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 Рsome time in a land far,far away Р and with the excuses of December excess and family celebrations behind me РI 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 ūüėČ

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 Рwhatever Р 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  Рwell 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 Рit 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 ūüôā ¬†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 Рand 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 ūüėČ 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 Рthe 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 Рthe 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 Рso  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 ‚úĒÔłŹ- 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 Рbut 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 ūüôā

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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 РI 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.

 

 

 

The new truth of 2016 – running everyday is boring

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Today is Friday December 30 and my penultimate run for December has taken place, without procrastination or delay – and a very enjoyable, companionable and satisfying run it was too. But while December running has been consistent, writing has been less so.

Perhaps by way of improving my writing output, I should try and be a bit more confessional and cast off some of my Scottish reserve. I could write more about the many thoughts I often have while running, but sadly this year in addition to suffering a bit from writers block, I seem to be hit by a loss of run mojo – or a dose of runner’s block, and when out on my daily December run, creativity has been in short supply and far from my runs leading to a well of ideas, it has felt more of a chore than a joy.

This year’s December¬†marcothon has definitely been the hardest to find motivation for.

Whilst undoubtably giving a warm glow of accomplishment – taking part in a running streak challenge can get boring at times – as you have to find your running high from the satisfaction of ticking off a list, rather than the run itself. ¬†And instead of you choosing whether to go for a run, the choice to run or not to run comes from a higher power ūüėČ

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Thoughts around mixing up run route length or what type of run become driven much more by practical considerations of fitting in the mandatory distance than of trying something different. And if like me – you are running every day and a slacker when it comes to stretching , or not doing much else by way of contrasting exercise, there is always a nagging worry about picking up an injury.

BAH HUMBUG

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Of course not ALL my December run streak runs have been boring and I have enjoyed many of the runs I have done this year – so in no particular order :

My regular weekend and holiday runs with Alison and Lil – ¬†trying out new routes to integrate a run into Edinburgh when meeting friends for coffee or lunch, the Pitreavie AAC jingle bell race, some sparkly runs through indifferent weather looking at Christmas lights, a birl round Arthur’s Seat to coincide with reaching my 999 miles for the year milestone, a run with my daughter and of course every single run surrounded by the beauty of the winter skies and feathery silhouetted trees.

And while I pretty much never regret the time spent running – I have decided that this is the year will be the one where I hang up my running streak boots – maybe not for ever – but I do not plan to take part in any run streak challenge in 2017.

I have got a big new running goal for 2017 – so will be focusing all my energies on getting through my first full marathon, and training properly for that.

As a veteran participant¬†of 9 different monthly running streaks over a 6 year period (6 x marcothon, 2 x everydayinmay and 1 self-imposed¬†everyday in June), I think it’s OK to say it’s time for me to try something new.

And I accept I will never match Ron Hill ¬†– but that’s OK by me.

Day 30 3.76 miles  December total  126.7

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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 Рmaking 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 Рa 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 РI 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 Рrunning 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 Рwas in London meeting my daughter for lunch Рas 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 Рthere 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 ! ūüéČūüéČūüéČ

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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 РI 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 Рbedecked 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 Рbut on balance I thought better of it.

As it happens my December running is already something of a challenge within a challenge Рas I am attempting to run further in 2016 than I have in any other year since I took up running in 2009 Рand 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 РSunday run with Alison Рwe did our other regular weekend route Рthe Balgreen  Рout 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

Joy to the world – December is here again

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So as night follows day and day follows night and the calendar whirrs onwards to the end of another year, I get all Decemberist  gathering up all my love of traditions and habits into the one month, and of course that includes me running everyday in December.

So December 2016 – everything is the same and everything is different. What a year this has been – us lefty and not so lefty liberals left reeling in a ‘WTF rabbit in the headlights’ kind of way. Dealing not just with worrying views of intolerance and lack of empathy, but with the news that those folk that were important touchstones or just hugely creative figures in our lifetime and who brought joy and pleasure to so many of us – kept dying.

Then  Brexit, Trump РSyria, Jo Cox. Sometimes it just felt that 2016 was the annus horribillus to end all annus horribillus.

This is a blog about running , but beyond my cheery posts about running, I don’t live in a vacuum and like many people, in between going out for a run I have been processing all that is happening in the world this year.

And I get it – for us sheltered Western people – while we may now live in a low level fear of terrorism, fortunately somewhere in the background mostly my life goes on in a comfortable safe fashion. I am not hungry and I have a roof over my head. We are not ‘at war’ or in fear for our lives – but it can sometimes feel a bit shit.

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So to segue clunkily back to running.

Running – my ever constant, trusty companion. There to let me get it out of my system whatever ‘it’ might be , there to let me keep loving the simple effort of putting one foot in front of another, of the joy of self propelling, of seeing the skies and the trees, of chatting to friends about all kinds of stuff, of hearing the birds and of just being aware of all of humanity that you notice when out running.

So December 2nd – 2 days of running‚úĒÔłŹ¬†‚úĒÔłŹ¬†behind me,and looking forward to 29 more days of that tiny bit of life that makes the rest of life make sense.

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December running total 10.40 miles

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 Рand 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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Running the seasons

Based on a highly unscientific sample of fellow runners, I have come to the conclusion that Autumn is the favoured season of most. Autumn, or Fall as those across the ocean prefer to describe these months, certainly wins on the light stakes Рwith soft pink sunrises and hot red sunsets.  Even the grey flat days have an elegant beauty.

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Come late afternoon there is ample opportunity to run through cool sunshine, catching the beauty of orange, red and yellow leaved trees bathed in golden light as backdrop.

And if October weather is kind and free of storms, the stillness brings with it mists and mellow fruitfulness and easy running in cool, quiet air.

While the days shorten and we all know that winter is just around the corner, nature says goodbye for now – leaving in a blaze of glory before hibernating till spring.

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 Рrunning 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.

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 Р 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 Рso 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.

Somerset House NIke+ image