Home run weekend – December days

IMG_2679After the hurly burly of London life, it’s good to get back home and run in more of a rural setting. I run these same paths all year and have done now since I started running in 2009, but now that they are temporarily reserved for weekend running, I really appreciate the space and peace and realise how restorative time in the countryside is.

And of course to run with friends.

I had slightly fallen out of love with the Dell path and its variations after miles of marathon training.  I stopped seeing the tiny changes of nature and instead only saw trees as milestones of intervals and tempo runs.

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This weekend was icy cold with temperatures as low as minus 6 degrees on our Sunday run. Face tingling, crisp air gasping, cold runs with chums.

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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 – but I choose to walk not simply to avoid the steep incline and the stony path with associated high ankle twisting potential, but importantly – and here is the big thing – sometimes 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 – not 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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You’re my first, my last*, my everything …Stirling marathon round up

This time last week as predicted, I was walking a bit ‘John Wayne is big leggy’ and feeling not as fresh as I might – it being the day after the marathon. I was a bit tired – but this tiredness was more I suspect due to post-race champagne excess and an early start for Monday work than the race effort.  Yes – standing up after a time seated was a slow process, but I did not feel as destroyed or wrecked as I thought I might.  The cocktail of euphoria, relief that it was behind me and an excess of adrenalin was serving me well.

Eight days on – the detail of my first marathon experience is both a fading memory and as clear as if it had just happened a few hours ago.

I have been reading other Stirling marathon race blogs – and is good to recognise similar versions of the day to my own, but also to read of a completely different race experience. Illustrating how with a marathon, or any mass running event, while it is a collective experience it is very much your own race.

Somewhere along this marathon journey – I came across this blog by Angela – That extra inch– Angela was also running her first marathon and her training sounded quite like my own. We exchanged a few comments and words of encouragement via our blogs in the latter weeks of training, and I enjoyed reading her race story.

Her account of the day had many similar observations and emotions to my own – we both love a good spectator sign, we both had a secret and not so secret time goal, and were both chuffed to join the marathon club – and as we completed the race with only 7 seconds between us, we must have been pretty close running companions amongst  1000s of runners.

On the other end of the racing spectrum – I have been following the training and race prep of Owain Williams aka Scottish runner. Owain was training for a sub 3hr marathon which he achieved with room to spare and great aplomb –  Bravo Owain!   Reading his account provided a great insight to how to apply mental toughness and the benefit of good race planning, not to mention the deserved reward of dedicated training paying off.  ( Owain’s time 2.52.52 ) But  – with his  6 min mi pace and the ( apparent ) ease with which he dealt with the finish lap section and other obstacles  – it brought home to me the difference between experienced racers and those of us who just look to get to the finish.

If you are a runner or a marathoner be it a first of 50th time – I think reading the accounts of fellow runners’ race experience is both enlightening and fascinating, but I do appreciate that it might not be quite the page turner if you are not a runner.

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As it happens – my own race story is not one full of great incident or drama albeit it has a good ending  – and as I was mainly trying to keep myself moving for 26.2 miles, and it was raining – I don’t have many pictures, except those in my head.

Maybe this is why it feels a little bit unreal, now I am back to normal life and have cast off both the marathon training regime and the overriding fear of failure that has been with me since I decided to do this many months ago.

But of course, there are a few moments that stick in my mind – first off how emotional I felt at the start. Friends and family know that I am easily given to crying –  both with happiness and sadness – so it is maybe not surprising that I was going to well up at some point – although I think the acceptable place for a good greet should have been the finish line !

Instead, as I  lined up waiting for our wave to start, in the mildly surreal environment of a Safari Park I was quite overwhelmed and found myself sobbing – proper tears were running down my face. While race starts are given to drumming up a kind of collective emotion, particularly around music choices – it was not hearing the Proclaimers for the 3rd time that started me crying – but a deeper level of emotion I felt about how far I had come to get to this point. And a quiet acceptance that I was definitely going to finish the race.

