Spring morning run – with local history bonus

daffodlls and wild garlic

I don’t know why but having Tuesday off work this week seemed like a huge treat – so much so I reckon if I could work out a way to wangle a 4 day weekend every week, all would be good in my world.

I did not even feel the usual clocks going forward weirdness, such was the joy of getting up to do just what I liked. The only thing that could  have put the icing on my ‘life is good’ cake would have been some bright sunny Spring weather – but grey and cool was fine.

Tuesday or any day  – running early in the morning is almost always a special time – a quiet secret hour or two before the day starts proper – shared with birds and dawn wildlife, and fellow early risers- shift workers, bread and milk delivery folk, bus drivers.

Today although the pink sky peeked at through bedroom curtains earlier had turned a bit grey and overcast – the air was fresh and paths were deserted and quiet – save for a morning chorus of birds and the occasional dog walker.

Having  set out with no route planned and no distance in mind, it was nice to just keep moving. I meandered through Colinton village then onto the Dell path that runs along by the water of Leith running as far as Currie Kirk . A few months back while running along the same path, I met two local ladies who in the course of conversation, gave me a local history lesson and told me about St Mungo’s well, a local spring and shrine to St Kentigern (another name for St Mungo).

currie run - 1

I don’t know a lot about local history or saints but having lived and studied in Glasgow I do remember a bit about St Mungo – patron saint of the city. His miracles are remembered in the city coat of arms –  – Here is the bird that never flew,Here is the tree that never grew,Here is the bell that never rang, Here is the fish that never swam – Let Glasgow Flourish.

As the ladies had told me a while back – the well is not much to look at, in fact takes a bit of finding and is somewhat neglected, but given that I have probably run past it many times – it was good to seek it out. I did not drink from the spring but maybe will try it next time.

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Now if I had taken a drink from St Mungo’s well – I could say that renewed and invigorated I sprinted off with extra vim – but as I am not a fiction writer, my renewal came more from my reduced pace and ambling along taking pictures, rather than life enhancing water.

So continuing on the local history theme – I turned off the path towards the Pentland hills and the Poet’s glen.  As the knowledgable ladies had told me when we met – the name comes from a local man, James Thomson, who was a weaver-poet living near the glen and a contemporary of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns.

 

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I took this section of the run at an easy pace – walking up some of the steeper stony sections , then out of the glen to the path that runs alongside first the Clubbiedean then Torduff reservoirs to a big downhill and home for breakfast.

 

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Soul food running

If last Sunday was all about racing, this week it was all about running . Running the way I like best; no pressure, straight out the door with the sun shining and a good companion.

After what has felt like a very long wet winter, I was happy to be woken early by birds chirrupping outside and daylight with proper sun streaming through the curtains at silly o’clock in the morning.

If only I was  a bit more flexible I would have jumped out of bed – and cast the curtains open wide – ‘a la Maria in the Sound of Music’ – but as it was the rarity of a blue sky at 7am had me scampering skittishly and thinking how best to make the most of the day.

Edinburgh is a compact city made up of interconnected villages and skirted by the Pentland Hills, a low range to the west of the city. I live close to a country park at the foot of the Pentlands, and can be in open countryside within a 15 minute brisk walk.

My running companion Alison lives close and our regular route tends to be variations along the Dell – a path running alongside the Water of Leith following the route of a disused suburban railway.

But today with the sun in the sky early and not a breath of wind we decided to take to the hills – and do a circular route that took us from the Dell via the Poets Glen to the country park and skirting two reservoirs.

It was glorious.

Pretty much all the ingredients for a perfect run were there. Sun in the sky,no wind and with an equable temperature. Birds singing and buds emerging. Wild garlic carpets and trees losing their gaunt winter look.

When conditions are like this and there is no time pressure – it makes for a joyful outing. We stopped now and again to take pictures and chatted about topics wide and varied ( but to be fair we do that in all weathers ! )

The air felt clear and fresh and 7 miles passed quickly, leaving us plenty of time to enjoy the rest of Sunday.

