Winter solstice blues

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At my first parkrun, someone said to me ‘if you can keep running through winter, by the spring you’ll be flying’. Easy enough in theory. With winter solstice in less than a week, short gloomy days, dark mornings and evenings, inhospitable weather, and the temptations of the festive season on the horizon, it’s easy to let things slip.

Yesterday I wimped out of parkrun. The weather outside was truly frightful; heavy icy rain and wind. As my regular parkrun is on the coast, there would be no shelter. Feeling slightly (very slightly) off colour, and tired, I could not face it. Even so, I am fortunate enough to have a treadmill at home, so I had a good treadmill running session. I turned the pace up a bit more than usual and felt quite good about my run. But then guilt crept in. I kept checking into Facebook to look at photos of real, more determined, less pathetic runners who actually made the effort to run despite the ghastly weather. I felt annoyed at my own lack of commitment.

This morning I awoke to a calm and bright day. A beautiful morning for a run. Did this make me cheerful? No. I was annoyed that this weather didn’t arrive yesterday. I’m following NHS England’s Couch to 5K programme –  On this plan, it’s important to have rest days between runs to avoid injury. I’m now on week seven, which involves runs of 25 minutes at a time. This is a big deal for me, having struggled to run for sixty seconds in the beginning. It’s going well, but I don’t want to take any chances. Having done a long treadmill session yesterday, I needed to have a rest from running today.

So, as an alternative to running, I chose to use a You Tube workout video, to work some different muscle groups. This was fine, but by the end I was tired of being cooped up indoors. And my dog, Archie, was also getting very impatient for his morning walk.

I decided to head out for a long walk to make the most of the morning. I toyed with the idea of driving to one of our favourite walking spots; maybe Kilve beach (where Bryan Adams famously recorded the music video for Everything I Do, I Do it for You – check it out, or the lovely woods at Ramscombe on the Quantock Hills. But getting in a car to walk a dog seems a bit wasteful. So, we headed off on the route of my favourite neighbourhood run, from my village to the tiny hamlets of Shurton and Burton, about a mile away, and back again.

By the time we set out, the sun had disappeared, and the sky was grey. But the weather was calm and mild, an absolute gift in December. As I walked up the lane towards Shurton I remembered the walks we did in the summer. It was a hot summer, and we had to walk late in the evening to protect Archie’s paws. The good weather went on and on, and I enjoyed being outdoors and gradually becoming more active. That seems a long time ago now. But the winter has a charm of its own; even on a grey day. As we strolled along I watched a wren pop in and out of a hawthorn hedgerow. Somewhere a crow cawed, breaking the winter silence. All was calm.

I realised that, when I run, I don’t always notice these things. I listen to music, and I focus intently (as a new runner who is trying very hard) on what I am doing. I always enjoy the beauty of the countryside, but the tiny details are sometimes overlooked. Today, I took my time. I stopped and chatted to walkers and fellow dog owners. I drank in details of the environment around me. I relaxed, unwound and enjoyed a moment of calm in the middle of the frantic festive build-up.

This weekend, my plans had to adapt to the weather. I still managed to find time for exercise, and time to enjoy being outside. We still have months of winter ahead of us. There will be all sorts of weather; bad days and good days. The trick is to make the most of the good, and not beat ourselves up over the bad. We can’t control the seasons or the weather. My plan now is to work with the weather, to be adaptable, and appreciate moments of beauty.

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