Small confessions of mild obsessions.

Mary Somerville £ 10 note
Mary Somerville

Towards the tail end of October, I got caught up in one of my recurring running obsessions – chasing a target mileage for the month . Although October is blessed with 31 days in which to run, come the last week I was ruing my slacker behaviour of the preceding October weeks when I realised how far behind I was in miles covered to date.
But with five days of October remaining, all was not lost. I had covered a fairly respectable 60 + miles so was confident that I would at least manage to reach a total of more miles than previous months 64 and 70 miles respectively.

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Although not currently training for anything – I am trying to keep up a decent amount of mileage each month because I don’t seem to be managing to fit in any other exercise at the moment. Is very easy to talk myself out of doing any exercise (even when I know how much better I feel when I do), without some sort of way of being accountable.

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And having set off at the beginning of the year with big monthly numbers, I am motivated to keep running and recording miles as I am on track to reach an annual total of 1000 miles by the end of November ( barring injury ) – a whole month earlier than I did in 2017.

So that is a target of sorts.

I know there are lots of naysayers around tracking exercise, league tables, wearable devices and the like – but my view is that on balance, it is mostly a force for good creating as it does for me anyway, a positive reason to keep going when it may seem pointless otherwise.

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Runners often have stated and secret goals usually where races are concerned  – (aka the backup plan when the shit hits the fan) and so it is for me and my ambitions around exercise –  I have a stated start of the month goal and as the month progresses and life intervenes I revert to my  back up or secret plan of what will ‘do’ for the month.

Throughout the year my graph of exercise ambition would be a jaggy profile characterised each month by an early peak of optimism usually around the first day and then as the month progresses a few more high spots coinciding mostly with weekend days when post-run, I am filled with euphoria and misplaced waves of invincibility.

The contrasting troughs of run reality and dips in the graph would be plotted next to those weekday work mornings when I opt out of a pre-work run in darkness, trading it for more time under the covers and telling myself that I will just run longer at the weekend.

( if I was not so shit at creating graphs – I would ‘insert diagram here’ – but instead here is a nice pic )

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Back to October mileage. For as long as I have been kind of seriously running, and it being  my hobby of choice –  I have recorded my runs on the Nike+ app. Like other running communities, you can opt to have friends who you share the details of your running achievements with. With Nike+ there is a leaderboard including the stats of your chosen friends – and this provides a degree of competitive edge and encouragement, as I monitor my run chums and their mileage totals.

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While it is not really a contest I do check to see where I am in the standing of my own small league and yes I confess I have sometimes gone out running just to get ahead of a Nike+ ‘friend’ and wallow in the warm glow of satisfaction when I am top of the leaderboard.

So come the last week of October – I set myself the first goal of reaching 90 miles -more than the past 2 months and higher than any month since April. Then on Monday 30th I was at 87 and a bit  miles so if I ran 5 or 6 miles my 90 mile target would be comfortably achieved, and anything more a bonus.

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Monday morning and with a flash of inspiration I realised I could combine the objective of reaching 90 + miles in October with the workaday task of taking clothes back to Zara. So in one swift move combine two of my running loves – ‘running with a purpose’ and ‘running a set number of miles in a month’ – how lovely is that?

As I was running I was thinking about how to achieve one of the following mileage number – 90, 93, 95, 99.

So the run story goes like this – I did the run into town and got myself to Zara and exchanged the clothes – at that point by my calculations I was on track to do 95 miles.

After a meander round Zara – I set off to run far enough for 95 miles then after a run up to Calton Hill and down again and not quite knowing where I was mileage wise –  my phone battery died. I just guessed that I was most likely at around 95 miles and that was fine by me.

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Once I was on the bus home and had fired up my phone with back up battery  – I discovered my Oct mileage total was at 98.4 – so from a happy with 95 miles I saw that a tantalising 1.6 miles would take me to the magic 100 for the month and while I ‘could’ have done this extra bit the day after- I reckoned getting this done and dusted on this day was the better answer.

I got off the bus 3 stops early and ran the remaining distance home – wishing as I often do that I did not live on top of a hill.

Anyhow – my end of Oct total was 100.1 miles. the running was not always pretty but I did it with a day to spare. And thanks as always to my running challengers for spurring me on 🙂

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You’re my first, my last*, my everything …Stirling marathon round up

This time last week as predicted, I was walking a bit ‘John Wayne is big leggy’ and feeling not as fresh as I might – it being the day after the marathon. I was a bit tired – but this tiredness was more I suspect due to post-race champagne excess and an early start for Monday work than the race effort.  Yes – standing up after a time seated was a slow process, but I did not feel as destroyed or wrecked as I thought I might.  The cocktail of euphoria, relief that it was behind me and an excess of adrenalin was serving me well.