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My own race then went pretty well with some predictable setbacks but nothing too major. In the first mile, it was a crowded start so I was able to follow the accepted advice of start slowly, run slower. In fact, I was so slow that not only did I think that mile one was the easiest mile I had ever run – but my pace spooked my husband who was following me on the tracker because he thought I was going too slowly 🙂

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So the first section is quite undulating and after a slow start, I did go a bit faster than possibly I should have – with my 10k split time at 59.27. My legs felt fresh and I was enjoying the day – looking out for supporters I knew would be at Doune which is about 4.5 miles in. The crowds on the race route in those early sections through Doune, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan were amazing – and I understand now how important crowd support is. I did as many high 5s as I could and hoped I was smiling, as advised( top tip from a fellow runner).  I do have a tendency to grimace in concentration.

At the Stirling Universty section, I encountered a rookie error of not having scrutinised the race route closely enough. I reckon I spent so much time worrying about the laps at the finish I did not bother to check much else. So I  was a bit derailed by the steep hill loop and by this time it was raining quite heavily – so I decided to slow down and put on music- up until then I was not using headphones.

I thought this next section a wee bit tough but it marked the half way point which is a nice feeling. My half time was quite slow at 2.13. Miles 13 – 17 I expected to be a bit light on crowd support and as it is a long straight stretch these miles were a bit of a slog.  I tucked behind a group from Calton Athletic and just tuned into my Van Morrison on repeat!

By mile 17  I could see Stirling and what I thought was the start of the lap section. Much has been spoken about this and it was a bit of a mental test to run 2.5 laps at the end  – but for me, the biggest challenge was knowing where the laps started. As I ran into Stirling I was looking for the gantry and not seeing it, then seeing a 21-mile marker, and a 3hr 30 pacer, I panicked that I had somehow taken a wrong turning. So I crossed over to a race official who told me I still had to keep going to reach the gantry 😦

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Confusion aside, coming into Stirling the crowds everywhere made me feel like a proper runner, even if my arrival in the city coincided with me hitting a bit of ‘a wall’ at mile 18 and nicely timed as I caught sight of my family and friends. Of course seeing people who have come to support you is a massive boost – even if I was dealing with the reality of legs that did not want to work, a dodgy tummy and 8 miles to go.

The good thing about the lap set up is knowing you will see supporters again – the not so good thing is the course had a  few nippy hills and narrow sections and disappeared into some very quiet spots – and this made it hard for me to keep running. Owain had given me the advice to try to not walk – but between miles 18 and the finish, I did resort to walking some sections. My pace dropped to a slow as 12 min miles, and I was reassessing my finish time from the ridiculously optimistic Chariots of Fire 4 hrs 30 to just finishing before the sweeper,  to fingers crossed do it in under 5 hours.

I was wearing a watch – but I am never very good at doing the maths or reading the dial or even properly knowing what I have to do to reach the desired time in races, and I think in this case I was going a bit woolly of thinking.

Not much else to report other than my phone battery almost ran out and with it my sounds. I started developing cramps in my legs as I was doing the last few miles ( think I was drinking too much water ), but then once I had passed mile 25 I found a wee boost of energy and while I won’t say it was a sprint finish – I am proud of how I ran the last 1 mile 385 yards.

As I was approaching the finish line I caught sight of the gun time and saw it edge to 5 hours – and was a bit gutted – until I saw that the pink wave time was 4.40 something.

Hallelujah – I crossed the line over the moon to be comfortably under 5 hours and full of I bloody well did it and other end of race exaltations of delight (no tears).

My time was a sweet 4.40.00 which I was very happy with.

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While I have been training for this race I have thought of lots of analogies around journeys and other life changing or transformative experiences. When I was in the latter stages of training and dreading the inevitability of the full marathon distance, it felt a bit like when I  was pregnant with my daughters and full of the fear of childbirth, while knowing I had to go through with it. Now having completed a marathon I can say from my experience of both that childbirth is much harder and unpleasant ( sorry sisters ).

What it felt more like was studying for my finals – when you have to try very hard to keep studying and it all gets a bit boring and you try to remember stuff you learned 3 years previously – and know that it might just not come back to you on the day of the exam. I am very glad to have had a training plan and coach to guide me through a first marathon and I am sure that Sally’s  training not only got me through the marathon but has helped with my recovery. ( as has my general health and nutrition since following the eating plans from fitnaturally )

Likewise in the days after the marathon, I have felt that same mix of giddiness and mild hysteria that I remember after my university exams were over. Alas, I have a day job to go to which means I have not been able to party to the same extent as I did after my student finals – but I have made a brave attempt 🙂

Will I do another one? I don’t think so, but I do understand now why some people do go on to run multiple marathons.

