The running book club

 

Every now and again I do one of those geeky calculations around how many hours I have spent commuting or sleeping or running.

According to my Nike+ app, my total miles run since 2009 is 6697 miles and based on my average pace, it means I have spent 1116 hours running and of those, I imagine that for around 80% of that time I will have been running alongside my good friend Alison.  That’s over a month of talking.

Fast and slow runners ask how we can run and chat – but that’s the main ‘raison d’ être’ of our running. It is a social occasion and mutual therapy rolled up with exercise and fresh air.

Someone should bottle it and make a fortune!

Given all these minutes we have spent in a moving conversation, we have covered quite a few topics even though there are recurring themes. We have shared and supported each other through some tricky times but mostly we have had a lot of laughs and the comforting ear that friendship brings.

Recently we have been talking quite a bit about the books we are reading and sharing recommendations. We are both fans of crime fiction and have now read the Lin Anderson Rhona Macleod series of novels. I would love to say we have made an insightful critique of the literary merits of the genre – but the truth is we are much more absorbed by the two main characters than the writing or the plot – appreciating their believable and familiar flaws and wondering about the ‘will they /won’t they’? chemistry between them.

Alison belongs to a real book club, but I think our running book club could catch on as it nicely ticks off two life-affirming habits in the space of an hour or so.

Front cover image Lin Anderson novel
Lin Anderson book

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.

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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.

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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.

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Day 3: 6.01 miles

December total : 14.32 miles

Weather : fresh and sunny 4 degrees

Banish the blues – I love running !

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This past week I have been trying to get back into running more regularly and to rediscover the joy and peace that, until recently, I found that running brings.

2017  has been a year of change for me. On the professional front, I left a job after eight years with the same company. Moving on from the comfort and security of working  where I understood how the business worked,  and with the friendship of good colleagues, to trying to work out what next, navigating job hunting, rebuilding a network and the like has been something of an emotional rollercoaster and a game of snakes & ladders all rolled into one big fat metaphor !

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In family life, our youngest daughter graduated, and with that came the acknowledgment that our job as parents was entering a different chapter. The education years are well and truly over, our girls are all grown up and the fledglings have properly flown the nest.

But beyond work and family – there was running. Running is my thing and as someone who has scampered between a myriad of hobbies and interests over the years, running has been the constant – a touchstone- and my ‘go to’ when the rest of life was a bit chaotic.

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Then post marathon – even the constancy of running seemed to change.

After the elation of finishing a marathon – I  found it harder than I expected to see the point of running and it stopped being something I looked forward to doing.

People talk about the post marathon blues, but during training, I was sure this would not apply to me. Towards the end of marathon training, what kept me going was looking forward to a time when I could say cheerio to prescribed training sessions and hello to running whenever I wanted to. Choosing to run for however long a distance and with friends who were happy to stop and run slow, take pictures – just about everything I was not able to do during training.

But it turned out I did succumb to post marathon blues, just like lots of others before me and kept finding excuses to not bother going out. Briefly, I considered signing up for another race to reignite running love and give me a new goal – but I just could not face it. Having spoken before about my ambivalence over races, competitions and the stress of pushing for PBs, chasing a new target is not the answer for me right now.

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In short – I was not managing to get back into a running groove. The routes I have run for years and even with repetition – managed to enjoy and see something new each time – had lost their appeal. When I was running, every yard seemed harder, I was puggled and weary after the first 10 minutes, I cut short planned distances, walked up hills I would have run before and felt every niggle like a heavy weight.

But as I believe in the power of running as a cure all – I persevered, and this week I think I turned a corner. On Tuesday summer arrived in Edinburgh and I did a toasty 5 miles along the canal – allowing myself the luxury of lots of stops, and even took the bus home. Then on Thursday, an otherwise pedestrian run was enlivened by both a wardrobe malfunction and finding some field mushrooms in passing.

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Friday and Saturday I ran with Alison and rediscovered my favourite kind of running – the stream of consciousness run chat 🙂

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Then today by way of a grand finale – I joined a visiting friend for a run in a completely different part of town, to run 10 glorious rain drenched miles, and with it, the post marathon blues washed away into the cloudy skies.

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Black Rock 5 – sunshine and salty air but no sand dunes

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In amongst the big ticket marathons and the associated ‘tarantara’ of commercially organised running events there are still lots of community based races with a history and character to remind you of the simple joy and fun of running.

The Black Rock 5 is one of those. Each year on a May or June evening, and always on a Friday but at a time depending on the tides, the Black Rock 5 takes place. It is an out and back from the centre of Kinghorn to the Black Rock.

Despite its’ name The Black Rock 5 race is neither 5 miles nor 5 k in length. I am guessing at some point it may have been 5 miles and the route has changed or maybe just calling it the Black Rock 4 and a bit miles had less appeal – who knows and as it happens it does not really matter.

Whatever the history of the route length ( and it has been going for more than 25 years ), the Black Rock 5  is one of those races that manages to achieve the balance between creating the buzz of a special occasion while managing to remain anchored to the  local community and true to its roots.

Of course it helps that the race takes place in late spring in a beautiful seaside location where when nights are long and if weather is kind – Scotland is just the best place ever ( is it not always ; )  ?

How lovely and lucky we are to run in the evening in the East coast light of a long Scottish day.

It really is quite magical.

