It’s a sad admission but I think that come the end of this month I may have read more books in January 2018 than I did in the whole of 2017.
My rediscovery of books has undoubtedly been helped by me having a 4 and half hour commute twice weekly between Edinburgh and London, not to mention a couple of nights in hotels where I am that lone diner trying to perfect the pose of nonchalant reader and eater ( whilst really not reading anything but earwigging on the conversations around me).
Late to the party I was given a Kindle for Christmas, and although I love proper books and everything about them – the paper, the cover, the typography, the smell, the craft, the mystery- my new electronic library has got me ticking off an oft-stated but rarely achieved new year’s resolution to read more, and managing it with aplomb and joy over endurance and forbearance.
Like a child in a sweet shop, I am dangerously addicted to the ‘1- click’ ordering and immediacy of Kindle downloads.
And alongside my newfound love of digital over analogue books, I am slowly mastering the art of vertical reading in close proximity to many others – reading while commuting on the London Underground.
Here the Kindle comes into its own- as even while standing and swaying, I can hold it in one hand and turn pages with the gentlest inflection of my thumb. Rattling through pages as the Central line rattles through London.
I feel so modern
I am not a fast reader but so far my 2018 reading list has included: Ann Cleeves – The Seagull ( crime drama featuring detective Vera Stanhope), Catherine Gray – The unexpected Joy of being sober ( true life account of reformed drinker – uplifting & enjoyable read from the self-help genre), Bernard MacLaverty – Midwinter Break, (poignant and beautifully observed tale of a long marriage).
Now switching between Dr Rangan Chattergee – the 4 Pillar Plan ( prescription for balance and health and importance of relaxation ) and Tina Brown’s the Vanity Fair Diaries ( enjoyable page-turner telling the story of her time as editor of Vanity Fair )
December rattles on a pace as it always does – is it just me or is December the month that goes faster than any other?
Thanks to my new ‘make it up as I go along’ rules for December running – I have, with a wing and prayer, managed to tick off a run every day so far. With my secret weapon of kidology up my sleeve- where I tell myself I will just do 1 mile – that gets me out the door and then once out I usually manage to run a bit further.
After a few years of shoehorning 3 mile runs around dark mornings, party outings, business meetings not to mention two December birthdays, this year I thought rather than give up the challenge completely – it was OK to switch it up a bit and maybe cut myself a bit of slack.
Working in London weekdays – fitting in a 40 minute slot to do 3-miles running and a wash before work is a bit of an effort – and when it takes a further hour to get to the office – the thought of getting up earlier than 6 am to squeeze in a dark run in the suburbs of Ealing is a big ask.
My run dedication is obviously a bit lacking.
That said, running in the dark of December is not the worst, especially as now there are lots of outside lights to cheer you up. Hugely unscientific, but my research indicates that in the past 6 years of running in December – there has been a gradual and wonderful shift in the general vibe of illumination and decoration – collectively we have embraced the joy of the outdoor flicker and exterior decoration.
So here I am- at December 18 – comfortably beyond the halfway point and so far the biggest challenge has been in these past few days when temperatures dropped and pavements turned to ice rinks.
Ice is my big run fear.
Recent runs have been of the stop-start variety – tentatively slithering along the way – peering at pavements for icy patches and tensing up all the time. All said not very enjoyable- save for the uplifting feel of crisp, cold air and strange as it may seem to others – the calming, soothing effect that a cold winter run brings.
Luckily today the temperature was a balmy 6 degrees, the ice had vanished and I did a lovely twilight run for day 18.
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.
I have not been running much this month- truth is since the marathon I have not yet got back into a proper running groove.
It is only 3 weeks since the race, so early days – but knowing of other marathoners who have struggled to find the motivation to run again after training for a big event- I hoped this would not be the case for me.
I thought it unlikely, as one thing that kept me going through the latter stages of marathon training ( aside from the fear of running the marathon ), was the thought of getting back to just running for fun. Running with friends, running punctuated with stops to take pictures, running without the dread of speedwork and just running without it feeling like I was doing my homework!
But it is funny that when the pressure is off and there is no ‘reason’ to run, no plan to tick off, no specific session to complete, how it can be very easy to find lots of reasons to just not bother.
Late afternoon today, after another day of not running – with the sun shining and the bees busy in the garden – I heard the running sirens calling.
Turns out, when running motivation is in short supply the best cure is a run.
So I have taken a while to write this – for some practical reasons – I started a new job in Glasgow four weeks ago, so what with that and marathon training and commuting and life – time to write about running kind of evaporated.
But also because in the last few weeks of training, it feels like not only have I been running for what seems an eternity, but I have been talking about running constantly and even I am bored hearing myself go on about the bl**dy marathon!
Still, the end is in sight – and this is both an exhilarating and alarming thought.
