uplifting autumn days

Some days it’s just so good to be outside and yesterday was one of those days.

I did a short lunchtime run – or more accurately half run /half walk – in the hills close to where I live. Autumn is such a beautiful season, the light was perfect and after a weekend of blustery rain, it was lovely to run without a breath of wind and alongside mirror flat waters.

These are the days when anything seems possible and being outside is a joy.

art on a Monday

 

Unusually for a Monday morning at 9am, I was queueing to get into BBC’s big tent in Edinburgh to watch the recording of Janice Forsyth’s Radio Scotland show. Was a last minute thing to do when a friend asked me to join her.

Each day the magazine showcases a tiny but eclectic mix of what’s on at Edinburgh Festival and Fringe,  and I had no idea who we might see. As it turned out – this ‘chaos of delights’ as described by Janice had a loose theme around ‘finding your voice’ featuring – impressionist Jon Culshaw, a Capella singer Kate Dimbleby, all-round Renaissance man and ball of energy Robin Ince, each providing small snapshot of their shows with a  light touch and laughter to start the week.

While I knew both Jon Culshaw and Robin Ince – the beauty of this format is discovering something unheard of. Today for me from the official festival Geoff Sobelle’s theatre piece – Home- described as ‘a spectacle and illusion, choreography, storytelling and music’.  Geoff and his musical partner Elvis Perkins talked us through the idea behind Home and shared short musical taster.

More music came from the contrasting styles of Super Furry Animals lead singer Gruff Rhys, and blues band ensemble Blueswater – providing toe-tapping playing, stellar singing and a  harmonica virtuoso.

A smorgasbord, an amuse bouche, a carefully portioned taster of just a few of the shows on in  Edinburgh at the moment.

Janice Forsyth holds it all together with an easy grace and humour. Would be nice if all Mondays could start this way.

 

 

Absence makes the heart grow fonder – how to rekindle my running love ?

bit of a story follows so maybe get a cup of tea first 🙂 

tea bag slogan

It is 9 years since I started running – by that I mean it was in 2009 that I started running regularly and called it my hobby – in May of that year I ran my first race. In the ensuing 9 years my relationship with running has been a good one – and through running, I have found great friendships both in real life and online. Over the years,  me and my running pastime have had our ups and downs but largely my love of everything to do with running has been an enduring one.

Throughout this time – running for me has been first and foremost a social activity with an exercise bonus. I do enter races – but usually with a level of ambivalence and a love/hate relationship with the training regime. I enjoy having a goal to focus on or a challenge to complete and have done a few run streaks.

Following a few years of running 10ks and half marathons – last year I trained for and completed a marathon and found the experience of training for the distance and the race itself quite a watershed in how I felt about running.

Devon sunset picture
Devon sunset

During the months leading up to the race, I realised that running could no longer be mainly a social thing – 26.2 miles is a long way for anyone to run and for someone of average fitness and the wrong side of 50, I knew I had to take it seriously and respect the distance.

I had to selfishly focus on my training schedule and sideline the running I enjoyed the most – so I put my social runs on the back burner or when I could I weaved them into my training schedule.

While this was a bit of a blow,  as the weeks passed I did start to appreciate the feeling of gaining in strength and confidence as I followed a progressive training plan and listened to my coach. Over time I saw that I could run distances of 15, 17, 19, 20 miles and feel OK the next day. I started to see it as fairly normal to train 4 or 5 days a week – and to rattle off a 9 mile session with some speed work ( YUK ) or a hill rep sesh.  I loved how when I went to a Body pump class or Pilates I felt a strength and confidence in my body I had not experienced before.

While adhering to my training schedule was mostly motivated by fear of failure – as the weeks passed it felt good to feel strong. This was a first for me – up till then –  I would describe myself as a reluctant sportsperson, and one lacking in any competitive edge. In May of last year –  marathon day – I am pleased to report I had a largely storybook ending – completing the 26.2 mile distance in a decent time of 4 hrs 40 minutes and joining the club of marathon runners.

marathon tee shirt
in my finishers tee shirt

After the months of marathon training – it was lovely to return to running without a purpose and to be back running with friends and without goals.

Freedom to run or freedom to not run – how joyous !

Post marathon – I got back into my regular weekend run routine – but had no desire to enter any races, despite the voices saying – run a half marathon after a marathon and you will get a PB – but the thought of having to push myself to run at pace just held no appeal.

And so it continued – the longer I was from the marathon the less inclined I was to set any goals, and my mileage dropped.

