Not a holiday from running. What kind of holiday would that be?
Not my kind.
I haven’t been running much lately due to some medication I’m taking. I’m fine, I’m just really really, really tired. However, last week I discovered that if I take regular naps and am relaxed and well rested, I can run!
Running on holiday is the best kind of running. You have had a lot of sleep. You have plenty of time. You can eat breakfast, loll in bed for two hours, then go for a run. None of this leaping out of bed at the crack of dawn, stubbing your toe on the doormat and waking up in the path of oncoming traffic.
I have just spent a week in Blakeney, Norfolk, one of my favourite places in the whole world in which one of the very best things to do is a little 5 mile loop run from the quayside, out around the marshes to Cley, then back through country lanes and village (complete with village green) to Blakeney. I am struggling very hard not to use the word picturesque.
During my week’s holiday, I ran the loop four times, with an extra 2 miles on Friday morning, partly so that I could take in the ford at Glandford (who doesn’t love a ford?), and partly to justify a three course pig-out at the Wiveton Bell that night.
As is so often the case, the first time was the sweetest. It was a Sunday and a bright, breezy, beautiful morning. The coast path was ‘busy’ with runners and dog-walkers, I must have passed at least 6 people. It was dry underfoot, heron flapped overhead and a reed bunting sang just for me. Back on tarmac, I saw a whole two cars in 20 minutes and was positively bursting with joy by the end of the run. The hedgerows were exploding with abundance after all the recent rain with giant daisies and towering foxgloves. Running up the tiny hill from Wiveton to Blakeney, a car had stopped on the side of the road to shield a travelling band of tiny ducklings from any possible traffic (!). Church bells rang. A kestrel hovered. My cup ran over.
On the way into Wiveton I spotted this house, nestling betwixt church and river.
It will be mine.
Here’s a map of the route, in case you’re ever in Blakeney and want to try it. If you do, beware running in the rain as the coast path is very muddy (the kind that sticks to shoes). It can also get rather windy, but that just adds to the fun.
Another bittersweet run.
Mr N and I pulled each other out of bed at 9 on Saturday morning and pushed ourselves along the 9.5 miles to Regent’s Park and back. We barely spoke a word through general exhaustion, but managed to stop each other from stopping and keep each other keeping on, with only a short break for water and mint humbugs by the water fountain.
I love Regent’s Park. We go in at the north-east end, by the Zoo, to the sound of penguins honking. I always take deep breaths so that I can really appreciate the whiff of feeding time fish and then complain about how disgusting it is. Once, just past the Zoo, I saw a pair of peregrine falcons being mobbed by crows.
We head up the Broad Walk to the obelisk and turn left down a side-path to take the small gate leading over Chester Road to the English Gardens. No dogs are allowed in the English Gardens, so we have to pay particular attention to those on display before and after. My attitude to dogs on my runs is indicative of my general hypocrisy about most things. I used to be, and sometimes still am, terrified of dogs. Now, however, I also love them. Particularly the following: small Jack Russell types; spaniels who are a bit scrappy; medium sized sad-eyed mongrels; anything black and white. I love all dogs in Regent’s Park, because they are very well-behaved and usually on a lead. The terriers grunting around at the back of Elthorne Park at midnight without an owner in sight, not so much.
The English Gardens are lovely, but they’re only my favourite bit of the Park in Spring when the blossom is out. In Summer I prefer the lake with its temporary residents: groups of heron stalking and posing (and occasionally flying) around like fragile feathered dinosaurs; Egyptian geese with their sunglasses on; millions of daisies untroubled by lawnmowers; and runners of all shapes, sizes and speeds.
Back around the lake and up into the main Park again, every weekend brings a new opportunity for anthropological observation. This Saturday, mini-football – hundreds of tiny tots blundering after footballs they could barely hold, adrift amid a sea of cones and flags. On the other side of the path, 10-year olds playing cricket, their legs lost inside enormous pads, tiny hands in giant gloves.
After stopping at the Hub for a drink and a sweetie, we head for home. It’s still a minimum of 3.5 miles away, uphill, but it feels within reach. Leaving the Park for the Camden pavements is never sad. I know it’ll be there the next time.
Yesterday evening I was not happy.
I had just finished a five day training course which included going in on a Saturday and dealing with work emails every morning and evening. I am putting on weight, but can’t seem to stop myself reaching for the crisps. I was coming down with a cold.