Eight days on – the detail of my first marathon experience is both a fading memory and as clear as if it had just happened a few hours ago.

I have been reading other Stirling marathon race blogs – and is good to recognise similar versions of the day to my own, but also to read of a completely different race experience. Illustrating how with a marathon, or any mass running event, while it is a collective experience it is very much your own race.

Somewhere along this marathon journey – I came across this blog by Angela – That extra inch– Angela was also running her first marathon and her training sounded quite like my own. We exchanged a few comments and words of encouragement via our blogs in the latter weeks of training, and I enjoyed reading her race story.

Her account of the day had many similar observations and emotions to my own – we both love a good spectator sign, we both had a secret and not so secret time goal, and were both chuffed to join the marathon club – and as we completed the race with only 7 seconds between us, we must have been pretty close running companions amongst  1000s of runners.

On the other end of the racing spectrum – I have been following the training and race prep of Owain Williams aka Scottish runner. Owain was training for a sub 3hr marathon which he achieved with room to spare and great aplomb –  Bravo Owain!   Reading his account provided a great insight to how to apply mental toughness and the benefit of good race planning, not to mention the deserved reward of dedicated training paying off.  ( Owain’s time 2.52.52 ) But  – with his  6 min mi pace and the ( apparent ) ease with which he dealt with the finish lap section and other obstacles  – it brought home to me the difference between experienced racers and those of us who just look to get to the finish.

If you are a runner or a marathoner be it a first of 50th time – I think reading the accounts of fellow runners’ race experience is both enlightening and fascinating, but I do appreciate that it might not be quite the page turner if you are not a runner.

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As it happens – my own race story is not one full of great incident or drama albeit it has a good ending  – and as I was mainly trying to keep myself moving for 26.2 miles, and it was raining – I don’t have many pictures, except those in my head.

Maybe this is why it feels a little bit unreal, now I am back to normal life and have cast off both the marathon training regime and the overriding fear of failure that has been with me since I decided to do this many months ago.

But of course, there are a few moments that stick in my mind – first off how emotional I felt at the start. Friends and family know that I am easily given to crying –  both with happiness and sadness – so it is maybe not surprising that I was going to well up at some point – although I think the acceptable place for a good greet should have been the finish line !

Instead, as I  lined up waiting for our wave to start, in the mildly surreal environment of a Safari Park I was quite overwhelmed and found myself sobbing – proper tears were running down my face. While race starts are given to drumming up a kind of collective emotion, particularly around music choices – it was not hearing the Proclaimers for the 3rd time that started me crying – but a deeper level of emotion I felt about how far I had come to get to this point. And a quiet acceptance that I was definitely going to finish the race.

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My own race then went pretty well with some predictable setbacks but nothing too major. In the first mile, it was a crowded start so I was able to follow the accepted advice of start slowly, run slower. In fact, I was so slow that not only did I think that mile one was the easiest mile I had ever run – but my pace spooked my husband who was following me on the tracker because he thought I was going too slowly 🙂

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So the first section is quite undulating and after a slow start, I did go a bit faster than possibly I should have – with my 10k split time at 59.27. My legs felt fresh and I was enjoying the day – looking out for supporters I knew would be at Doune which is about 4.5 miles in. The crowds on the race route in those early sections through Doune, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan were amazing – and I understand now how important crowd support is. I did as many high 5s as I could and hoped I was smiling, as advised( top tip from a fellow runner).  I do have a tendency to grimace in concentration.

At the Stirling Universty section, I encountered a rookie error of not having scrutinised the race route closely enough. I reckon I spent so much time worrying about the laps at the finish I did not bother to check much else. So I  was a bit derailed by the steep hill loop and by this time it was raining quite heavily – so I decided to slow down and put on music- up until then I was not using headphones.

I thought this next section a wee bit tough but it marked the half way point which is a nice feeling. My half time was quite slow at 2.13. Miles 13 – 17 I expected to be a bit light on crowd support and as it is a long straight stretch these miles were a bit of a slog.  I tucked behind a group from Calton Athletic and just tuned into my Van Morrison on repeat!

