Life, Running

A Cat-astrophe

We have been minding a cat for the last few weeks and whenever I try and get the laptop out he insists on sprawling himself on me. I thought cats would be more aloof and keep themselves to themselves most of the time, but this moggy seems excessively social and has a thing about plonking himself on my lap or chest depending on how horizontal I am.

So I have now perfected the art of stretch typing. Laptop all the way down to my knees and fingers just about reaching to the keyboard while said cat drapes himself around my middle.

Cat, sitting on me, between me and my laptop
Yes, I’m very comfortable here thank you very much!

Ironically it keeps me focussed on the job in hand, instead of getting side-tracked by news stories or Instagram etc, as it’s not the most comfortable of positions to write in.

It has also, by dint of the cat not being human and not giving a fig about my disappointment, been a little bit cathartic (cat-hartic??!).

I had planned a long and steady 10 (or, if I could manage it, 12) mile run this morning and everything that could be prepared, was. Oats were consumed at the right time, Vaseline was applied appropriately, gels were packed and the weather was pleasantly cool.

First slightly off sign was a forced double-back three-quarters of a mile out because I knew I needed the loo. It happens, especially for runners, but I didn’t let it get me down and just thought that I had the advantage of being over a mile up before I’d even set out the door (this second time).

Then I listened to my running app training plan, which suggested I do the middle 6 miles at a slightly faster pace than my usual slow plod.

Perhaps that was the reason? But I’ve managed doing similar tempo runs before. Perhaps it was just my head going Pfffffuuuh, or words to that affect, but whatever it was, I stopped at 7.5 miles and I just couldn’t will myself to get going again. I was tired but I could have carried on, albeit slowly. I just decided to stop the app, stop my running and walk the last bit back (nearly 2 miles going the shortest route).

So now I’m very annoyed and I’m not sure if I can reason it away or whether I just have to wait, stroke the cat a bit more, and let the feeling pass.

Cat on my lap looking at me.
Talk to the paw as the ear ain’t listenin’

It could just be the culmination of a slightly unusual week.

Anne had a run-in with a hidden tree stump on the edge of a kerb a few days ago and pranged the front of our car. Our lovely, hybrid automatic has been replaced by a little, petrol, manual Skoda courtesy car. I haven’t driven a manual in years. It has been strange, trying to co-ordinate my left foot and hand to do so much, but I can report that, after the initial abject terror, it does come back to you pretty quickly.

I also went to a funeral this week as sadly, Peter, one of our fellow River Park volunteers, had died. I didn’t know him all that well but he was a friendly chap, especially to dog walkers who frequently went past us as we worked.

A few of us went, to represent this aspect of his life, and I realised, when I heard his brother’s eulogy, that it was a very small aspect.

It is rather strange and moving to hear about the life of someone that you only know a little. I knew that he was autistic but didn’t know that he lived a pretty independent life. That he had travelled all over the world including places like Hawaii and India. That he had a strong Catholic faith, and that his parents were part of a group of parents who refused to pay their rates as the Council could not find provision for autistic children in the 60s and who went on to create The Wirral Society for Autistic Children, which still runs today (renamed Autism Together) and supports a huge number of autistic people on the Wirral.

Thinking and writing about Peter has put my little run-fail into context a bit more. I still feel like it will be an uphill struggle getting fit for my half, but if I don’t worry about times and just enjoy getting out there it will be okay. I think.

Running

Seven Weeks to Race Day!!

It seems like an age since I’ve talked about running and it has been an age, or at least a good three months since I’ve run in any systematic way.

But the beginning of this week was officially the ‘seven weeks to go’ mark of my half marathon race in Scotland. That run that I’d talked about all the way back in March is actually, well, ‘racing’ towards me at an alarmingly fast rate and I need to knuckle down to something a little less piecemeal and a little more precise in my training for it.

I had hoped, when the going was really good in the first part of the year, to write some technical notes on ‘base training’. This is kind of the underlying body conditioning that you may see in the first four weeks of a sixteen week training plan. Perhaps I’ll get around to it in the build-up to another race.

