First Spring Run

Spring is here.

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com
Someone told me way back in November, on my first parkrun, that if I could keep running through the winter, I’d be flying by spring. Unfortunately, as spring arrived this week, so too did my first really bad cold of the year. So my exciting running plans for the first week of spring were put on hold. I managed a very feeble treadmill session by Thursday and generally felt very sorry for myself. Then Saturday morning arrived. I was feeling much better. The morning was mild, with the last remnants of light drizzle just clearing up. I felt ready for a long run. I wanted to cover 12 KM, but didn’t know how I’d cope after a week of almost no running. I made a deal with myself that I had to try at least 10 KM, because I know I can manage that distance, and aim for 12 KM. I took a decongestant, packed my running belt out with tissues, and set off. I decided to take what has become my usual long run route, towards the village of Lilstock, and then on towards the beach. As I began running I noticed two things: that it was much warmer than I am used to, and that I was running much better than I had expected. I only began running in October 2018, and so all of my runs have been at fairly low temperatures. Although I have lost over six stone, I am still carrying about 4 stone of excess weight, and I get hot very quickly when I run. This happens even when there is ice on the ground, so I do wonder how I am going to manage when the summer arrives. An additional motivation to shed the weight quickly. Even so, although I felt like a volcano about to erupt, the running was going well. I was enjoying myself. I felt that my body needed the run. My legs needed to move. I felt strong. I noticed the primroses growing along the roadside, I noticed birds singing, and then I noticed that the hills seemed less work today. About half a mile away from the beach, a couple in a car stopped to ask for directions to the beach car park. I saw them again after they’d turned around, now heading the right way. I wondered whether I’d see them there. As I ran up the track to the car park I noticed that there were many cars parked, with people gathering in a group. As I got closer, I could see lots of people had backpacks and hiking poles. A meeting of ramblers. I heard animated chatter, and laughter. I told myself not to be paranoid, that they probably had lots of things to laugh about other than the wobbly volcano woman approaching them. Then a voice called out ‘We made it!’ ‘Oh, good’ I puffed and gave them a wave. I was too focused on my goal of the beach, just out of sight around the corner, to think of anything more interesting to say. But I was pleased that they’d found their way. Then the last little stretch up the path to the beach. I stopped. Waves pounded the pebbly beach, the salty breeze struck my face. I flung my arms out and shouted ‘I did it!’ Then I looked over my shoulder to check that there were no ramblers behind me. The beach may be stony, the sea may be brown, and the view is marred by the Hinkley Point C Power Station construction site, but being able to run to the coast still fills me joy. I had a little mooch about on the pebbles for a few minutes, and then set off for home. The run home was not so easy. Just as it takes 10 minutes or so to get into a run, it took me time to get going again. This is why I don’t try Jeffing (run a bit, walk a bit). I find it hard to run again once I’ve stopped, or walked. When I reached the beach, I felt strong. Now, I felt weak. My legs dragged. But I kept going. I worked out how far I still had to go (nearly four miles), and how long it would take me to walk the whole distance. That was incentive enough to keep plodding along at a steady jog. Eventually, running became easier again, although not as good as it had been on the way out. I decided to aim for 13 KM to make up for the time spent ambling on the beach. About a mile and a half from home, I took a detour to make up the extra mileage, and then ended with one of my least favourite hills. I took tiny baby running steps up the hill, until I heard a car coming, and felt I ought to look like I was actually running and not dying on my feet. Then, down the other side, at the bottom of the hill, Nike Run Club told me I had ran 13 KM. So I slowed to a walk for the last few minutes to cool down. When I checked Strava, I had covered 8.4 miles altogether. And so what if it took me an hour and forty two minutes? That means I can now run for an hour and forty two minutes. I had also recorded my best times for 5 K, 1 K, 2 miles, half mile, and 400 M. All achieved on the run out, none on the run back. I think the lesson for me is – just keep running, don’t stop for anything.

Born to Run…Underground

Bath Two Tunnels 10K

I’ve always believed myself to be a true Pisces fish, happiest in water. That was until I tried one of Relish Running’s Two Tunnels races in Bath. I’ve now decided that running underground in a mile long Victorian railway tunnel is just bliss. And no, I’m not being sarcastic or ironic or any of those things; this was a truly sublime experience.

