Monday, 19 September 2011

Big Break

Distance: 6.66mi
Time: 01:13:57
Surface: Trail
Conditions: Bright, sunny but chilly

Today I ran the longest distance I have since the Sheffield Half Marathon in May this year. In the past 4 months since the event, I've been running short 3mi distances between work and where I park the car in the morning, a couple of times a week and sometimes not at all.

Today was a big deal. I had got myself into a state about whether I could manage the full 10k (6.2mi) or not as I've been struggling even with short distances. My breath has been short, I've got stitch, my knees hurt and of all things I'm sure I'm developing a bunion. On a couple of occasions I've had to stop and walk. This is a far cry from the regular double-digit training runs I was managing before the Half Marathon. So of course I've been scared that maybe running's given up on me, lest I have given up on it, and that my leg muscles have turned to spaghetti and my arse is now just too fat for my carcass to drag around.

But, and I will spare you the details, it was OK much to my surprise. So on reflection, having had a significant break from running long distances, I have learned a number of things today:

  1. Trail running is far easier on the body than road running
  2. Running sans backpack complete with work attire/equipment is less tiring
  3. I'm a lot slower than I was but that's OK
  4. I always wear too much when I run, even if I'm freezing when I start
  5. I run faster and more effectively in the morning than after a full day at work
  6. I'm an inclement weather kind of runner - cold and bright is perfect, cloudy or wet is as good
  7. I need some new running music, my iPod is quite dull

For the last 4 months I have been running almost entirely on main road pavements and tarmac and whilst the hills have been non-existent I have really struggled with calf and foot ache which I never used to suffer on my regular long runs. I've taken this to mean that running maybe isn't my thing - if my body can so quickly repel the strength and endurance I built up for a Half Marathon maybe this hobby isn't for me. However after today's session I'm beginning to wonder whether it's just the surface that's affected me. In theory, I have read that trail running is better for the knees and joints due to the softer leafy, muddy surface providing a softer landing, but never really noticed this in practice. Since all my running, with the exception of the odd, unusual route, makes use of the trail, why would I?

I'm lucky enough to live a mile from an entry point onto the Trans Pennine Trail in South Yorkshire which provides a fantastic, off road running experience on relatively flat terrain. I will quite often run alongside fields and in some parts through woods, and, though not dissimilar to the routes forced upon me in Cross Country as a fat nerdy teenager at school (as purple as a beetroot and wheezing in a manner akin to having a 20 a day smoking habit) I actually love it. This comes as the biggest shock to me, and probably my parents who wonder what's happened to their historically stationery eldest. So more trail running for me it seems, at the very least to arrest the self doubt that running is no longer my t'ing, I can still do it.

I shall also ad-dress (excuse the pun) the clothing issue. I invariably wear too much when running. If I wasn't self conscious I should probably run about in an Olympic crop top and pants combo but people, that ain't happening ever, I can assure you. I have very bad circulation so tend to suffer from freezing extremities - cold hands and feet (and bits of bottom and stomach that are too far away from my circulatory system to benefit from the blood flow). But after 10 minutes it all kicks off. My hands get boiling and my feet sweat, so I generally need alot of very breathable and cool clothing, particularly lightweight layers that I can take off (and somewhere to pack them away when I do). I have a number of pairs of running tights but actually only 1 pair that are cool enough (and ironically warm enough) to wear in summer and in winter, a pair of Nike performance tights. Previous to this I wore capris and running tights but was forever fiddling with the ankle zips to let some air in in summer. My legs are therefore, sorted. My top half is another matter and I suffered the curse of the initial morning air blast today. I considered it brisk enough for long sleeves and a gilet (useful for iPod) but after the 10 minute gateway wished I'd worn short sleeves instead.

As we are now officially in Autumn I may dig out a rather nifty addition to my running clobber - a pair of arm warmers. There work effectively like leg warmers but are worn on your arms so you can remove them whilst running and shove them in an empty pocket or hip bag. OK, they look a bit weird, but actually for freaks like me who can't get their body temperature under control I find them really useful. So for me, wearing less is more, even in the coldest of weather, as I cannot stand being too hot when I run.

And so finally, what to include on my iPod? My current running companions are high octane drum 'n' bass mixes of old, a dash of Prodigy, and my favourite female Electronica in the form of Kosheen, Goldfrapp and Roisin Murphy. After 2 years of the same playlist I'm getting a little bored of the tunes so am inviting suggestions... as long as it's fast and upbeat I'll give it a go so let me know.


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