I am hoping it will be third time lucky for my first marathon – which was postponed last week, for the third time. It will now (hopefully) take place in October. This is absolutely the right decision. However, it leaves me with two problems. Firstly, I am now going to be doing my first 50K ultra thirteen weeks before my first marathon, which is a little odd. Secondly, I am once again faced with the existential runners’ crisis of coming off the training plan. If I’m not training for a marathon, I ask myself, then what, where and how much should I be running?
Last week I pretty much stuck with the planned runs, until neck and shoulder pain at the weekend scuppered my plans for a long run. So I rested. Then, yesterday, feeling better, with the sun shining, I decided to head out for anything between 3 and 8 miles, depending on how my neck felt.
It was a beautiful, bright morning, but cold and icy underfoot. Much of the UK has had snow over the past few days. We only had a light sugary dusting on Sunday, which quickly disappeared. We have, however, had plenty of cold, frost and ice.
I had put on my grippiest trail shoes, and took things very cautiously. However, the patches of ice seemed to appear at random points, from out of nowhere. Living in the countryside, road running means just that – no pavements. I became aware that the danger was not just that I might fall, but that motorists might also find it hard to avoid me if they hit ice. When a friendly chap cutting a hedge called out a warning to me, telling me that his 4 x 4 had been sliding all over the road when he went out earlier, I made the only sensible decision – go off-road.
I headed to a favourite footpath, which leads to the coast path. This was my first trail run since the autumn. I am a fair weather trail runner, and don’t understand the allure of calf-deep mud. I hoped that, as the ground was frozen everywhere else, the mud might be frozen too. This was partially true, at least to begin with. Even so, there was still plenty of mud. And water. And waterlogged long grass standing in water.
Mud or no mud, I realised as soon as I got onto the footpath that I had made the right decision. Away from the roads, and traffic, and into solitude and nothing but glorious views.
Looking west, I could see the snow topped Quantock Hills, to the North I saw the Bristol Channel and the snowy Welsh coast. It seems I have been living in a snow-free, sunny, green microclimate. I ran on to the coast path, and then followed it back to make a circular eight-mile route home.
It wasn’t my fastest run, and it wasn’t my furthest. It wasn’t part of any plan; I made it up as I went along. I got cold, wet, muddy feet. But it was a happy run.