Weather earlier that day had been good and the temperature at 7 PM was still warm enough to wear a running vest as runners started to gather. As it was the third time I had taken part in the race,I knew what was ahead of me and was happy to enjoy the pre-race atmosphere.

The first time I did this race I remember being quite anxious, having heard from fellow runners how tough it was and so wondering if I could keep going until the end after the rigours of running on the beach. This year with two previous attempts as ballast – and not setting any time targets – I was just looking forward to taking part.

So the route is as follows : You start underneath the railway arches then run mostly downhill through the town for a mile towards the beach, then a mile out on the sand – at low tide towards the Black Rock where you circle the rocks serenaded by Scottish piper, then back towards the town. Simple you may say – save for running 2 miles on wet sand and the killer hill sprint finish .

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This year I was feeling fit and in fine fettle – and  not under any pressure to better my time -I even stopped briefly on my way out to record the scene of the ribbon of runners heading out towards Black Rock. I was tempted to stop again a mile later at the rock to capture the image of the piper on the rock – but my running competitiveness and running rhythm won over my desire to capture the image – so one for my memory.

I did notice  a couple of fellow  runners recording the event – one with Go Pro strapped on his body and the other more cumbersomely holding a selfie stick aloft the whole way.

It’s a very photogenic race – but I could take a million pictures, videos or whatever – and none could convey the feeling you have as a runner. As you hit the sand from the road – the splishing and the sploshing – negotiating the unpredictable surface of ridged sand after the stability of the tarmac, that weird feeling as your feet get wet dashing though pools of sea water and best of all the salty sea tang you catch as you breathe.

This year – whether because my senses where heightened for some reason, or ozone was at an all time high – I felt acutely assaulted by the smell of the sea, of sea creatures and of an essence that it is hard to describe.

The salty air, the sploshing wet sand,the east coast light and the lung busting hill finish, makes this a race to remember.

And not forgetting – magnificent beer at the finish .

Black Rock 5 – Rock ON !

 

 

Cool and breezy afterwork run – day4 everydayinmay

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So the whole May the 4th thing passed me by today, not that I am really up with Star Wars and forces aside it was one of those work days when I was looking forward to my after work run to provide some much needed balm.

The sun appeared briefly but as I was running and chatting with my friends Alison and Lil ,I did not stop for pictures and by the time I got back  a cool breeze had whipped up which is tricky to capture on a still photo.

Weather aside as is often the way – running with good friends gave the work day a much needed perspective 🙂

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Day 4 3.39 miles

EDIM total 15.9miles

 

Great Edinburgh Run race report. 10 miles – 9 of them hilly !

As the name suggests there is something great about being one of thousands of runners pounding past the capital’s historic landmarks creating a ribbon of gaudy lycra through its historic streets.  As city races go – Edinburgh provides an impressive backdrop.

This was the second time I have taken part in this race and as with the Inverness Half earlier in March, I really noticed the difference during the race from losing some weight and improved fitness. On a route that is not short on hills it is very nice to be carrying fewer pounds when pushing up the inclines and aside from the physics – I feel more confident in my running these days.

The route starts and finishes at Holyrood Park with Arthur’s Seat – a popular walk and run route – lumbering behind. Despite it being mid April it was a very chilly morning – with a temperature of around 3 degrees and a biting wind – so waiting for the race start in shorts was somewhat character building.

As I don’t very often race this distance and with only 1 previous attempt I had given my time as 1. 45 – meaning I was in the slowest pen and amongst the last to leave. On a cold race day morning this was maybe not one of my better ideas – but although there was a small delay in starting – the race organisation was good , and runners all got away safely and without too much fuss.

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As is often the way on race day – waiting around gets the nerves going and in my case the inevitable – do I need a wee ?  The wave I was in set off just after 9.50 and after all the hanging around I was very glad to start running to warm up . It was pretty easy to find space to get past slower runners and looking at my race splits I did the first mile in 8.46 – so a bit faster than my start in Inverness.

The first mile is a loop that takes you back almost to the start and the back of the Palace of Holyrood House ( the Queen’s residence in Scotland ), then on up the first of the many hills as the route follows the Royal Mile before dropping down past Waverley station then a route change to the second hill – straight up Market street to the Mound to rejoin the Royal Mile before heading towards the University area and the Meadows and a chance to gather breath.

The route then does a chicane of sorts after a length of the Meadows  to Lauriston place then doubling back along the Cowgate before another longish climb up past the Pleasance heading towards Holyrood park once more.

There is a lovely section from miles 6 – 8 where the race route follows the path of the Innocent Railway to Duddingston village – then a short but nippy hill from Duddingston to the low road beneath Arthur’s Seat. Mile 8 – 9  was a bit tough as we were into a headwind – but the sun was shining by now and the goal was to get to mile 9 and the promised downhill finish.

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A short slog to the mile 9 marker and then the end was in sight. This is the only race I have taken part in that has such a long downhill finish and it is certainly very welcome. But even with the downhill run, I could not quite work out exactly where the finish was , although I  could hear the PA announcing runners’ arrivals. I kind of mis-timed the very last 1/3 of a mile section as my legs started feeling a bit jellyish after the long downhill – but I still managed a decent sprint finish of sorts to cross the mat with a time of 1.32.35 – a full 8 minute improvement on my previous time for this race.

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