Revelation

Revelation

Yesterday I was fed up, really pissed off with myself. After chickening out of a run for the third time this week I went for a walk with Marc to try to get my head straight. See I’ve been running shorter distances and less frequently lately because I have an inguinal hernia which I’m due to get surgery on at the end of November. But that’s only half the story…


In truth I’ve lost my confidence with distance. Since having to take a couple of months out over the summer because of injury I haven’t got to grips with running properly. I winged it through GNR with Marc’s help but it was very tough. Every long run I’ve attempted since then has ended in gastric disaster and the wheels have well and truly fallen off. Added to this I’ve been working long hours so runs have been confined to the hours of darkness making covering any decent mileage more complicated. So I did what I thought best, I cut down on the distance and tried to concentrate on making my runs enjoyable blasts as opposed to painful poo fests. The problem is that I’ve got myself to a place where I felt I couldn’t go any further, I could see my stamina dropping and longer distances started to look scary and daunting. 


So what to do?

Well it’s fortunate that I have the best of running coaches who knew exactly how to help. The first thing he told me was the greatest piece of advice I’ve heard in a long time. Don’t compare yourself to your best. I tend to look back a lot to last year when I was super fit, full of steroids, running fast paces and serious mileage. I forget what I’ve been through since and the simple fact that I’m getting older. By constantly trying to emulate my glory days I’m losing the real reason why I run. For the love of it. And Pie. 


Marc suggested we go out this afternoon together, in the daylight and try an eight mile run. Eight miles, the distance that used to be my short run which now seemed like a marathon distance. What would I do if my stomach and ass exploded four miles in like it has been doing recently? Armed with enough Andrex to mummify a large adult we headed out towards the beach. It was a perfect day, unseasonably warm and with the lightest of breezes. The Met Office had said it was 5mph or less, it definitely felt it and I immediately knew I’d made a poor, poor outfit choice. My legs were on fucking fire. Seriously it was like I had a hairdryer down either leg and it was blowing out of my arsehole. In short, it was hot. Thank Zeus, Allah, God etc I’d worn a T shirt so only one half of my body was insanely overheated. As we hit the beach the pair of us were dying, passers by were wincing in horror as we showered them with a sweat tsunami. We breathed like geriatric huskies as we dragged ourselves along the coastal path. Strange though that despite it all I felt kind of ok, it was a tolerable agony, so much so that as we passed the third mile I decided I was going to try for ten. Marc was in agreement and told me to knock down the pace a little, we still had a long way to go. I’d momentarily forgotten that he’d run a half marathon yesterday and probably needed a ten mile run like a boot in the bollocks. 


As we turned off the coastal path the breeze found us and it was a huge relief as it found our legs, feet, faces and spirits. At the halfway point Marc suggested we run on a little and I was slightly dumbfounded. Throughout the years on pretty much every run we’ve done together Marc and I have quibbled about the halfway point- I like to go on a bit longer (it gives me a psychological edge) and he likes to turn immediately (he can’t be arsed with a long ass walk home). Sometimes he wins, sometimes I do, but suggesting it of his own volition, well that’s unprecedented. So a little further than I expected we didn’t hang around (in case my ass caught on and decided to obliterate the rifle range) and turned for home. 

It was pleasantly cool until we turned back onto the beach to discover a truth we’d long since suspected. 

The Met Office are a bunch of lying sociopaths. 

In what parallel universe of insanity the bellowing ice cold gale that greeted us was 5mph I do not know. What I do know is that if that was 5mph then my left buttock is a Jammie Dodger. It was strong and bollock shudderingly cold and constant. It also made my insane hair look even more demonically manic than usual. 


The funny thing is that up till that point fatigue had been setting in a little and my legs were tiring but now I knew I was going to have to get into my groove and find my automatic. I’m talking about that mode where you’re just running at a manageable pace and you know you can dig in and slog it out. Some days it’s a good steady speed and other days it’s as slow as barely moving but it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s what I need to get me home that’s all it has to be. So I found my automatic, against the stiff, harsh wind and like a particularly sweaty homing pigeon set my course. 


The final mile came much, much sooner than I’d expected and I realised the method in Marc’s madness, in going further at halfway he’d given me what I needed to get my game back. And in turn given his very tired legs a long ass walk home with a very grateful and happier missus. 

Ten miles done, feeling somewhere near to what I once was whilst accepting it’s what ahead that counts most. 

Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

Runs

Runs

I didn’t take any photos of tonight’s run but I have painstakingly recreated the essence of it for you guys in this hauntingly realistic masterpiece.It went like this…


My hernia has been a bit knobby so I’ve had to dial down the distance and pace before surgery. Added to this home buying is buggery stressful and I deal with stress via my lower intestine, nuff said. 
Twenty minutes pre run I impaled my own ocular cavity (that’s my eye-let’s just clear that up) on my fingertip in a contact lens incident that left me pretty much blind and a bit testy. Still undeterred I headed out into the just perfectly cool and still night, yes I was in hideous pain and seriously sight impaired but I was stretching my legs towards another gorgeous 10k. 

