Three years ago I ran a marathon and 2 weeks ago I ran for 8 minutes as I embarked once more on the couch to 5k journey.
It’s running Groundhog Day on my quest to regain my fitness and be able to run like I used to pretty much every weekend for the past 10 years.
I used to run so often that even I was bored of my Facebook posts – yes, guilty as charged- I was that person who just had to share my post-run,endorphin filled euphoria with you, regardless of whether or not you might care.
But the past couple of years the wheels have kind of fallen off my running bus as a combination of injury, lack of opportunity then latterly recovery from surgery, meant my running mileage dwindled.
During lockdown after developing a serious case of runners envy – I acknowledged that if I wanted to get back into running I was going to have to start over.
So in June, like many others before me , I downloaded the Couch to 5 k running app and with the mellifluous tones of Jo Whiley guiding me I started to make progress .
All was well until week 7 run 2 when disaster struck and my knee gave up the ghost and I had to hobble home. So once more running was abandoned and as we were still in lockdown it was tricky to see a physio, so I had to put running on the back burner.
Wind forward to October and I was back at the gym – swimming but not doing much else and eventually made the effort to get an online consultation with a physio. He diagnosed my dodgy knee as a tendon problem – gave me some exercises and more importantly the ok to go back to running.
So after a few trial runs – I reset the app and started right back at the beginning.
Let’s see if I can make it to the week 9 finish this time.
I do see the start of a new year as a time to review and reflect. I don’t make resolutions as such but I usually think of a few ‘goals’ or things the old me might like to achieve in the next 12 months. This loose collection of paths to self-improvement might include some new activities to try in the coming year and will always include an optimistic commitment to trying to get better at some of the things I do already.
Practice makes perfect and all that.
Getting back into writing regularly is on my list, having pretty much kicked this blog into the long grass in the past year. I have got out of the habit, and now my writing is reduced to social media posts, work emails, and the odd business report.
Aside from an intention to keep writing, following on from a recent batch of marmalade making – next on my list is a quest to get better at making jam- not with a view to becoming a professional preserver, but more to crack the elusive nut of getting my jam to set.
On paper, making jam and marmalade is an easy process – you combine the right ratio of fruit, sugar and sometimes water, heat it to the temperature of jam setting point then Ta Da! It sounds simple, but while my jams and marmalade usually taste good, they are often very runny and the process of knowing when it has reached setting point is a bit of a mystery.
Some of this is a fear of the pan boiling over – and so to avoid this, I don’t have the temperature high enough – or when it is boiling a fear of letting it boil too long in case it overcooks,( having once made blackberry jam that was like industrial strength glue).
Recipe books offer instructions and guidance, but rarely give much detail around timings. I suppose it is because as with most cooking, there are unknown variables relating to your own kitchen and equipment so success comes through trial and error and accumulated knowledge.
Apparently, there is a magical knack of knowing when the bubbles in the pan have changed – and recognising this I imagine only comes with practice. As I only tend to make jam or marmalade once or twice a year – reading the jam bubble runes is a skill not yet mastered. This year I had to reboil marmalade when after cooling it still looked more like orange soup than a breakfast conserve. So after that near disaster, I bought myself a jam pan and a thermometer.
Today I gave my new pan and thermometer combo a test drive – making scarlet chilli and red pepper jam, a recipe from Diana Henry’s book Salt, Sugar Smoke. Intrigued by the prospect of making the evocatively named scarlet jam, I set forth on a new path in my preserving journey – as I have never made jam with peppers or attempted any kind of savoury relish before.
chopped and cooking
setting point reached
scarlet chilli & pepper jam
It was an easy recipe to follow, with only a few ingredients and it looked beautiful bubbling in the pan as the peppers and chilli transformed from raw ingredients to jam. As always it took longer than I expected for it to reach setting point, but this time I persevered, even letting it rise above the mystical 104.5 C. Using both my thermometer and the wrinkle test as guidance I studied the bubbles, stared into the glossy pot and followed my instinct 😉
I don’t imagine I will ever win any jam making contests – but it tastes good and looks like it will set. Bravo to me !
Some days it’s just so good to be outside and yesterday was one of those days.
I did a short lunchtime run – or more accurately half run /half walk – in the hills close to where I live. Autumn is such a beautiful season, the light was perfect and after a weekend of blustery rain, it was lovely to run without a breath of wind and alongside mirror flat waters.
These are the days when anything seems possible and being outside is a joy.
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.
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 )
So here we are again – another year is coming to an end and my all time favourite month is here. I say favourite but it is a bit of a love/hate thing. Mostly I love December – it’s my birthday month and I can deal with winter even if the older I get, the more I find the short days a tough gig and increasingly look to December sparkly excess to carry me across to a new year and longer days.
There is something about approaching a year end that makes you even more aware of your unfulfilled life ‘to do’ list and take a reflective view of the story so far. Then for me anyhow, I just end up carrying forward unticked life goals into another year !
Back when my girls were younger – December heralded a kind of rabbit in the headlights – let’s just get through this month kind of vibe. In between badly crafting Nativity costumes, baking for the Christmas fayre and watching the end of year dance shows, I poured flame on the December fire by creating extra, arguably unnecessary, traditions of ‘our family advent’ and Christmas morning baking.
Then as my children became young adults – I switched my December madness to a different focus so for the past few years, I have opted to run every day in December – following a Scottish based challenge – the Marcothon – where you run a minimum of 3 miles every day in December.
And just in case running every day was a bit too easy – the first time I did this, I decided to write about running every day in an aptly named blog Decemberism and found that writing about running every day was almost as hard as running.
