Battling Demons

It’s almost a week past my  10k run for charity and it’s taken me this long to find time to sit down and write. That’s down to a combination of work, meetings and social life and I make no apology for those. These inconveniences make up my life and there is no real way round them.

That brings me nicely to a conversation I had last night at the pub. Talking to an ex-runner who really knows everything there is to know about running (imagine me here rolling my eyes, because this person certainly thinks they know all about running) I encountered what I can only call back-handed encouragement. I’ve referred to this person before; someone who no matter what they say they always manage to make me feel as if I should just give up. I am rubbish. I don’t have the commitment to become a better runner. I shall always be a jogger. I will never improve my times. I can’t run half-marathons because I walk. Blah blah blah. You get the sad picture.

I’m safe writing this because this person will never think that they have done anything wrong. They will go on thinking that they have done me and the running world a favour. How wrong they are.

I try not to mention running in front of this person, let’s call him Jack, because Jack suddenly becomes the oracle of running. He’s been there, done that, got countless T-shirts – mostly from the marathons he’s done and he is liberal with his advice. Lucky me. Last night he remarked that I had lost weight (which is a step up from when I started running and he told me that I was too fat to run!) and before I knew it the words were out of my mouth.

“Oh, that’ll be the running”.  Damn.


First of all I need to join a running club. Running solo won’t make me a better runner, I need to be in a club. The fact that I can’t commit to running x number of days a week with a club and sometimes have to resort to using the treadmill (which are “rubbish” apparently and won’t do me any good) means that I don’t have the commitment to improve. Jack used to run every day, running 100 miles every week. That is commitment.

Then I need to give up this walk/run malarky because real runners only use fartlek in training. Once they’ve lengthened the run interval (because in fartlek, apparently, you start off with short distances and gradually lengthen them – not do set speed sections like I thought!) they don’t need to walk anymore. Real runners never walk.

I mustn’t do any resistance training because that just builds up muscle. Real runners, long distance ones at least, don’t have any bulky muscles. No, I must give up the thought of doing any weight training at all. Perish the thought!

And it went on like this. Jack certainly knows a whole lot more about running than me. But he’s proud of me. How bloody patronising is that?

So, anyway, my 10k. I was running for Sport Relief UK, one of hundreds of thousands running either 1, 3 or 6 miles that weekend. I’d chosen 6 miles along with maybe 20 others at Dumfries. Most people on the track were running 5k. Some were walking it, some were doing a combination of both. The 6 milers had 24 laps of a 400m track to do. How boring!

It was a hot afternoon and we started at 1.15, maybe not the best time to start a race. I started off at what I thought was a steady pace, but found myself near the front of the field. I checked my Garmin and  I was under 10 minute mile pace, but not going daft, so I carried on. Apart from having to slow to sort out my iPod which had stuck on an album instead of shuffling through my running songs, I ran fairly steadily for the first couple of miles. I found it hard to drink and run, perhaps having got used to only drinking on my walk intervals, and drinking was very necessary in the heat. My stats show that my walk breaks were very short until the last mile when I was starting to get tired.

At the start I had been chatting to a girl who I thought I vaguely recognised, but couldn’t place. She didn’t seem to recognise me though so I just assumed I’d got it wrong. About 4 miles in she caught up with me and we did a couple of laps together before I had to walk again. She was running a fairly steady pace, maybe the pace I should have been running all along, although I felt comfortable at the pace I was at and she did say that until I started walking she’d not been able to catch up with me. Sadly I was unable to catch up with her as the tiredness and the heat took over. The track we were running around was like a suntrap and the last time I was out I was running in zero temperatures! Acclimatisation is not a word we use much in Scotland.

I finished in a PB of 64:44. I could have gone faster if I hadn’t walked as much so I’m hopeful of a faster time on a cooler day, or at least another day like this further into the season when I’ve started to warm up a bit!

The girl, by the way, turned out to be a teacher at one of my schools. We visit on different days and so I’ve only ever seen her photograph up on the wall in the corridor. Now there’s a memory for faces!

Distance: 5.96 mi
Time: 1:04:44
Avg Pace: 10:52 min/mi
Elevation Gain: 7 ft
Calories: 697 C
Best Pace: 8:03 min/mi

Winding down in the Wind

Until I turned at the top of Ruthwell hill, I had no idea how windy it was today.

The subtle push of breeze on my back as I ran up the hill was nothing in comparison to the full frontal attack I felt as I left the main road for the rarely used grass centred tracks which were making up my 4 mile route. It was a cold and unrelenting wind, making me feel glad that I had worn my aptly named windcheater! This was my last longish run before my 10k on Sunday and I wanted to push the pace a little. The weather had other ideas though and just finishing strong soon became my only priority.