This time next week – I hope I will be savouring my achey hips and relishing, in addition to a big fat medal, the curious badge of honour demonstrated by a John Wayne is big leggy stair descending gait and body chafing in who knows where ?
I will be reflecting on how earlier in the day I had managed somehow to run a distance of 26 miles 385 yards, ( always assuming I am not crawling on all fours to the finish with the sweeper van behind me).
So the plan is to try and enjoy the day, to get to the finish, to tick off the marathon and join that club.
I am almost scared to write it down.
As I enter the phase of inevitability and with race day drawing ever closer, my desire for talismans, good omens and whatever other nebulous support I may need to get me through increases daily. In the past few weeks, the signs of panic have been building. I have been hoovering up as much information as I can on other people’s marathon experiences – good and bad, which I am not sure is always a wise idea.
Some of the bad experiences are really bad.
I have also been researching both sensible advice and hokey top tips – evaluating the merits of possible last minute nutritional aids likeeating beetroot from now till May 21or putting butter in my coffee. ( Sally – rest assured I will not be doing any of that mad stuff 😉 )
My health has become a big focus and I have been looking to increase my odds of survival by eating more than my 5 a day and dosing up on Echinacea. Not to mention hiding from sneezing colleagues and washing my hands more often than Lady Macbeth as ‘maranoia’ and my fear of bugs sets in big time. Walking cautiously everywhere I go, lest I trip on a marble or such like because let’s face it – how much of a scunner would it be to break an ankle this coming week?
The rational part of me knows I have been reasonably diligent with my training schedule and have covered a fair few miles- in all kinds of weathers and through a cold, miserable winter- and aside from the weather more importantly in a wide range of moods.
While there have been some moments of joyand a real sense of accomplishment, the truth is I have not loved ‘every’ moment of training and having done most of my 500 + training miles on my own, thinking and observing as I run and listening to my inner voice – sometimes that voice can get quite tiresome.
While running is a physical exercise requiring a degree of fitness competency to complete, most runners will admit that when it comes to races and contests, much of the success or failure lies with how you deal with what is going through your head.
Following a training plan for the first time, I have had to cast off my inner free spirit and stick to the script. This most excellent script provided by Sally has got me to where I am, but I appreciate not without some petulant questioning and less than gracious acceptance on my part.
On this voyage of running self-discovery I have realised the following; I don’t like running faster than my natural pace ( but I can if I have to – or more importantly if I know I have to report back to coach Sally). I don’t mind running up hills – even if running up and down the same hill 14 times is a strange thing to do, and the long run – well that is just one big mental mindfest !
Oh the long run – so many hours to think – or to not think, to try to not freak out at the distance, or the hours ahead of just putting one foot in front of another. To zone in and zone out – to catch a glimpse of other lives , to hear the birds, play mental arithmetic tricks, chopping up how far to go and how far covered, listen to random podcasts – watch the country seasons change, overthink your clothing, weep as you run into horizontal rain or a strong easterly, then if lucky have a brief pointless chat with a fellow runner or anyone who happens to be on the same path as I pass them at mile 11,15, 18…
Sorry to all the strangers I encountered and just started telling them my marathon story.
I have not completed all my training on my own,as for most of my long runs, my patient and mostly abandoned running buddy Alison joined me for the last hard miles – and listened to my ramblings and stories I had stored up for the 12, 13 or more miles previously.
My long runs have been a mixed bag, but mostly quite satisfying as I have progressed through ever longer distances. It seems like a different lifetime when I wondered how I might manage to run 15 miles – 2 whole miles longer than I had covered before, and then to find me just 2 weeks back running 22 miles – who would have thought it ?
So with 6 days to ‘M’ day, I am as ready as I will ever be and looking forward to the last of my taper.
Post marathon – after a modest celebration 😉 I am looking forward to getting back to my social running and have a few ideas for some new run adventures providing the marathon does not put me off running completely.
I don’t think it will 😉
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.
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 !
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
Like brushing my teeth or remembering to take a scarf when its cold , running has moved from being a thing requiring planning and effort to just something I do.
That’s not to say I do not make arrangements to find time to run, and none more so when I know there is a mileage challenge needing attention, or with winter approaching and the shortening days, there is a bit more consideration needed around running in weather hazards and darkness.
But recently when beyond running, I have been going through a period of change (on Friday I left my job after 8 years and there are some unknowns on the horizon work-wise), making time to run has felt effortless – and comforting.
My 999 mileage target is on track – almost half way through November the total sits at 865 miles – and with 50 days left of this year,that means I just have to average 2.68 miles each day between now and December 31st.
I am hoping in the next couple of weeks to fit in some longer runs to take me to 900 miles by the end of November, and have signed up to run every day in December. So barring injury or any major disaster I am optimistic.