However, for this race we are way past that point but I’m hoping that there is some ‘muscle memory’ from those early months. Plus, my body did get a jolly good workout during the Lincoln to Liverpool cycle ride. So all is hopefully not lost.

I gave myself a great confidence boost last Saturday when I managed a 9 mile run without too much pain and that was by far the longest run I had managed since April. I was exhausted for the rest of the day though so there is definitely still a lot of work to do.

Today I put my fair-weather runner predilection aside and went out in the cold drizzle for 10 miles.

The drizzle developed, after 30 seconds of running, into a heavier drenching. Knowing I would be out for about two hours gave me a few moments of panic. Then I breathed through it and reminded myself that I’ve been through worse. The Norwich Half in 2014 comes to mind for wettest race conditions ever and I survived that, so 10 miles here would be a cinch! It’s a good job though that the later iPhone models are waterproof as everything got a good soaking.

Muddy wet trainers and socks on the floor
Muddy and soaked

My aim is to try and do that 80/20 rule that I learnt on my Chi running course so this run needed to be slow. That is a little hard to gauge sometimes when you’re running on your own, as you can feel quite bouncy and energetic at the beginning. In fact I think that running deliberately slower than you can is almost as hard as going hell for leather.

This week I had already picked up the pace with the running club on Tuesday with a 7 mile handicap. Pensby Runners holds a mini race on the first Tuesday of every month, with the route alternating between 5 and 7 miles. It’s a handicap because you set off in the order of how long you would take to complete the route with slower runners going off first.

It was a good distance to test my ‘race pace’ for the half, which I hope will be around 11 mins per mile. A race, however informal it is, will always make you step up. Invariably you will want to keep the person in front within your sight so they will pull you along for a while. But you have to work out how much you can take without losing all your reserves to complete the full distance. My final average turned out to be 10.40 mins per mile which I was very pleased with as that included a sizeable hill at the end.

I didn’t feel dead on my feet at the end of that, but the following day when I managed half a mile instead of three I realised it had taken a lot out of me. So the rest of the week’s runs needed to be slow and purely about mileage.

Today, to stop me going off too fast I kept myself distracted with my favourite film review podcast, and periodically checking my body for any tightness. I have a bad habit of scrunching my toes until I focus on them and make them relax. And I’m very adept at slouching which is not great for your back.

I finished my ten miles in slightly over two hours which was fine: 12.07 minute miles, and now I’ve put my feet up to watch the Olympics which always blows me away! It’s not that you feel inadequate watching these people, it’s that they’re on a completely different planet.

Which is good because I don’t want to give up my trainers just yet. As I will never be one of the elite, the race will never be about competing against other people. It is all about me and how well I can improve and compete against myself.

Life, Running

Father’s Day

A bunch of flowers in a vase with Father's Day Cards

About a month ago I was happily looking at training plans for my September Half Marathon and seeing which ones I might actually manage to stick to for more than a couple of weeks.

Running to train though has slightly gone out the window for now.

Running for my own sense of wellbeing has replaced it.

Last week we learned that my dad’s treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (a type of cancer) was deemed by the consultant, to be not working. It had been a bit of a punt, but one we all thought, especially my dad, was worth taking. The alternative, which is where we are now, was ‘palliative care’.

The gentlest of phrases that means the biggest thing.

I laced up this morning and got out for my first run in nearly two weeks and had no other objective than to breathe.

My usual short but hilly 3 and a bit miler, so no decisions on which way to turn. Not fast, but steady and gradually my lungs opened up.

Dad had been in hospital for a week with his second infection, and we’d managed to get him back home on the afternoon before Father’s Day. He did enjoy the day with three of us kids and half his grandchildren coming to see him, but he was very tired. By the evening my big sis and I who were staying with him, seriously wondered if things were imminent as she spoon-fed him some pudding while his eyes could barely stay open.

We called the other siblings to come the following day, just in case, but the night’s sleep created an amazing transformation. He was attentive, chatty, alert, ate his food himself and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the rest of the family.