I signed up for the Two Tunnels 10K at the beginning of January to motivate me to move onto the next step in my running. I was drawn by the history of the route, which uses a section of the long-since closed Somerset and Dorset Railway Line, including two long tunnels. I love railways, steam railways in particular. The thought of running along what used to be railway line (but now nicely surfaced), through tunnels and cuttings, along embankments and viaducts, well, it was all a bit Railway Children. How could I resist?

Route of the Two Tunnels 10K

I was very excited. I was also quite apprehensive. My first 10K: would I be able to finish? Would I injure myself and not be able to drive home? And then there’s driving, parking, finding the place. What if I didn’t like the tunnels – they might be claustrophobic or scary. And what if the whole thing was just awful?

I did everything possible to prepare. I followed my training plan. On the final week I did a couple of shorter runs, one easy effort and one speed. The day before the 10K, I did a bit of yoga, rested, and ate sensibly. I made sure I had all the kit I needed and printed off all the information I probably wouldn’t need, but you can’t be too careful. After seeing the weather forecast for Sunday 3rd March – Storm Freya due to hit the South West on Sunday afternoon – I made sure I was prepared for rain.

I set off on Sunday morning, allowing plenty of time for driving (about two hours for a ninety minute journey), and parking at the park and ride. I vaguely knew the way to Odd Down park and ride, having used it before for trips to Bath. But, to be on the safe side I trusted in my sat nav; which was a mistake. My sat nav took me on a comedy sight seeing tour of Cheddar Gorge and nearby villages. I saw goats with their newborn kids, and deer skipping over hedges. It was very scenic, and twisty. As wind and rain buffeted my little car, I reflected that this would not have been my first choice of route on this occasion. I felt somewhat stressed. But I arrived at the park and ride in good time. And I breathed out.

Lots of runners were at Odd Down Park and Ride, either queuing for the toilet or the bus. I joined one queue, and then the other. I chatted to a fellow runner on the bus, who told me that the best way to burn fat is though the lungs. People often feel compelled to start talking to me about burning fat when they see I’m about to run. Does everyone get this? Or is it because I’m a larger woman? Anyway, I’ve lost over six stone now, so my fat burning is going reasonably well. The friendly lung-fat man helpfully showed me where to go when I got off the bus, and we entered the field though a slightly slippery grassy bank.

When I booked this run back in January I had visualised a bright early spring morning, with daffodils, lambs and chicks everywhere. I don’t know why because this time last year it was snowing. What I got was rain, wind, mud and cold. Lots of cold. Lots of mud. The tunnels measure 408 metres and 1672 metres. For the first time, this didn’t seem long enough. I began to wish they measured a whole lot more.

This is Bath, but not as Jane Austen knew it.

I had arrived far too early. I collected my bib and pinned it on. I used the facilities. I tried to avoid checking my bag – until I could see a long queue snaking across the field. Then I gave in, joined the queue, checked my bag, hoodie and jacket, wrapped myself in a disposable poncho and stood shivering in the rain.

I stood for a long time against a hedge, teeth chattering, waiting for my wave’s turn to run. I’d selected a later wave on account of being slow. I was wishing I’d lied and joined the speedy lot who were already on their way around the course, nice and hot and sweaty.

Eventually, finally, it was time to go down to the start for the race briefing and warm up. We were warned about wet and slippery conditions in the field, and when leaving the field. A quick, much needed warm up, then set Strava, strip off the poncho, and we were off.

We were off, in my case, quite cautiously. After a colour run race, a 5K and hundreds of runners in earlier 10K waves, the field was quite muddy and slippery. At the edge of the field there was a sign warning of slippery steps. I couldn’t see any steps, just a lot of mud going down a reasonably steep bank. I made my way down very, very slowly. As I reached the bottom I said ‘I’m hoping that’s the hardest part out of the way’. A couple passing by laughed and replied ‘We’ll ask you on your way back!’

My plan was simply to complete the course, hopefully without walking. I’d already ran the distance in training, but on my familiar home routes. I wasn’t worrying about pace, or whether I came last (someone has to). But after this start, I knew that my time was probably not going to be great, even by my own slow standards. So I decided to just enjoy the run without thinking about time.

The route crossed a little bridge, and then along a suburban area. I tried to imagine what it would be like if trains were running along the route, and thought about how noisy it would be for the inhabitants of nearby buildings. By contrast, even with 800 runners going up and down the route it seemed quite peaceful.