And it was lovely, I was a little tired but I was happily cruising along towards the beach watching the incredible dusk sky swept with orange and purple. As I turned along the Serpentine I sensed a presence as my side, you just know when someone is overtaking you but this felt slightly more intrusive. As I prepared to lamp the suspected serial killer his face caught my eye and I saw it was a gooning Geordie, my gooning Geordie. He had appeared the night before last ahead of me during a 10k and I had to nearly burst one of my lungs to catch him. He was at the arse end of his second half marathon in as many days so we dropped the pace and trundled for home.

Long story short, about ten minutes later my bowel had decided to exit my body with as much brevity as it could muster. My sides ached, my stomach churned and I had to clench my butt cheeks so tightly I could have made a diamond from coal. In the end Marc ran his fastest ever recorded mile getting home for the car whilst I wandered through Crosby village in luminous tights sweating, groaning and whispering very bad words. 

A triumphant run it was not, triumphant runs it very much was.

Vodka me.

Stripped

Stripped

So, after the bumhole of a run on Tuesday I just didn’t feel like getting back out there tonight. In the end I bit the bullet (well tbh I’d eaten pretty much everything else) and headed out. 


I decided to do an evening run, at a shorter distance than usual. I really like running in the evenings at this time of year, there’s something childishly exciting for me about autumnal nights. I love the crunch of the leaves underfoot and the hallowe’eny, bonfire night smell in the cool air. For me it’s the fun part before winter’s butt numbing icy air floods the streets and makes the first ten minutes of your run like some sort of mediaeval torture. Dressed in my spangly Nike flash tights I felt reassuringly light on my feet as I took the long route to the beach for what I hoped would be a peaceful 10k. The streets were alight with the headlamps of cars heading home for the weekend and the air was refreshingly crisp. My hands were cold for the first time since last winter but I felt a little spark as I remembered how much I enjoy the buzz that a Friday night run can bring. 


As I headed towards the beach I was mindful that it was now very dark and I was running alone so I stayed up on The Serpentine, a long sweeping road that borders the seafront which offers a few road lamps for visibility and safety. Turning at the beach I could see the lights of the huge ships heading out of the river into the sea and the moon casting its glittery trail across the water. I could feel the ocean air on my face and the music in my ears and I was smiling, really grinning. I must have looked fucking ridiculous. But I felt good, I felt strong and I knew I had chosen the right distance. I was tired but that comfortable, steady tired and at four miles I knew that I had enough to get me home. Turning away from the beach and heading back up towards home the next mile passed incredibly quickly but as it did my legs suddenly tired and I developed a prodigious stitch. 

The last mile was a slog. A constant discussion with myself about not giving up because it hurt, a one sided conversation about managing pain, it was a difficult push. My breathing had become pretty chaotic as a little bit of panic set in. I talked myself down, telling myself that this was the time to be steady, to get myself under control. But the last couple of minutes were messy and sore, I started making those noises that scare people as you get near them, the ones that make you sound like you may not have long to live. And to be fair that’s kind of how I felt. In truth I had a stitch but I’m a whiny little pussy and I make no apology for that. 

As I finished and the Garmin buzzed I thought I’d feel destroyed but in contrast I felt a deep sense of satisfaction, a quiet relief that comes with a job well done. It was by no means my fastest run but I no longer give a shit about fastest, it was solid and strong and that’s what I care about. That and food, and Cleo, Marc and Merlin. The order of those things isn’t important right now.


Now I’m at home having a curry and a glass of port like some sort of geriatric yob and I have that nice glow that a happy run brings. That and alcohol. I’m not sure what my next run will bring, I’m counting down now till the date of my impending surgery arrives, but I know I won’t dread the street like I had done. Sometimes going back to basics is the best way, stripping it all back and grinding it out and if it gets nasty just keeping on. There’s a pleasure in knowing you’ve made it past the tough part and tamed the beast that was all up in your face in your room as you laced your trainers. Because even the whiniest little pussy like me can find their inner lion when they need to. And when it gets hard we don’t cry. 

We roar. 

Deep

Deep

Yesterday I woke up tired, the kind of tired that makes you feel like you’ve got a hangover but without any of the fun of poor decisions, mystery stains or unexplained bruises. We’ve got a lot on at the moment-house hunting, two businesses, a daughter with a newly discovered social life, an emergency medical technician working irregular and unsociable hours and a girl with a body that’s a bit fucked. Don’t get me wrong, there’s not one thing in that list I’m not overwhelmingly grateful for but I do feel a bit shot now and again. 