By mile 17  I could see Stirling and what I thought was the start of the lap section. Much has been spoken about this and it was a bit of a mental test to run 2.5 laps at the end  – but for me, the biggest challenge was knowing where the laps started. As I ran into Stirling I was looking for the gantry and not seeing it, then seeing a 21-mile marker, and a 3hr 30 pacer, I panicked that I had somehow taken a wrong turning. So I crossed over to a race official who told me I still had to keep going to reach the gantry 😦

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Confusion aside, coming into Stirling the crowds everywhere made me feel like a proper runner, even if my arrival in the city coincided with me hitting a bit of ‘a wall’ at mile 18 and nicely timed as I caught sight of my family and friends. Of course seeing people who have come to support you is a massive boost – even if I was dealing with the reality of legs that did not want to work, a dodgy tummy and 8 miles to go.

The good thing about the lap set up is knowing you will see supporters again – the not so good thing is the course had a  few nippy hills and narrow sections and disappeared into some very quiet spots – and this made it hard for me to keep running. Owain had given me the advice to try to not walk – but between miles 18 and the finish, I did resort to walking some sections. My pace dropped to a slow as 12 min miles, and I was reassessing my finish time from the ridiculously optimistic Chariots of Fire 4 hrs 30 to just finishing before the sweeper,  to fingers crossed do it in under 5 hours.

I was wearing a watch – but I am never very good at doing the maths or reading the dial or even properly knowing what I have to do to reach the desired time in races, and I think in this case I was going a bit woolly of thinking.

Not much else to report other than my phone battery almost ran out and with it my sounds. I started developing cramps in my legs as I was doing the last few miles ( think I was drinking too much water ), but then once I had passed mile 25 I found a wee boost of energy and while I won’t say it was a sprint finish – I am proud of how I ran the last 1 mile 385 yards.

As I was approaching the finish line I caught sight of the gun time and saw it edge to 5 hours – and was a bit gutted – until I saw that the pink wave time was 4.40 something.

Hallelujah – I crossed the line over the moon to be comfortably under 5 hours and full of I bloody well did it and other end of race exaltations of delight (no tears).

My time was a sweet 4.40.00 which I was very happy with.

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While I have been training for this race I have thought of lots of analogies around journeys and other life changing or transformative experiences. When I was in the latter stages of training and dreading the inevitability of the full marathon distance, it felt a bit like when I  was pregnant with my daughters and full of the fear of childbirth, while knowing I had to go through with it. Now having completed a marathon I can say from my experience of both that childbirth is much harder and unpleasant ( sorry sisters ).

What it felt more like was studying for my finals – when you have to try very hard to keep studying and it all gets a bit boring and you try to remember stuff you learned 3 years previously – and know that it might just not come back to you on the day of the exam. I am very glad to have had a training plan and coach to guide me through a first marathon and I am sure that Sally’s  training not only got me through the marathon but has helped with my recovery. ( as has my general health and nutrition since following the eating plans from fitnaturally )

Likewise in the days after the marathon, I have felt that same mix of giddiness and mild hysteria that I remember after my university exams were over. Alas, I have a day job to go to which means I have not been able to party to the same extent as I did after my student finals – but I have made a brave attempt 🙂

Will I do another one? I don’t think so, but I do understand now why some people do go on to run multiple marathons.

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* one and only marathon as promised to husband

A BIG THANK YOU – to everyone who has sponsored me or made a donation to Smalls for All  using MyDonate or Scottish Women’s Aid via the  Justgiving page   Through your generosity I have managed to raise £ 522 for Scottish Women’s Aid and £ 326 for Smalls for All. I am a bit behind in my thank yous and admin generally, but to anyone I have not managed to thank personally, I really appreciate your support.

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snow, socks and a stitch

img_7656Into week 7 – I  think of marathon training and by now I was expecting it to just be running, running and more running, which of course it is, but the running is punctuated by new discoveries and all sorts of learning that I have to hope will all help me come the big day.

Weather so far this year has been a winter of the unrelenting grey and bleak variety – cold as a given- but with hardly any uplifting crisp, frosty, days to offset the drab – just a shed load of Pantone 442.

And as I am following a training plan of set days – sometimes my run days just don’t coincide with the odd sunny spot.

No matter – this training in all weathers is all helping me to develop MENTAL TOUGHNESS.

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This phrase is a recurring one in marathon training, and I imagine any race training – and I think I get the message. It seems I will need bucketloads of this mental strength come race day. I just can not begin to imagine (and have no intention of finding out) how much mental toughness you might need to develop to do some ultra distance or these races that have you running through the desert or in the depths of Death Valley or across Scottish mountain tops. Respect to all of you guys out there doing that kind of thing, but its a no from me.

To come back to this week and my weather obsession – Thursday was my hill repeat day and snow was forecast. These days storms all have names – and Doris the storm was going to bring winds, rain and for some parts of Scotland a shedload of snow.