It wasn’t long before I reached the first tunnel, Devonshire Tunnel, at around a mile into the race. This tunnel, opened in 1874, is about 408 metres long. I was slightly concerned that I might find running in a tunnel claustrophobic. At least experiencing the shorter tunnel first allows for a chance to test this out. The tunnel is dimly lit, and you can’t see the light at the other side when you first go in. But you can see well enough.

I had another Railway Children moment as I ran into the tunnel, thinking about the part in the film when the children go into the tunnel to rescue the boy with the broken leg. Well, there hadn’t been any trains in that tunnel since the line closed in 1966, the year before I was born, but the experience was still pretty exciting. The atmosphere inside the tunnel was calm, even with the other runners in there. The walls were stone faced and dry (someone had warned me the tunnels drip). Away from the weather, away from noise and wind, running felt somehow easier. I was more focused.

Emerging from the tunnel into the wind and rain, we passed the 2KM point. A little further on was the point where the 5K racers would have turned back. Then, just past this point, the route enters Combe Down Tunnel. So, sadly, the shorter race missed out the long tunnel.

Combe Down is 1.672KM, just over a mile, long. The tunnel slopes downwards, running out from Bath. I felt really comfortable as I plodded along. I’d been running for a while when I noticed a sound trying to compete with my playlist. I also noticed some attractive pulsing blue/green lights set into alcoves in the walls. I turned off my music and listened. There was music. Classical, strings – not too loud – just enough to create a surreal and beautiful atmosphere. I’ve since read that this is Passage, an audio-visual art installation. It’s hard to describe this multi-sensory experience – running underground, deep within a tunnel, calm, dim light, beautiful colours, evocative music, people running past pounding the path. Words are insufficient.

When I left the tunnel, there was daylight, wind and rain. We were in a wooded area that felt like it was miles from the city and suburbs of Bath. Cheery marshals handed out cups of water. They were absolute treasures, smiling in spite of the stormy weather. Then on to the turning point. I cheered to be half way round.

The return run was harder, even though it seemed shorter. I was glad of the wind and rain by this point, as I was developing my usual red lava face.

The final kilometre seemed to have more undulation and hilly bits than it had on the way out. A runner passed me and called out ‘Everything hurts now’. I know how he felt. I panted and grunted the final few uphill metres back to the park. I trotted along the field towards the finish line exhausted, feeling that there was nothing left in the tank at all. But I finished. I ran all 10 KM. And I wasn’t even last (not that I would have minded, really).

An excellent, unique race experience. Really well organised, and barely marred by horrible weather. A really good choice for my first 10K. I got a very pretty medal with an upside down train on it (the idea is to collect four medals that fit together to make a picture).

I drove home achy, pleased with myself and without my sat nav’s nonsense.

#twotunnelsraces

#first10K

10K Training

I’m one week away from my first 10K, and I’m a little nervous. But I’m sure I’ll be okay. I’ve been following a training plan; I’m prepared and ready.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

When I completed NHS England’s Couch to 5K plan back in December, I felt a little lost. What next? I asked myself. I had made rapid progress, and then it felt like I had reached a plateau. Or a brick wall. In reality, I probably spent a week or two consolidating what I had accomplished, going from a non-runner in October, to someone able to run for 30 minutes at a time by December.

But I was impatient for more. So I scoured the internet and app stores looking for a similar, equally magical couch to 10K programme. I found the NHS podcasts for C25K ‘graduates’. These podcasts offer a step up from C25K, with ‘stepping stone’, interval, and stamina sessions. I found them useful, but no replacement for the weekly, structured training plan that I had become dependent on. I tried a few different apps out. But was dissatisfied. I looked at a number of different training plans available online, but didn’t really know what I was looking at, or for.

Then I found Health Unlocked; a social network community offering health-related forums. One of the forums, Bridge to 10K is for graduates of C25K. It is here that I found ’10 is the magic Number’ the plan that I’ve been following for the past seven weeks. To make sure extra sure that I would follow the plan, I also signed up for a 10K race.

The 10K plan has suited me perfectly. It’s simple. It avoids jargon. It sets out one short, speed session, one 5K and one long run each week. The plan also includes strength training exercises to follow each week. It’s flexible, and I’ve been able to swap sessions around. You can choose to do the sessions either as distance, or as timed sessions – whatever suits the individual runner best. A nice aspect of the plan is the way that it is supported by the online community. The genius behind the plan, known as Ju-ju, posts weekly videos and updates. Runners can post to the forum sharing their experiences, and supporting each other. It has got me running 10K straight (albeit a little early – because I got carried away!)