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* one and only marathon as promised to husband

A BIG THANK YOU – to everyone who has sponsored me or made a donation to Smalls for All  using MyDonate or Scottish Women’s Aid via the  Justgiving page   Through your generosity I have managed to raise £ 522 for Scottish Women’s Aid and £ 326 for Smalls for All. I am a bit behind in my thank yous and admin generally, but to anyone I have not managed to thank personally, I really appreciate your support.

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writing and running in the key of green

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Running in the months of  January, February and quite a bit of March – the skies have been grey, the trees bare and the paths muddy brown.

But this weekend the sun came out and as if by magic everywhere was green.

Wild garlic seemed to grow overnight into a lush fresh carpet of pungent loveliness and even my neglected garden threw up some vibrant colour – bless my everlasting die hard euphorbias.

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With Monday a rest day from running, I picked some of the wild garlic and made pesto.

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My Heart’s in the Highlands

Inverness Castle and river Ness
Inverness Castle

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

So goes the Robert Burns song and although a big part of my heart is in the Highlands, ( I was born in Dingwall and spent my childhood near Inverness before heading south to study in 1979) –  it is not deer I chase but PBs at the Inverness Half marathon race!

The Inverness Half marathon, held as it is in early March, is one of the first half marathon races in the season (in Scotland).  It is a good way to test your legs over a longer distance after winter training and suits many people who are training for a spring marathon.

 

Until this year, I was not in that marathon training category but had chosen to take part in this race partly because of family connections, but also because having first completed it in 2011 in snowy, cold, conditions and lived to tell the tale –  when I compared it with my experience of some other half marathons, I concluded that Inverness is a race that for me offers close to the perfect combination I am looking for in an event.

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The course is interesting but not too taxing, with lots of places for spectators to support you, it is big enough to feel like a special event but is not so big to be impersonal or overwhelmed by the razzamatazz. And it is very well organised and friendly.

As a bonus, I get great race support from my brother and sister-in-law and my niece, who between them provide excellent cheerleading, patiently listen to my pre-race anxieties, provide fab post race support and generally make it a most enjoyable occasion.

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Even though I have run other races with arguably better PB potential ( Edinburgh and Aviemore ) my half marathon PB was and still is from Inverness. Not completely sure why this should be – and maybe once I have the marathon behind me, I might revisit some other half marathon races to see if I can improve my time.

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My Inverness race history

So having taken part in this race 5 times since 2011 – my times are as follows

2011:2hrs 16 mins 38 secs

( did not enter 2012 ) 

2013: 2hrs 16 mins 14 secs

2014: 2 hrs 14 mins 04 secs

2015: 2 hrs 11 mins 02 secs 

2016: 2hrs 02 mins 09 secs  

Each year before Inverness, I will have followed a self-designed if somewhat fluid ‘training’ plan – mostly around adding in a longer run at the weekends to my regular run schedule of around av 12 – 15 miles per week.  I also do this run streak challenge every December and maybe running 3 miles every day in December gives me a base of fitness.

I know from reading my large collection of running books, that my training for Inverness could not really be described as following a plan, and even more so now that I am following a proper training plan for the Stirling marathon. My lead up to Inverness has never included any specific sessions of speed work or hills or running at race pace, although last year I had started to do a weekly session with a  PT to help my core strength and build on my endurance.

But although I was not taking run training as seriously as I should have – between 2015 and 2016, I had been following a new eating plan with fitnaturally and because of this, I had lost quite a bit of weight. Being over 14 lbs lighter meant I found running more enjoyable and I think largely due to being lighter and despite my casual approach to training – I was absolutely delighted to knock almost 9 minutes off my time in 2016.

My time in 2016 was 2.02.09 – a new PB and tantalisingly close to sub 2 hours, and so in the post-race euphoria, I foolishly said I would come back and get sub 2hr in 2017 !

2017 arrived and I started my marathon training plan – sharing with Sally that I would quite like to do sub 2 hrs in a half. This was built into my plan, and  then I discovered that I really did not enjoy speed work !   As the Inverness race drew closer  I started to get the jitters about achieving a time of under 2 hours, when I knew that it meant me averaging 9-minute miles for the full 13.1 mile distance.

