Running

Running up that hill

I’m sitting on the bed, propping my legs up on pillows in the vain hope that that will help them recover faster. To be fair it’s a wonder that I can walk at all given what I’ve put them through this morning.

On this anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and death day ( I wonder how many people actually do die on their birthdays?) I decided that I hadn’t had enough hills last week in the Calder Vale 10 miler. I decided I wanted to triple the climb and run a few miles further.

Actually, I didn’t decide any of those things, but when Jeff posted on our club page, that he was running the route of the Excalibur Half Marathon, and wondered if anybody wanted to join him, I stupidly said yes.

Jeff, inspecting another probable casualty of the winds at the beginning of the year. Still alive enough to blossom though.

I was planning to go around 13 miles this weekend anyway, in my (making it up as I go along) training plan so it seemed like a good idea. I knew it would be a bit hilly, but I hadn’t really looked at the route before I volunteered. The final hill was Moel Famau which is about 1820 ft high.

Stats for route: 3.45 hrs; 13.36 miles; 2794 ft ascent
Map for route including slow and fast sections - mainly slow
Not many fast sections!

My stats have been borrowed from Jeff as my Runkeeper app threw a wobbler. Granted it looks like almost walking pace but that could only be achieved with some running thrown in, and I did do a fair bit of running, albeit steadily.

We were in two groups, as Becky, who drove us down, and Mark, set off at a faster pace with two other guys who had met us there. They’re all good runners and I was glad not to hold them back. Jeff, who knows these hills like the back of his hands (although we did go off track for just a hundred yards or so) was happy to do a little light coaching for me and have time on his feet.

It was a lovely, although slightly hardcore, introduction to fell running, and I really appreciated Jeff taking the time to patiently run with me, and give me a few pointers. I didn’t have a rucksack, but learned that it’s pretty essential kit, to hold your food and water, and the layers that you may take off and put on again over the course of a run. Today it remained dry, but the sunshine we had on the Wirral didn’t quite appear on the Welsh hills, and the easterly winds, as we rose higher, nearly took my legs out once or twice. Jeff carried a spare waterproof jacket for me, as well as a whistle, map, and compass, even though he knew where he was going. He also had some solid nut and choc bars, which I normally wouldn’t have while running. But on a steep uphill that I could barely walk up, I scoffed one of them down happily.

For every up, there were downs, and some of them were grassy strips of heaven where I felt like a gambolling goat. I did my best Phoebe (from Friends) impression, flailing my arms around wildly, feeling the exhilaration of the descent. Some stretches, however, were so steep, it was all I could do to stay upright and keep from falling. By the end of them my calves were burning and I was longing for an uphill again!

All in all it was a pretty amazing, and knackering Saturday adventure, and I think that I’d like to do it all again. Not yet, but perhaps in a couple of months, just to see how my fitness levels compare, and take in the same terrain in summer. I’ll have to see if Jeff’s available.

Running

Calder Vale Good Friday 10 Miler

Well I didn’t want to do this.

Not when I realised there were less than 200 people running it, and it was hilly, and it was an hour and a half’s drive away, and no other Pensby Runner was doing such a crazy thing on a Good Friday Bank Holiday.

Did I mention it was hilly?

A view of part of the village across the river and the hills around it.
Rolling green hills everywhere you look

You’d think I would have been wise to that fact with the word ‘Vale’ in the place name. A nice poetic name for a valley. I was actually scrabbling around, earlier in the week, trying to find a way to contact the race organisers in order to see if there was a cut-off time to complete it in, and whether the marshals would hang around long enough for me.

This morning finally came around and I spent a lovely early hour, sitting in the back garden with Anne, drinking tea and listening to birdsong. It would have been nice to sit there just a little bit longer but my kit was laid out and my porridge was cooking. Whatever happens, I thought, I am just going to enjoy it.

The journey up was happily uneventful, except that I saw an increasing number of cars and lorries on the Southbound side, coming to a standstill. I later found out that a big section of the motorway was closed while an overturned lorry was being retrieved. Luckily no-one was badly hurt but it’s not what you want when you set off for a long weekend break.

Google Maps took me along some scenic country lanes before I landed in the village. Plenty of runners were milling around, or getting ready for the 4 mile ‘fun’ run, and I was able to ask some people what the race was like.

            It’s great. You’ll love it.
Is it hilly?
Err, yes, very.
Will the marshals wait for me.
Absolutely! No need to worry about the marshals – Just worry about the hills.

To be fair, everyone I chatted to seemed really friendly and welcoming, or it could have just been the Lancashire accent, which always sounds friendly. There was no cut-off time, and there was an enormous variety of cakes at the village hall. I just hoped they’d still be there when I got back.