There are five of us children and we’re similar to each other but different enough to squabble about the best way to make carrot and coriander soup. Well, we all have an opinion! We’ve been coming, on rotation, to stay with our dad, for the last couple of months.

We probably all deal with this in different ways and there will be peaks like Monday, and troughs, but I am extremely grateful to be part of a large family so that we can all share the caring but have a bit of time out as well.

It doesn’t matter that I was as slow as a snail but today’s running has helped me relax a bit and ease my mind a little from the intensity of the last few days. I may give it another try tomorrow.

Running

Cycling, not running

Signpost - left to Chester, right to Hope
What does this say about Chester?

I didn’t run yesterday as I spent a lovely day cycling into Wales with compadres from the running club.

Pensby Runners spawned a non-running child some years back, called PROBs (Pensby Runners On Bikes). They have been meeting, barring Covid lockdowns, once a week on Thursday. As it’s a day time, most of the riders are retired, but they’re not a sedate bunch. Their usual routes are between 50 and 70 miles, and include the odd hill or five. 

Luckily for me this week, a breakaway group decided to do a shorter route, around 30 miles, and so, knowing that I had a charity bike ride coming up, I joined them.

My ride is at the end of July. It’s a family thing, set up by my brother-in-law John, in memory of Mark, who had Motor Neurone Disease. We’re cycling from Lincoln to Liverpool over the course of a few days with each day being around 30 – 35 miles, so my trip with PROBs was a good test of whether I’d reach the end of, at least, day 1 intact.

Cycling by myself to the meeting point in Neston was a little strange, as recently I’ve always had my mate Gary to accompany me whenever I’d gone out. Still, I put my big girl’s pants on and got there just a few minutes before they were setting off, albeit adding a mile or so to my journey as I got a bit lost on the way.

People were just leisurely finishing their coffees as I arrived to an impressive row of bikes, lined up neatly against the walls. There is something kind of cool about cycling in a group. You feel safer (apparently Liverpool and the Wirral are some of the UK’s worst areas for cycle accidents and fatalities) and you are I am less likely to get lost. Plus if you get a puncture, there are people to stay with you to help fix it.

There were 14 of us on this trip, which split into two groups of 7 to keep it manageable, and we took off, once the drinks were drunk, to our lunchtime destination of Higher Kinnerton.

What do you call a group of cyclists? I suppose the obvious is a Pelaton, but it would be nice to have something a little more fun. Birds have ace ones, like a ‘conspiracy’ of ravens, or a ‘murder’ of crows. I’m all for adding a completely new definition, for example, a ‘scandal’ of cyclists! However, I’m no influencer, and it would be less likely to gain traction than the profane epithets occasionally hurled by irate car drivers.

We didn’t have 5 hills today but we did have a couple of toughies heading around Buckley. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. It’s a mantra that I gasped near the top of the second hill to give myself a bit of encouragement. I was encouraged that I didn’t have to get off my bike and push, so that was something.

Luckily there was some excellent route planning to make all the hills happen before lunch so that I could justify my triple chocolate brownie at the café in Higher Kinnerton. There was also time for one of the crew, Jenny, to get a little surprise cake for her birthday.

In a slight variation to the original route back, we stopped to see very cute donkeys chewing the cud in a field. Who knows what things these beasts had to tolerate in their former homes, but, in this sanctuary, they looked very happy.

A donkey in a field
Little Donkey, waiting for me to pull up more grass for it to eat

Then we rode back along the river and through Burton marshes and had a final group stop at the Harp Inn in Neston. There were loads of tables outside which was nice. I looked at my tracking thingy and it told me I had cycled just over 38.5 miles up to that point. I really intended to do the final 7 miles back to home when I sat down for my lime and tonic, but then, as the sun came out a little more, and I got a little more relaxed, I ended up ordering a beer and calling Anne to pick me up. Rome wasn’t built in a day you know!

Running

Bouncing Back

This may be a blip in the continuum, so I’m treating it very cautiously.