In my search for good pacing I have discovered, a website that searches for music with a bpm count correlating to a specific pace. I sat last night going through it and my iTunes library finding songs that fitted my target pace. I’ve used music to pace my running before and I think it really helps me. I remember a spectator shouting to me when I was running the Jedburgh 10k last autumn to take my earphones off, “You’ll run faster!” he said. Although I wasn’t about to stop and argue the toss, he was wrong! Music helps me to keep a steady pace, whether that’s 5k, 10k or half marathon pace. It saves me constantly checking my watch and allows me to enjoy running.

I started in metric, looking for music for a 7 min kilometre, loaded it all up and then realised that I was aiming too slow! I changed to Imperial and aimed for a 9:30 mile. The music it was giving me varied slightly between 9:15 and 9:45. In reality I think this was still too slow. I’ll retry for a 9 minute mile pace and see what that gives me. I didn’t seem to be struggling too much with the pacing, apart from up the hills and the wind, so speeding it up slightly might help me get under the 10:30 minute mile pace I seem to be achieving!

The run itself was otherwise uneventful; the route was dry and clear of obstructions, for a change. I tried to pick up speed in the last half a mile but not to much effect. 4 miles in 42 minutes. Last year that would have been great; this year it’s a mediocre run, again! Amazing how your perceptions change as you improve!

I am a bit stiff tonight. My quads are sore from battling against the wind, so tomorrow I must do some stretches before running again on Wednesday. I am programmed to do a 30 – 45 minute run on Wednesday and Friday with walks on Tuesday and Thursday. My 10k on Sunday is for Sports Relief and whilst I haven’t really pushed for sponsorship (I paid my entry fee and bought a T-shirt) I have only raised £20 out of my £50 target, but I also realise that lots of my friends have already donated to my Great North Run charity (The Dog’s Trust). My fundraising page is here, if you are interested.

Click on the caption to go to my fundraising page

So that’s me. I have my blueberry juice and I’m away to cut some carrots for my houmous! I live the life of luxury!

Get Lost!

Get Lost Sign

How wonderful it was to awake to glorious blue skies, warm sunshine and a gentle breeze! I’ve gotten so used to opening the blinds on running days just to be greeted by rain or wind or snow or all of those at once! I had planned to run in the afternoon, once all my chores were done, but as I’m used to seeing the weather here suddenly change, I opted to run in the morning.

I was down to run 7 miles, my longest run for the 10k training I’m doing; from here on in I’m on shorter distances. As I’ve said before planning routes here isn’t easy. The roads are widely spaced and there are no ‘blocks’ to run around. I have to sit down and plan overlapping routes to get mileage in or run there and back, which I hate doing. I sat and planned a route around the neighbouring village (which is less than a mile away) that criss-crossed the main road. I took one last look at the route and set off.

I’d copied the route to my Garmin and had the compass pointing me in the right direction. All was well for the first mile or so and I was pleased to hit mile one in under 10 minutes. Once I reached a T-junction I turned left and started running up to the main road. Then I started hearing beeps from my watch and, on looking down, saw the ‘off course’ message. What had gone wrong? I was sure that was the right way. I stopped and tried to remember the route. With all the changes I’d made in planning maybe I’d decided to turn right at the T and run to the next village? I turned round and ran back to where I’d come and passed the end of the T. A few metres further on the watch beeped again! “Off course” it said – arghh!! What was going on? Either I was right first time or this time! I stopped again and tried to run the route in my head, realising only then that I needed to go under the railway line twice and that I could only do that it I followed my original route! Turning tail I ran back up towards the main road. With all the pluttering around, and with no thanks to Gary Garmin, I’d put extra distance on and lost time.

Which way was it?

I finished the first loop strong and was happy to start loop two. I tried to replan my route in my head to compensate for the extra mileage and decided to take a longer outward route and a shorter inward one. I went back through the village and when I got to the T junction I didn’t hesitate to turn left! A couple of times I had to take to the grass verge as vehicles came down the narrow lanes, again losing a bit of time as I waited for them to pass. If I take to the verge too soon I can be left waiting for ages, but if I’m too late the vehicles just creep forward and seem to slow me down even more!

At the end of mile 6 a lady was walking her two dogs down the lane, a Jack Russell and a black Lab. As I ran closer the Jack came running down to me and I had no choice but to stop. He was friendly enough, but too many tales of runners being bitten by dogs has made me wary of running towards them. Out of social courtesy I had to stop and chat to the elderly lady walking them. I find it difficult to just carry on, especially with older people who often want nothing more than a chat. It’s difficult, but I’d rather be friendly than fast!

I had a mile left to do and figured that a straight run up the main road would be enough. It’s a long, long hill, but it’s rewarding reaching the top and seeing my own village once I do reach the top. After the crest there’s a short downhill run into the village. I stopped just after the pub, allowing me a good cool down walk.

I did 7.01 miles in 77:54 mins, giving me an 11:07 min mile pace, which was OK. I had hoped to do 10 min mile pace in readiness for my 10k coming up in a few weeks, but with all the stops and turning around I guess that wasn’t meant to be. That’s fine though, I can live with that.

If you want a laugh follow this link and press play!