I was tired and grumpy.
I needed to make dinner.
There was only one thing for it – go for a run.
I have been running lately, I really have. I just haven’t felt like writing about it. What could I say that I haven’t said before, or that you haven’t thought before? I haven’t done any new training sessions or run any races. I don’t even have any new trainers. Is there anything new to say about running?
Of course there is. It’s tricky though. I know this is a blog but I try not to be too personal on it. I may write about me, myself and I but I don’t think this is the place to discuss my multiple personality disorder.
After my marathon came the inevitable comedown. The stiff hamstrings I picked up during training kept grumbling and, to be honest, I let them. I should have stopped running for a couple of weeks to give them the chance to recover.
I didn’t, though. I didn’t stop running because I have to stop running.
Soon, probably in a couple of weeks’ time and not for long, maybe a couple of months. Not for anything terrible either. I just can’t run during some medical treatment. I’ve done it before and I know it won’t kill me, but it’s become a big mental block, stopping me writing.
I’ve loved so many of the runs I’ve been on lately so much that I don’t want to share them. I haven’t run at faster than marathon pace. I haven’t pushed myself, thought about my performance or planned my sessions. I heard miles like these referred to lately as “junk miles”.
During last week’s junk miles I paused to appreciate wet roses in a morning shower. I watched storm clouds clear to blue sky and back in ten minutes. I ran up Highgate West Hill without stopping.
They’re not junk, any miles you can run without thinking or worry. They’re golden. No rules, no responsibility, no plans, no targets.
I’m going to miss them.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
I exaggerate. It was the better of times, it was the less good of times. It was the passable of times, it was the sub-standard of times.
What am I talking about? I am talking about my weekend. My lovely four day weekend with four diamond opportunities to run in a sparkling celebratory fashion around the streets of London town. My jubilant, joyful firework display of a weekend which was, in reality, partly a damp squib.
It started well – a 13 mile run with Mr Notajogger on Saturday morning took in Regent’s Park and Highgate, and was planned specifically to pass by the Highgate Pantry in order that we could purchase two ginormous iced doughnuts (with hundreds and thousands on top). It is something of an unreconstructed bakery, favouring artifical colours over artisan cupcakes, and for that reason perhaps the doughnuts are ridiculously good. We feasted on them, full of the self-satisfied glow of those who have run an unnecessarily long way for no reason.
On Sunday it rained. I did not run.
On Monday it did not rain until I started running. I forced myself out onto the streets for a weak, slow and painful 7 miles. It hurt. I ran out of podcasts. My left sock had a hole in it. I had run out of clean sports bras and had to wear a tight white vest which is a size too small and slightly see-through.
On Tuesday I was hungover. Mr N dashed out of the house for a 10 mile run. 2 cups of tea, 2 breakfasts and 2 extra sleeps later I crawled out for a 5.2 mile run. It was supposed to be 5.5 but by 5.2 I was off the main road and no-one could watch me limping sadly home.
I have been having hamstring problems for a while. Not bad enough to stop me running, but enough to keep me moaning. Sometimes it’s the right, sometimes the left. Sometimes my left knee feels weak too. And also, the ball of my right foot has started to hurt.
Ugh. I know I should probably stop running for a while but I will have to do this anyway in a month’s time and I want to run now dammit! So, I’ve been alternating running days with rest days. I’ve been taking it easy, no speedwork, few hills.
It has not worked.
Last night I ran home from work via Regent’s Park. It was a lovely evening. It was not a lovely run. All of the aforementioned pains in the legs were present and correct, along with a nice blister on my left heel which may be related to silly summer sandal-wearing.
Mid-way through the run, I ground abruptly to a halt and considered getting the bus home. Then I saw this lovely scene, took a photo, stretched a bit and decided to suck it up and carry on home.
This morning I ran 12.65 miles in 45 minutes and 57 seconds. I’m pretty pleased with that.
When my mapmyrun app on my phone first told me I’d run a mile in 3 minutes and 16 seconds I confess to a doubting its veracity for a second. “Mind you,” I then considered, “I did rest my hamstring instead of running yesterday, maybe that was just the extra push I needed towards running the fastest mile of all time by nearly half a minute?”
I was quite surprised I managed to maintain the pace over the full 12.65 miles, but the voice of the app kept telling me so every 3-4 minutes so it must be true!
The map of my run looks a bit weird, though.