After viewing yet another home that needed more work than we would ever have the time or energy to commit to we were pretty jaded. At the moment we’re living with my parents and the house is bursting at its seams. We have the combined good luck and misfortune of living in a much sought after area (great schools, good transport links, beautiful beach) but we don’t necessarily have the pay cheques to match which makes house hunting an interesting journey. We’ve seen some of the most ingenious and creative ways estate agents use to polish a turd and we’re starting to feel that a tent on the beach might be an acceptable option. 

We decided to take a little time out, grab a filthy breakfast and walk it off. It was a stunning early autumn day, a warm sun coupled with a steady, temperate wind that was chopping the sea up and throwing it across the prom in glittering showers. 


We strolled along the coastal path and let the stern gusts spring clean our spirits. We could hear the water hitting the shoreline in frothy crashes so we decided to scramble down from the path to the rocky, deserted fringes of the beach. When we got down there (incurring several scratches and a very grassy arse) it was perfect. The tide was just beginning to ebb leaving a tiny, windswept pebbled cove. The sky was light blue streaked with the softest white cobwebs and the sound of the water spilling over and sucking back across the stones was hypnotic. We sat on a smooth, flat rock and fell silent, taking in the magnificent beauty that surrounded us, huddled up together against the rushes of wind we breathed in the salty air. As I watched the waves I wondered about how something so powerful and chaotic as the sea can also be so peaceful. I rested my head on Marc’s chest and let my heart and body relax. Marc leaned his head over my shoulder and said

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!”

Behind us about 50 metres away was a gigantic bright green object bobbing about on the shore. At first it appeared to be a small boat but as we looked closer we could see it was a huge buoy that had washed up. We climbed back up onto the coastal path and instinctively ran towards where the buoy was stranded then struggled down onto the beach again. It was huge, I’m talking monolithic. As the waves belted against it there was an eerie creaking noise as this massive chunk of emerald metal emblazoned with Q9 seized against the force of the water. 


Despite being an obvious maritime feature it looked bizarrely alien and out of place and yet utterly fascinating. We stood for ages taking photos and looking at it from any angle we could before we headed back up to the path feeling like we had witnessed something really special, it had felt like a privilege. 


Later that day Marc decided to go for a run, I opted to stay home as my stomach was in knots (it has been for days) and I still felt done in. As he was getting ready though I changed my mind, I can’t explain why. I really can’t explain why because I really did feel a bit shit, it wasn’t a great idea but I needed to destress, I knew that a run would kill or cure the feelings of malaise. I told Marc I would do just the eight miles and he said that was all he fancied anyway so we would go together. The wind had dropped so we eschewed the shelter of the canal and headed to the beach. Within the first mile my legs had begun to feel heavy but not terminally so and I was pretty convinced I could run it off. The sun was bright but the first whispers of autumn from the day had intensified and as the gusts had abated so had the temperature leaving our bare arms feeling colder than they had done for many months. As we turned towards what was still a steady but now also chilly headwind I found breathing something of a struggle and filling my lungs became more challenging. Thankfully on cornering the beach the wind took to our sides and it became a relief instead of a hindrance. We trotted along for a little while until on the left hand side in the distance we saw the buoy, this time washed up on the shore with the sea on the distant horizon. 


Although it was now dusk we found ourselves leaving the path and running through the overgrown edges of the coastal shelf then dropping down onto the beach. Now devoid of water the buoy looked even larger but it had an air of melancholy, its vast iron chains sprawled out beside it like the tentacles of some mechanical ocean beast. We found ourselves talking to it, comforting it (yes we are sentimental knobheads) and reassuring it that the sea would come and carry it to where it belonged. As we stood there the green light on the top began winking and yes I know they’re light sensitive and the darkening skies would prompt this reaction but to us it felt magical and a little bit moving. We were glad we’d come back and we left the beach knowing that in the morning help would come to our friend Q9. 


As we turned halfway and headed for home my hips began to tire and pretty soon my legs were sore and tired. My back ached and I started to develop that crazy sort of stagger you get when your limbs decide to stop working as a team and start trying to express themselves via the media of interpretive dance. I was all over the place and my breathing was too. I needed something to focus on so I looked towards the horizon and I let my mind go back to earlier that day. I thought about the sea and how that despite the chaotic tumult of the water there was peace and that peace came from the tide. It occurred to me how similar it is to running, how in the flailing arms and legs and the gasps and sweat and effort there is a rhythmic and meditative peace like the movement of the waves. And so I focused on regulating my breath, on steadying my body and on finding my groove. And yes it hurt, and yes Marc in his usual way quietly and strongly lit my way home but I never foundered. 

I guess at many times in my life I’ve been like that buoy, adrift in an ocean that seemed intent on dashing me against rocky shores but in running I found something dependable and steadfast, an anchor. 

And I refuse to sink.