Time passes and I am more of an established runner now – but alas not an established writer. It is tough to commit to running every day for sure – but I find it a lot harder to write daily, or even to just get into a writing habit.
So this year I am going to make a big fat effort to write more, and if I can I will run each day in December even if it’s just a run around the block on some days. I will keep to this daft December habit not least because, after 6 years of doing this, it has become a December ritual and maybe like many of us I find comfort in the salve of habits that over time become traditions.
Towards the tail end of October, I got caught up in one of my recurring running obsessions – chasing a target mileage for the month . Although October is blessed with 31 days in which to run, come the last week I was ruing my slacker behaviour of the preceding October weeks when I realised how far behind I was in miles covered to date.
But with five days of October remaining, all was not lost. I had covered a fairly respectable 60 + miles so was confident that I would at least manage to reach a total of more miles than previous months 64 and 70 miles respectively.
Although not currently training for anything – I am trying to keep up a decent amount of mileage each month because I don’t seem to be managing to fit in any other exercise at the moment. Is very easy to talk myself out of doing any exercise (even when I know how much better I feel when I do), without some sort of way of being accountable.
And having set off at the beginning of the year with big monthly numbers, I am motivated to keep running and recording miles as I am on track to reach an annual total of 1000 miles by the end of November ( barring injury ) – a whole month earlier than I did in 2017.
So that is a target of sorts.
I know there are lots of naysayers around tracking exercise, league tables, wearable devices and the like – but my view is that on balance, it is mostly a force for good creating as it does for me anyway, a positive reason to keep going when it may seem pointless otherwise.
Runners often have stated and secret goals usually where races are concerned – (aka the backup plan when the shit hits the fan) and so it is for me and my ambitions around exercise – I have a stated start of the month goal and as the month progresses and life intervenes I revert to my back up or secret plan of what will ‘do’ for the month.
Throughout the year my graph of exercise ambition would be a jaggy profile characterised each month by an early peak of optimism usually around the first day and then as the month progresses a few more high spots coinciding mostly with weekend days when post-run, I am filled with euphoria and misplaced waves of invincibility.
The contrasting troughs of run reality and dips in the graph would be plotted next to those weekday work mornings when I opt out of a pre-work run in darkness, trading it for more time under the covers and telling myself that I will just run longer at the weekend.
( if I was not so shit at creating graphs – I would ‘insert diagram here’ – but instead here is a nice pic )
Back to October mileage. For as long as I have been kind of seriously running, and it being my hobby of choice – I have recorded my runs on the Nike+ app. Like other running communities, you can opt to have friends who you share the details of your running achievements with. With Nike+ there is a leaderboard including the stats of your chosen friends – and this provides a degree of competitive edge and encouragement, as I monitor my run chums and their mileage totals.
While it is not really a contest I do check to see where I am in the standing of my own small league and yes I confess I have sometimes gone out running just to get ahead of a Nike+ ‘friend’ and wallow in the warm glow of satisfaction when I am top of the leaderboard.
So come the last week of October – I set myself the first goal of reaching 90 miles -more than the past 2 months and higher than any month since April. Then on Monday 30th I was at 87 and a bit miles so if I ran 5 or 6 miles my 90 mile target would be comfortably achieved, and anything more a bonus.
Monday morning and with a flash of inspiration I realised I could combine the objective of reaching 90 + miles in October with the workaday task of taking clothes back to Zara. So in one swift move combine two of my running loves – ‘running with a purpose’ and ‘running a set number of miles in a month’ – how lovely is that?
As I was running I was thinking about how to achieve one of the following mileage number – 90, 93, 95, 99.
So the run story goes like this – I did the run into town and got myself to Zara and exchanged the clothes – at that point by my calculations I was on track to do 95 miles.
After a meander round Zara – I set off to run far enough for 95 miles then after a run up to Calton Hill and down again and not quite knowing where I was mileage wise – my phone battery died. I just guessed that I was most likely at around 95 miles and that was fine by me.
Once I was on the bus home and had fired up my phone with back up battery – I discovered my Oct mileage total was at 98.4 – so from a happy with 95 miles I saw that a tantalising 1.6 miles would take me to the magic 100 for the month and while I ‘could’ have done this extra bit the day after- I reckoned getting this done and dusted on this day was the better answer.
I got off the bus 3 stops early and ran the remaining distance home – wishing as I often do that I did not live on top of a hill.
Anyhow – my end of Oct total was 100.1 miles. the running was not always pretty but I did it with a day to spare. And thanks as always to my running challengers for spurring me on 🙂
I just saw a post from one of my favourite bloggers Materfamilias writes – a wordless Wednesday tour of mural art in her Vancouver neighbourhood. Truth is – it is not really wordless as she takes you on a descriptive tour and her observations are always thoughtful.
I have been doing a bit of touring and observing recently at home and in London, so thought I might try a word ‘lite’ post to try and jump start my writing habit.
Maybe a kind of a writing warm up.
One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy MAAAAAG PAYAYAAYYYY
For those of us of a certain age, this 70s interpretation of the nursery song is, along with many other TV theme tunes and advertising jingles, embedded in our collective hard drives – or is it just me who can recall and recite verbatim TV advertisements and public information film lyrics – 40 plus years later?
I was mostly a Blue Peter fan, but I did occasionally venture across to the other side to watch Magpie – partly because I had a bit of a crush on the male presenter – Mick Robertson and his incredible hair (quite a contrast to John Noakes that’s for sure). And also because the pop graphics of the titles and theme tune were pretty memorable.
Maybe an early indication of a career in marketing 😉
But it would take more than a trendy hairdo and tight jeans to shift my loyalties from the land of sticky back plastic, silver bottle top appeals and of course the quest for a Blue Peter badge. ( successful ).