Absence makes the heart grow fonder – how to rekindle my running love ?

bit of a story follows so maybe get a cup of tea first ūüôā¬†

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It is 9 years since I started running Рby that I mean it was in 2009 that I started running regularly and called it my hobby Рin May of that year I ran my first race. In the ensuing 9 years my relationship with running has been a good one Рand 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.

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Devon sunset

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 Рand 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.

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in my finishers tee shirt

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 ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – first Santa sighting, gold shoes outing and a small graveyard detour.

 

Bit of a cheat as this Day 2 roundup headline says more about what I did after my run¬†rather than tales of daily running – but on this year’s December run streak I am adopting more of a devil may care – new rules¬†for old traditions mindset – so who knows what I might write about next ?¬†ūüėČ

As to the run, with it being a Saturday, it meant day 2 of running was just the regular weekend fixture and at more of a relaxed pace with Alison.

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new shoes

Lots of good chat and observations, including navigating a few detours due to ongoing works along one of our favoured routes.¬† I gave my new running shoes their first outing ( Mizuno Wave 20 bought in Black Friday sale ) – and ‘almost’ managed to avoid the mud. At this time of year, it is pretty nigh impossible to keep my running shoes mud free – but I do try to scamper over the deepest muddiest sections of paths when¬†my shoes still have their¬†shiny newness¬†about them.

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New Gold Brogues

After my run, I headed into town wearing another pair of new shoes – lovely gold brogues I had bought on impulse a couple of weeks back.

I stopped off to visit a local craft market – and spotted Santa – as you do.

 

 

Then before hitting the town proper, I wandered into Greyfriars¬†Kirk – historically interesting church and cemetery in Edinburgh and resting place of Auld Jock – Greyfriars Bobby’s master. And it turns out last¬†resting place of many other notable figures some worthy, some unworthy who knows – but certainly names I had heard of.

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Edinburgh skyline

Despite me living in Edinburgh longer than I have lived anywhere else ( 30 years), like many residents I don’t take as much interest in the local history than I might if I was a visitor.

 

Something else to add to my ‘to do’ list of self-improvement.

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Day 2 miles: 5.06

December total: 8.32

Weather – grey and overcast 3 degrees C

 

 

A thing of beauty is a joy forever – running with poetic inspiration

Forgive the lofty and possibly misleading headline – but today as per my ongoing post marathon quest to rediscover my love of running, my ‘mojo’ or however best to describe the need to get back on the two-legged horse, and remember why it is a fun thing to do- I decided to try running a favourite route.

The route¬† I chose is much loved for many reasons. First and foremost – it includes a section through the evocatively named Poet’s Glen, whose name appeals to my inner romantic – ¬†but beyond these¬†literary¬†references, it is a much loved run because when I am not in training or being a ‘serious’ runner, I opt to walk part of the route.

I  could run the narrow uphill section Рbut I choose to walk not simply to avoid the steep incline and the stony path with associated high ankle twisting potential, but importantly Рand here is the big thing Рsometimes it is nicer to walk than to run.

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Walking the short section that takes you from the road above the Dell path to the reservoir section,  is a welcome pause to gather breath, take in the surroundings and slow down.

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This route has lots of other things going for it Рnot least the views. After the first half of steady uphill running, you find yourself elevated above the tree sheltered  Dell path and see all of Edinburgh and Fife below. And knowing that after a two-mile uphill slog there is a welcome downhill section leading me back to my front door is a very rare and attractive feature in a run route. There is something very pleasing about a run that takes you home with a downhill ending and something I appreciate living as I do on a fairly elevated part of Edinburgh.

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This route is a good illustration¬†of the contrasts you can enjoy¬†running in Edinburgh. As a fairly compact city surrounded by both hills and water – you do not have to be a distance runner to experience a smorgasbord¬†of rugged heather clad hills, bucolic pasture, leafy glades, urban architecture and a ¬†glimpse of the sea all in the course of a morning’s running.

To return to this route – I would love to give an authoritative¬†account of the significance of the Poet in the poet’s Glen – but this requires more¬†research than I have undertaken. Earlier this year, I did meet two ladies from a local historical society who were very well informed and shared a lot of background on local history with me as I stopped at a 7 mile half way point on a training run.

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Alas, I  confess when I am running my ability to retain detailed historical or other relevant detailed facts is limited.

