Running

Game, Set and Match

Tennis balls on a court
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I’ve just had a nail-biting time listening to the tennis on BBC 5 Live today. What a gargantuan match, and although I’ve got nothing against Medvedev, I am exceedingly pleased that Rafael Nadal was the first of the three male GOATs (Greatest Of All Time) to get past the 20 Grand Slam deadlock. (I’m not including Serena Williams in this as she’s in a league of her own).

I never, normally, speak on this blog about anybody else but myself, which is a terribly egotistical thing I grant you. But every now and then, you have to stand back and applaud absolute super-duperness when you see it.

I look at the grit, determination and astounding longevity of players like Rafa and I’m just in awe. You have to be a very special type of person who can be up at that level, for such a long time. Probably slightly bordering on obsessive – part of me wonders what their partners think of them – and phenomenally disciplined.

I know that I have nothing of that kind of personality in me, and I wouldn’t actually want it, if I’m being honest, but I would like just a teeny tiny bit more self-discipline than what I’ve got now.

It’s not at level zero, so that’s good, but there have been many days, where I could have just gone out for even a couple of miles and felt better for it, but actually did squat. Of my hoped for 100 miles this month I managed just over 70, and also just 21 of the 30 days of Yoga with Adriene.

So that was alright, and I’m not going to beat myself up about it, but I definitely have peaks and troughs with my exercise, and I occasionally wallow in mini sloughs of despond. I think that I’m not progressing, or worse, that I’m going backwards in my fitness. Sometimes that thinking gets me started again, but mainly it doesn’t help. And actually, unless I have taken a huge break, as I did the year before last, the going backwards thing is just not true.

I am progressing, but very, very slowly. That’s partly do with my stop/start approach to running, and partly because, I think, some folk have a more natural ability. It’s like when one group of people, if they decide to go on a diet, can lose weight really easily, whereas others struggle. So this concept of progress has to be internal to each of us, unless we’re one of the Rafas.

So I’ve thought of two things that will hopefully keep me going, especially during these winter months.

Firstly, I’ve put myself on the Pensby Runners committee, which is quite impressive considering I was a glass of brandy away from not going to the AGM last week at all. It’s a way to be part of the conversation to encourage people, and keep them interested, and that will hopefully then inspire me to stay motivated.

Secondly, I’ve got another Half Marathon booked in June. Although I’ve got a couple of 10Ks  and things in between, this Half will be the first one I’ve done with my mate Salena since I don’t know when. Both of us completed our first HMs in March 2014, in Liverpool. I beat her in that one. We’ve done a few since, but not for a long time, and looking at her Runkeeper stats, she’ll wipe the floor with me in this one, but there is still time for a little improvement and who knows what will happen. Perhaps the inner Serena in me will burst out! There’s nothing like a bit of rivalry to get the juices going!

Running

Runcorn Cross-Country Race

I don’t think I have cared for a pair of trainers as much as I have cared for these trail shoes. Okay, this is only my second official XC race, but I am fairly certain that this process of scrubbing the several layers of grime and grass after each time may turn into a ritual. It would be quite a therapeutic exercise, if it weren’t so very cold outside. However, there is some satisfaction to, slowly, uncovering the patches of neon pink until they join up.

Town Park, in Runcorn, seems like a rather lovely country park, or it did before we came and churned it up. I’ve never actually been to Runcorn, even though it’s only twenty minutes away by car. I’ve driven over the lovely arch bridge many a time, on my way to or from Liverpool, when I lived there, but never stopped because I had no reason to, until now.

Having finally succumbed to the dreaded disease over Christmas, this was the first time I would be giving it some welly and I was a bit nervous. I know a few runners now, that have suffered, or are still suffering from Long Covid, and it sounds pretty horrible, so, for once, I was a bit relieved that I am a very slow runner, and wasn’t going to push my lungs to their limit.

The course was a little less muddy than my first race, but there were still plenty of places where I nearly left my shoes behind, to be sucked in to the squelch. Luckily I had made sure the laces were tight, and triple-knotted, and tucked out of the way. I carried my phone this time, in a little plastic bag in case I fell. One of these days I will get a fancy watch, but for now this will have to do.

It was two laps, like the last time, which meant I had to get up two hills twice. The first hill of the lap was manageable, and I felt quietly pleased, as, I think, a year ago I would have struggled. The second, which has been dubbed the ‘ski slope’ (think ‘Black route’ as opposed to nursery slope) was a swine. As well as the steep gradient, it got increasingly slippery, and by the time I heaved myself up it the second time, I was going backwards almost as much as I was going forwards.

It did seem to take me a good two miles to get my breathing feeling more comfortable, but I think (hope) that’s because I was pulled along too fast at the beginning, and nothing untoward on the lurgy front.

