Londoning around

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Last week there was a brief Spring sunshine interlude, sandwiched between bouts of wind chill and snow ( in London at least ), so after six months of observing and contemplating – not to mention working out the run/ shower/ workwear logistics – I attempted my first run commute.

It’s not the full commute – as ‘door to door’ the eight-mile distance is a mile or four too far for me to cover before work, even if my understanding of London geography was street perfect which it is not.

Instead, I ran to the station, jumped on an early train then from Paddington, ran through Hyde Park, skirted Green Park gave a nod to Buckingham Palace, through St James’s  Park and over and back across the Thames – arriving at Somerset House full of early morning joie de vivre and a just a tiny bit of a smug glow.

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Somerset House

 

London life – rekindling a love of reading

It’s a sad admission but I think that come the end of this month I may have read more books in January 2018 than I did in the whole of 2017.

My rediscovery of books has undoubtedly been helped by me having a 4 and half hour commute twice weekly between Edinburgh and London, not to mention a couple of nights in hotels where I am that lone diner trying to perfect the pose of nonchalant reader and eater ( whilst really not reading anything but earwigging on the conversations around me).

Late to the party I was given a Kindle for Christmas, and although I love proper books and everything about them – the paper, the cover, the typography, the smell, the craft, the mystery- my new electronic library has got me ticking off an oft-stated but rarely achieved new year’s resolution to read more, and managing it with aplomb and joy over endurance and forbearance.

Like a child in a sweet shop, I am dangerously addicted to the ‘1- click’ ordering and immediacy of Kindle downloads.

And alongside my newfound love of digital over analogue books,  I am slowly mastering the art of vertical reading in close proximity to many others – reading while commuting on the London Underground.

Here the Kindle comes into its own- as even while standing and swaying, I can hold it in one hand and turn pages with the gentlest inflection of my thumb. Rattling through pages as the Central line rattles through London.

I feel so modern

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I am not a fast reader but so far my 2018 reading list has included: Ann Cleeves – The Seagull ( crime drama featuring detective Vera Stanhope), Catherine Gray – The unexpected Joy of being sober ( true life account of reformed drinker – uplifting & enjoyable read from the self-help genre), Bernard MacLaverty – Midwinter Break, (poignant and beautifully observed tale of a long marriage). 

Now switching between Dr Rangan Chattergee – the 4 Pillar Plan ( prescription for balance and health and importance of relaxation ) and Tina Brown’s the Vanity Fair Diaries ( enjoyable page-turner telling the story of her time as editor of Vanity Fair ) 

 

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.

Ice,Ice,baby – December 18 Jings!

December rattles on a pace as it always does – is it just me or is December the month that goes faster than any other?

Thanks to my new ‘make it up as I go along’ rules for December running – I have, with a wing and prayer, managed to tick off a run every day so far. With my secret weapon of kidology up my sleeve- where I tell myself I will just do 1 mile –  that gets me out the door and then once out I usually manage to run a bit further.

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After a few years of shoehorning  3 mile runs around dark mornings, party outings, business meetings not to mention two December birthdays, this year I thought rather than give up the challenge completely – it was OK to switch it up a bit and maybe cut myself a bit of slack.

Working in London weekdays – fitting in a 40 minute slot to do 3-miles running and a wash before work is a bit of an effort  –  and when it takes a further hour to get to the office – the thought of getting up earlier than 6 am to squeeze in a dark run in the suburbs of Ealing is a big ask.

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My run dedication is obviously a bit lacking.

That said, running in the dark of December is not the worst, especially as now there are lots of outside lights to cheer you up. Hugely unscientific, but my research indicates that in the past 6 years of running in December – there has been a gradual and wonderful shift in the general vibe of illumination and decoration – collectively we have embraced the joy of the outdoor flicker and exterior decoration.

So here I am- at December 18 – comfortably beyond the halfway point and so far the biggest challenge has been in these past few days when temperatures dropped and pavements turned to ice rinks.