As I was milling around at the start, some guy, who looked very serious, started talking about a 4.5. I think it was an indication of difficulty, and from his animation I think that meant this run was very difficult, but I actually had no idea what he was talking about. Having consulted Google, I still don’t!

It was an understated beginning. Even though I’d ensconced myself at the back, there were not that many people between me and the start line; no gun or hooter. Just a quiet ‘GO’ and we were off. The small huddle of people quickly stretched away into a long snake in front of me, and then within a few minutes, that snake disappeared. There were a handful of people behind me and I could sometimes see a few people out in front, but for long stretches I was by myself, which I didn’t mind. I used that time to enjoy the views and try to get my breathing to a regular level. Even though I wasn’t pushing it, the constant undulations made it difficult to get into a rhythm.

I kept running though, all the way to around mile 6 where there was an incline that seemed to go on forever, and I had to walk for a bit. That was close to when I started chatting to Denise. I’d caught her, and a few other people, up at this point but I was no match for her on this hill. She wasn’t fast but she kept going all the way without walking, which was amazing. We kept each other company most of the rest of the way, which I appreciated because I was starting to feel it by then. That is a lovely thing about running, especially running toward the back, you meet nice people who are happy to chat. Turns out Denise and her two friends all work in the NHS, so it was doubly lovely to have kept them company.

The final mile or two were good downhills with only a few tiny bumps. Everything felt like a bump after having got up mile 6. I managed it all in just under 2 hours according to my Runkeeper. That’s quite reasonable considering I do that time in training on a much flatter route, so I’m pleased. I managed to secure one of the last slices of scrummy chocolate brownie too, a nice icing on the cake. I was the last Pensby across the finishing line, but also the first, and as I’m a glass half full kind of person, that will do.

Running

Down Time

I’ve just come back from a shorter long run this morning, a steady eight miles. Because last week I finally got over the ten-mile barrier that had seemed so elusive, it gave me an easy mathematical calculation to dial back to 80% for my ‘down’ week.

Magnolia tree with half the petals on the ground
Already the magnolia is losing its petals

If you have pored over as many training plans as I have, you’ll know they recommend one of those every three or four weeks. It apparently reduces injuries and lets your body rest and consolidate the previous weeks’ work before you push on to the next section. Think of it like climbing a very high mountain. You do a chunk, rest up, and then climb higher.

When I occasionally do get into a regular habit of training, I look forward to these weeks, as firstly, I’m naturally lazy, and secondly, it’s kind of good for the ego to know that, whereas a few weeks ago, eight miles felt like hard work, it now feels quite comfortable. I usually time it around when I have my period, which currently seems to have sped up to a 25 day cycle for some reason. My energy levels naturally take a dive then so it works out well.

This week I’m also starting to feel the sad loss of my usual masseur, which is ironic as when I did use to visit her once a month, she’d normally leave me crying. But she has magic hands that sorted out all the tight spots before they built up too much. My last appointment with her was back in January, and then she left to give birth. I may have to explore other options while she’s on Mat. leave but it’s a difficult thing to allow yourself to be prodded and pummelled by a complete stranger. Perhaps, what I actually need is to double-down on the yoga and the foam rolling until she comes back. We’ll see.

Logo for Wirral Seaside Runs
Last Wednesday of the month for the next 5 months, at 7pm

My down week also coincided with a downturn in the weather which was fortunate. As instead of getting spray-gunned by hailstones and pushed back by a driving wind during the first of this year’s (fully live and non-virtual) Wirral Seaside Runs, I put on a woolly hat, two layers of gloves, four layers of clothing plus a big fat winter coat and marshalled.

I’ve written about these runs before in a blog, but as I’m part of the ‘putting-it-together’ squad now, this first one was a learning curve. Nigel had a big carload of gear, like signs, fold up tables, gazebos etc, that needed setting up, at the beginning, along the course and at the end. 

Then, of course, there were the people required to dish out the numbers and pins, register late-comers (although to be fair, I don’t think anybody had any last minute thoughts along that line with this weather) and get them started. There were marshals to keep them on track, the people making sure they all pass the blue mats that register the chips, the person dishing out water and the first-aid person.

And before all of that, you need someone to drum up the interest by getting all the advertising done in the weeks before hand.

All this for a 5K run! 

I was just there to help get the equipment up at the start and finish, so I still don’t know the full extent of the effort required, but what I do know is, that these races, however small, need people. To organise, to help out, to be part of the team that makes it happen. And if there are no volunteers, the runs just won’t run.

This first Wirral Seaside Run did happen, even though the weather was shocking, and we spent half the time pushing the final 10-metre funnel posts back in, that the wind flung out. The winner rocked up in 18:13, and the final person clocked 40:14. Both of those, and all the nearly two hundred people in between, braved the elements to help make a local race successful. 