And now I have just one week left to crunch time! For this week’s running, I did a 4K tempo run (first attempt at tempo – not entirely sure that I got it right), a lovely 10K run (see here) and a 5K parkrun (beautiful sunny morning and a new PB). Next week I’ll do some sort of speed session on Tuesday, a slow and easy 5K on Thursday, and the BIG DAY on Sunday.

Wish me luck!

Minehead – looking good after parkrun this week

Long run Tuesday

The 10K training plan that I’m following indicated a 9K long run this week. Last week’s plan also called for 9K. The trouble is, when you’re outside, it’s a glorious spring morning, and the route you planned is longer than 9K anyway (to allow for warming up and down), it’s easy to get carried away.

Last week I miscalculated the conversion between miles and KM, realised that I was almost at 10K anyway, and kept going. I ran my first full 10K in 1h 20m 44s. A slow time indeed. But I was chuffed at being able to run all 10K, and at being able to keep going for 1h 20m.

Yesterday, I planned to run the same route, with a little extra added on. Who was I kidding? Of course I wasn’t going to go further but run less.

My son James is a keen runner and has explored all the local routes, so he always has suggestions for me. This adds a lovely dimension to my running – that I can come home, show my son where I’ve been, and discuss where I should go next. You might think we’d like to run together but – a) I’d never keep up, and b) we both enjoy running for solitude.

It was a suggestion of James’s that led me to add a bit more to my route. It was also a suggestion of James’s that led me to the pretty Wayfarer’s Church at Kilton, where I paused to take photos.

The church was decommissioned in 2004, and is now a non-denominational spiritual drop-in centre and retreat. It’s a very calm and beautiful spot for quiet reflection.

It’s absurd to think that I’ve lived in my village for nine years, and never knew this place was just down the road. Through running, I’m finally getting to know my neighbourhood.

After the church there’s a steep downhill section. If I had turned left before the church, James tells me, there’s a really steep ascent up a big hill. James doesn’t really register the other hills on this route as hills – see the Strava graphic below – so this one must be quite impressive.

I’m saving James’s ‘big hill’ for a different day – not that I’m scared of hills. I enjoy the challenge. But one challenge at a time is sufficient for now.

After the steep downhill, the ground undulates a lot; one little hill after another, gradually climbing higher and higher. I resisted the temptation to turn off towards the beach, aware that I was tiring. And I plodded on.

As the ground levelled out, I recovered. Nine kilometers came and went, and I kept going. It would be too far to walk home from here, I told myself, it would take forever (not that my running is at all speedy). Might as well make it a round 10K.

As I reached 10K I felt good, and could have kept going. But I made myself slow to a walk, wary of possible injury. I walked the last mile home feeling very pleased with my effort, and my new 10K time of 1:18:27.

In just under two weeks, I have my first 10K race, and I know I can run the distance. Even if I’m the last to finish, I’ll get there, and I’ll be proud.

Valentine’s Run

Today was the local leisure centre’s 5K Valentine’s Run.

It was a small event. The centre has a few of these little runs throughout the year. There’s a very modest £5 entry fee, half of which is donated to charity. Runners get a lovely run, refreshments and a nice medal.

Registration and the pre-race briefing were in the centre’s cafe. Walkers went out to start first, and then runners about 10 minutes later. I had completed the centre’s festive 5K in December with my son and daughter-in-law. Intending to part run, part walk, we went out with the walkers. This time, as I was going to jog the course, I joined the runners.

As we gathered outside the centre in great spirits for a pre-run photo, I noticed that my fellow runners all looked like, well, actual runners. I began to wonder what I was doing there.

We set off. Runners bounded off gracefully into the distance. I waddled along. I commented to another woman jogging alongside me that there needs to be another category for people who want to run, but slowly. She agreed, and then disappeared into the distance. Then I was alone. But I didn’t mind. I reminded myself of what I wanted from the run:

  • I wanted to run somewhere different to my usual routes
  • I wanted to run all the way
  • I wanted to complete the course faster than last time

So I only needed to compete with myself.