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Hearing that forecast – I had the same kind of feeling I used to get during summer when rain was forecast. By way of explanation –  I grew up on a fruit farm and in the summer months worked there during the raspberry harvest. Of course, as a family we did not want it to rain during the raspberry season, but sometimes I did just long for one rainy day to get me out of a day’s work.

And so this week I had much the same feeling when watching the weather forecast on repeat  – maybe it would be just too windy/ snowy/ dangerous to train – yippee! A day off for me

But then unlike getting a day skiving off work, skipping a training session is not really helpful in the long run – I know I have to put in these long cold hours to get me round 26.2 miles come May.

As it turned out storm Doris did bring some very windy weather but in the part of Edinburgh where I live it also brought a welcome snowfall – by that I mean just enough snow to be pretty but not enough to interrupt things too much.

Was a nice change to run in cold crisp air and amongst a snowy hilly landscape.

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After the previous weeks training when it felt as if it was all coming together, this week I thought it was unravelling. On Tuesday I cut short a planned pace session as I just could not get my legs to move fast enough and could not get warm. I had done a different body pump class the day before and my legs were heavy, but truthfully it was more my head that did not want to play ball.

Mental toughness was in short supply on Tuesday.

My snow hill session was invigorating, but not sure it could really be classed as a genuine example of hill repeats, as I spent quite a bit of recovery time taking pictures. then on the way back from the hills I took a tumble and landed heavily on my knees – no damage done save for some grazing and technicolor bruising.  Falling and getting up to keep running is a good way to develop mental toughness though !

Then on Saturday, I was to do 10 miles steady on a hilly route but in the afternoon. I am not so good at eating for exercise when the session is later in the day, and as a creature of weekend running habit – it feels a bit weird to be sitting around reading Saturday papers at a time when I usually have my running done and dusted for the day.

But I had a route planned and was also going to try out running in my new compression socks – so I downloaded the podcast of Cerys Matthews R6 show and following what I thought a decent interval after a brunch of poached eggs, bacon and toast – I headed off.

Not far into running, I got a bit of a stitch. This was something new and so I just slowed down but the stitch did not seem to want to budge. I was trying to put it to one side and at the same time try and remember self-cure for stitches. Neither of these mental actions made much difference so  I just kept going – and made it to the Meadows where there are public toilets.

Even after a comfort break, my tummy was not feeling great but I had completed almost 6 miles, so more than half way. I had opted for a route into town partly to get some hills, but also to have some distraction as I  was running alone. The route I often do is an out and back along a trail path – and while a favourite run route – you are much more on your own.

Is good to have distractions sometimes but the downside of running into the city is knowing that at any given point I could hop on a bus and get myself home – and when I was feeling less than 100% it was tempting.

But of course come marathon day this will not be an option – so I just did a tried and trusted method of breaking down the miles left into songs – usually 3+  to a mile. Fortunately, Cerys Matthews Sunday show is just perfect for this as she has a very eclectic music selection and good chat between songs.

So I made it to 10 miles – including 3 uphill return miles that at least took my mind off the stitch, and was pleased to have completed the session even if it was not the most enjoyable.

Later when discussing my stitch and tummy trouble with Sally – she told me I had eaten completely the wrong things before my run ( largely because I ignored what she had told me to eat )! – so that’s a lesson learned. But a run chum was a bit more forgiving saying that finishing a run when you don’t want to and are feeling out of sorts is a great way to develop the necessary MENTAL TOUGHNESS -an essential component of marathon success.

It’s that old chestnut again.

As to the socks – I have no idea if they are making any difference, but at least I know they did not cause the stitch !

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When s**t gets real – and technology fails you

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shiny new sports watch

So after the irrational decision making and mild euphoria that accompanied signing up to do a marathon – some time in a land far,far away –  and with the excuses of December excess and family celebrations behind me – I found myself at week 1 of training for the marathon.

AKA when shit got real – although I am way too polite to use that kind of colourful language 😉

So it is January 9 and a full 4 months or 19 weeks or 131 days till May 21. By any measurement , quite some time till I have to stand on the start line and ask the question “why I am doing this ?”

Knowing that it is both a serious undertaking and one that I am taking seriously, I was quite excited to read what Sally had in store for me.

Earlier Sally had asked casually – “so you have a Garmin do you?”  – to which I replied that no, I did not own a Garmin and actually had a bit of a fear of sports watches.

I tried one a while back but could never understand how to set pace, time, distance, the final frontier – whatever –  and furthermore I  could not read the screen when I was wearing my contact lenses and as to changing the time when the clocks went forward in Spring  – well that was never going to happen!

I am fond of a bit of statistical insight – loving as I do counting the miles covered using my Nike+ app and I am partial to some gadgets, but as my family will testify, I do have some ‘issues’ around technology.

