We’ve been away far more than usual this summer, with two holidays and a weekend at the in-laws’ tied in with the Olympic football. For me this has meant doing something I don’t like doing. Running in strange places.
When you’re training for a half marathon, you can’t just take a couple of weeks off running. You have to keep going, wherever you are. For some people this might be exciting, but I am a creature of habit.
I have three basic runs at home. The three mile run, which is two big laps of the village. The five mile run takes in parts of the three mile run, but takes me to the edge of town and back in a big loop. The eight mile run takes in elements of the three and five mile runs, but takes me round town in a wiggly way. In the final weeks before a half marathon, I stick the three mile run on the end of the eight mile run and add an extra bit to make a 12 mile run.
These routes were designed by my husband when he was running. I know how far they are, so I don’t need to think about it. I don’t obsess about distance, but if I want to know how far I’ve gone and how far I’ve still go to go, I can work it out.
When I’m running, I zone out of my surroundings. I think, I imagine, I remember, I write blogposts in my head. I listen to my music. Then I zone back in and I know where I am.
In strange places, I can’t do this.
On the canal boat I adjusted my plans for eight mile runs down to five mile runs, because I was already exhausting myself doing locks. But then I bottled it. I set off running. The path was narrow and uneven. The weeds were up to my face. There were insects flying at me. I kept having to cross bridges. I wasn’t happy. I gave up and turned round. I’d only managed about three miles. And I didn’t try again the rest of the holiday.
At my in-laws’ I asked my husband where I should run. The village is on a hill. This isn’t helpful. He suggested I do a couple of lengths of the high street and a couple of laps of the park. Walking the length of the high street trailing three kids takes forever. Running the length of the high street takes about four minutes. So I ran there and back three times. I checked the time in the park. I’d been running for 32 minutes. Surely I must have been going an hour?! I was so bored. I did three laps of the park. And there was a hill. I was up to 46 minutes. I did two more lengths of the high street and back before giving up.
And so to the big one. The first 10 mile run of the current training regime happened to fall when I was in Padstow. And there’s only one place to run. The Camel Trail. It’s a disused railway track, now a very popular footpath and cycle path running along the length of the Camel Estuary. Padstow to Wadebridge is five miles, maybe slightly more. Last year I ran it with my husband keeping me company and keeping me safe on his bike.
This year, with no-one to look after the kids, I did it alone. And I was a little bit nervous and didn’t enjoy it. I’m less scared of being mugged and raped than I am of falling and breaking my ankle, or just pulling a muscle and being unable to move. This is actually unlikely. In 18 years of running, I’ve only twice been pulled up by an injury.
It was raining when I set off. The sort of rain that would make you think twice about going out. This turned torrential. The sort of rain that bounces and creates bubbles in the puddles. I was as wet as it was possible to be, yet somehow getting wetter and wetter. And all I had to look at was hedges and wildflowers. Apart from the bit in the middle where there’s some rocks. I love cycling down there, but I need more to look at when I’m running – parks, shops, the railway station. And I need to know how far I’ve been, how far I’ve still go to go. Ten or 11 miles is pretty depressing with nothing to look at when you’re soaked to the skin.
But I did it. The training is still on track. But give me my familiar surroundings any day of the week.