Ice is my big run fear.

Recent runs have been of the stop-start variety – tentatively slithering along the way – peering at pavements for icy patches and tensing up all the time. All said not very enjoyable- save for the uplifting feel of crisp, cold air and strange as it may seem to others – the calming, soothing effect that a cold winter run brings.

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Luckily today the temperature was a balmy 6 degrees, the ice had vanished and I did a lovely twilight run for day 18.

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Total mileage 60.08

Days of running 18

Days to go 13 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Runspotting

More by accident than by design – I have spent much of September visiting different cities throughout the land, and as is my habit – have taken my running shoes with me on these travels.

I don’t do much by way of proper running on these trips – but fitting in a run is the closest I get to being a collector, or to the satisfaction of ticking off a list, ‘trainspotter-like’.

Yes, I confess I am a runspotter !

With apologies to trainspotters – but I am guessing based on casual observation (given that I do spend a shit load of time at train stations) that you guys & gals like to collect numbers and tick off lists – just as  I do by running in different places.

So running somewhere unknown is a good way to get a feel for a place, to satisfy my curiosity and sometimes find the places worth returning to for a proper visit. It is quicker than walking and cheaper than an open-topped bus –  and of course, helps to offset the effects of wining and dining excess that often goes with travels.

Alas the weather on most of these runs was not great and skies are often Pantone cool grey 5 with drizzle – but although the photos may look a tad sombre, rest assured I was having a darn good time.

September London

Have been in London quite a bit this month and fitted in a few runs along various stretches of the Thames. London is a nice city to run in with always something to see although it can be hard underfoot. Those golden pavements are tough on my creaky knees.

Sept 24 Inverness

Took a birl round my home town ( city ) to blow away the cobwebs the morning after my sister in law’s very enjoyable 60th birthday party. Was the day of the Loch Ness marathon and I was delighted to not be running a marathon – or any other race, although I did accidentally get caught up in a family fun run.

Sept 26 Belfast

A first proper visit to Belfast for me so managed to get a bit lost despite some good directions from a native. Early morning run taking in some of Belfast’s art trail and checking out some of the very splendid municipal buildings and high spots.

Sept 29 Edinburgh

Not really exploring a new city as Edinburgh is my home turf – I should really make more of an effort to run the sights of Auld Reekie, but sometimes getting back to running on familiar trails makes a comforting change after taking in the tourist spots.

 

 

 

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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Short London run with art bonus

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Last week in London I slept so well in my hotel room that I almost ran out of time to run, but having trundled running shoes in my trolley bag through underground stations and pavements – it would have annoyed me to not take them out for a spin.

My biggest challenge when running in London, or in any new destination I find myself in for that matter, is my rubbish sense of direction. This can result in a planned 30 minute 3 miler taking almost twice that time to complete,  time keeping not helped by my tendency to easy distraction and to scurrying  down lanes to take a picture of this or that, of crossing roads to look closely at something or other, and  of generally deviating from my planned route.

Sharing these tales of how I always seem to get lost wherever I go with a friend, he told me to just keep turning right (or at least I think that was the instruction). I guess the idea being that you should eventually return to where you started, something I accidentally achieved on a previous London visit when trying and failing to find the River Thames.  I know that I passed the same  group of  Chinese tourist visitors on  three different occasions at roughly the same spot.

I just hope I made the cut for their London holiday movies  !

So back to this run –  destined to be short and sweet as having overslept I did not have much time to spare before the start of day two of the conference I was in town for. Fortunately I was staying in Covent Garden – so even a short run would provide lots of interest and require just enough effort from me to kick start the day, get the heart rate up and make the carrying of running kit worthwhile.

From the hotel, a run down Drury lane and then a right turn into the Strand took me close to a landmark I know – Somerset House. From there I crossed Waterloo bridge to the South bank so I could run both across and alongside the Thames. The light was grey and sky was flat, a palette that suits the London landscape and murky river. I crossed Blackfriars bridge then looped back along the embankment to Somerset House.