Added to this – when I did run with a sports watch and heart rate monitor, it was constantly beep, beep, beeping at me in a panicky kind of way and I could never get my heart rate into a range that did not suggest I was about to keel off my perch.

But – it turns out that as part of the marathon training  we are going to share data and Sally will then adapt my training plan for the following week, depending on how well or badly I am progressing.

She will watch my heart beating,and my little legs running from afar, and be my very own spy in the cab. In the nicest possible way, big sister will be watching me .

So I bought a Garmin.

I could easily write a whole separate post on the subject of the vortex you can descend into when trying to choose a branded sports watch – but let’s leave that for another time.

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Currie Kirk

Back to training.  Week 1 plan asked me to do as a start -10 steady miles wearing Garmin and HR monitor – to set a benchmark. I was not too fazed by the prospect of the distance, particularly as the term ‘steady’ sounds nice and cosy, but with hindsight, it might have been a smarter move to go for a short test run wearing the Garmin to get the hang of the controls before attempting ten miles.

Instead I took delivery of the Garmin at around 11am – spent an hour and a bit waiting for it to fully charge then set out on my run.

Sports watches have got better than I remembered and the Garmin Forerunner 25 does look quite smart – if you like that kind of thing. Importantly it has a nice clear face with big numbers and reasonably straightforward interface and menu.

Having never used a Garmin or completed this kind of techno enabled test before – I was not sure if it was OK to stop or if stopping would mess up the readings sent to Sally, or even worse end the run before 10 miles. And if I was pausing it all over the place as I tend to do on my regular weekend meanderings, Sally might think I was fitter, and faster than I really am.

And as this was the first time I was using the watch, I was not completely sure what button to use to stop and start it again !

Having this fear of technology did provide an unusual  incentive to just keep running and at a decent pace.  I had to abandon my usual whimsical pauses for photos or observations, as this was a serious training exercise 🙂  So I was very pleased to see that after 5 and bit miles I was managing an average pace of just over 9 min mi –  fast for me.

But at the turning point I took a risk and pressed the stop button- which it turns out does pause the recording, so I took a few minutes to eat a disgusting gel and then did the return 5 miles. I had opted for a known route – an out into the wind gradual incline , followed by a downhill with wind behind you, return leg.

On the return leg I  felt I was properly running like a proper runner – and with the wind at my back and endorphins buzzing I was visualising breezing  or at least managing to get through the marathon 26.2 miles ( after some decent training obviously). It was a good feeling to be fit enough to manage 10 miles at an OK pace having been mostly doing shorter runs in December.

Euphorically I reached the 10 mile distance and triumphantly pressed the stop button – kind of hoping for a cheer , but definitely expecting to see some kind of summary of stats.  I was keen to see if my heart was working ( even tho obviously it was 😉 and my inner running nerd was firing up to get my report card of pace, cadence, elevation and the like.

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twilight

But instead of a list of accomplishments – the screen went a bit funny and pixellated and the numbers were all mangled, the display was frozen and no amount of button pressing was making any difference.  Even when I got back to the house – the screen was still set in the same way.

Looking on the Garmin support page – it helpfully suggested  ‘if screen has frozen try resetting it – but THIS MAY RESULT IN A LOSS OF DATA

Sad times

Luckily I was also wearing my Nike+ app – so  proof that those miles really did happen,even if I still did not know if my heart was working as it should.

So 10 mile run done ✔️- but I did kind of fail the first attempt of training with technology and I sense this may be a recurring theme of this adventure.

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Notes

In May am taking part in my first marathon – the inaugural Stirling Marathon and following a training plan provide by Sally at fitnaturally

 

Mid life marathon training tales – with bonus horoscope feature !

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It turns out that those of us with star sign Capricorn are sure-footed late developers. I am definitely given to a bit of pondering and weighing up of options on significant decisions before jumping right in – but whether this is written in the stars or just how I am depends on how much store you may put on astrology and other unscientific interpretations of life.

Astrology aside, in a rare impulsive moment ( following a year-long debate with myself), I signed up for a marathon. I don’t want to fully admit to going through a bit of a mid-life wobble – but how else to explain why I voluntarily forked out £ 55 to let me run for many hours covering a distance of 26.2 miles on my own 2 feet ?

I have no idea !!!

Having running as my hobby of choice for 8 years, I have often thought that a marathon was maybe something I should really do at some point – a natural progression as it were. But when discussing the marathon experience with fellow runners – I can’t say it got a ringing endorsement !