Again, I was the last Pensby Runner to come in, but that didn’t matter, so much as finally seeing that Finish line. I was welcomed in warmly by the rest of the gang, and I didn’t fall, I didn’t twist my ankle, and I didn’t lose my trainers, so, for me, it was a win.

Life, Running, Walking

Marathons – never say never again…

During the walk on Sunday, I managed to first convince myself to run another marathon, and then convince myself not to.

The walk took just over 3 hours and gave me ample time for vacillating. Just over 7.5 miles (12.25 km), so it was leisurely, with a couple of stops for using the facilities, or opening a coffee flask. Our group gets together periodically, and there is often a little venture out sometime around the New Year.

I actually got into this walking for pleasure lark with these very people, or some of them, when they decided to embark upon the challenge of doing the Coast to Coast walk in 2015. We did about 200 miles (as we got lost a couple of times) over two weeks, from St Bees in the North West to Robin Hood’s Bay in the North East. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, when I wasn’t knackered, but it’s still something that I don’t do much of, except when someone asks ‘shall we do a walk?’. More often than not, it’s these guys.

This Sunday, we took in a chunk of West Wirral, starting at Thurstaston, along the beach towards West Kirby, and then back along the Wirral Way taking in the Dungeon (not actually a prison cell). The weather was cool but brilliantly sunny and dry; a perfect walking day.

Some of the group are runners, so I wasn’t fully boring them with my contemplations. I think Brian was the main recipient. He has done a number of marathons in the past, and, having required the assistance of a medical tent at the end of his last two, he has knocked it on the head, at least for a while. I have no idea why I suddenly felt like I wanted to try one again, given that my only previous two attempts were back in 2015 (they sandwiched the walk – it was a busy year).

Reflecting on the good second experience in Athens (November), as opposed to the bad first one in London (April), I know that I enjoyed it because I was, for me, extremely fit. I had bagged a Half Marathon that September in just under 2 hours. So with all my London training, and with all that walking under my belt, Athens felt like fun. I ended up doing them both in about five and a half hours, but I was running with a friend for the second one, and we ran at her pace.

Perhaps there is a part of me that wants to get under five hours, because I know I could have done in Athens. Perhaps the pain of training is so far away that I’ve forgotten that I hated it (not at all like childbirth – but you get my drift). At a couple points, during our perambulations, I was seriously close to going home and signing up for something this September.

But, as the walk progressed, and we climbed up a hill, and my right hip started to twinge a bit, I realised that, before I even start contemplating crazy things like that, I need to get myself to a level of fitness that hasn’t been in my body in over six years. It’s not unachievable, but I’m going to give it more than a few months.

Still, September 2023 in Berlin, around my 50th birthday, may be calling to me?

Life

Week 1

And whoosh! A whole week of the year has gone in the blink of an eye!

Not quite; I did have my eyes open but, after all the festivities and anticipations of the new year, it does seem to have come to this point very fast.

I think it has something to do with the previous 10 day isolation. That long ago time of glorious relaxation. Nobody to see, nowhere to go, and, luckily, no real symptoms to manage. Plenty of nice food and wine. For an anti-social sod like me it was heaven!

Although, to be fair, we were completely and totally ready to leave the house on New Year’s Eve  to spend a delayed Christmas/New Year with Anne’s eldest in London. But, after a couple of days there, a night in Leicester at my big sister’s, two days babysitting of our grandson, who, despite my fitness, can run the legs off me, and a trek into the wilds of Sheffield today, to see our new nephew, I’m ready for a warm flannel and a lie down again.

There was one day at home in that list above, but it was spent getting a bit of running done and batch cooking a chili for my brother’s freezer, as they will be busy enough over the next few weeks without having to cook.

It was so lovely to see them all, but getting there was a tad hair-raising, given the snowfall en route in the Peak District. Anne tells me it was quite breath taking. I had no idea as I didn’t dare take my eyes off the road ahead!

Snowy hills on the way to Sheffield.
Travelling to Sheffield, or is it the Alps?!

I know that I hadn’t set any official resolutions this year, but I need to pull myself out of the December lard, so I thought the two challenges I completed in January last year feel like good place to start. Adriene, my personal YouTube yoga teacher, does a new 30 day challenge each year and very kindly she begins it on the 2nd of the month for those who may have imbibed too much. I’ve managed to get on the mat every day so far, and already my lower back twinges less and my calves feel less tight. The other challenge is running 100 miles. Currently, I’m quite behind where I’d like to be, but hopefully, I can build it up as the month continues. And what better motivation to get out early doors when I can see skies like this as dawn comes in.

Blue and purple skies in the morning during my run
Morning Glory

Happy New Year!