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’
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 .
So after the irrational decision making and mild euphoria that accompanied signing up to do a marathon – some time in a land far,far away – and with the excuses of December excess and family celebrations behind me – I 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 😉
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 – whatever – 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 – well 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 – it 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.
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 🙂 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.
post run fuelling
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 – and 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 😉 and my inner running nerd was firing up to get my report card of pace, cadence, elevation and the like.
But instead of a list of accomplishments – the 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 – the 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
Luckily I was also wearing my Nike+ app – so 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 ✔️- 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.
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 – Syria, 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.
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✔️ ✔️ behind me,and looking forward to 29 more days of that tiny bit of life that makes the rest of life make sense.
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 – with soft pink sunrises and hot red sunsets. Even the grey flat days have an elegant beauty.
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.
Just over a week ago I visited the island of Tiree for the first time – and to use a cheesy but appropriate cliché – I was blown away by the place.
It is a strange kind of otherness and contrast to one late Friday afternoon, leave the plasticky confines of Glasgow airport departures – with its shiny duty free, unimaginative bars and rainy windows and then barely an hour later find yourself transported to somewhere so different that it feels like the place you left behind had never existed.
It is the joy of the weekend break of course – but some breaks offer more solace than others, and none more so than that provided by a small Scottish island – where the wind blows in all directions, sea is everywhere and the weather is so magical and changeable you can spend the whole weekend just watching it run through its’ repertoire.
I managed a couple of runs while I was there and while Tiree is pretty flat, the wind does make for a bit of a tough workout. It also means you have to keep your wits about you as running on roads with wind whistling and howling – you don’t hear cars approaching until they are upon you.
Not that there were many cars to avoid on my most memorable run – where I set out with a forecast of 45 mph winds – a smattering of rain but very mild temperature. Perfect for the kite surfers I saw on the beach – and quite a joy when I had this wind advantage behind me for the first mile or so.
Earlier I had almost talked myself out of running but once out was glad that I did step out. It was a 5 mile out and back and the fiercest section was running towards Gott Bay into the wind that was whipping off the water – and where it did feel a bit as if I was running backwards.
Running along the beach was fun and exfoliating and then the skies darkened and it started raining – the wind dropped to a modest 21 mph making the return leg easier – but by this time wind had been replaced with heavy rain – making my last few miles a bit refreshing.
Tiree has almost too much sky and clouds and sea and beauty to take in on a short visit and in the few days I was there – I was very aware of being in a quite different place and of feeling the weather systems constantly change around me.