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And unfortunately as a moderately experienced runner and reluctant competitor – when it comes to thinking what taking part in a marathon might entail – I do not have the benefit of blissful ignorance. Not for me that unfettered happiness, or joyful optimism of just setting out to ‘do a marathon’ with no insight as to how shit I might feel before the end.

I have run a few half  marathons – and I know and remember how tough it can be to keep running for a long time in a race and just how much you have to dig deep to find mind tricks to help you cover the distance. Maybe if you are a proper runner who runs a 10 miler daily as a small ‘amuse bouche’ of your running diet , or you are a dedicated competitor who loves winning above pain – then this overrides any negative self talk.

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But as I am neither of these, each time I have completed a half marathon – at around mile 10 or 11- I think ‘I am not doing this EVER again’ followed quickly by the recognition that of course to get to the end  I just need to keep going for about 25 or more minutes or the equivalent of just one ‘December run’ or I try to break it down to how many songs in 3 miles  – 7, 8 ?

Then of course as I cross the finish line, I experience  a level of euphoria that is hard to convey – but never at that point have I had a desire to just loop back and do it all again.

But as the most excellent Erica Jong said – Feel the Fear and do it anyway, and so I am 🙂

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Notes

I am signed up for the inaugural Stirling marathon on May 21st – if I finish it I am guaranteed a PB and if I get the marathon bug ( unlikely ) I could be one of those folk who do it every year until I crumble into a crinkly heap.

To help me make this big leap – I am working with Sally at fitnaturally who is providing a training plan and to be honest she has helped me have the confidence to even contemplate this big challenge.  I will  be writing about my ventures into this new territory.

 

 

 

Get out the bunting,make a fanfare – it’s day 18 !

Such is my inconsistency when it comes to writing, I find that I have arrived at the magnificent day 18 milestone without so much as a mild “TARANTARA” fanfare or other equivalent outpouring of joy.

In December running days past – I would be stringing out the metaphorical bunting as soon as I got to the end of week1 – and of course making a big fat “TOOTAROO” once I had reached the magical day 16 half way point.

But now as a veteran run streak participant – I have a degree of ambivalence about this type of ‘run everyday challenge’ that seems to set in shortly after I agree to take part.  Maybe the more often you do something the harder it is to summon up the motivation, and it feels less challenging somehow.

That said even for someone who runs regularly throughout the year – making time every single day to fit in a run, and upping my monthly mileage from 60 to 100+ miles is a bit of an effort of time management if nothing else, and yes my legs  do get weary.

True, like the running trainspotter I am, it is satisfying to tick the days off and to be mildly smug that I am exercising daily and to not have to make any choices over what kind of exercise to do. It removes the internal dialogue I might be having over whether to go for a tough or an easy session, or TBH to do any exercise at all ! It saves me pondering over what distance, pace, level of effort or route – but even with all this simplicity of routine – as the days pass the repetition starts to suck the joy out of running.

Maybe this is a signal that my days of taking part in running streak challenges are over, and time for some new goal.

With this in mind – and after quite a bit of soul searching – I finally signed up to a marathon. In May of next year I am going to take part and hope finish my first marathon. I have opted to do the inaugural Stirling marathon which fortunately right now feels like something in the far away mists of time.

As I get through December I am consoling myself with comforting facts and motivating self talk around the fact that I am already running the equivalent to 4 marathons distance, and in a month that includes short days, wintry weather, Christmas parties, Christmas Day and my birthday.

This while also trying to forget that in a marathon you do have to do this weekly mileage in 4 and a bit hours !

Back to the here and now – a recap of December  running efforts

Day 6 – evening run in the village checking out Christmas lights. Weather was a bit Decemberist and wet, but was nice once I was out

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Mileage 3.15 Cumulative 28.99

Day 7 – trying to integrate these daily runs into everyday life – I ran to the Post Office then took a detour back home via a different Dell route. Saw some folk having a winter lunchtime BBQ, as you do – why not ?

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Mileage 5.09 Cumulative 34.08

Day 8 – met an ex work colleague for coffee , so decided to run there – its downhill so arguably faster than the bus.

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Mileage  4.03 Cumulative 39.07

Day 9 – joined my good chum Alison for a short run in the Dell – one of our usual routes.

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Mileage 3.05 Cumulative 42.22

Day 10 – as before , 3 miles on one of our regular haunts. Squeezing in around other December commitments.

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Mileage 3.0 Cumulative 45.22

Day 11 – I decided to run  an extra bit to meet Alison and Lil to give a 5 mile total

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Mileage 5.05 Cumulative 49.21

Day 12 – running again to meet a friend. 6 mile to the Meadows including important stop to order Christmas turkey.Then, as taken by this running everywhere kind of vibe, I continued my run into town, then  took a wee wander up Calton Hill for the views.