Food for the soul 🙂

 

Inverness half, sunlight on the river and no regrets

River Ness, Inverness

As I should really know by now – I never regret a run , and with the small exception of how I feel around about mile 3,7, 8, 9 ( insert as appropriate) I never regret entering a race.

I love that euphoric feeling of bouncing over the timing mats and crossing under the finish gantry – and while I have not and am unlikely to ever, experience tearing across a finish tape, one of the many reasons I enjoy taking  part in the Inverness Half is that it finishes on a running track, so I even get to attempt my version of a sprint finish. For someone whose teenage experiences of athletics in this very stadium was only ever as a spectator – it never fails to give me a small ripple of joy.

Not that you could  tell how joyous I felt if you check out the running photos , but mastering that perfect race finish look is still on my ‘to do’ list.

So despite my anxious day before reflections, the worries about jinxing my chances by contemplating improvement and my usual pre race jitters – it all turned out fine in the end.

More than fine really.

I was feeling in better shape than in previous years, and hoped that this would convert to a better time. The night before the race I had spent with my niece who is a competitive swimmer, and we had talked race tactics – or more accurately she patiently explained the concept of pacing to me.

Strangely talking about pace and races was quite settling , and maybe I stored some of the advice somewhere, as on race day I ran faster than I have done before, 9 minutes faster than on the same course in 2015, and 6 minutes faster than my previous half marathon PB of 2.08.

Running into the stadium on the race track, I was pretty sure I was going to meet my goal of 2.05 and so was very pleased to see the clock showing a gun time of around 2.04, but even happier when my chip time was confirmed as 2.02.09 .

Looking at the race splits – I can see how my mid race wobble was my main  undoing but more importantly it feels achievable to target a sub 2 hour half marathon time. Which means I will more than likely be doing this all over agin this time next year.

Ness bridge Inverness twilight

 

Race anticipation – reflections on the fear of possible success …

Some people read newspapers back to front and I think my approach to training is perhaps similarly contrary. Running is something I do for my overall wellbeing – exercise I have come to  later in life that combines many things I find uplifting – being outdoors, watching the weather, observing nature and spending time with friends.

I acknowledge now that I am mildly addicted to running, getting a bit twitchy and irritable if I have not managed to get out for a run, so regular social runs are a comforting constant to keep the twitching at bay. And as my running confidence has increased it’s easier to find ways to slot running around the rest of my life, with being a run tourist one of my favourite ways to discover new places.

So if running is mostly about looking after myself, and offsetting life’s stresses, I wonder why I keep entering races?

I don’t really know the answer to that, and writing this a day before a race is maybe not the best time to come up with a considered analysis!  For some people running is the perfect outlet for their competitive spirit, but I don’t see me fitting in that category – my desire to win is underdeveloped – although I do like to set myself personal goals and challenges.

While I long to be more ‘zen’ about running and its place in a quest for self improvement, I do enjoy keeping a tally of distance covered, pace and effort. Running has unlocked my inner geek around lists and records and the joy of seeing the miles increase on my Nike+ app is something I would struggle to give up.

And maybe a race creates a framework or purpose for this measurement – so while I am not desperate to be first – taking part in races does let me see how I compare to fellow runners and if I have made any progress since the last test.

So back to today and training plans or otherwise. I have never yet properly stuck to a race plan as for whatever reason I am not really very  good sticking to a set of prescribed rules to achieve a desired outcome.  While I don’t just rock up unprepared, training for races has mostly involved increasing mileage and incorporating this into the runs I have planned with Alison. We are good training buddies. This means I usually get to this point before a race feeling OK about my ability to complete the course but also wondering what might have been achieved if I had made the effort to follow a proper plan rather than just play it by ear.

This year while my run training has not followed a plan as such – I have been following a different plan that has had a positive impact on my running. Having acknowledged that I am not the best at following rules and plans,  since  July 2015 I have been following an eating plan, and by doing this have lost quite a bit of weight. ( so am around 16 lbs lighter than I was this time last year).