However…

Both on Monday and last night, during my first club run in about 18 months, I felt … stronger.

Could my week of squats, plus a random array of other, non-scientifically generated, strength training exercises, already start to be paying off?

I know! It’s crazy talk.

If such results could be got from less than seven days of 10 minute efforts, it would be front page news. So, probably not.

However…

My Monday run was in the evening when I’m not at my best. With looking after Alf all day, I’m usually ker-nackered and, more often than not, likely to recline on the sofa with a glass of wine. But to get my mileage back up after a few weeks of down time, I reasoned that my small, standard but hilly 3+ mile loop was attainable and would mean less panic by Thursday.

I realised, a mile in, that I hadn’t laboured breathlessly in that first few minutes, but I wasn’t crawling either. I felt quite ‘bouncy’ generally, and although it didn’t translate to a huge time reduction, it was quite spritely for me, and I wasn’t even trying.

Tuesday night, feeling a little anxious having not been club running for an age, I let virtually everyone shoot past me and settled in with the back group of injured or relaxed runners. I actually went on ahead and then circled back one or two times as I again felt ‘bouncy’. I circled back, partly because I like to chat sometimes with people and partly because I didn’t know the route. What I thought was going to be a 5+ miler turned into nearly 7 so I’m not quite sure if they knew the route either.

An old windmill, without sails.
An ex-windmill in Neston, now probably serving as posh lodgings.

Still it meant I could take today off from running and just do a cycle. Gary took me on a local, shorter but hillier than usual route, which was nice of him. But, good for me in the long run I suppose! The hot choc and cake in our break by the boat graveyard at Sheldrakes, certainly tasted good anyway, and the local robins took a few morsels to feed their fledgelings, which probably wasn’t the healthiest, but very cute.

I will be continuing with these strength exercises and monitoring my progress. If nothing else, it will be good to have some more indoor moves up my sleeves if I’m back in Leicester next week. My dad is still in hospital but he has his diagnosis at least and begun treatment. So, fingers crossed, it’s the start of an upward curve for his health and he can get back home soon.

The sun is making a bid for freedom this weekend after getting a pummelling from May’s rough winds and some lashings of rain, so I shall see if I can keep bouncing, or at the very least, feel the warmth and the start of summer.

Running

Squatting at my Dad’s

Well that was more like it. A comfortable, steady 7+ miles at the weekend and another slightly faster 4, done yesterday.

My breathing seems fully back to normal, although, before yesterday’s run, I was walking around like John Wayne. Who knew that doing a few squats and lunges for the first time in an age would be so impactful on my body?!

Silhouette of a woman doing a squat
I like to think my squats look this poised!
Image by kropekk_pl from Pixabay

To be fair, that probably happened the last time I tried them, and the time before that, but I seem to have filed those memories in a dusty box in the corner of the attic of my mind, as the ache has come as a complete surprise!

My aim this week, at my dad’s, was to do more indoor stuff, like regular yoga, and strength training exercises. As he needs someone close by most of the time at the moment. However, on the drive down last Friday, I heard from my big sis, that the hospital had decided to admit my dad, in order to carry out a few more tests without him getting so exhausted from the to-ing and fro-ing.

He’s still in and it’s Tuesday. They’re supposed to have a big MDT (Multidisciplinary Team) meeting at some point today but I heard, this morning, that they still needed to do another MRI on him. This is, at least, his third. Frustrating, living in this limbo land.

So I’m here, at his house, on my own, with a bit of extra time on my hands and therefore I’m getting out for a few miles each day. Alongside which, I’m trying to do these squats and lunges every day as I obviously need to.

I found this handy little app called ‘Interval Timer’, where you can set your exercise time and your rest time and the number of iterations you want. I’m doing, roughly, 5 minutes of 30 seconds ON and 15 seconds OFF. I will build this up to 10 once the aching subsides.

I have, in the past, during previous attempts of getting my strength on, written down the order of exercises, splicing ideas from various articles and videos and I may do that again, at some point this time.

