Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

Well it’s a bit warm outside.

I’m sitting in the bedroom on the north side of the house, wondering if I can feel a cool breeze coming through the window, or if it’s just an optimistic wish. I can see the whomping willow in the neighbour’s garden swaying gently to a silent disco but when I put my face outside, there’s nothing coming in.

Normally when I look at the forecast a few days ahead, it’s almost always guaranteed to be a couple of degrees lower on the day, but this time it’s gone from a predicted 28C (82.4F) to an actual of over 31C (87F) .

Even based on the predicted temperature, I’ve set off for all my runs this week at 7.30am at the latest, except for the Tuesday night club run. Has it made a difference? Barely. They’ve all felt like seriously hard work. Today’s six miler was one of the easier ones but only because Bev and I decided to do laps of Storeton Woods to stay in the shade.

Did I mention that Beverley was back?

My occasional running buddy from across the road who hadn’t been running for yonks because of injuries and life, has been forced to get her proverbial s**t together in the last few weeks as she’s doing the Great North Run this September, just a week after I do the Caernarfon Half.

If I took a break of a couple of months, never mind a year or so, I would have to start slowly and build up the distance gradually. Bev did her first run with me a couple of weeks back and banged out six and a half miles with no problem at all. Then did an eight plus miler with me through the magical woods of Dibbinsdale just a few days later.

This Wednesday just gone, we attempted double digits by running to Birkenhead Park and back. That nearly broke us both. Not only because there wasn’t a huge amount of shade on the way to and from the park but because quite a lot of the pavements were made with stone flags that really sapped the energy from our legs. Still, it was time on our feet and 10.5 miles were in the bag.

So, today we went for soft terrain and shade which was sooo much better. Aside from the dogs. There were a lot of dogs, most of which were quite chilled and out there, as we were, to get their runs in early before the heat rose. One, though, came up from behind and jumped up alongside me, frightening the life out of me. His (or her) owner vainly called them back without so much as an ‘are you alright?’ to me. I know I probably should have walked as I passed the dogs but we weren’t going fast at all, and a little bit of mutual consideration wouldn’t have hurt.

Once my heartrate returned to a less voluminous beat, we carried on. Going along the widest trail is about a mile, so we pootled around three times and then headed back home. We came across a carving in a hidden part of the woods. Apparently, in the nineteenth century, fossilised ‘hand’ prints were found. The quarrymen, who found them, thought they were the remains of the people who weren’t so fortunate as to get onto Noah’s Ark. The carving though, is the rough estimation of the dinosaur that probably, more likely, created the prints.

Most of the route was bouncy underfoot which was a great improvement to Wednesday’s run. It was also a good time to practise one of the exercises of a six-week course that I began on Monday.

It’s called a Running Movement Workshop, and Nigel, the teacher, reckons that if we regularly do the exercises he showed us in the class, we’ll all be stronger, faster runners. So that is definitely worth a punt.

One of the things he wanted us to practise, when we went out for a run was to: ‘run on stumps’. To try and emulate the hip rotation that double-amputees use when moving.

It’s a weird thing to get your head around, and as I find rubbing my tummy while patting my head very difficult, it’s definitely still work in progress.

I have found that if I swing my elbow a little further back, my hip naturally comes forward more. As I move I can feel that opposite rotation in the torso to what my hips are doing. I’ve added a link to someone analysing the running style of Eliud Kipchoge who does this movement effortlessly.

I decided to get Anne to watch me do a few strides in the garden using my usual method and this new way of running. Although it felt strange to me, she told me I looked more relaxed when I ran on ‘stumps’. So that’s interesting.

As we circled the woods today, I had a few goes. I realised that my knees also picked up a little more, which was handy with all the tree roots around. It will take a little while to become second nature, but if I can end up with just an ounce of Kipchoge’s running style then it’s got to be good.

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