Sunny September 10 miles

It’s now two weeks since I ran my first half marathon at Bridgwater, and it is still a long time (around 30 weeks) until I attempt my first marathon at Newport. I’m in a strange state of limbo. For the first week after the half marathon, I spent a great deal of time searching for a race, any race, just to provide a goal. I feel a little lost.

But I have managed to keep my running going. During the first week post-half, I managed a couple of easy runs in the week. At the weekend, I wanted to do a nice gentle 10K. I chose what I thought was a 10K route, but underestimated the distance (and the hills). I ended up doing an eight mile hilly run. It was a good workout – and I was tired at the end. This week, I’ve managed to get a couple of runs in around work during the week. Then today I aimed to do a 10 mile long run at Steart Marshes, my favourite long run location.

I also decided to finally give gels a try. I’ve been putting this off because I’ve seen so many negative comments about gels. I also don’t like the idea of eating something containing so much sugar. As I am actively trying to lose more weight, eating so many empty calories just seems to go against the grain. But after a previous frightening and unpleasant end to a long run – probably the result of inadequate fuelling – I decided I should give these little packets of sugary goo a try.

My daughter came with me to Steart, although we didn’t plan to run together. She needed to run nine miles, and is quicker than me. We planned an out and back route which we’d need to do twice – my daughter just cutting the second lap short by a mile or so. Although we weren’t running together, it was good to see each other as we passed on the path and to catch up when we got back to the car.

We arrived at Steart fairly early (for a Sunday), which was just as well because the day turned out to be ridiculously warm for mid-September. Fortunately, there was a strong breeze on most of the route to cool us down.

I felt quite sluggish and jaded as I set off. It had been a busy week, and I’d spent all day on Saturday on a training course. Even so, I enjoyed the peace and quiet and the fine views as I warmed up.

After around 40 minutes, I decided to be brave and try the gel. I’d gone for a Torq rhubarb and custard. I’ve read so much about people struggling with gels, gagging on them, being sick and having upset stomachs – that I was careful to time it so that I was on the way back to the car and toilets before I had the gel. The texture was odd, but the gel tasted okay, if too sweet for me. I used a little water to wash it down (and get it off my teeth!) The gel went down just fine and caused me no stomach problems.

It may be that I was warming up anyway, but I soon started to feel like I had more energy. As I approached the car park I passed my daughter coming back the other way. She had also tried a gel (banoffee) and agreed that she was getting a sugar rush. When we compared notes later, we had both noticed that we needed less water, and felt that the gels had made a difference to our running.

The rest of the run went well. As usual, I had times when I felt great and times when I felt tired. It can be a little monotonous running up and down the same stretch of path, but at least the views are pretty. One woman I passed four times asked me, ‘do you just run up and down all day?’ On the way, I saw swans, mallards, and some huge dragon flies. I stopped briefly to say ‘hello’ to some cattle grazing on the salt marsh.

Cattle grazing on the salt marsh at Steart

I ended the run feeling good, and sure that I could have kept going. If my daughter wasn’t already back at the car waiting for me, I might have been tempted to keep going for another three miles to make up the half marathon distance. But it was better, I think, to end with fuel in the tank.

By the time I got back to the car the car park was full, and the marshes were getting busy. Lots of people were out to enjoy the September sunshine. I was glad that we’d got out early and had the place pretty much to ourselves for most of the time.

Eventually, autumn will arrive. And maybe even winter. I am looking forward to the temperatures going down. But for the moment, it’s good to be outside making the most of the gorgeous September sunshine.

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