Feelin’ Good

It was a new day and I was out for a short five miler this morning. I can call it short because my long runs are at nearly double that now. I can’t quite get past the 10 yet and I did feel a bit frustrated with my 9.75 on Friday, my legs just felt like jelly towards the end, but I’m nearly there.

The road sign, Rest Hill Road, at the corner of the road.
The top of my most dreaded hill

I suddenly realised on this run that, for the past few weeks, my regular hilly bits have been surmountable with less of the huffing and puffing than I had been doing before. That stretch up to the top of Rest Hill Road, where previously I have often slowed to a walk, is still very tough, but doesn’t fill me with the same dread. The only time in the last month that I had to walk it was when my head was a bit fuzzy with a hangover. I am starting to feel stronger, not always faster, but stronger again, and hopefully, I’ll keep this momentum going at least until my next Half in June.

I blame the Heswall hills that I’ve been forced to do with the club runs. It’s virtually impossible to create a route without any inclines there, and very easy to include some steep ones, which they do, quite often. Tuesday night’s harder one was dubbed ‘The Long and Winding Road’ for its many twists and turns. Because most people of my ability usually shun the harder routes, I was, of course, at the back and not by choice on this occasion. It was a bit strange at times, because it was dark and there are some stretches of roads are very countryside like and don’t have houses. I had my head torch but it was a tad spooky and I think I’ll stick to the other routes next time until it gets lighter. Despite that, or maybe because, I put a good turn of speed in (for me) that I seemed to be able to maintain most of the way, which was very pleasing.

The sun in the sky was glorious today, still a little chill when it goes in, but I don’t mind that once I get going. The gorgeously transient magnolias are almost fully open, and the blossom on the tree is vibrant. Countryside roads seem a different prospect in the day time and have the added bonus of allowing you to inhale some nice ripe farmyard aromas. To be honest, I actually don’t mind them as much as people overloading on bottled scents. That can sometimes knock me sideways. Sadly I didn’t spot any dragonflies or butterflies but the birds flying high were twittering away.

It is nice to get that strength back. It takes a hell of a long time to get there, and I berate myself when (and it’s always been ‘when’ not ‘if’) I fall off the running wagon for any length of time, because, despite what they say about it staying in your legs, it never seems to in mine. 

However, I’ll not think about it now. After a busy few days, I’m about to sit down with a nice glass of wine with Anne, and put my feet up. I’ve got next week’s runs planned though so they won’t stay up for long. Not when they’re feelin’ this good.


Do You Remember The First Time?

The other night I was doing a club run, and found myself comfortably at the back of the six-mile group. Sometimes, if you’re not quite feeling the energy surging, taking it easy and just getting time on your feet is the way to go.

A bunch of snowdrops on the side of my running path.
Random picture of snowdrops from my run

I cantered alongside Jim, who was the official tail runner (so no-one’s left behind), and we started chatting about life, the universe and marathons. It was a steered conversation because I am thinking about my final bit of course work for this year. It’s about completing your first marathon, so naturally I asked him a) if he’d run any, b) why, and c) how it felt.

I assumed that all seasoned club runners would at least have bagged one, because, as Jim told me, it’s what every non-runner asked him. ‘Have you done a marathon?’ Or, even more strangely specific, ‘have you done London yet?’. 

London was actually my first marathon, so I’m nothing if not predictable. I felt that I’d finally be able to call myself a runner if I did complete one, because I used to suffer from terrible ‘imposter syndrome’.

Jim’s first was in Stoke, which sounded much harder with all those hills. But apparently it was just in training for London, as who has ever heard of the Potteries Marathon? (Not many people it seems, as it no longer runs due to falling participant numbers). The hills of Stoke should have helped him wipe the floor with the big one, or so Jim thought. He told me, he was looking for a sub 3 hour finish, and right up to mile 22 he was on track and felt brilliant. Just as he waved happily to some family in the crowd, his legs suddenly lost their mojo, and those last 4 and a bit miles were torture.

I know now, that going through that ordeal was not necessary for me to get my ‘runner’ badge. In fact, one of the best runners in the club that I know, Ali, has never run one. Because she didn’t want to knock the fun out of running.

I recognise that feeling. My training for London felt arduous in the extreme and I think I hit a genuine point of delirium from mile 21 onwards for the actual day. The aftermath too was like a deflated balloon. But still, with hindsight, I am proud to have crossed that finishing line, even if I was muttering ‘10 In The Bed’ by the end to myself to distract my brain from the pain.

It has got me wondering though, about how other people view their marathon experiences (if indeed there was one). 

So drop me a line in the comments below, or wherever you see this post, about your first time. 

Did you love it? 

Did you hate it? 

Do you want to stay a marathon virgin?

Books, Walking

The Salt Path – Raynor Winn

For one of my pieces of coursework I was trying to find examples of travel writing when Anne handed me this book. And then I started underlining passages within it before she told me she’d borrowed it from a friend. Oops, sorry!

Front Cover of The Salt Path - Raynor Winn
A slightly bent cover – sorry about that too

I was going to just read the first chapter or two to get a feel for the style, but it was difficult to put down. There is a vivacity and gentle humour about it that keeps you interested, despite the slightly traumatic beginnings. I realised why when I found out that the book had originally been written by Raynor for just her husband, Moth, as a way of helping him to remember their journey. Sometimes it feels like a love letter, and is warm, intimate and poetic.

I went on a walk, with some friends, back in 2015, that took two weeks and was well planned with solid walls, hot food and showers to meet us each night. I thought that was a difficult trek. Ray and Moth spent months wild camping, walking nearly all of the 630 mile South West Coast Path because they had suddenly become homeless and Moth had been diagnosed with an incurable, degenerative disease that would affect his body and mind. If I’d had this book on my travels, it would have put my own privations into context.

Before their life on the road, Ray and Moth Winn had owned a house and farm in Wales and had lived there for thirty odd years, renovating the land and buildings while raising two children. But an investment in a friend’s business had turned sour, leading to a very costly court battle that saw them lose everything. The children, luckily, had accommodation as university students, but while the bailiffs were knocking on the door to take possession and the two adults was hiding underneath the stairs, Ray’s idea to walk began to form.

A very strange idea when her husband had just been told he had corticobasal degeneration (CBD), and was already starting to be unsteady on his feet. But as Ray says, she 

desperately needed a map, something to show me the way.’

Her descriptions of this deceptively long stretch of land are lyrical and she packs a lot of really interesting information in, about various spots along the route. If anybody is considering doing any part of that walk, then this book would be a great accompaniment. As is the book they used, Paddy Dillon’s ‘The South West Coast Path’. Even for me, who has no plans for any more long-distance hikes, it was alluring and made me want to take a teeny tiny trip down there.

There are also some very interesting reactions, when they divulge to people they meet along the way that they are literally homeless. Sadly a lot of it is negative so they don’t do so often. Raynor occasionally weaves in stories of other homeless people they encounter, as well as certain ‘statistics’, that bear no semblance to the very hard reality on the ground.

It’s a story about a journey, but as all stories about journeys end up being, it is so much more. Was their trek just delaying the inevitable social housing wait? Did Moth’s condition get worse with the arduous task of walking with his life on his back? Could they deal with the grief of the loss of their home and their livelihood? Did they always find a private place to squat?

I’ll give a little spoiler, there is hope at the end, and in the end, it’s a love story. For her husband, and for the incredible beauty of the natural world around them.