The start of the run was fairly level. About half way round there’s a bit of a hill. As I approached the hill, I could see that I was catching up with a few runners who were walking up the hill. I am used to hills, and was determined not to walk. I jogged slowly up, one foot in front of the other, gradually gaining on the walking runners. Of course, once they got to the top, they sprinted down the other side on their rested legs, while I staggered and huffed and puffed.

At the bottom of the hill I started to overtake walkers, which made me feel better (even though I was only competing with myself. Honestly). Then a nice, mostly level, run back round to the leisure centre.

As I ran to the finish, I was cheered on by friendly people handing out medals.

I was pleased to see that the medal coordinated nicely with my t-shirt.

Refreshments – tea, coffee and cake were set out in the cafe. But it was far too warm in there for me. I was very aware of the sweat pumping out of my tomato face as I checked Strava and sipped my coffee. So I went back outside, where I belong.

I was the slowest runner today. But I beat my previous time for this route by 5 minutes 21 seconds.

So slow can also be fast. It’s all relative.

The Beautiful Run

To parkrun or not parkrun, that was the question yesterday. And the answer was ‘not’. Because I was afraid that, after the recent snow, it might be slippery and I might fall over. Pavements near my house were very slippery where slushy snow had frozen. I didn’t want to risk it. So I did a treadmill run instead. It did seem a shame, running on the treadmill, with the sun shining and the sky all beautiful and blue outside. But I had a good run, as far as running on the treadmill goes. And I’m lucky to have such a machine at home, so I’m not going to complain about it. Well, not too much. Looking on the bright side, it suited me to have an easier run yesterday, so I could do my long run today. I don’t usually run on consecutive days, still being new to all of this. But I don’t know how much time I’ll have through the week, so I wanted to get this week’s 8KM run under my belt. This morning was just as beautiful as yesterday. Frosty, cold and sunny. I checked the weather on my phone at 9 am as I got ready to set out – zero degrees Celsius, feels like minus three. I wasn’t phased. I’d soon warm up, and all that ice and snow must surely have gone by now. I happily jogged up to the top of the village on the pavement, saying good morning to people out walking dogs, and very feeling pleased with myself. Then the pavement ran out, and I crossed over and into the road. One word: ice. Lots of ice everywhere.

Okay, so it wasn’t that bad. But there’s a place at the top of the village where there’s been a ‘flood’ sign for months. The flood is generally a very big puddle that spans the road. After heavy rain it gets trickier, but for the most part it’s not too bad. Except for today – when it was a small ice rink, with frozen snow in the middle. Not surprisingly, I slowed down and walked very gingerly across. Once over, the rest of the road looked clear, and I began to run. Until a shady piece of road, and another patch of ice. That set the tone for the next mile or so: sunny road – run, shady road – walk. This is stupid, I said to myself, I missed parkrun yesterday because I thought it might be slippy, and now I’m trying to run on THIS.

Walking carefully up one particularly icy hill, looking for safe places to put my feet, it occurred to me that I might have more difficulty going back down the hill. Nothing for it then, I thought, I’ll just have to keep going. I took my time, and enjoyed the peace and solitude. Then I arrived at a junction and was relieved to see that the road I was planning to take was in full sun and free of ice. I ran down it with a light heart. The rest of my run, to the sea at Lilstock Beach, was mostly clear of ice and snow. I hadn’t originally planned to run as far as Lilstock. But as I’d had to walk so much, I thought I’d better go further to make sure that I ran for at least 8 KM of the distance. I passed scenery that was simply breathtaking. The rolling hills, snow-topped in the distance, looked so different that I felt like I’d gone much further. I had a moment of panic, feeling very far from home. What if I hurt myself? I thought, how will I get back home from here? I had to remind myself that I was really just a couple of miles from home. It just looked different, more beautiful, more isolated. As I approached the beach, I could smell the sea before I saw it, and I felt ridiculously excited. The beach itself is nothing very special, a pebble beach with a clear view of the Hinkley Point C power station construction site. But it felt like a massive achievement to get to a beach by the power of my own legs, rather than by driving. I didn’t linger at the beach, aware that I had the return run to do. Heading back home, I noticed that the ice on the roads was beginning to melt and things were warming up. When I reached the icy hill, I had to slow down and carefully pick my way through. But it was nowhere near as bad as I had expected. Heading up a long, steep hill my left knee and hamstring began to niggle. Aware that I’d gone much further than my training plan suggested, I slowed to a walk until things felt better again. Then I picked the pace up again, and arrived home running comfortably. I covered 7.8 miles in the end, or 12.5 KM. It took me a whole 1 hour 57 minutes, including walking time and gazing at the sea time. Although I walked for part of the way, I ran more than the 8 KM I needed (even if the running was broken up by tiptoeing over ice). It was a slow run, and it was a bitty run. But it was a gloriously beautiful run.