 

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I started to back pedal and keep quiet about my sub 2 goal, saying that the marathon was my 2017 goal and anything else a bonus –  of course, a new PB would be nice – but hey –  I only had a knock a few seconds off my 2016 time to do that 😉

I know that one reason I felt the pressure was because this was the first time I was approaching this race or any race against a background of having properly trained. Excuses for failure were thin on the ground, and as is the contrary way I am around pressure and expectation – I was dreading the race more than I had on previous occasions.  I am slowly understanding that in running, putting in the training hours is about giving you the foundation for success, and I knew this would be the first real test.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.

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Having already put in a decent amount of training since January, come race weekend I did my best to avoid sabotaging my chances, first by resisting the temptation for a night before glass of wine or two, then on race day following Sally’s nutritional advice to the letter, and I even took heed of her race plan advice which went something like this:

“warm up for a mile, run as strong as you can for miles 2 – 10 , then  run as fast as you can after that – ending  with a sprint finish “- which as  my brother translated was pretty much saying – warm up for a mile then run as fast as you can for the rest of the race 🙂

Overall I did feel more in control during the race – and had an inner strength that I will put down largely to the mileage and other training I have been doing as part of my marathon build up. But I did not find it easy, and particularly as I got closer to the finish and knew that my sub 2 hour time was within my grasp.

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Cheerleader Laura with her distinctive hat

With 3 miles to go and with a big part of me wanting to just accept a PB and abandon my ‘not so secret’ real sub 2hr goal for another day – I had a conversation with myself and it turns out that even I have a bit of competitive spirit. So with less than 2 miles to finish I gave it my best shot – and helped by a final and extremely loud cheer at around 12.5 miles from my niece Laura – I got there in a time of 1 hrs 59 mins 18 secs.

Including sprint finish 🙂

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Notes

I am taking  part in Stirling Scottish Marathon on May 21st and it will be my first marathon. To get me ready for this challenge I am following a  marathon training plan provide by Sally at fitnaturally.

fitnaturally offers a range of healthy eating plans that can help with weight loss and sports nutrition. They provide bespoke training and nutrition for people taking part in sport at any level. I have been following fitnaturally plans for over a year and I have become leaner and fitter, losing more than 20lbs in weight and a reduction in body fat% in a gradual and sustainable way and by eating normal and enjoyable food !

Fundraising

Through my marathon efforts,  I  am hoping to raise funds for two charities – Scottish Womens’s Aid and Smalls for All both of these charities work to help women in different ways. If you would like to support either of these charities, please consider making a donation, however modest by following the link to my Justgiving page  ( Scottish Women’s Aid )  and Mydonate  ( Smalls for All ) pages.

Thank you

 

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 – well I was already stressing about running fast, but running fast for a whole mile – how 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.

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Weighing up the options, I decided on the Meadows – a 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 – but 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 – in 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 😀 !

NOTES

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

 

Mid life marathon training tales – with bonus horoscope feature !

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It turns out that those of us with star sign Capricorn are sure-footed late developers. I am definitely given to a bit of pondering and weighing up of options on significant decisions before jumping right in – but whether this is written in the stars or just how I am depends on how much store you may put on astrology and other unscientific interpretations of life.

Astrology aside, in a rare impulsive moment ( following a year-long debate with myself), I signed up for a marathon. I don’t want to fully admit to going through a bit of a mid-life wobble – but how else to explain why I voluntarily forked out £ 55 to let me run for many hours covering a distance of 26.2 miles on my own 2 feet ?

I have no idea !!!

Having running as my hobby of choice for 8 years, I have often thought that a marathon was maybe something I should really do at some point – a natural progression as it were. But when discussing the marathon experience with fellow runners – I can’t say it got a ringing endorsement !

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And unfortunately as a moderately experienced runner and reluctant competitor – when it comes to thinking what taking part in a marathon might entail – I do not have the benefit of blissful ignorance. Not for me that unfettered happiness, or joyful optimism of just setting out to ‘do a marathon’ with no insight as to how shit I might feel before the end.

I have run a few half  marathons – and I know and remember how tough it can be to keep running for a long time in a race and just how much you have to dig deep to find mind tricks to help you cover the distance. Maybe if you are a proper runner who runs a 10 miler daily as a small ‘amuse bouche’ of your running diet , or you are a dedicated competitor who loves winning above pain – then this overrides any negative self talk.