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Mileage 6.01 + 1.02 ( battery fail ) Cumulative 56.24

Day 13 – up early to get ‘run out of the way’ as I was meeting a friend for lunch ( this is a recurring theme I know), it is unusual for me to be a ‘lady who lunches’ – but I am not working at the moment.

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Mileage 3.51 Cumulative 59.75

Day 14 – was in London meeting my daughter for lunch – as it was her birthday ! So had to run in the evening in Cambridge, where I was staying with my other daughter.Was dreading this as had been up since 4am and it felt way too cold  and dark in Cambridge. BUT – there was a most beautiful moon, and Cambridge is so flat, and that evening without a breath of wind, it was a most magical run. I even stopped mid run for a pint of beer in a lovely pub.

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Mileage 5.24 Cumulative 64.99

Day 15 – got up early to run along the River Cam – I love a Cambridge run. Was misty and dreich, but always good to run by the river seeing the rowers out early.

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Mileage 4.40 Cumulative 69.39

Day 16 – HALF WAY POINT ! Nice easy run with Alison back on home turf.

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Mileage 3.04 Cumulative 72.43

Day 17 – did a variation of a run route to give us a nice easy route  after a tiring week ( and Alison had been partying at her work Christmas party night  the night before). Very enjoyable run in cold, bright sunlight, and I bumped into someone I had only ‘met’ on Facebook previously – which was a nice bonus. Was one of those days when it felt as if everyone we knew was out running or cycling by the canal.

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Mileage 3.19 Cumulative 75.62

Day 18 – Jingle Bell Race. Second year we have done this fun race – organised by Pitreavie AAC in Dunfermline. Is a 5k ( almost ) race where the route makes the shape of a sleigh. I am no fan of 5ks and especially after almost 3 weeks of slow plod daily running. But was fun to dress up in Christmas leggings and Santa hats and run with my chums.

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Mileage 3.12 Cumulative 78.74

Only 13 days of running in this year left – TARANTARA – TOOTAROO and maybe even HALELUJAH ! 🎉🎉🎉

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December running – 5 day round up

Five days into December and running everyday verdict is so far, so good. This is not the first time I have taken part in the challenge, so I do know the score. But this year is a bit different for me as I recently left my job after 8 years, and have the freedom to run at whatever time I like and for how ever long I choose – which is a new sensation and one that is taking a bit of getting used to, but is mostly a good thing.

This being the 6th time I have taken part in the marcothon, and for once not needing to weave my daily run around work commitments – I did consider adding a bit of icing onto the December run challenge cake. Maybe trying to run somewhere different every day or completing my December runs in an appropriately advent themed costume – bedecked as a lycra Christmas tree or Santa. Or I could have perplexed myself with some kind of a curious run = number of days = phase of the moon  mileage combination – but on balance I thought better of it.

As it happens my December running is already something of a challenge within a challenge – as I am attempting to run further in 2016 than I have in any other year since I took up running in 2009 – and have set a target of completing  999 miles by December 31st.

And it turns out that even though I don’t have a regular 9-5 to fit round, or business travel, office parties and the like to attend, December is still quite a busy month. Newly out of my work routine and between my next assignment starting – I am finding it very easy to fill my day before and after running in all sorts of ways, and very much enjoying catching up with friends old and new.

Weather has been cool, but so far no snow and ice and to my mind Dec 5th had the best wintry weather as temperatures dropped to minus 4 – creating a beautiful frosty landscape and a face tinglingly cold run.

Day  1 – combined my first December run with meeting my newish Instagram friend Linda (@occasionalscotland) for coffee and a walk round  Edinburgh’s  Botanic Gardens. Easy day one downhill run to the Botanics along the canal, then weaving through the New Town.

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Mileage 4.03 Total 4.03

Day 2 – Friday run with running chums Alison, Lil and Emma . Did a new variation of a route ( Emma’s 10k route )  out along the Dell path by the Water of Leith then up a level to Blinkbonny for an uphill loop before rejoining the path and back along the Dell by the river.

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Nice to do a variation and lots of opportunity for different conversations and pace.

Mileage 6.36 Total 10.39

Day 3 – Saturday run with Alison – one of our weekend regulars -out along the Dell then back up past the new equestrian centre and Campbell park to loop back to the start – nice out and back on a cool morning.