I think there are runners who on completing one challenge immediately look for the next one – whether that be to improve on a time or increase the distance – but not me. Others find the time post marathon to be a tough one, feeling a bit directionless and struggle with motivation and this has been my experience. Not only have I have lost the motivation sometimes to go out for a run but I have no inclination to put myself through any racing challenge or test.

Trying to shake this off, earlier this year I entered the Edinburgh half marathon thinking it would give me the incentive needed to reignite running love – only to bail out the week before.

So a bit late in the day, I am declaring 2018 the year of not racing – and perhaps acknowledging that I am going through something of a 9-year itch with my running relationship.

I do run – just not very far and not nearly as often.

Then about a month ago when on holiday I was out for a  hot, slow run on a stony path and twisted my ankle, spraining it badly enough to mean that running was off the menu for a full 2 weeks.

Well of course when I was not able to run due to injury –  I felt bereft and missed my dear old friend. I  wondered what I would do if I could no longer run, and of course, there seemed to be runners everywhere and I had a massive dose of runner’s envy and FOMO all rolled into one.

It seems that absence makes the heart grow fonder – even where running is concerned.

Have you experienced a loss of running motivation – and any tips for getting through it ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hair raising tales of sub zero running

Excuse my feeble attempt at a clickbait headline, I must be spending way too much time reading Buzzfeed quizzes and letting those  ‘lose belly fat now’ Facebook messages seep into my consciousness.

In the interests of accuracy, this tale is short on drama and is mostly an excuse to share some pictures taken during a beautiful cold day on Sunday, when my hair froze when I was out running.

Nothing alarming really, and although chilly at minus 5 degrees C the air was dry and the paths easy to run on.

Give me frozen hair over a slippery path any day.

That’s it for another year – screeching into 2018

Got the last day of the year off to a great start by completing my last run of the month and year with my best running chums. Has been a big year for me on the running front and a few other areas.

So to be brief – very pleased to have ticked off goals of:

1. running a full marathon and 2. running a half in sub 2 hours, and 3. once more running every day in December.

But as always my favourite running memories were had running with friends.

Happy New Year !

Christmas cake baking – and running of course. Day 3

IMG_2451Today I decided to bake a Christmas cake. I used to get a bit hung up about baking the Christmas cake on a set day in November, but I decided it does not make any difference to the flavour so I just bake it a few weeks before Christmas whenever I can find some spare hours.

Making the cake is pretty straightforward – especially since I have started using a recipe recommended to me by my friend Sally at fitnaturally. Sally got this recipe from her neighbour and friend – Mrs Williams – sadly no longer around – and it is both the easiest and nicest Christmas cake recipe I have tried. I also like the thought of Mrs Williams skills in baking being shared far and wide, and enduring. That’s the lovely thing about baking and passing on recipes.

So Mrs Williams Christmas cake recipe is kind of an ‘all in one’ method – where you put the fruit, sugar, butter and spices into a pot then heat them up.

Then you add all the other ingredients to the cooled fruit mixture, give it a good mix and that’s it!

I find the hardest part of baking a Christmas cake is lining the tin, and with the long slow cooking, it is important to line it properly.  But though it is a fiddly job – it is an enjoyable ritual of sorts – wrapping the cake in its jacket of brown paper and string. And there is something very comforting about the gathering of ingredients, the preparation and then the aroma of Christmas cake baking that gets me in the festive mood.

Before baking the cake – I went on my day 3 run with Alison. Today we went on another of our weekend routes where we run from Colinton to Stockbridge. It is around 6 miles and pretty much downhill all the way following the water of Leith – so lots of running through woodland. We then get the bus or a lift back, so it’s an easy 6 miles.

IMG_2455

We could run there and back and many runners would do this by way of a longer Sunday run, but I am not training for any race at the moment and one thing I have realised over the years of doing run streaks- is that there is no point adding in extra mileage if you don’t have to.

IMG_2453

As it was, we had a very enjoyable social run rounded up nicely by a breakfast of fried egg roll and coffee at the Water of Leith bistro.

IMG_2591

Day 3: 6.01 miles

December total : 14.32 miles

Weather : fresh and sunny 4 degrees

Day 2 – first Santa sighting, gold shoes outing and a small graveyard detour.

 

Bit of a cheat as this Day 2 roundup headline says more about what I did after my run rather than tales of daily running – but on this year’s December run streak I am adopting more of a devil may care – new rules for old traditions mindset – so who knows what I might write about next ? 😉

As to the run, with it being a Saturday, it meant day 2 of running was just the regular weekend fixture and at more of a relaxed pace with Alison.