So today’s outing was an easy Sunday run,¬†filled with many life-affirming¬†views of nature – and at ¬†5 miles is the longest distance I have managed to cover since the marathon, so was a step in the right direction.

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pacing and parkrun

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In my fourth week of marathon training, my true love gave to me a pacing session and a parkrun in a pear tree …

Like many novice runners, I am not very good at pacing and I have spoken before about how I fear speed. These are not good qualities in a would be marathon finisher, as whilst I am not planning on running very fast for the 26.2 mile distance, I need to understand what pace I am capable of running and be confident I can maintain some consistency. And I think the idea of a race pace session is that by making yourself run at what will be your race pace – it helps to imprint the feeling of running at that speed and gives you an understanding and memory for race day.

Anyhow – what pace I was to do my race pace training sessions has been a bit of a topic of discussion between me and coach Sal, with Sally  putting the fear of death in me setting  me what seemed like an impossible pace and for an inordinate length of time  – e.g. run 75 minutes at 8.55/ 9 min mi pace – and me responding that there is no way I can run that fast for 15 never mind 75 minutes.

So this week  – Sally put the ball back in my court and asked me what pace I thought I  could manage to run at – well the truth is I don’t really know, but I reckoned probably slower than 8.55min mi !

But it turns out my lovely Garmin has a virtual pacing feature, so if I programme a set pace, as I run it tells me if I am ahead or behind that. I imagine any half serious runners, or lovers of sports watch technology reading this may at this point be saying – did she even read the manual before she bought the thing ? (answer no ).

On Tuesday I decided to try a run with the virtual pacer and in another quirk of kidology – I set it to 9.15 min mi pace, as was pretty sure I could maintain that.

I set off with my little pacing chum- on a rather grey and overcast day. The weather was a bit of an issue because in dim late January Edinburgh light there is not much contrast on the watch screen, so when glancing at the message I had to peer a bit to see if I was AHEAD OF PACE or BEHIND PACE and in scowling at the screen found myself REDUCING PACE.  But after a wee while I got the hang of it, and soon did not have to slow down to read the message. I even began to understand how it felt to run at a particular pace – which was the point of the exercise.

And while it is early days, I think I kind of get it – when I think I can’t maintain a pace of say 9 min mi, it is because I am not running consistently at 9 min mi – but am shooting off too fast then of course as I can’t really run for any length of time at 7 min mi or whatever, I drop right back only to shoot off again and this is not really pacing, and more importantly not a very enjoyable or sustainable way to run for any duration.  This coming week I am going to try it at 9 min mile and see how I get on.

Flushed with the success of beginning to understand pacing – I did my hill reps the day after and that was OK – although in an ongoing comedy of technology errors I forgot to hit the lap key at the top and the bottom so made it tricky for Sally to see what HR effort I was achieving going uphill.

One day I will master Mr Garmin

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parkrun Saturday

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parkrun is a free weekly timed 5k race /run held all over the country on a Saturday morning. It is a wonderful thing and has got lots of people enthused about running and is enjoyed by runners at all levels for different reasons. That said I have to admit that although I understand it is a good way to improve your performance and give yourself a regular test –  I really don’t enjoy doing parkrun- and it has become one of my running ‘bogeys’, and something I find all sorts of reasons to avoid doing.

But parkrun was on the training plan, and when I mentioned my dread of it to my non-running husband, he asked “how far do you have to run – and I said 5k – to which he replied  “that’s nothing to you why are you so bothered about it? ”

What he does not appreciate is how much I hate having to run fast, and when it is only 5k and it is a race – you really do have to run as fast as you can.

Or as Sal had helpfully said:

” run as fast as you can – it will feel horrible but it will soon be over”.

Anyway, I persuaded Alison to join me on a parkrun outing and it turned out to be not as bad as I was dreading. While I did not get a PB, my time was  26.05 and around 8.20 min mi pace, and during the run, I felt my pacing was a bit better ( hard when it is windy ) – so  overall not so bad for a slowcoach and maybe a sign of some progress.

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The joy of speed work

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Marathon training continues. Week 2 of the plan and after my stumbling attempts at dealing with the Garmin and the concept of threshold running – this week I was attempting a speed session.