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Mileage 5.07 Total 15.46

Day 4 – Sunday run with Alison – we did our other regular weekend route – the Balgreen  – out through Craiglockhart woods , past the allotments to Balgreen then back via the canal. Cold with bright sunlight

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Mileage 5.14 Total 20.60

Day 5 – cold, crisp and frosty run – as on my own I chose to run at midday , to get the best of the sunshine and did a circular route from the house down first to the Dell path, along westwards towards Currie then up towards the Pentland hills via Poets Glen and back home via Clubbiedean and Torphin reservoirs.

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Mileage 5.24 Total 25.84

Running in the background

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Like brushing my teeth or remembering to take a scarf when its cold , running has moved from being a thing requiring planning and effort to just something I do.

That’s not to say I do not make arrangements to find time to run, and none more so when I know there is a mileage challenge needing attention, or with winter approaching and the shortening days, there is a bit more consideration needed around running in weather hazards and darkness.

But recently when beyond running, I have been going through a period of change (on Friday I left my job after 8 years  and there are some unknowns on the horizon work-wise), making time to run has felt effortless – and comforting.

My 999 mileage target is on track – almost half way through November the total sits at 865 miles – and with 50 days left of this year,that means I just have to average 2.68 miles each day between now and December 31st.

I am hoping in the next couple of weeks to fit in some longer runs to take me to 900 miles by the end of November, and have signed up to run every day in December. So barring injury or any major disaster I am optimistic.

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999 countdown

Convention has it that resolutions and commitments to life improvements take place at the start of the year, but whether through my love of procrastination or a general ennui over goal setting,  I have ambled through 2017 free of embarking on any big challenges or certainly where running is concerned.

At some point I thought about doing a marathon this year, then I talked myself out of it – deciding that it was always too hot in Edinburgh in May and attempting marathon number 1 at Loch Ness in September might be too much worry for me to deal with for a whole 9 months.

Marathoning can be my 2017 challenge – well maybe…

It seems that without some kind of contest to aim for,I just drift along running wise. While that is just fine and a big part of me wants running to be just a regular thing I do, given how much I have a love/hate relationship with competition, there is no escaping the focus a deadline gives me.

Twas ever thus and maybe this is why when recently browsing through my Nike+  running app and  checking on the leaderboard, I noticed that my mileage for the year was close to 750 miles in late Sept.

With 3 months of the year left, the possibility of reaching 1000 miles seemed doable and the kind of challenge I relish. Setting a target mileage would  help with the inevitable shortfall of winter motivation. As the days shorten and clocks change soon,  much as I prefer running in cooler temperatures – running in darkness does require some incentive.

So I have done the calculations and it looks like I only need to do 20 miles a week – less than 3 a day from now till Dec 31st.

And to make it a bit easier and less of a round number I am aiming to reach 999 miles by Dec 31st .

As of today – mileage stands at 784.7 – so If I can get to 800 by the end of October, I think I am definitely in with a chance of getting that medal.

It’s all about the weather : days 22- 28 everydayinmay

Like many people who live in these meteorologically varied Isles – I spend a lot of time talking about the weather and I fully accept that I may be borderline nerd-like around the subject. I certainly tick a lot of boxes for a would be weather obsessive

1. I am British ✔️

2. I live in Scotland ✔️

3. I run a lot outside ✔️

all I need to complete the set is to take up gardening or farming !

Running or not, I enjoy weather watching and cloud spotting and am not just a fair weather friend of the weather if that makes sense. I love frosty mornings as much as sunny afternoons, get childishly excited when it snows and even like rain.

Harder to love is a grey flat sky, a north wind at a bus stop or a sneaky drop in temperature mid May when you have stuffed your opaque tights to the back of the drawer – but maybe these are just tests that the weather gods present me with to prove that my love is true. ❤

Last week while running every day I experienced a few weather contrasts – Sunday May 22 was spent running in glorious Spring sunshine in Cambridgeshire, Monday 23 and back home my evening run was in bright warm sunshine – lovely. Tuesday 24 I caught the best of the day with a very early run and sunrise capture, but by Wednesday 25 the sun had vanished and my run was a chilly downhill to the train station against a cold headwind. Thursday 26  was just wet and temperatures in single figures. So by Friday 27 I was girding my loins for more cold, grey, windy running but instead enjoyed a late lunchtime run in equable temperatures, no sunshine but  without a breath of wind –  taking me to Saturday 28 – Day 28 of running everydayinmay, where the weather was pleasantly mild, even some patches of blue sky but as I was running with my good companion Alison and  know I am just 3 days away from the finish – I would happily have run through a blizzard 🙂

Along with many others I am running everydayinmay to raise funds for Dimbleby Cancer Care, a charity that provides much appreciated practical and psychological support for cancer patients. If you would like to donate please visit Scout or Sally’s Just giving page. Thank You

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