It’s not much of a hill, but my house is at the top of it. It means that wherever I run, the second half of that run is always uphill – or else I don’t get home. It is of no relevance, I just wanted you to know.
On my last twenty-eight minute run of week 8, I kept going by convincing myself that when I reached ‘the end’, I would continue to run for another two minutes, in order to prove that I would be ok this week. When I got there, I couldn’t do it. The problem is that I currently run until the bell rings to tell me that I am half way home, at which point I turn around and retrace my steps: I know exactly where I should be when I finish and my entire focus over those final minutes is on getting there. When I cross that line, everything collapses around me – including me. At that point, I am no more likely to run a further thirty seconds than another thirty days. I am done. It’s like asking a man who has just climbed Everest to shimmy up a step-ladder from the summit and fit a new light bulb. If you aim to make the perfect apple crumble, does anybody actually expect you to put crushed nuts on top?
I ended last week in a bit of a panic. Circumstances beyond my control pushed me from a Wednesday run to a Thursday run. This meant that in order to maintain the regime, my final run of the week had to be on Saturday. On Saturday I work all day, I have a long walk to and from, and I was due to see one of my daughters and two of my grandchildren an hour after getting home. Could I fit a thirty eight minute session (including warm up and warm down) into that gap (particularly as my getting ready/psyching myself up/drinking lots of water/going for a last minute toilet break routine takes at least thirty minutes)?
Well, I did it. The stress of the situation took my mind off the normal certainty of failure and – other than the failure to tag an extra two minutes on – I managed ok. It was earlier than I normally run and the weather was very warm. In my panic to get on with it, I forgot my knee supports, my chewing gum and my water, but I reached the end without any hint of stopping along the way. It was the work of seconds to cleave my tongue from the roof of my mouth with a screwdriver after I had staggered home. This week, I have discovered that the entire duration of a run is spent in an internal discussion with myself over the advisability of ‘just stopping for a few seconds’ and I fear that at least half of it is argued out loud. People with dogs cross the road when they see me coming. People without dogs hide behind trees…
I have now completed two of my thirty minute runs. Tomorrow I will have finished ‘the course’ and a smugger person you will not be able to find. It remains to be seen whether I will be able to gather together the motivation to keep going now. I will keep you informed.
For my run, my musical ‘soundtrack’ consists largely of tracks that are five minutes long or more: during a thirty minute run I know that I should get through six songs. There are, though, one or two shorter ones lurking therein and I cannot articulate the pain I feel when one of them starts to play. It boots my meticulous planning right out of the window. I cannot adjust the timings in my head and breathe at the same time. After a short track has played, there is no way of calculating when I will enter the last five minutes of my personal hell – other than the voice of Jo Whiley telling me that I am just entering the last five minutes, of course – but the fury drives me on, so the shorter songs stay on the playlist. I haven’t yet had a run without at least one shorter track puncturing my schedule. When I do, it will surely infuriate me further.
One further thing I discovered this week. I really should not have tracks with quiet intros on the playlist. When they play, I can hear myself breathe – and that is very bad indeed. Nobody should sound like that unless they are wearing an aqualung.
Today I met some old friends whom I have not seen since before lockdown and they commented on my loss of weight. Like an idiot I told them that I have been running (I have previously told no-one outside of my family and my tiny roster of WP readers). They were utterly appalled. They could not have disapproved more if I had wee’d in their cocoa. After we parted, I kept checking over my shoulder, in case they had reported me to the police. I anticipated disinterest; disapproval on such a grand scale left me wondering whether I really was being reckless beyond the point of criminal culpability. At least I won’t be so easy to catch in a chase now.
*Devon Loch jumped the last fence of the Grand National in 1956 comfortably in front of the rest of the field. Inexplicably, it then fell attempting to jump a fence that did not exist in the finishing straight and did not finish.