IMG_2426
new shoes

Lots of good chat and observations, including navigating a few detours due to ongoing works along one of our favoured routes.  I gave my new running shoes their first outing ( Mizuno Wave 20 bought in Black Friday sale ) – and ‘almost’ managed to avoid the mud. At this time of year, it is pretty nigh impossible to keep my running shoes mud free – but I do try to scamper over the deepest muddiest sections of paths when my shoes still have their shiny newness about them.

IMG_2430
New Gold Brogues

After my run, I headed into town wearing another pair of new shoes – lovely gold brogues I had bought on impulse a couple of weeks back.

I stopped off to visit a local craft market – and spotted Santa – as you do.

 

 

Then before hitting the town proper, I wandered into Greyfriars Kirk – historically interesting church and cemetery in Edinburgh and resting place of Auld Jock – Greyfriars Bobby’s master. And it turns out last resting place of many other notable figures some worthy, some unworthy who knows – but certainly names I had heard of.

IMG_2442
Edinburgh skyline

Despite me living in Edinburgh longer than I have lived anywhere else ( 30 years), like many residents I don’t take as much interest in the local history than I might if I was a visitor.

 

Something else to add to my ‘to do’ list of self-improvement.

IMG_2429

Day 2 miles: 5.06

December total: 8.32

Weather – grey and overcast 3 degrees C

 

 

December – Ho Ho Ho and the comfort of traditions

So here we are again – another year is coming to an end and my all time favourite month is here. I say favourite but it is a bit of a love/hate thing. Mostly I love December – it’s my birthday month and I can deal with winter even if the older I get, the more I find the short days a tough gig and increasingly look to December sparkly excess to carry me across to a new year and longer days.

IMG_2340

There is something about approaching a year end that makes you even more aware of your unfulfilled life ‘to do’ list and take a reflective view of the story so far. Then for me anyhow, I just end up carrying forward unticked life goals into another year !

IMG_2420

IMG_6882

Back when my girls were younger – December heralded a kind of rabbit in the headlights – let’s just get through this month kind of vibe. In between badly crafting Nativity costumes, baking for the Christmas fayre and watching the end of year dance shows, I poured flame on the December fire by creating extra, arguably unnecessary, traditions of ‘our family advent’ and Christmas morning baking.

Then as my children became young adults – I switched my December madness to a different focus so for the past few years, I have opted to run every day in December – following a Scottish based challenge –  the Marcothon – where you run a minimum of 3 miles every day in December.

IMG_7028

And just in case running every day was a bit too easy – the first time I did this, I decided to write about running every day in an aptly named blog Decemberism and found that writing about running every day was almost as hard as running.

Time passes and I am more of an established runner now – but alas not an established writer. It is tough to commit to running every day for sure – but I find it a lot harder to write daily, or even to just  get into a writing habit.

IMG_2408

IMG_7011

So this year I am going to make a big fat effort to write more, and if I can I will run each day in December even if it’s just a run around the block on some days. I will keep to this daft December habit not least because, after 6 years of doing this, it has become a December ritual and maybe like many of us I find comfort in the salve of habits that over time become traditions.

IMG_2425

 

Roving round London, keeping left on escalators and back home running

IMG_1984

With both shock and relief the temperatures dropped this week making London commuting much nicer for me and many others I am sure. I have not quite got into a rhythm of running or proper exercise when I am in London mostly because I can’t seem to get out of bed early enough to fit in a decent run before work and don’t always have time ( or the inclination ) in the evening.

IMG_1942
heading south
IMG_1959
early in Ealing

So exercise when in London is walking and walking and stair climbing and stepping briskly up and down escalators on the LEFT-HAND SIDE – yes I conquered that small fear – Bravo to me!

I have also perfected the technique of trolley bag running   – safer than running with scissors –  except perhaps for those on my path. An essential when cutting it fine to catch the train home.

IMG_1978
lunchtime walk

Last night on the return journey north I got chatting to a fellow passenger and runner and she gave me some run routes to try when I am next back in London and encouraged me to embrace run commuting. Giving me insider tips on routes to minimise road crossings, slow walking crowds and parks to try even when dark ( turns out they have the lights on ).

That will be for next week- today I was back in Edinburgh running on home turf with regular run companion Alison. Beautiful day for running – cold, clear air, sun and blue skies.

IMG_1985

And breathe

IMG_1990

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.

IMG_1688-ANIMATION

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.

img_1896.jpg

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.

IMG_1805

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 )

IMG_1834

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.

IMG_1756

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.

IMG_1904

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.

IMG_1713

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 🙂

IMG_1852