one of which was terrified of us in our Santa hats and after staring at us for a while she pinned her ears back and ran past us as fast as she could.

The rest of Christmas day was basically making food and eating food. Then came my birthday and another morning of tea and mince pies in bed. Eventually we got going and set off to Bolton Abbey for our Boxing Day/ my birthday trot round the Strid Wood/Aquaeduct loop. My calves were not playing in spite of starting with intervals. I made it run/walk about a mile before I admitted defeat and we walked the rest of the loop. Still, somewhere along that first mile I hit the 500 miles for the year. I should of course be excited about that. 500 miles is a lot of miles but it’s bitter sweet. At the start of the year double that number was on the cards. I was running the weekly miles needed with ease and was having fun. And then I wasn’t – running or having fun and getting to 500 miles seemed unlikely – so I am pleased to have got there. Anyway, I’ll leave the reflections on my 500 miles til the next post maybe.

I am sort of ready to end this running year, to re-set and start again, to work with the excitement of the endless possibilities a blank spreadsheet and no miles on the clock for the new year brings. The thrill of runs not yet had and adventures not yet started, the fun of planning, the routine of sticking to the plans and the rebelliousness of changing plans, breaking the rules and doing something different. I will end the year on 500 and a few miles but next year just imagine… maybe I will run 1000, maybe I won’t run 500 but just imagine the adventures that await.

I’m not done yet

Is this the longest time I haven’t blogged since I started? It might be. I’ve barely run since the last post. I am still not through 500 miles for the year. You could say the wheels came off. Back in August I tried to hit the re-set button. Well that didn’t work too well because here I am nearly 3 months later and not much has changed. I could go over it all, analyse it, try and make sense of it but honestly it’s just bla bla and more bla.

I last tried to run properly throughout August but usually ended up walking a fair bit and my achilles or calf muscles were often niggly and very tight. I went to Keswick with Dad for a couple of nights and I ran a little while there – run/walk/run with lots of walk. I was grumpy about running. I went to a conference in early September and tried a run – it was fairly horrible and I walked lots and my calf was proper painful. It all seemed pretty pointless. And that sense of pointlessness continued through October. The notion that I might run, never mind be a runner just felt laughable. Still does in a way.

I haven’t blogged because I have nothing to say. As I stopped running or rather just gave up trying to run, I felt relief more than anything. Right, let’s all just stop pretending this was ever going to work. I’m not a runner, we’ve established that now so let’s just move on… I’m actually quite an effective couch potato! Term started, I didn’t miss running. I felt no pangs of envy as Kath pulled on her trainers and headed out. I didn’t even get a rush of excitement scrolling through websites looking at reduced trail running shoes. Nothing, nada. In fact really the only thing I felt was tired and a bit grumpy and a bit angry at the world and fed up and upset at everything and edgy and tense. And then I remembered:

‘You have depression you fucking idiot’ I reminded myself one morning a few days ago and a rare moment of perfect clarity. ‘Depression wants you to think that you can’t run, that it makes no difference, that it’s all pointless… but you can’t be sure it’s real’. Well maybe I had a point. So I went through all the things I was thinking and feeling about how generally crap I am at everything by listing them in my head and then (also in my head) marked them like I would a student essay – which basically meant going through the list and writing ‘unsubstantiated assertion’ in the margin over and over again and ‘You have some interesting ideas which are presented in a relatively coherent manner but your argument lacks evidence, contains factual errors and you do not appear to have consulted even the basic data available to you’ in the (imaginary) comments box.

So after giving my own argument a hard fail I decided it was worth going to my second strength and conditioning session with Katy from RunRight (more on them, why I didn’t want to go but did and how it’s been so far later because they really do deserve their own post) and then the next morning, in spite of soreness in core muscles I had no idea even existed, I went for a run.

We went to Bolton Abbey and we ran the short loop using 30 second run/ 30 second walk intervals. We stopped for photos, we soaked up the colours and we enjoyed being out. I see things differently when I run than when I walk. I see more. That might sounds counterintuitive but it’s true. When I just go for a walk I get too lost in my own world and thoughts. When I run I am much more focused on the surroundings, the colours, the sounds, the smells and I am much more likely to see the wildlife, the birds…

So I ran. It was slow and ploddy but it was ok. I’m not done yet. I did miss it. I just didn’t know I did.