Mad dogs and foolish runners ….

What do they do? You guessed it. They go out in the midday sun, in August. Oh dear.

Yesterday was Long Run Saturday. I have my first half marathon coming up in two weeks, and I wanted to get at least the half marathon distance in, and maybe a bit more. My training plan called for a ten mile run but, pah, I thought, why stop at ten?

I was a bit slow getting up and out in the morning. I’d had a busy week, slept heavily and woke feeling lethargic. The time ticked on. But I wasn’t concerned, the weather forecast had talked about wind, and it was supposed to be overcast with sunny spells; so shouldn’t be too warm. Besides, I told myself, the half is at a similar time of day, so it should be good practise.

My favourite long run route is at Steart Marshes, just a short drive from my home. Steart is a beautiful wetland reserve, with miles and miles of path winding through the – fabulously flat – salt marsh. I love to run at Steart because it is free from traffic, full of wildlife, and peaceful. It is, however, pretty exposed to the elements and offers no shelter from wind, rain or sun.

The River Parrett at Steart Marshes

For a half marathon distance I start with a loop from the car park down to Combwich, head up alongside the river, and then loop back round to the car park. This is around 5 kilometres. I can then make use of the toilet and use my car as a pit stop, filling up my water bottle and jelly baby supplies, before heading out again. I then run to the end of the northern footpath and back twice.

I arrived at Steart at about 10.40. It felt reassuringly cool in the breeze. The ground was wet from recent rainfall, and I hoped this would help to keep things fresh. I got myself organised, and headed off. Once I was running it felt hot. There were plenty of clouds in the sky, but they seemed to be doing a good job of avoiding the sun. The southern loop of the route is the most sheltered, and often feels warmer than the rest of the route. As the sun beat down on the wet ground I could feel the humidity rising in stifling waves. I reminded myself that the early part of a run is the hardest, and that it would be easier, and fresher, once I got to the river.

Sure enough, as I got to the river, I felt better. I added a little detour down into Combwich village, just to put an extra kilometre onto this early part of the run. The breeze along the river was cooling and the riverbank was tranquil. This is one of my favourite parts of the run. But I then had to turn from the river, and head into wind. The run back to the car park against the wind was tough. But as I got back to my pit stop, I felt that I could keep going. I topped up my water, sploshed water all over myself and headed off again.

The second part of my run was better. The air felt cooler and fresher as I ran to the end of the path and back. I arrived back at the car park having covered 14 KM, and feeling much better than I had first time. My training plan actually called for 16 KM. So I only really needed to run one kilometre and turn back. Job done. But I was feeling great, and confident, and cocky. I collected some jelly babies and a Nakd bar, topped up my water and decided to try and cover 14 miles.

I ran one more kilometre, the point at which I could have turned back, and kept going. Another kilometre, I had reached the 16 KM/ 10 mile target. If I turned back now, I’d have done 18 KM, more than I needed to. And yet just not enough. I ate the Nakd bar (not having touched the jelly babies – I was getting so bored of jelly babies) and kept going.

I usually start to struggle at around 11 miles. I hit 11 miles still feeling good, and I kept going. I reached the end of the path, and turned back. About two and a half miles to go. Suddenly, I noticed that my legs were beginning to burn from a build up of lactic acid. I started to walk a bit, run a bit. The pain got worse. By 12.5 miles, the pain was too much and I had to walk. But I didn’t even think about those jelly babies. I still felt great in myself, it was just my legs. I was sure that if I walked a bit, they’d improve. They didn’t.

I found a bench and sat down. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by strong stomach cramps, waves of nausea and dizziness. I sat for a while and began to make my way slowly back to the car. I was only about 200 metres away by this point, but it felt like the longest distance of the morning. As I approached the car park, I bumped into an old friend. We chatted briefly and she was complimenting me on my weight loss, as I was beginning to panic that I was going to pass out. Instead of using my rational brain and asking for help, I was embarrassed and didn’t want my friend, who’d just been saying how well I looked, to see me collapsing in a heap. So I made my apologies, and joked about needing to get to the car for water ‘before I keel over, ha ha ha’. As I walked away, everything started to go dark and I felt my head swimming. I don’t know how I did it, but I got there. I gulped down water, ate a protein bar, and sat in my car until I felt better.

Usually after any run, I feel great.It doesn’t matter how tired or achy I am, I’m buzzing. Not this time. I felt sad and full of self doubt. I could have cried. For the first time I had real doubts about my ability to take my running further. I don’t know whether it was the heat, the lack of fuel or a combination of both that made me feel so unwell but it has taught me a lesson or two.

  • Respect the distance
  • Listen to your body
  • Respect the climate/conditions
  • Take on fuel
  • And stick to the training plan!

And also – if a friend turns up just when you need help – ask for help. Pride is a silly thing.

5 thoughts on “Mad dogs and foolish runners ….

  1. Running in the direct sun and heat is always rough! You did 11 miles with no problem so that’s amazing. You will be fine for your half and you have learnt the lessons. Bad runs happen to us all, it’s all part of it! Well done

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your next run will be better for sure. I’m ok, did 14 miles yesterday but my father died last Saturday so it was a funny week. I don’t want to get off with the training and running definitely helps how I feel. I hope I will be able to keep it up! I feel ok now, marathon in 10 weeks!


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