Five more to go this year, and fingers crossed, the weather will be kinder. I’m hoping to run in at least one or two of them myself, but I was happy this week to clap them in, just so I could get the feeling back into my fingers.

Running

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.

Running

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?

Running

In Memory of Roy

Roy, at last Spring’s fundraiser Challenge.

Last night we ran the first Chairman’s Challenge of the year. It has now been renamed the Roy Fisher Challenge in honour of our long-serving previous Chairman who sadly died last week.

It seemed ironic, that our first club meet, after he passed way, should be this race. Roy devised it over a decade ago and it has been held quarterly ever since. Nigel, the new Chair, made a small but poignant speech as he had known him over forty years. He ended by encouraging members to think of Roy as they were navigating the harder parts of the up-hills, and if any expletives came to mind, then his work was done!

The evening was also the inauguration of the Fisher-Lite Challenge, which asked only that we do the first two hills as opposed to all three. I chose to do this one, as I really didn’t want people to be waiting ages for me to finish the big one as I’m even slower in the dark. I have done the big one once, last year, when Roy was still with us and able to get out and about. And I will have another go when it gets lighter. But this slightly shorter version was a good way of keeping my hand (or feet) in. With me were 21 other people, many of whom were still running novices and building up their stamina towards the club’s Couch 2 10K programme. Novices they may have been, but apart from one DNF (Did Not Finish) due to injury, they all completed this tough course brilliantly. 

I ran alongside, and often behind, two of the newbies, Rachel and Stef. They had hardly run any hills at all before this, so it was a trial by fire and they stormed it. It just goes to show, that with a little consistency and determination, amazing things can be achieved. It also goes to show how much of a natural born runner I am not!

The full challenge had 25 participants and all of them got to the end. It was lovely to see so many people out on a cold, dark night to salute or to swear at the old chairman.

Running

Aintree 10K

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks as the charger of my laptop gave up the ghost. I had to go into the Apple shop in Liverpool to choose between buying one off-the-shelf for a lot of money, or getting talked at by an engineer who checked and verified that my charger was indeed broke before giving me one for slightly less money. I don’t get it either.

So, today, instead of being all luvvy-dovey and romantic for only day in the entire calendar, I’m writing a blog about my race yesterday. But don’t worry, there’s a nice pot of tea brewing and Anne’s picking up the Fish ‘n’ Chips soon.

A very un-centred picture of the eventual race medal

Because the cost of entering official races are often so extortionate these days I only justify it if I’m working towards a Half Marathon. Yesterday’s Aintree 10K was a freebie, courtesy of a win in the lucky dip at the Pensby Runners Christmas party – I also probably won a dose of Covid at that do, but that’s another story!

 I haven’t done a 10K race in a long while and I wasn’t sure how I’d do. When I do 6 miles in training it can take 1 hour 10, sometimes 1 hour 15. So between 11 and 12 minute miles. There never seems much more in the tank when I’m done so I didn’t expect to go much faster in the race, but a teeny bit of me hoped to get close to 1 hour 5.

I’ve never actually been to the race course here, and it wasn’t exactly a day that showed it off to its finest. A dreary, damp and windy Sunday morning, and I could think of better ways I could be spending my time than going there. But I put my big girl’s pants on and didn’t wimp out, and got to the place just after the Half Marathon people had set off.

I’m very glad I didn’t opt for the Half Marathon place. Partly because I’ve not been further than 7 miles for ages, and partly because the course was 5K loops around the race course. For the Half you needed to go round at least 4 times which looked a bit soul-destroying and the scenery ain’t all that. I caught up with Mike later, a fellow Pensby runner who had done it. But he was a pro, and said he just got his head down and got it done. I could do with a bit of that mentality sometimes!

Mine was 2 laps, and the saving grace was that the course was fairly flat. Because I had got there early enough, I decided to do something that I almost never do before, in a race. I warmed up properly. I started jogging around. A little bit self-consciously at first ( only other people doing that were way more athletically built) then with a little more oomph. After ten minutes I stopped and was about to have a rest when the organisers gathered everyone round to do a few minutes of on-the-spot drills. Star jumps, fast feet etc.

Well that wore me right out, but perhaps it didn’t, because my final time was 1 hour 3 minutes which was more than I hoped. And to be honest, if it wasn’t so windy I might have even gone faster, so I was very pleased.

I have some friends doing another 10K at the beginning of May, and I’m tempted to join them. This run was definitely a nice confidence boost, and has shown me that all those slow runs are adding up to the occasional speedy one, and it pays to warm up.

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?