While I would be the first person to extoll the joys of running in Scotland, with its magnificent landscapes and big skies, muted colours and ever changing weather, some days even those you love the most can push the limits of your affection.
Maybe I tempted fate when I was telling someone the other day how much I loved running in the rain, or just being out in tough weather – saying it made the apres exercise bath, bacon roll or wine seem even sweeter.
Those of us of a Calvinist persuasion always feel we have to earn our enjoyment.
Sunday is our long run day, as I am gradually building up to half marathon distance in preparation for the Inverness Half on March 9th. Training is going well although the training plan is of my own making and somewhat fluid.
Last week had started well with a swim before work on Monday, short run and Pilates on Tuesday then a 3 mile run on Wednesday. But later in the week I tailed off and unusually did not run on Saturday.
Sunday morning at 8am regardless of which weather forecast I chose, there was no escaping that outside it was 4 degrees ‘but feels like 1 degree’, with rain pelting down and the sky a uniform grey. Luckily I could not fully appreciate how windy it was until I stepped out.
Alison is training with me and she is truly dedicated to her exercise and running, but even she was looking apprehensively at the skies, although we gave each other the obligatory optimistic encouragement that it might clear up !
Our regular weekend running route is an out and back along a disused railway that follows the Water of Leith. This used to be a suburban commuter route to Edinburgh and a number of paper mills and other factories were located next to the river course. These are long gone now,and almost all industrial buildings have been converted to flats or flattened.
In terms of terrain it is a trail like surface with some tarred sections, but as it sits below the foot of the Pentland Hills, it gets the run off from the hills above so when it rains it can be pretty muddy in some sections.
As it follows the old railway route, it’s fairly flat, but does have a gradual incline – this is our ‘out’ section and with prevailing westerlies you are often running into the wind and gradually uphill to begin with – but have the wind advantage and corresponding downhill on the home stretch.
On our Sunday longer runs we have been adding in some route variations, to keep things fresh and also to give us some different surfaces to run on, and the odd hill. Today we were following a route of Alison’s that took us up from the river path through some outlying farm tracks, then joined the canal to give us an 8 mile circuit.
Early on we realised that the weather was unlikely to change, and although it is character building stuff to run into a biting cold headwind with rain dripping down your nose, you need heaps of mutual encouragement to keep going.
My natural tendency when I hit a bad spot in running is to try to speed up and get it over and done with, but this is counter productive as with 8 miles to cover I needed to keep a steady pace. Alison who is fitter than me and a more experienced runner was on day 3 of continuous running including a couple of hard interval sessions, so we agreed that we would just get this mileage ticked off, give ourselves breaks if we needed them and accept that today was not the day for heroics on the pace front.
This is maybe what I mean about my training plan being ‘fluid’ or maybe it just sums up how for me running is first and foremost a social activity albeit with a fitness bonus. I recognise the importance of preparing for a race – but there are other things in my life to fit round running, so I just try and keep to some sort of target as the weeks tick by, and I will adapt my projected outcome for Inverness nearer the time !
Back to Sunday – the rain kept up, and unfortunately so did the wind, so it was hard to appreciate the route variation, as we were both looking for signs that the end was in sight. The final 3 miles or so are along a canal stretch – nice and flat, but still into the wind ( I am sure on that day we seemed to be constantly running into the wind ) – maybe it just felt like that!
Still we completed our 8 miles, and although it was not the most enjoyable run I have done, Alison and I still managed to cover a good few conversation topics, and squeeze in a few laughs – so not a bad days work.