Wednesday, 27 February 2013

It used to be a chore.

Yesterday evening, at about 10pm, I asked my daughter to make me a cup of tea because, as I said to her 'I'm still working, I haven't had a rest all day, apart from when I went for a run.'  It seemed a totally logical thing to say, but when did a 4.5mile run become a 'rest?'  Even if it is only a recovery run, at an easy pace, it is surely not 'a rest!'

When I started running it was a real effort to go out there.  I'd use just about any excuse I thought I could get away with: it was too wet, too hot, too early, too dark, I was too busy/too tired!  Luckily the person I was trying to make these excuses to (me!) was a pretty hard task master and she thought the excuses were pretty pathetic, so I grumbled to myself, pulled on my baggy old t shirt and leggings and went out for a run.  

Somewhere along the way, I'm not sure where or when, running became something I really wanted, and needed, to do.  I'll stand in my classroom watching the weather, trying to work out how I can get home and get out for a run before it gets dark, or before those threatening clouds decide to dump their rain all over Hampshire!  I get cranky at the mere thought of having to taper before a race, and would happily run every day if I thought I could do so without injuring myself!

Yes, there are still runs I don't enjoy while I am actually doing them, the run where I go off too fast and have to stagger home on tired legs are not great, but I only have myself to blame!  I don't particularly relish getting soaked to the skin when it rains (the chaffing can be nasty), but I don't ever regret going out there and running!  Okay, maybe the run where I tore the ligaments in my foot is one I regret, but apart from that every run has had its good points.  Whether it is an improvement in pace or form, an opportunity for me time or time to chat with Husbando, peace and quiet to look at the beautiful countryside around my house, or a nosey window shopping run along the King's Road, every run improves my ability to run and, more than that, improves me as a person.

I don't do 'relaxing!'  Time spent doing nothing, to me, feels like time wasted.  Discovering running has given me the opportunity to be, if not relaxed, at ease with my body and surroundings.  Not all the time, obviously - as anyone who has seen me red faced and pushing myself to the finish funnel will testify - but regularly and for a considerable length of time.  It is just me, the road and the repetitive, metronomic  rhythm of my feet.

I bloody love it!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Playing away!

Husbando and I are just back from a couple of days in Cambridge.  Husbando was there for a book fair, I was along for the ride!  I took a mountain of marking with me and spent a fair amount of time incarcerated in my room at the Premier Inn trying to make a dent in it.  It wasn't all work though.  We had a bit of free time.  On our first afternoon we braved the cold weather  to go for a run.  The absence of hills makes a change from home, but provides no shelter from the bitter easterly wind.  Whilst running alongside the side of the guided bus route we spotted a memorial in the middle of a field.  The lichen was too thick to read the engravings, and the receptionist at the Premier Inn looked blank when I asked her.  I was forced to resort to Facebook in search of more details.  

It turns out that it is a memorial to Elizabeth Woodcock.  It marks the spot where, in February 1799, she was trapped in a snow drift for 8 days.  She had been returning from the market and her previous stop had been at a local inn, where she had filled up her flask with brandy.  She was thrown from her horse during the journey, and befuddled by alcohol, she was unable to remount.  She took shelter under a hawthorn hedge and was covered by a snow drift.  It took 8 days for her to be discovered, still alive, under the snow.  Sadly she didn't survive long, she died on 24th July 1799, aged 43.  On her burial notice it is written 'She was in a state of intoxication when she was lost.  Her death was accelerated (to say the least) but spirituous liquors afterwards taken, procured by the donations of various visitors.'  

Saturday means parkrun day - even if I am far from home.  Friday night should see me tucked into bed early after a wholesome meal.  Going out to The Phoenix for the best Chinese meal I have had in ages was not going to be conducive to that!  And at the first sniff of gin and tonic my resolution not to drink flew out of the window!  My glass was never empty, so I can't have had more than a glass of wine can I?  Great to catch up with people over a lovely meal, even if I did feel a bit 'tired' this morning!

The lovely people of Cambridge parkrun made me feel very welcome.  It is always interesting to visit different parkruns.  The basic concept is the same everywhere - a free, 5k run against the clock - but every parkrun is slightly different!  Cambridge has a very organised start, with signs telling you where to stand based on your anticipated finish time.  I duly went to stand with the runners hoping to finish in about 25 - 26 minutes.  I seem to have missed most of the run briefing, but figured that so long as I followed the person in front I'd be fine!  