However, for now I start with squats and then use the 15 seconds rest to figure out my next exercise. The only proviso is that they need to alternate between legs, arms and torso. So, that will either keep it exciting, or I’ll realise that I’m following the same pattern every day.

I know I should be doing this strength stuff more often being a woman of a certain age but, with the gyms being closed for ages I’ve been a bit sporadic. I know they’re now opening up but I think it’ll be a while before I’ll be comfortable entering them.

So in the meantime, for this current drive and impetus, I will just keep squatting at home, or at my dad’s.

Running

A Curve Ball in the Shape of a Cold

Sunday

I was going to do a little technical post about ‘Base Training’ because I’d had several weeks of good mileage and was feeling quite strong. However, that will have to wait for another time as I’ve been feeling very sorry for myself of late.

Not only had we lost the dog last week but I’d caught a cold the week before at some point, and the back end of it has lingered a bit. Yesterday I attempted 8 miles and managed 5 and a bit as my breathing still felt laboured, with very little effort. Although at the time I felt a bit dispirited, it just showed me how much my body usually works on a run, even though I’m a slowcoach!

Getting the cold in the first place got me a bit worried because, in our mask-wearing world, it should now be a lot harder and if that lurgy had sneaked up on me, I’d obviously let my defences down long enough for the Big Bad to potentially catch me too.

I wondered, initially, if I had got it when I was travelling to my dad’s on the ‘train’! It was the first time I’d used public transport in over a year and I was rather nervous about it. I had trains in fact, as Wirral to Leicester is not the most straightforward of routes. But, although tedious, it actually felt pretty safe as the vast majority of other travellers were also masked up and there weren’t that many of them.

So I was pleased, therefore, to learn that little Alf, who we mind on Mondays was also full of the sniffles so it was most likely that he’d passed it on to me. Plus, now with the home kits that they’re dishing out in the UK, I could double-check that it wasn’t the version of the coronavirus that had thrown the world into mayhem but the old-fashioned tried and tested one.

Tuesday

I have resigned myself to the fact that I’ll have a few weeks of low mileage, especially as I’ll be back in Leicester for my dad next week. However I did get out for an excellent bike ride with Gary today which was the first in about three weeks.

Just under 25 miles in glorious sunshine (most of the time). And we had our coffee break at Nets Café in Burton, which had loads of outdoor sitting areas and an army of sparrows to clean up any lingering cake crumbs. I left them barely a morsel of my lovely slice of banana and walnut that Gary’s wife Wendy had baked.

I will get back on track with my running. I know I’ve had these little dips before which have sometimes turned into big sloughs of despond, but I’m determined to keep the short runs up as and when I can, while upping my yoga and working out more strength training exercises to keep me getting stronger. That’s the plan anyway!

Life, Running

Dads and Dogs

I’ve been to my dad’s a few times recently and obviously brought my running gear. And I’ve realised that I’ve already created a default route.

I want to say that I’m one of those free, devil-may-care runners who, one day may go left and the next, right, and meander through new avenues and paths, always keeping it fresh and interesting.

But no.

I seem to pick a route and then stick to it, in this case, a 4 mile ish loop along the big roads from my dad’s. It has to be the main roads as I’m unfamiliar with the streets here and I get lost at the best of times. I know I have my phone to get me back on track, and time generally isn’t a factor, but, when left to my own devices,  I appear to be a creature of habit and routine.

A little bit like my dad really. We’re trying to change his habits lately because he has become a lot more unsteady on his feet in the last four months or so. So, as I said in a previous post, he’s been lent a Zimmer frame for the house instead of his walking sticks. But we’ve had to keep the sticks out of sight for a while to get him to use it!

He’s having to deal with a lot of changes at the moment. This week alone, he’s had an x-ray on his left shoulder as he can’t use that arm very well. He’s had a phone assessment with the NHS Occupational Therapy to check out what equipment he might need to make his day-to-day easier. He’ll get his own Zimmer now amongst a few other things and they’ll come soon to do his on-site check. Plus we’ve had a trip to the dentist as my dad’s dentures have given up the ghost and keep falling out. They’re making new ones but, because we’ve had to go private, they’re costing a fortune, but needs must. Tomorrow he goes for a biopsy on a large lump on his head. They say things come in threes but my poor dad has had a lot more than that to contend with and adapt to all at once.