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But as I am neither of these, each time I have completed a half marathon – at around mile 10 or 11- I think ‘I am not doing this EVER again’ followed quickly by the recognition that of course to get to the end  I just need to keep going for about 25 or more minutes or the equivalent of just one ‘December run’ or I try to break it down to how many songs in 3 miles  – 7, 8 ?

Then of course as I cross the finish line, I experience  a level of euphoria that is hard to convey – but never at that point have I had a desire to just loop back and do it all again.

But as the most excellent Erica Jong said – Feel the Fear and do it anyway, and so I am 🙂

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Notes

I am signed up for the inaugural Stirling marathon on May 21st – if I finish it I am guaranteed a PB and if I get the marathon bug ( unlikely ) I could be one of those folk who do it every year until I crumble into a crinkly heap.

To help me make this big leap – I am working with Sally at fitnaturally who is providing a training plan and to be honest she has helped me have the confidence to even contemplate this big challenge.  I will  be writing about my ventures into this new territory.

 

 

 

Joy to the world – December is here again

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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.

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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.

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December running total 10.40 miles

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Convention has it that resolutions and commitments to life improvements take place at the start of the year, but whether through my love of procrastination or a general ennui over goal setting,  I have ambled through 2017 free of embarking on any big challenges or certainly where running is concerned.

At some point I thought about doing a marathon this year, then I talked myself out of it – deciding that it was always too hot in Edinburgh in May and attempting marathon number 1 at Loch Ness in September might be too much worry for me to deal with for a whole 9 months.

Marathoning can be my 2017 challenge – well maybe…

It seems that without some kind of contest to aim for,I just drift along running wise. While that is just fine and a big part of me wants running to be just a regular thing I do, given how much I have a love/hate relationship with competition, there is no escaping the focus a deadline gives me.

Twas ever thus and maybe this is why when recently browsing through my Nike+  running app and  checking on the leaderboard, I noticed that my mileage for the year was close to 750 miles in late Sept.

With 3 months of the year left, the possibility of reaching 1000 miles seemed doable and the kind of challenge I relish. Setting a target mileage would  help with the inevitable shortfall of winter motivation. As the days shorten and clocks change soon,  much as I prefer running in cooler temperatures – running in darkness does require some incentive.

So I have done the calculations and it looks like I only need to do 20 miles a week – less than 3 a day from now till Dec 31st.

And to make it a bit easier and less of a round number I am aiming to reach 999 miles by Dec 31st .

As of today – mileage stands at 784.7 – so If I can get to 800 by the end of October, I think I am definitely in with a chance of getting that medal.

Short London run with art bonus

london-blackfriars-bridge-1-4

Last week in London I slept so well in my hotel room that I almost ran out of time to run, but having trundled running shoes in my trolley bag through underground stations and pavements – it would have annoyed me to not take them out for a spin.

My biggest challenge when running in London, or in any new destination I find myself in for that matter, is my rubbish sense of direction. This can result in a planned 30 minute 3 miler taking almost twice that time to complete,  time keeping not helped by my tendency to easy distraction and to scurrying  down lanes to take a picture of this or that, of crossing roads to look closely at something or other, and  of generally deviating from my planned route.

Sharing these tales of how I always seem to get lost wherever I go with a friend, he told me to just keep turning right (or at least I think that was the instruction). I guess the idea being that you should eventually return to where you started, something I accidentally achieved on a previous London visit when trying and failing to find the River Thames.  I know that I passed the same  group of  Chinese tourist visitors on  three different occasions at roughly the same spot.

I just hope I made the cut for their London holiday movies  !

So back to this run –  destined to be short and sweet as having overslept I did not have much time to spare before the start of day two of the conference I was in town for. Fortunately I was staying in Covent Garden – so even a short run would provide lots of interest and require just enough effort from me to kick start the day, get the heart rate up and make the carrying of running kit worthwhile.

From the hotel, a run down Drury lane and then a right turn into the Strand took me close to a landmark I know – Somerset House. From there I crossed Waterloo bridge to the South bank so I could run both across and alongside the Thames. The light was grey and sky was flat, a palette that suits the London landscape and murky river. I crossed Blackfriars bridge then looped back along the embankment to Somerset House.

I did not have much time to linger, but time enough to check out the exhibition in the courtyard -a collection of figures standing as sentinel, part of the 1:54 Contemporary African art fair . Then after a short view and a few snaps I retraced my route without diversion or digression to be  back in time for breakfast.

Somerset House NIke+ image