The course is in one small clockwise lap followed by 2 larger anticlockwise laps.  It is flatter than a flat thing that has been professionally ironed.  What it lacks in undulation it makes up for in twistiness!  I can honestly say that for most of the time I had no idea where I was.  I was hoping to run a fast (for me) time, but I got boxed in with the runners I started with, and for the first 2 laps I was surrounded and found it very hard to get past the other runners on the narrow paths.  I resigned myself to a slow time, thinking I was on for between 26 and 27 minutes.  The marshals were great, one of them called out times to runners he knew as the passed him.  This would have been great, but I had no idea where he was in relation to the distance left to run!  The finish is a deceptively long way away!  I know that it is at the end of 5k, but being a lapped race you pass the finish before you go to the finish, if you see what I mean.  I'd seen the turn of for the finish funnel on a previous lap, clocked a sign a bit further back saying 'Finish 400m' and in my mind I was going to veer off to the left and and be in the funnel.  Ha!  Not so!  The finish seemed to be ages away for a very long time!  I'd managed to pick up the pace on the final lap, finally managing to get a bit of space around me to run properly and I'd overtaken 25 people on my last lap and carried on accelerating to the finish funnel, crossing the line in 25mins 16seconds.  Not a great time for such a flat course, but at least I can improve on it when I get to go back!  

Next time I think I will ignore the suggested starting areas, and start nearer the front and go like stink from the start and hold on for as long as I can.  The cafe in Milton Country Park served an excellent cup of coffee and I chatted to some local parkrunners, where my pink trail shoes were something of a talking point.  It was great to get warm again having run through snow flurries!  

While I was 'playing away' great things were happening at my home parkrun of Basingstoke.  Nearly a quarter of the runners achieved new PBs and the course record, that has stood since July 2009 was smashed!  19 seconds were taken off the record to set the new one of 15mins 33 seconds!  I'll be back in Basingstoke next Saturday aiming to get a few seconds closer to my PB!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The race I didn't run

There's a saying that states you regret things you didn't do far more than things you did do.  This is very true.

This time last year I was on a high, even if I was slightly stiff, after running the Bramley 10.  I've just read back through my blog entry for the day and realised that despite not feeling 100% well, I went ahead and ran anyway.  This year, while enjoying running, I've rather lost my nerve when it comes to entering races.  I haven't felt as though I can run as fast as I want to and, as I know more and more runners at each of these events, I don't want everyone to see me clocking slower and slower times.  I don't think for one minute that anyone of them would judge me, but I don't want to be recording times that are miles slower than I ran in previous years or have to make excuses, either in my head or out loud, for my 'poor performance.'

So, I didn't sign up for this race this year.  Even as my pace has slightly picked up I didn't pluck up the courage to fill in the forms.  Then, when I finally decided that I may as well give it a go, it was too late. The deadline had passed.  I tried not to think about it too much, but it has been in the back of my mind. And there have been the constant drip, drip of Facebook status updates.

I went for a 10 mile run of my own this morning, around the route of the Alton 10 race, a challenging run at the best of times, made more so today due to a heavy early morning mist giving limited visibility. I tried not to think about all the other runners, many of whom I know, getting ready to run at Bramley.  I listened to my current audiobook, 'My animals and other family,' and settled down for my long, slow run.  I didn't clock watch at all, I just plodded along, up and down hills, meeting Husbando at his shop so that we could grab some brunch.  I'd run 10.6 miles in 1hr 35minutes.  Not fabulous, but not too bad for a long, slow run.  I was, however, very cross with myself.  If I could run that time on my own, when I wasn't pushing myself I knew I could have run a fairly respectable 10 miles in race conditions!  A crowd of other runners always urges one on and gives one something to pace oneself against.  I doubt I could have bettered my PB, set at Paris-Versailles in 2011, but I may have come close.

I came home to a Facebook page full of jubilant status updates from my fantastic, PB collecting, running buddies.  I am happy for them, yes, really I am!  But I do so wish I had been there too!

Given that I won't be doing Paris-Versailles this year (sob!) I have set myself a huge challenge now.  I need to get close to my 10 mile PB at the Alton 10!  A challenging route, it may not have the huge hill of Paris, but it does have hills aplenty!

Mind you, if it wasn't a challenge there wouldn't be any point in doing it would there?

Saturday, 9 February 2013

A bad week ends well

It has been a somewhat stressful week.  I love teaching, I really, really do!  You'd have to love teaching to put up with all the, ahem, rubbish that goes with teaching.  I had some time off last term due to stress, and when I returned to work my timetable was altered 'to reduce the amount of stress' I was exposed to.  The result is that I seem to have lost all my higher ability sets and had them replaces with low ability groups with behavioural problems.

Now, it is generally accepted that children value continuity.  Children with behavioural difficulties need continuity more even than the highly motivated children who enjoy being at school.  The result is that I have lots of classes where the behaviour of one or two children derails the learning of the whole class.  This is very stressful, and I feel really sorry for the children (few though they may be) in those classes who actually want to learn.

