I am on holiday in Devon for a few days, staying with my sister. My sister who is a few years older than me, has lived in Devon now for more than 30 years and I have lots of happy memories of time spent here in all seasons and through various life-stages.
Until recently my sister’s house was home to many animals, so dog walking has always been a feature of these visits- over moorland, at the beach and through woodland paths.
When I was a lot younger and visiting alone, I used to take myself off on outings armed with my student railcard or discount Rover bus ticket and a good book, and I would scrutinise the timetable to make sure I got maximum value for my daily fare, displaying my inner public transport anorak and student eye for good value.
Those days – pre internet, Facebook, Twitter and smart phone, I always had my nose in a book, transporting me to some other imagined life as only a teenage girl can! I think one summer I lost myself in Edna O Brien’s The Country Girls trilogy and a good few PG Wodehouse, which always seemed fitting when in sunny England. Day trips of course had to include a stop off at a tea room or cafe and I became quite expert on the source of the best scone and clotted cream throughout Devon’s many villages.
But I have not done much running on these Devon holidays as being a fairly recent convert to running it has not featured much in my plans until now, and when I am here, I would always prefer walking with my sister to talk and catch up on news than go running alone.
This time I had another reason to avoid running. Devon like much of the UK has been experiencing a bit of a heat wave, with temperatures in the high 20s degree C , which I know for some may seem like perfect running weather or not even very hot, but I am no fan of running in warm weather.My temperature gauge has a cool Northern setting.
Running in mid December in Scotland on dark, cold mornings does take some motivation, but I can honestly say I would rather take myself out for a run at minus 3C than plus 23C !
So I lay out my excuses.
But on the motivation side, my brother in law is a keen runner, and one sunny evening we were discussing our varying approaches to running, and I was explaining my dislike of running in the heat and how I am not much of a pacer so maybe it is because I run too fast , and then the run feels horrible before you have gone very far, and so it goes on.
When I say I run too fast – I am talking about fast for me – so just under or around 10 minute mile pace- which in the heat feels very hard. My BIL explained that when he runs, he usually starts off quite slowly, then as he is always running alone ( and unlike me would always choose to run this way), he loses himself in the run and just keeps going – if he feels he wants to run a bit further he does, and if he decides he does not need to he just cuts his run a bit short. When he runs this way, he often finds that he has been going at quite a fast pace without realising it.
I thought this sounded very Zen, and made a note to give it a go next time.
So I have had a couple of runs so far and both along the River Teign. There is a good network of public footpaths along the River Teign and in the grounds of National Trust property Castle Drogo. On the first attempt, I followed the path on one side , until it got quite narrow and stony- it then has a section of steps taking you to a higher level before dropping back down to the river- I ran a bit further but noticed that there was a path on the other side of the river. I knew I had passed a bridge but I liked the idea of doing a circuit coming back along the opposite bank.
After this spell of hot dry weather the river was very shallow, and there is a section where there rocks form almost a set of stepping stones. This was at around 1.5 miles so seemed a good place to cross. Weighing up the worst case scenario of attempting the crossing ( 1. falling on my backside in an undignified fashion 2. much more serious dropping my iPhone in the river ), I decided to throw caution to the wind and wade across the river.
It was not so much wading as paddling, but after my recent Black Rock adventure I felt suitably prepared. And on the warm summer’s morning it was quite refreshing to cool my feet down.
I got safely to the other side and completed the 3 mile circuit without incident , save for saying hello to some disinterested cows ( bullocks ) in the field. I tried to embrace the Zen approach to pacing, and maybe with moderate success, but think I may need to work on it.
When I was a teenager and visited Devon, I could eat Cream teas without consequence and still fit nicely into my jeans, but alas these days are but a skinny memory, and I have to earn my Cream tea indulgence.
One of the many reasons I run.
And very nice it was too.