In between the mostly grey January days, there has been the odd bright interlude – a winter gem of crisp, eye-watering cold – blue skies, glistening pavements and low winter sun that almost blinds you.
Just as my summer memory is filled with long soft sunny days of peachy light ( yes, even though I grew up in the north of Scotland), the winter I remember is always frost filled with steamy breath clouds and icy air that catches in your throat.
When I first moved from Inverness to Glasgow to study, I was surprised at how warm it was in winter and wet. It took me a while to adjust – and I missed the easterly cold.
Last week I was out in Edinburgh on a proper east coast winter’s day and looking up saw what seemed to be a circular rainbow around the sun. I took a pic with my phone and thought it might just be sun flare but on checking with Google I found out my half rainbow was a parhelion or sundog.
The name parhelion comes from the Greek ‘parelion’ meaning beside the sun and sundogs so called because they follow the sun like a dog follows its master. How sweet is that? The rainbow effect is caused by sunlight being refracted through ice crystals.
I took a few more pictures and added this to my encyclopedia of meteorological facts, then spent quite a bit of time looking upwards for a better example – or as I had understood might just be visible on these cold icy days – nacreous clouds.
It was a bit low level for proper cloud investigation and I did not have the time or if I am honest the footwear and knees to climb Arthur’s seat – so I stopped off at the Museum of Scotland on Chambers street and headed to the rooftop.
On my way, I came across an exhibition on Scottish embroidered samplers – framed samples of stitches cross stitch, french knots etc. creating alphabets, motifs, and family pictures. It was serendipitous that I came across this exhibition, as I had opted for a quiet side stair to quickly reach the roof. I imagine the museum building was designed in this way to encourage accidental discovery.
What incredible skill was evident in the samplers produced by girls as young as six. The craftswomanship and patience in evidence was a reminder of how young women often had to channel their skills and intellect in different ways when not included in formal education.
Well, that’s one thing I took from it – but mostly I was in awe of the dexterity and neatness of the handiwork. My own attempts at embroidery or any sewing being rather slap dash.
No more sundogs spotted when I reached the roof but the views across Edinburgh and the skyscape from the building were worth the trip to the top.
The weather forecast promised a day of sunshine and a brief Indian summer. With the thought of one last hurrah of sunshine, it was almost mandatory to make the most of it.
I am in a period of transition, or maybe limbo is a better description because transition implies that you are moving in a planned way from one state to another- whereas I have left somewhere and as yet do not know the next destination.
Fellow readers who are freelancers may know this feeling well – unless your inbox is crammed with future assignments. Just into October and having finished one longish contract and slowly getting used to not being part of my old gang, I am residing in ‘in-betweeny land’ not fully sure of what lies ahead and yet not able to summon up enthusiasm to make a start on those set aside craft/garden/household projects I was too busy to do when working 😉
There are a couple of work projects bubbling under – but they are at the tentative stage and all told not quite enough to be overworked. Freelance life is an interesting one that’s for sure.
So Carpe Diem – seize the day and all that! Nothing for it than to go running.
Went out running this morning – earlyish. I could say it was with a spring in my step and vim in my vigour but that would be fake news.
The grey mist and drizzly gloom of yesterday had lifted and the air was fresh ( funny how quickly we wish the hot, hot temperatures would return after only a few days of rain). I was listening to a good podcast – an episode of the Food Programme featuring chef Marcus Samuelsson* The story of his life through food is full of twists and turns and distracted me from my niggly knee and cranky outlook.
As I reached the turning point in this 3-mile run – it’s beyond half way and feels like the home straight- I saw a favourite tree against a background of watery sunlight and blue and white sky. On a summer evening, this is a good place to watch the swifts and house martins swoop and glide.
Today as I ran past the tree, I saw a small feather flutter slowly down from the branches above and running, caught it mid-flight and mid-stride in a rare elegant move.
*BBC R4 Food Programme – Episode with Dan Saladino featuring Marcus Samuelsson ‘Keep it Sticky’
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.
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.
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.
Luckily today the temperature was a balmy 6 degrees, the ice had vanished and I did a lovely twilight run for day 18.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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.
Friday and Saturday I ran with Alison and rediscovered my favourite kind of running – the stream of consciousness run chat 🙂
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.
With 6 weeks to go until the Stirling marathon, training is continuing and the verdict is so far, mostly so good. But I am discovering that marathon training can be a bit relentless and turn running into a very serious business. Don’t get me wrong – I totally respect the distance, and know I need to put in the miles if I am to have a decent chance of getting round in one piece, but it is still hard some days to find my marathon training mojo.
So with all those miles ( 409 so far) and many weeks of training in wet, cold, windy winter weather behind me – it was nice* to see some sunshine forecast for last weekend when the plan included a 10k trail race.
*Or so I thought!
I was running in the Winton House 10k – a trail run, also previously known as the Pencaitland fun run and it is a while since I did a 10k race. From memory, the last 10k I entered was also a ‘fun run’ at Direlton – and it turned out to be a sunny, hot and hard 6 miles. Fun runs can be deceptive and sunshine on race day must be an East Lothian thing 🙂
As this 10k was part of my training, Sally had given me the race tactics to follow, which were the usual run fast, then run faster 😉 Timing was a 2 pm start – and with the sun shining it was lovely for spectators but maybe less so for runners.
I do know I go on about the weather – but this is mostly because – I am British and I am always out running in it!
When it comes to the weather I fear most when running – hot is probably top of the list. As a Scottish native, fair of skin and acclimatised to year-round cool temperatures – I am really not built to move quickly when the sun is splitting the sky and the thermometer reaches into double figures.
But 10k – is only 6+ miles, and a trail must mean we would run through woodland and woods mean shade – yes ?
Yes we did run through woods, but the leaves on the trees were sparse, the sun was high in the sky, and it felt pretty hot and uncomfortable for all 10 of the 10ks ( not to mention a sting in the tail hill finish).
I can’t remember what time I did on my last 10k race, but despite the heat and the trail route, I managed to finish this one in under 1 hour( 57 mins 53 secs ), even though it was not pretty and I did not manage to follow the recommended race tactics.
And now I have new nightmares to add to my marathon worries about how I might survive 26.2 miles if it is as hot as this come marathon day – but I will just have to keep doing a rain dance and if that does not work – deal with the weather closer to race day.
As to the Winton House trail race – as an event to go to and have fun as a family, it was spot on – very well organised with a friendly atmosphere and in beautiful surroundings – not to mention the most luxurious toilets I have ever encountered in a race!
My husband and daughter enjoyed soaking up the sunshine, eating ice cream, taking pictures and saying hello to the lambs, while I was racing.
I bumped into a few familiar faces and met ‘IRL’ for the first time – fellow blogger and Stirling marathoner Owain Williams (@Scottish Runner)and his wife Mandy. Check out their blog running beside.me
Taking part in this marathon is for me, mostly a personal challenge, but I do also hope to raise funds for two charities that support women and girls in different ways. One of these is Smalls for All – a Scottish based charity that collects and distributes underwear for women and children in Africa and is also hoping to fund an education programme to help girls.You can find out more about the charity’s work at their website Smalls for All
If you would like to make a donation to support this charity, you can do so via my page at MyDonate
I am also raising funds for Scottish Women’s aid – I had to set up two fundraising pages because of how the charities are set up differently to take donations so here is the link to the Justgiving page if you would prefer to make a donation to that charity.
Any donations will be very much appreciated and will definitely help put a spring in my step come May 21st .