As usual, running has kept me sane.  Well as sane as I could ever be.  I ran Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.  A physics course on Tuesday evening meant I got home too late to run, and Friday was a scheduled rest day, but rest days are an integral part of any training programme and should not be ignored!  The desire to run on Friday evening, after a particularly grim day at work, was only assuaged by sharing a bottle of champagne with a friend!

This morning I woke up to find that is was trying to snow!  How very dare it try to snow on parkrun day?  And not just any parkrun day, but the 250th ever Basingstoke parkrun and my first time at my 'home parkrun' since New Year's Day!  It was lovely to see my 'parkrun family' again and catch up with news.  I set off with the thought that if I ran under 27 minutes I'd be happy.  I ran 27 minutes at Alice Holt last week, but I'd pushed hard to get that.  I set off well, felt quite comfortable and happy, hitting the 1km marker in just under 5 minutes.  The 1km marker is at the start of my least favourite bit of the course - the field, but I carried on, well, until I got to the top of the field which was an utter mud bath!  I confess that I walked through the mud, I wasn't wearing trail shoes, which may have slowed me down a bit on the main bit of the field, but I don't think that trail shoes would have helped too much in the really muddy bit, plus my trail shoes are brand new and pretty and I don't want to get them muddy!  As I ran I chatted briefly with various friends.  John and JoJo were taking it easy but still left me behind as they ran up Tennis Court Hill!  Andy and I played leapfrog for a while and I even managed to lap someone (admittedly that someone was going round with a buggy and a walking 3 year old), it is a long time since I have lapped anyone.

As I passed the bandstand the second time around I realised that I would definitely make it round in less than 27 minutes and there was a chance I could do it in less than 25!  This meant ramping up from the lazy pace I'd settled into and making a bit of an effort.  I pegged it through the woods and out onto the path to the finish, I hurled myself along the path, stupidly wasting time to glance at my watch.  I threw myself into the finish funnel and stopped my Garmin - 25:02!  Just missed it!

I'm not disappointed.  It gives me something to aim for next week.  And it is 3 minutes faster than when I last ran (child free!) at Basingstoke.  It may be I minute 45 seconds slower than my PB, but I am at least going in the right direction!  Hopefully I can do better next week!

I'll be running in London tomorrow, leaving home at some silly hour as Husbando needs to be in there at 6am.  At least this means my run will be over and done with nice and early!  Monday is the start of a 16 week training programme for my next marathon.  The first week of the programme should see me running only 16 miles, so I think I'll just carry on as I am at the moment and then up the mileage  so that I can get maybe and extra 20 + mile run in at some point.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Why I run.

Sometimes, after a long day at work, I wonder whether it is worth the bother of going out for a run.    Quite often I wonder this despite having spent many minutes looking out of the windows (I have what estate agents would call a 'double aspect' classroom) trying to work out what the weather will be like by the time I eventually down tools and go home.  Today was one of those days.  I was tired and cranky, but I had made the effort not to get roped into various meetings after school today with the thought that it would be nice to get home in daylight for a change, so there was nothing for it but to go for a run.  

After a day at work, where I am on my feet for most of the day, I find that the first half mile of any run is pretty ropey.  It is almost as though it takes that long for my feet to work out what they need to do, I struggle to get into a rhythm and feel like quitting, but the first half mile also takes me to the top of the first hill, so the next bit is down hill for a wee while!  Pretty soon my legs are back in the grove and running becomes, if not effortless, mindless.  I don't need to think about what my body is doing, I just go with the flow.  I'm not running for a time, although sometimes I'll play with speed a bit, speeding up until I get to a certain landmark and then gliding back to a cruising pace.  I'm running because it feels good to be out and about in the fresh air.  I'm not even running because I am training for a couple of marathons, I'm running because I can! The rhythm of my feet on the tarmac has an almost meditative effect, I feel as though I am on auto pilot, my mind can wander and I can think things through in a way that just doesn't happen if I am at home or work.  
And I see great things too!  Today I saw a peacock and a peahen - the peacock was trying to impress a very disinterested prospective mate, sadly I couldn't get my camera out of my pocket in time, but I did see yet another beautiful sunset!  Admittedly, I was struggling to stand upright in a very brisk wind as I took the photo, but it is safe to say that I have blown out all the cobwebs and stress from another day at work!

I started to run for more prosaic reasons.  I was fed up of the gym, but wanted to lose weight.  I don't think I ever imagined that it would become such an important and integral part of my life.  I've gained so much from running.  I've achieved things I never thought possible, made friends with people I'd never have met had it not been for running, and found the ultimate stress reliever!

I'd love to know why you run.  Please feel free to comment below.