My training runs

Sunday, 13 February 2011

To infinity and beyond!

Miles run this week 33!

Highlights of the week
As those who’ve read previous blog posts know, on my previous runs I’ve seen cute little Shetland ponies and gorgeous fluffy cows. This week I saw lamas, a deer, a buzzard, quite a few dogs and a squashed vole.  Next week it may be an elephant – who knows. It’s more likely to be a hare though with March looming. The sun finally came out from behind the grey blanket of cloud we’ve had over the last few days, which was lovely, but it caused a terrible glare from the road. I did think about taking my sunglasses with me on the run, but I didn’t. Next time I’ll take them just in case.

There are carpets of snowdrops everywhere and daffodils just about to bloom on road verges and gardens.  Hopefully, the warmer weather and flowers coming into bloom will make the next few weeks’ hard long runs easier to cope with.

Apart from running, one of my highlights was being around a living statue of Cupid on Friday. It was for a work  where we officially opened a block of new homes called Cupid House. When I saw the website, there was a photo of a chiselled Cupid, but I had visions of a cherub turning up instead!  But I needn't have worried. Cupid was very easy on the eyes as you can see!  I asked him how much work it was to keep up his physique.  The reply was a four hour work out, 3-4 days a week! The poor man was freezing when we took him outside for photos.  Every muscle in his body was rippling ……… from cold! He was great, so a big shout out to Dave, the living Cupid!
Dave the living Cupid
And the same evening, I went to see Paul Carrack.  ‘Who?’ I hear you say.  He’s one of those people where you know the voice, but don’t know the name.  He’s been in many bands including Squeeze and Roxy Music, but you’ll know him as the voice of Mike and the Mechanics who sang ‘Living Years’ and ‘Over my shoulder’.  And I was lucky enough to meet him backstage too. He was a real gentleman and just a normal bloke who’s got a voice like cream over coffee. His latest album is really classy and perfect to having playing in the background for a romantic Valentine’s Day meal. ‘Eyes of Blue’ is beautiful.  I’d recommend it to anyone who wants music to chill out to. 

Marathon mutterings - To infinity and beyond!
Well maybe not infinity, but it’ll certainly feel like I’ve run to my limit by the time I get to the marathon. Running 17.4miles yesterday was another ‘first’ and next week there’ll be another with the 20 mile run at Bramley. 

I realized last week that it was my Dad who must have given me the running gene.  As a child, I remember him coming in on a Sunday morning after a blast around Camberley in Surrey. And one of the many nuggets of knowledge he’s given me is it’s the mind that gives up before the body. Time and again I’ve seen how true this is.

On this week’s run, I could quite easily have sat down in the road at 10 miles and thrown the towel in.  I was whacked.  Maybe it was the fact that I’d spent most of Friday on my feet, rushing about. So I had an energy gel for the first time (another first), which wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I have bad memories of having a glug of a Lucozade sports drink during the Great South Run a few years ago and feeling as sick as a dog for the rest of the race. Give me plain old water any day. So I was a bit apprehensive when I squirted the gloopy goo into my mouth at mile ten washed down with a swig of heavily diluted sports drink. The magazines say it takes about 20 minutes for the energy to get to your legs.  I waited for the rush of the promised second wind, but it didn’t come.  I just kept plodding on.  At the two hour mark (around 13 miles), Alan (our route master) reminded us that professional runners would be about to finish a full marathon at this point. That lifted our spirits – NOT! So I tried to think about other things in an attempt to block the nagging question of ‘how much further is it’ coming to mind. And ‘there’s a hill just around this corner’. At mile 16 there was a downhill, but even that was hard work. I strained a muscle a few years ago coming down this very hill that scuppered my half marathon time, so I took it very gently. My quad muscles winced at every step.  It’s funny what you do think about when you’re running.  For example, I realized that the reason we call ham, ‘ham’, is probably because it’s from the leg of a pig - as in hamstring.  This may not be right but it made sense when I was running!

The good news was that,  by this time, we were nearing the end of the run. But we start off our run at my friend’s house, and obviously end it there.  There’s a downside to this – she lives on a hill and that hill is a killer to end a run on! No matter which way we come back to her house, we have to run up a hill. So yesterday, I psyched myself up for the possibility that we may run past the turning we normally take to get to her home and go the long way around to make up the 17 miles. See – mind games coming into play again. I kept looking at Alan – was he going to turn up the normal turning? Please let him turn! I breathed a sigh of relief when he turned to go the normal way. Not much further, just that blasted hill.  Bearing in mind I was spent at 10 miles, I was amazed as my legs kept on going, one foot in front of the other, with my breathing getting progressively louder, only stopping when I got to the end of her drive.  OK – her neighbours may have thought they heard Meg Ryan doing her orgasm bit in the cafĂ© with the noise I was making from the sheer exertion it took me to get there, but I got there.  Which just goes to prove that my Dad’s words of wisdom are true: your body is much more capable than your mind tells you it is.

I hope my mind remembers that on marathon day.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Mad dogs and runners go out on dark winter nights

Miles run this week 31!

Highlights of the week’s runs
Last week I saw a few snowdrops, but this week there were masses everywhere.  And daffodils! I’m sure I got a waft of hyacinth too, but it maybe that was wishful thinking.  Although it’s cold and dark during the winter runs, I do love the cold fresh waft of earthiness mixed in with the sweet smell of winter jasmine fills my nostrils every now and then.

My long run this week was 15 miles, further than I’ve ever gone before.  It was really tough, especially at the beginning and end.  The first few miles were into a very strong headwind and I felt worn out after three miles.  I wondered how I was going to run another 12! I had a bagel for breakfast instead of porridge, which felt like a lead weight in my tum. I don’t know what’s worse – sploshing porridge or heavy bagel.  Once I was out of the wind, I got a second wind! So then I enjoyed looking at the farmers’ handiwork of freshly cut hedges. No topiary masterpieces to be seen, but many very bad haircuts with bits hacked off. I knew that soon I’d see a shimmer of green covering those mangled hedges as spring starts to breathe live into everything.  I can’t wait!

Mad dogs and runners go out on dark winter nights
During the long, dark winter nights, I often feel a bit of an odd-bod when I go out running.  I hear my inner voice saying ‘You must be mad running in this wind/rain/snow when most people are snuggled up in the warm watching a good film!’ And you often get the same shouted at you by young lads full of the ignorance of youth, ‘You’re crazy!’.  ‘Ah’, I think to myself, ‘one day you won’t say that’.  It isn’t long before I see another runner out on the same night which reassures me that I’m not the only nut on the planet.  

But what makes me grin from ear to ear is when I go to a road race, or see the London Marathon on TV.  That’s when I know I belong to a whole population of nuts, where running is a part of their lives.  Under cover of darkness, runners pound the pavements all over the whole country, whatever the weather.

I have my own reasons for running, which I’m sure are very different to my fellow runners.  But, I’m sure we all share the thoughts from the poem below.  I’m going to memorize it for the last few miles of the marathon to give myself that mental boost I know I’m going to need.

And if you’re not a runner, maybe this poem will make you want to give it a go.
These aren't my feet, but my trainers have got that muddy before

I like to feel the squish of sand underfoot
To feel the dawn wind
To hear the birds
To learn my strengths and weaknesses
To be out there
To switch off
To go to another place
To smell that summer has arrived
To clear my mind
To see the wood for the trees
To stand outside myself for a bit
To do something simple, dull and repetitive
To give problems some perspective
To enjoy the freedom
To hear the quiet
To feel tired and worn out
To beat that part of me that wants to stop
To feel that feeling I get afterwards
Don't call me a runner….I just like to run