And, despite his natural tendency to stick to the old routines, he has taken on most of these changes with surprisingly good humour and sanguinity. He’s had moments, obviously, where it’s felt a little overwhelming, but generally, I’ve been pretty amazed at how chilled he seems about things. I can still definitely learn a few more lessons from him.

And one more thing about the Zimmer frame: He’s still trying to tuck it well out of the way when he goes for his shower instead of having it handy. I asked him why and he said he didn’t want me to trip over it. It’s telling that a man with a gazillion ailments of his own is still thinking of his kids!

I’m glad I’ve come down this week but it’s turned into a bit of a time for Anne back at home too. Rocco, the grumpy Pomeranian that I appear to have softened towards a little, had a couple of seizures on Tuesday. At first Anne wondered if he’d overdosed on the pizza he’d nicked from her shopping bag the night before. But he has had a couple more since the vet put him on Diazepam. We’re still waiting for what his blood work shows up but it doesn’t sound great for the old boy.

It’s not surprising really, with all this heaviness,  that I appear to have got my first cold in a couple of years. It’s a sign, telling me to lay off my routines for a bit and take in all this change.

Running

The Chairman’s Challenge

I have decided that Heswall should be renamed Hes’hill’!

Cake with a picture of the challenge
A cake displaying the route of the Challenge

How someone could devise a route so close to the base of our running club with three humungous hills, just shows that a) the terrain is somewhat slopey and b) the route-master is a devilish fiend.

Roy Fisher is the man responsible for the multiple downs and ups I endured today. He had been Chairman of Pensby Runners running club for 20 plus years until he had to retire at the beginning of last year. The Chairman’s Challenge has been going since 2010, 4 times a year, and I had never ever run it before. And now I know why.

Today’s run was a special event, raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support, an organisation that has been helping Roy and his family through some pretty tough times in this last year and a bit, but he was here, an indomitable spirit, sending each group of us on our way.

Our old Chairman in front of our club base.
Roy, ready to countdown the groups.

I actually had offered to help out, be a marshall, look after the cake stall, or something like that. But Lisa Grantham, who’d done the (very brilliant) organising decided that she had enough helpers and that she was sure that I’d much prefer to run it.

Errr…

As preparations go, it had been a bit completely wrong. My 5K pelt on Thursday had forced my long run to a Saturday as my legs were so achy. I was planning a little 8 miler but then I went looking for bluebells in the woods behind The Wheatsheaf pub so it became a 10 plus a full mile and a bit walk just to get back home, as (too late) I was desperate to conserve a little something for today.

This morning while I ate my porridge, I foolishly watched a video of the route someone had taken on their bike in order to get an idea of where I was going (I have such a bad memory for directions). The downs seemed to take no time at all but the ups! The ups seemed to go on forever and I started feeling a little queasy and pondered calling in sick.

But Anne had already made a lemon drizzle for our contribution to the cake stall and I felt an obligation as it was for charity. So I heaved myself into the car and drove to the start with an anxious heart.

It was actually really, really nice to see lots of people that I hadn’t seen in over a year. This is the first time I’ve run with the group since the start of the first lockdown, as I hadn’t felt fully comfortable before, with the state of the lurgy as it was. There were so many faces that I recognised, and occasionally I remembered a name (I have such a bad memory for names) here and there. Sadly though we had to set off. The whippersnappers who were doing the ‘double’ (there and back again – What??!!) set off first, then it was several groups in reverse time-ability order. i.e. the tortoises got to set off first. Bringing up the rear, but beating most of us were the cyclists.

As you can see on the map, there are several sections where you come back on yourself. So the glorious downhills don’t actually feel so glorious when you know you’re going to have to haul your sorry arse back up the same way. However the first hill, for me, didn’t feel too bad. I was able to breathe steadily and my legs didn’t feel too sluggish. The middle of the second hill, on a road named ‘School Hill’ (a lot of roads around here have ‘hill’ in the names) was where I hit a mini wall. The gradient on that was incredibly steep and I was forced to walk (or more accurately stagger) up the second part of it.