The weight loss and results I have seen by sticking to some simple rules around eating from fitnaturally ( good natural food, not too much) has encouraged me to incorporate some different types of fitness training – and  I have been doing some strength and speed work with a colleague from work who is a personal trainer.

The weight loss is making me enjoy my running even more than before and I am feeling in good shape and while I have not yet followed a race training  plan to the letter – it definitely feels as if I have put in more effort than before, or addressed some weaknesses.

So why despite all this do I have the usual if not more pre race anxiety this time around ?

I can only put it down to my fear of failure , and back again to why I have mixed feelings about racing. My previous haphazard attempts at training have been replaced by a bit more effort and instead of it giving me confidence it has made me feel I have eliminated my excuses for failure !

Today I am trying to set my expectations and calm my jitters against a different background of possible success – how strange for me !

But fortunately life experience has me prepared and so I am  tapping into my collection of  the ‘whats the worst that can happen scenarios’ and am sure I will manage to make a kind of peace with myself before the start line.

See you at the other side 🙂

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Got to get in the groove …

Stevie Wonder

I think I have been mourning the loss of my daily running, now December marcothon is behind me for another year. January seems to be littered with good intentions, but it is hard to keep motivated when the days are still dark and reality of work and the everyday looms large.

Fruit

running picture
New Year’s Day Run- Tim Cockburn picture

There is something quite effortless about the simplicity of running every day- knowing that as long as I completed 3 miles my target was met. Now to keep a level of fitness and with a Half Marathon looming I am bamboozled thinking about the myriad of possibilities and the need to have a balanced training regime.

It is great to have the base of a month’s daily running to build on  but should I now add in swimming, Pilates or strength training- speed work and longer runs ? It all seems a bit complicated by comparison.

cloud

This year I have not yet written any goals – ( I gave up on resolutions when I realised looking back that I had churned out the same meaningless guff year after year around trying to be a better person but had pretty much failed to achieve said ‘betterness’ ).

For 2013 I did commit to some goals, many with a running flavour, and looking back this is my 2013 scorecard. Goals in black results in RED

  1. Run a half marathon without feeling I want to kill someone/myself after mile 9 –  partially achieved at Inverness half, it was mile 11 before the death wish set in
  2. Get over my Parkrun bogey and do a minimum of 5 in 2013 FAIL – carried forward to 2014 
  3. If I fall back in love with Parkrun, try to get PB below 27 minutes AS ABOVE FAIL 
  4. Run some different places ( very vague I know, but I must have one goal that I know is pretty much achievable) SUCCESS – Amsterdam, Montpellier, Utrecht, Devon, Cologne etc
  5. Start reading books again and read a minimum of 10 by the end of the year moderate success – think I managed 6, but I read every issue of Runners World from cover to cover and sampled a LOT of cook books ! 
  6. Go to see one film a month 50 % SUCCESS definitely saw more than in 2012
  7. Tidy the ridiculous pile of papers, books etc at the side of my bed (see number 5 ) MASSIVE FAIL – see number 5 hahaha ! 

I think I will give myself a credible pass with a ‘could try harder’ rejoinder, and see what I can come up with for 2014.

red sky morning

Dunfermline Abbey
Dunfermline Abbey

Beyond navel gazing and thinking what challenges I might set, by way of immediate running targets the Inverness Half Marathon is on March 9th, and just over 7 weeks to go.The big challenge for me will be to increase my mileage without injury, and get myself to a place where I feel confident I can keep running for the two hours or so I will need.

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My December running total of 106 miles equals 4 marathons or 8 half marathons, but it is one thing to run an average of 3 miles a day, and quite another to get fit enough to run 13.1 miles in one go.

Tall tree

But this will be the third time I have run this race, and although I might be running solo, Inverness is my home town and  I enjoy going back there and being looked after by family. It is a well organised race with a  good atmosphere and it is a nice course.

Today with Lil and Alison, I managed just over 6 miles and did not feel too creaky afterwards.The weather this weekend has not been ideal for running as it has been icy underfoot in some places, but even though we had a couple of stops we managed a pace of around 10 min mile, so lets hope the omens are good.

6.44 miles