Friday, 23 September 2016

The one I wanted to write

It's fair to say that my blog posting record over the last few years, possibly longer has been shockingly bad. More recently I've refocused attention on my original ambition, to be better than a average runner and that has got me thinking about all sorts of stuff.
There's a whole load of psychology going on in my running that I don't yet understand but maybe one day I will and I'll write about it.  But for now I'm just going to write about two of my recent runs. The thing is over the last year I've discovered how brilliant it is running with other people and honestly I love it. Having a commitment with someone else means that you just do it no questions unless cakes are involved. My last two longer runs have been on my own. 
Last Friday I had to help do some route checking for the Saltmarsh75 so I drove out to Tollesbury in Essex to check out the final stage of the run. It took in the RSPBs Old Hall reserve which is a pretty large expanse of freshwater marsh on the coast. The weathers been amazing this summer but not when I chose to run last week, it was properly raining and windy too.  Perfect for being stuck on a marsh miles from anywhere. Despite the driving rain, it was lovely. I set off, the tide was in the marshes were full of birds, I had my head phones in which is quite rare for me these days and I just ran. Nothing more nothing less just ran. On my own in the middle of nowhere, just me, Sigur Ros and a tonne of birds.  Total distance covered 12 miles fellow humans seen 0.  There something great about running in proper weather and then getting in your car soaked through. You know your alive. 
The second run was on Sunday. I'd been faffing about most of the day but wanting to get out and run and a little bit of darkness was not going to stop me.  So I rediscovered head torches. What a brilliant thing they are. My route took me out of my village on to the sea wall and then up what I have affectionately called fucking stansgate road. A two mile drag that never seems to end. Fairly obviously it was dark. Along the sea wall all I could hear was my footsteps, and the waders in the river chirping about. It's such a lovely sounds and I could listen to that for hours.  After reaching Marconi Sailng Club it was time to hit Stansgate.  For some reason I just decided to switch off my head torch. Bloody hell it was dark but I could just make out the Tarmac in front of me against the grassy edges of the road. It was a bit of surreal experience running along not really knowing what I was standing on. My footsteps echoing back down the road and almost sounding like there was someone chasing me. In those circumstances there's only one thing you can do and that's run flat out. Bouncing along with only the feel of the road and the noise of my feet to distract me. Eventually I got to the main road and ran into Steeple and into a car door that someone decided to open as I was passing. How funny I thought and so I clarified how funny it was with the occupant, in the only way a startled runner can... Sorry about that car occupant. 
It was a bit of an out and back route so eventually after my garmin clicked over to 5 miles I spun round and headed back home. It was so much fun running in the dark I did it again back down the hell street of fucking stansgate. Somehow it seemed quicker, maybe because of not being able to see it. It all looks the same in daylight so in pitch black it's not really any different. Apart from a ghostly figure of a startled barn owl jumping off its perch there was nothing to see, nothing at all.  Just hearing my feet and the distant sound of planes coming into on London.  This was the last day of the Paralympics and it got me thinking, that what I'd experienced for a brief 2 mile stint, must be similar to what it must be like running with a visual impairment. Just having to run and trust that there's nothing there waiting to hurt you, like parked cars or curbs. It's probably unlikely, but my thoughts wandered off to think about whether there were any homecoming Paralympians in the planes above waiting to land. I hope there was. 
Before I knew it was faffing about a bit more trying to add enough zig zags in to get over 10 miles. 
So whilst I do love running with people, because you share those moments, there's something quite special about the loneliness and isolation of getting out there on your own and just listening to your surroundings. Running like the wind and just being. 
It's runs like those that remind me why I want to be better than average. 

Untitled bore off update post

It seems that early autumn is when I think about my blog. Though this year it's a little earlier than it has been in previous years. Running wise it's been a funny year.  I got a VLM place in 2015 but unfortunately had to differ until this year.  In the early part of the year I rediscovered my absolute love affair with running.  I just couldn't get enough, and I loved it.  It took a while time to relise that I couldn't knock out faster runs but the distance came back fairly quickly. Then I discovered blisters and later worked out that not all size 7s are actually equal. Some are euro 40.5 some are 41's and in my case, the former seemed to be a tiny bit small and were the source of my blisters.  So there's a anal runners lesson in there, always read the label! Which is tricky when you're buying online!
That was one of dark points.
Training was made much easier by the fact that I was running with other people. People discovering that they could do remarkable things by putting one foot in front of the other.. Pretty cool really. And then there was the Couch to 5k crowd. One of them has made the transition to a regular runner and on Sunday will finish his second half.  I love that.  I love running with others.
Marathon day was a great occasion as it always is. Having done it before it was less intimidating than the first time and I decided that I'd run with Rachel who I'd trained with a lot of the winter and by luck we managed to get in the same start. It's fair to say she didn't have the best day and the injury she'd been struggling with for a few weeks came back and hurt. By about 8 miles in she was in quite a bit of pain, so obviously the only thing I could do was run off after my own time, sorry Rach.  I knew that I wouldn't be in PB territory as I'd missed too many long runs but I was pretty confident I'd get round and so my mission was to enjoy it and high five as many kids as possible. As I trudged along embankment towards Westminster, I realised that I'd be pretty close to my 2008 time and hopefully a bit under. Maths is not my strongest subject and maths after 20 miles is certainly HARD. But as I turned that famous last corner on to the Mall I finally worked that I was very close to being slower.  I've never ran so hard as I did in those last few hundred meters. But I did beat my previous London time by 3 whole seconds. Ha ha
Then came the post London apathy where I couldn't really face pulling on my trainers. But about May I decided that I was not going to waste all the work. I got out with a few friends and did some trails in the local woods, then increased the distance a bit to do a few runs in the half region.
I've managed a new PB on a 5k and I've got a half marathon coming up on Sunday.
So running wise it's not been a bad year really. Looking at my Strava stats I seem to have run nearly 500 miles so far this year. Not too shabby really...  And I think this winters going to be good for running.