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’
bit of a story follows so maybe get a cup of tea first 🙂
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.
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.
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 ?
For the past 6 months or so I have been working in London and commuting weekly between my home city Edinburgh and London. Travelling for around 4 and a half hours each way on the same route – gives plenty time for train window dreaming and watching.
Maybe because I spent my early years on a farm – I notice the crops and farming circle of life more than what might be happening through glimpses of windows or back gardens. My ‘seen from a train window’ novel – would be short on drama and deeply lacking in Girl on a Train tension.
My Oct to June photo feed is packed with seasonal variations on a theme of east coast skies, fields, sea, distant cooling towers, tiny houses, trees jumping into focus, blurry videos and the odd sunrise and sunset. Watching how the colour of ploughed fields changes – from the reddy brown earth of Dunbar to almost black of the Fens.
There are familiar punctuations that mark the journey passing; southbound – out to sea on the East Lothian coast, approaching the Scotland – England border at Berwick, counting the bridges over the Tyne, the light at York station, and then non stop from York as London draws nearer – the big flatlands of the south.
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.
When your blog’s strapline is ‘mostly talking about running’ and you don’t run much it makes for a bit of a dilemma.
If 2016 was the year of me losing weight and getting fitter and faster and 2017 the year of the marathon – 2018 is sadly absent of theme and I am sadly short of running motivation.
I am feeling a bit directionless on the exercise front and I don’t need Facebook memories to remind me that in previous years, following on from daily December running, by now I would have been training and have taken part in the Inverness Half marathon, even if it was not always plain sailing – and running regularly was a given.
This time last year I was in the eye of the marathon training storm – ticking off my long runs and forcing myself to do hill repeats, tempo runs and covering around 130 miles a month.
After completing the marathon – I wanted to go back to a more relaxed and social kind of running – to rekindle my love of running for fun and for the reasons I enjoy it – sorting my head out – being with friends, getting outdoors and keeping moving. This is fine – but it seems when there is no goal or challenge to keep me on the path – it’s much easier to opt out of a session.
I could add in lots of practical reasons why finding time to run has been a bit harder in recent months (I am working in London during the week, the weather has been pretty grim, I have had a bit of an injury ) – but I know these are all lame excuses.
Up till now, I have been ignoring all the emails inviting me to enter races – Stirling marathon or half marathon, Edinburgh marathon festival, Loch Ness marathon, Great Aberdeen run – but perhaps if I am to get moving – to quote self-help guru Dr.Susan Jeffers – I need to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’
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
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 )
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.