I FEAR SPEED

There is a reason why I opt for longer distance events and enjoy regular social running over 5ks  and other competitive short races. This kind of running provides just the right balance of effort and mind sorting to keep me coming back for more and stay reasonably fit. But if I had all the time in the world, my exercise of choice would be walking. I love the meditative effect of walking and it is by far the best for observation.

My fear of speed possibly comes from not really seeing myself as a sporty type. Sure, when I was a youngster I could sprint if pressed and I may even have managed to deal with cross-country once or twice at school. I played hockey in a desultory fashion – positioned on the wing where mostly I stood around for long periods freezing half to death – until someone passed the ball and I would then sprint, in a vaguely heroic fashion, towards the goal passing to the strikers to do their stuff.

So I must have been able to run fast then – aged 15 – and somehow coordinate that with dribbling a hockey ball. But hockey aside, fast running and athletics was something other people did. Girls like Deirdre who won all the sports competitions or Melanie who was an ‘all rounder’ being arty, athletic and academic.

I was largely a bystander when it came to competitive sports and wind forward 40 years and my views that running fast was something that ‘other people do’¬†has not really changed.

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Back to the plan – as I had not managed to go to parkrun¬†to test me over 5k – Sally wanted me to recreate it somehow and so the speed sesh went: ¬†jog for 10 mins,then run for 1 mile ‘as fast as you can’ x 3 with 3 minutes recovery between. ( expected effort 8-9 )

Jeez Рwell I was already stressing about running fast, but running fast for a whole mile Рhow is that even possible?  A mile is forever.

Deciding where to run was a bit of a thought, as I was looking for somewhere to run a mile preferably on the flat without too many stops or obstacles. Finding places to do these different types of training sessions is, along with understanding terms like threshold and intervals, all part of acquiring a new running toolkit.

art of running faster

Weighing up the options, I decided on the Meadows Рa large leafy park, 4 miles from where I live. The Meadows has lots of criss-crossing paths but also a 1.8mile circuit wide enough to keep a steady pace and with plenty of distractions to keep me motivated.

Although I had driven part of the way there – I parked the car about 2 miles from the Meadows¬†and started my warm up part of the session on the canal path. This seemed a good way to avoid traffic hold-ups and paying for parking, but I was probably running a bit fast for a warm up. I was stressing about the idea of being able to run a fast mile – and when stressed I tend to run faster in a hope to get it over with- unfortunately, I don’t have the fitness to sustain this approach!

I got to the Meadows – after a 20 minute warm up at prob 9.5 min mi pace, then started the first ‘fast as I could go’ mile. I began sprinting – but even as I was doing this I was thinking – how is it possible to keep going at this rate – and surely she does not mean sprinting – Usain Bolt only sprints for 9 seconds – I AM NOT USAIN BOLT.

I think this is what sports and other psychologists call negative self-talk Рbut you get my drift, of course I know I am not Usain Bolt, or Paula Radcliffe, or Mo Farah, and I know I just have to try and run as fast as I can, but all the time I am thinking

I just can’t do this – running fast is for other people, I feel sick and what is the point of this anyway – I am not going to run fast for 26.2 miles, why am I doing this , I hate running, my foot hurts, I need the loo, how far have I run – what only 0.3 of a mile? – Sally is crazy*

( * also possibly some other not so nice thoughts going through my mind about Sally at this time) 

So this went on for a bit – but I was not going to stop, so what I did instead was slow down a bit and just try and see if I could manage some sort of faster pace for the mile ( perhaps aim for the beautifully described ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ threshold pace)

When doing any kind of interval or timed effort like this Рin the fast sections they seem to take FOREVER to finish and you dream of the recovery, but then the recovery period, even at a glorious 3 minutes duration, just seems to be over in an instant and then it is  back to running fast for a mile all over again.

Well, I got through the session after a fashion and a loo stop ( more learning – maybe ease up on the lentils the night before ) and of course once completed I did feel good. Whilst horrible at the time, I have noticed that upping the pace and doing any exercise that takes me out of my comfort zone, into a higher level of intensity – does give a juicy endorphin high afterwards.

I just need to wire that positive thought into my brain before the next speed session.

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Rocking that endorphin high big time ūüėÄ !

NOTES

In May am taking part in my first marathon – the inaugural Stirling Marathon and following a training plan provide by Sally at fitnaturally

 

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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