I decided on 27th December to attempt my first fifteen mile run. I should have done this weeks ago. Since I completed my first half marathon back in September, I’ve been telling myself that I’m gradually increasing my mileage, in training for Newport Marathon next April. But, as the year comes to an end, I realise that I’ve been telling myself sweet little white lies.
My weekly mileage has not increased – and my long runs have hovered around the same distance. I’ve ran fourteen miles once, and the half marathon distance several times. I’ve consolidated. Which is fine. But – as Newport approaches – I need to get my mileage up.
The day after Boxing Day seemed like as good a time as any. The weather forecast promised light drizzle, no wind and mild temperatures. I was rested after a few days off work, and I was about as carb-loaded as a person could ever be, thanks to the Christmas feasting.
I headed off to my favourite long run location of Steart Marshes, along with my daughter. We planned our route, hoping to avoid the wettest, muddiest and marshiest paths until the second half of the run. We would run alongside the River Parrett, and into the villages of Otterhampton and Cannington (with their nice dry pavements). Then back to the Marshes for some soggy running.
When we arrived at Steart the car park was deserted. There was a moody grey sky, and the promise of drizzle.
As we set off, my daughter ran off ahead. We like to go running together, without actually running together. We have different goals (and paces) and both enjoy the solitude of a long run. But it’s good to see each other out there, and share our experiences when we catch up afterwards.
Almost immediately, I felt the benefit of the extra calories I had in my system. Because I still need to lose weight, I am living in the land of calorie deficit. This makes planning and carb loading for long runs tricky. If I eat too much, I won’t lose weight. Eat too little, and I can’t run properly. Well, that certainly wasn’t a problem on this occasion.
Once I warmed up, I felt good. I felt like I could keep going. I did an eight mile loop, which brought me back to the car, where I crossed with my daughter. I re-stocked with water and gels, used the facilities, and headed back out feeling comparatively fresh.
The second half of the route was very wet, and I just about gave up trying to keep my feet dry. I tried to embrace the joy of running through puddles. And then found my feet squelchy and heavy.
At about ten miles, I met a friendly farmer who was walking sheep along the path. There was no point trying to run, as I would have frightened and scattered the sheep, so I walked with the farmer and chatted to her until the path widened enough for me to pass around the sheep. Although this may have slowed me in the short term, I think my legs benefited from the change of pace.
After leaving the sheep, I had about another half mile to run before the path ended and I headed back. As I hit twelve miles I realised that I was still feeling strong, and better than I’d ever felt at this point previously. By the time I passed the car park again I’d completed thirteen miles. I just needed to keep going for one more mile – and then back to the car.
I headed down what turned out to be the wettest, muddiest and most disgusting path of all. I met my daughter coming back from her fourteen mile run – congratulations and high fives all around. And I kept going through the mud.
The last two miles were hard, but not too hard. Even so, I was happy to turn back for the final mile, and even happier to arrive back at my car.
I had done it. I had aching legs, soggy feet, and a big smile on my face.