I did not have much time to linger, but time enough to check out the exhibition in the courtyard -a collection of figures standing as sentinel, part of the 1:54 Contemporary African art fair . Then after a short view and a few snaps I retraced my route without diversion or digression to be  back in time for breakfast.

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springwatch

This past week the sun has been shining most days and at last it feels as if nature is coming to life after a cold long winter and slow Spring.

I have been watching the BBC programme Springwatch these past couple of weeks and learning a lot about nature that I did not know. I tend to think I am fairly unsentimental about animals and nature and understand the natural order, ecology and how food chains work ,but it has been a bit of an eye opener to discover that birds I previously thought of as fairly benign garden visitors with a veggie persuasion are much more carnivorous and predatory than I realised.

It highlights the struggle that birds go through each season just to survive and keep the family line going.

Each year we have a pair of blackbirds who nest in our garden, and these together with sparrows, tits, starlings and the odd toad give us our own Springwatch. And coinciding with our garden wildlife getting active  – a week of sunshine has brought our neglected garden to life, perfect to sit in on these longer June days.

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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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All out of sequence – days 9 and 10 everydayinmay

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My quest for life perfection ( hahaha) is a road full of twists and turns and with quite a few cul de sacs and wrong turnings to boot, so while I can just about manage to fit running everyday around working, eating and sleeping – finding time to write about it has stumped me once again.

It is true of course that much as I enjoy running and writing about running,like most of my fellow everydayinmay folk I am fitting time to do this around everydaylife .

So as I tick ‘writing a witty daily column in a national paper’ off my potential career change list, here is a bit of a recap of everydayinmay progress featuring  days 9 & 10 -the murky days in the middle.

Day 9 –  I ran in the evening as just could not drag myself out of bed on Monday morning to run before work, but as it turned out it was worth holding off until the evening as it was a beautiful sun filled, May evening with magical light and blossoms looking very pretty.

After a workday Monday this was a very pleasant end to the day.

While I am not doing big daily mileage – I have been doing some longer runs at the weekend and work is a bit full on just now – so today was a kind of rest day for me. Running on my own and without any time pressures, I was mostly ambling along stopping to take pictures, enjoying the sunshine , and amusing local dog walkers with my attempts at ‘selfie under blossom tree’.

Next to running with friends , this is my favourite kind of running –  it’s meditative,therapeutic and after a day at my desk  a perfect way to tease out the workday tension knots.

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Day 9 3.21 miles

Everydayinmay total 42.66 miles

Everyday tips and tricks – day 10

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As a 10 min mile pace runner, 3 songs usually equals a mile covered ( unless listening to my Ramones playlist). This otherwise useless fact is one of many of the mind games and tricks I use to get me get through the occasional patch of running ennui.

It is not that I find running boring – but not all runs are created equal and I do sometimes need to find some extra motivation. As a veteran of taking part in daily running challenges I know there will be days when I don’t feel like running but I also know that once committed to the task my stubbornness and desire for completion will not let me miss a day or give up.

On this current challenge – I don’t even have to run everyday if I don’t want to – I could be mixing it up with walking or cycling or such like – but having started running I recognise that I am now in that mildly addicted trainspotter mindset that I fall into.

I take pleasure watching the days tick off and seeing my monthly mileage increase, so allowing myself a day off running would feel like cheating on my self-imposed target.

Crazy me   

Of course I am only running 5k each day – and it’s a bit of a leveler to consider people who have chosen to run longer distances regularly – most recently thinking of  Eddie Izzard and his inspiring 27 marathons in as many days.

But as a fellow everydayinmay participant – Thomas –  highlighted the other day, most of us taking part in this challenge are doing it alongside our day to day lives, and without a team to offer support finding a time to run or walk or cycle 5k in between taking kids to school, working shifts, travelling on business, eating, sleeping – generally living.

 Just trying to be normal

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Day 10 3.17 miles

Everydayinmay total 45.83