RED (and white) January – the conclusion

It’s over. I did it.

What did I do? I raised some money for the mental health charity Mind. I did something active every day, and felt good physically and mentally as a result. I reflected on my own mental health, and learned things about myself. I had many conversations about why I was doing this strange thing – which prompted discussion about mental health matters. And that’s the important thing.

The reason RED January appealed to me was a concern about increasing levels of mental illness. I have seen the debilitating effects of mental health conditions and disorders on people who are close to me; friends, family, work colleagues and, most worrying of all, children I have worked with. It’s often still a taboo, stigmatised subject – although things are improving. And that’s why events like RED January are so important.

If you would like more information on RED January, follow the link: https://www.mind.org.uk/redjanuary

As RED January ends, I feel a little lost.What do I do now?

Today, February 1st, I’m having a snow day. I walked The dog, which was fun, and then sat down with a hot chocolate. Suddenly, I felt tired, lethargic and hungry. Really hungry – for comfort food.

But RED January has taught me something – I got straight back up and put on an exercise video. Forty five minutes prancing about in my living room, and I’m energised again.

So I guess RED January isn’t just for January – it’s a habit I should try to cultivate all year round.

#redjanuary

RED January Day 29 – knee worries

I wasn’t sure whether today’s run could, or should, happen.

Yesterday I hurt my knee. Not a lot, but enough to make me worry.

Injury – the thing I have been avoiding at all cost.

We’ve invested in a cross trainer, and I had my first play on it yesterday afternoon. I warmed up first on the treadmill. I have very creaky knees at the best of times, and I wanted them fully warmed before stepping onto the new machine. Once primed and ready to go, I stepped on and set it for the easiest setting. It was hard work. I kept trying to turn the resistance down to make it easier, but as it was already at its lowest setting, this did no good. I kept going for about 15 minutes, and then decided to call it a day. To avoid injury, I told myself, it would be best to build up gradually.

All was well. Cooking dinner, I needed something out of the freezer. After squatting down to rampage through the freezer for some minutes, with frostbitten fingers and a bad temper, I straightened up. I turned. Awkwardly. The sensation in my knee was not pleasant. I had to sit down. All I could think was ‘what about my run tomorrow?’

I rested. My knee felt sensitive, but not bad. I stretched. And I went out this morning with an open mind. I needed a 7K run. But if I had to abandon it I would – I didn’t want to escalate a touchy knee into a full-blown injury.

As usual, I’d overdressed. The weather forecast was for 5 degrees Celsius, feels like 1, with sleet. So I wrapped up. Pretty quickly, the wrappings (jacket, hoodie) came off and were tied around my middle.

My knee felt fine, so I took my planned 7K route. I kept my pace super-slow, just to be safe. After about 20 minutes I was exploring roads I didn’t know. Then I came to a t-junction. Which way should I go? Right, and down, led to the sea (although I shouldn’t try to get that far today). Straight head and up – up quite a lot – led eventually to a village. But I couldn’t see anything that way, apart from the hill.

Choices – which way to go?

I chose the hill. If I went towards the sea, I would want to go too far (need to take care of that knee). And at the top of the hill would be views, even on a grey day like today. So I went up. I really enjoyed the hill. It was one of those hills that just keeps going. You think you can see the top, and then there’s more. Real value for money. At the top there were views. But sadly the Somerset hedgerows got in the way of photo opportunities. I ran down the other side just a little, checked Strava, realised I’d gone far enough for today, and headed back.

I was looking forward to running back down the hill that I’d just climbed. But as soon as I started the descent I found that my knee started to hurt. Clearly, the change in weight distribution from running downhill was putting more strain on it. I slowed right down, and took small steps until the ground began to level out.

For once, I was pleased that the return run is almost all uphill. I managed to keep going for the full 7K. When I reached the top of the village, where I usually end my runs with a euphoric downhill dash, I slowed down to a steady warm-down walk.