There were a few more walky bits as the course went on but I eventually managed to get to the end in a few seconds over 1 hour 30. I wasn’t quite last but not far off. But I was relieved to see that finishing line.

And it all felt worth it when I got back to club headquarters and was given cake.

I also got to have a small chat with Roy to see how he was getting on. And although he would probably rattle if you shook him, with the amount of drugs he was on, he was an absolute inspiration. A lovely, genuine man, full of encouragement for us, even though he couldn’t do the runs anymore. It made me feel lucky to be doing the Challenge today. And it also reminded me that even nice people have a fiendish side!

Running

Wirral Seaside 5K Run

In normal times this is a series of runs along a section of coastline of our little peninsula, happening each month from March to August. I have had a go once or twice and it is very popular. With a nominal fee, hundreds of people have pegged it from Leasowe Lighthouse to bag a personal best on their 5K times.

Hundreds of people getting ready to start with Leasowe Lighthouse in the distance
Wirral Seaside Run start at Leasowe Lighthouse in times gone by.

I know you can do Parkrun each week and that in itself is a brilliant concept. But this is the seaside, and it hails good weather (hopefully) and it’s a bit more official with time tags etc.

However, what with the big worldwide lurgy, it was cancelled in 2020 and replaced by virtual 5Ks. And this year, at least for the first few, it’s in the same format.

Last year I didn’t partake at all. I can’t remember why, but this time I thought I might use it as a way to see how I’m progressing, if at all. It’s a good distance the 5K. It allows beginners something really tangible to aim for and it gives the gazelles a chance to almost sprint.

I’m neither of the above, and I would say that I’m in my most happy place when I’m pootling along at a longish distance. But even for me, it’s good to  mix it up and get out of that comfort zone.

This is the second Seaside Run of the year and this month my aim was to pretty much follow the route I did last month, to compare them. It wasn’t ideal: a loop that was nowhere near the seaside and finishing with a long upward incline. But I gave my all then and I wanted to do it again. Only this time, after a mile’s warmup.

Now this is not a normal inclination for a slow plodder who uses the first couple of miles of any run to do the ‘warm up’. I had a dread that I’d be too knackered for the real thing. But I knew that I had all those long runs in my legs and I was sure, well, pretty sure anyway, that this would help get my lungs going.

With the warm up done and a few nominal ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ drills  (running on my toes, running backwards, running sideways, skipping, etc), I gave myself a minute or two and then hit the Go button on my running app.

This is a route that wasn’t going to yield any negative splits. The first bit is mainly downhill, and the last bit is mainly uphill! I wanted, therefore, to bag the time in the first gravity assisted part, but as I went for it, I had moments of panic that I was going too fast and I would have a blow-out. Luckily, if accidentally, I hadn’t lined up a podcast and I ended up with music. It was the Taylor Swift album, Folklore, which is not known for speedy beats, and I tried to breathe as deeply as I could with it to push away that anxiety.

Plus, every now and then, I’d sing (very softly)‘The Grand Old Duke of York’, or ‘Henry VIII I am’. Strange choices for a non-Royalist but they helped me work out if my breathing was okay and therefore, if I could keep going. It was more of a gasping whisper than a song but it gave me enough confidence to know I had enough in the tank.

As I said before, several times, the final mile, is an uphill, pretty much all the way, and unsurprisingly, there were zero attempts at singing, whispered or otherwise. But it was the last mile and I put everything I had into that climb. Yes, it was way slower than my first mile, but it was definitely the fastest I’ve done that section in a very long while.

My average minutes per mile squeezed under 10 minutes which is a terrific result for me. I was looking like a fish out of water at the end, desperate for oxygen, but was very, very pleased with myself. That warm up, and a round of porridge this morning certainly helped. But it will be a hard act to beat next month!