I’m happy that I completed my run. I’m happy that I didn’t injure myself doing it. But tomorrow I think I’ll have a yoga day.

#REDjanuary

RED January Day 27 – The thankful run

The sun shone brightly today, but it was bitterly cold with a 44mph north-westerly wind. Significant wind chill.

Running has made me weather-obsessed.

I procrastinated this morning with a lovely yoga session. And then, eventually, headed out into the cold morning air. I needed an easy 5K run today. To keep me going, I tried out a Nike Run Club run – the ‘Thank You Run’. This is a 45 minutes run, which was more than I needed, but I warmed up and down in the extra minutes.

I had a good run, in spite of the cold wind (or even – when the wind got behind me – because of it). I felt strong, and finished with more in the tank.

The commentary on the run was a bit cheesy – lots of being thankful – but today that worked for me. On a different day, I might have been driven to throw my phone at the wall. The coach popped up from time to time and promoted the listener to say thank you for something or other. One of the things he talked about was the people who helped to get us running. This one struck a chord with me. I thought about how I initially started to contemplate running, and the people who influenced me.

  • About a year ago I began being more active (weighing nearly 19 stone) with Leslie Sansone’s walking workouts on YouTube. As I lost weight and became more active, I started to think about doing more. Thank you Leslie Sansone.
  • Next, I heard various people on BBC Radio 2 talking about running, and about NHS England’s Couch to 5K programme. I started to think that this might be something I could do. Thank you BBC Radio 2 (and thank you to the people behind C25K).
  • Then, just as I was ready to explore Couch to 5K, a local BBC radio presenter, BBC Radio Bristol’s Emma Britton, appeared on the local news running at a parkrun for charity, having just completed Couch to 5K. Emma talked about her feelings about running and how, at 18 stone, she had been afraid of hurting herself. It was as if she was talking about me. Except she’d just completed a 5K run and was clearly thrilled about it. I wanted that; I was inspired. Thank you Emma Britton.
  • Finally, Jan, a wonderful woman who I met at Minehead parkrun has encouraged and inspired me. Thank you Jan.

Towards the end of the run, the Nike Run Club coach talked about being thankful for our favourite places to run. I love my village, and running in the lanes that surround the village. So as I took a warm down walk, I took some photos.

Enjoy your running.

#redjanuary

Lime Street, Stogursey

St. Andrews Church, Stogursey

RED January Day 26 – Parkrun volunteer and time for a walk

I didn’t get to run at parkrun today, because I was taking a turn at volunteering instead.

I had volunteered once previously, when I was given the responsible job of handing out finishing tokens. These record runner’s positions, which in turn allows timings to be allocated to the correct runners. Big responsibility. This time, I was trusted with the even greater task of timing each runner as they passed the finishing line. I was quite worried.

I need not have worried though; I was in the safe hands of Caroline, an experienced timekeeper. Caroline showed me what to do, and explained when to click ‘stop’ for each runner, as they pass The Cone. I realised that when I run, I’ve probably been slowing a moment too soon, just before I pass said cone. Useful insider information.

I learned all about the challenges faced by the volunteer team, like runners who pass the finish more than once, or those who pass before they have finished. And that there must be two timekeepers in case it all goes horribly wrong. I learned that parkrun in January is much colder for volunteers (and today was a relatively mild day). Next time: fingerless gloves.

But most of all, I found that it was an enormous privilege to watch 125 runners cross that finishing line. Everyone – whether they were fast athletes, parents with children in tow, those out for a walk, or those overcoming personal barriers – everyone was a champion.

Now that’s all well and good, but what about RED January? Standing around in the cold, however noble, is not active.

Arriving home I needed to think about doing something active. This was hard – my body, my brain and my appetite thought I’d just been to parkrun. Even if I did just stand around.

Fortunately, the dog saved the day and told me (by sitting staring at me, tail wagging) what I needed to do. A nice long walk.

We were out for about an hour, and walked one of my usual running routes. Archie was keen and walked with a little spring in his step. Although Archie is always keen to go walkies, once we are out of the garden gate he usually decides that he’d really rather just stand and sniff. But today, he was energetic and trotted along nicely.

There seemed to be a touch of spring in the air – birds singing, snowdrops in bloom and daffodils on their way. Maybe this accounted for Archie’s good mood; it certainly boosted mine.

#redjanuary