So much has happened over this summer, that I had all but forgotten the Wings for Life World Run down at Silverstone in May. What a great day that was - meeting and running with friends old and new in a previously unknown (to me) part of the countryside....in conjunction with thousands of others around the globe, all raising money for a good cause (research into finding a cure for spinal cord injury)!
It was a pleasant surprise to receive an email from the organisers to remind me that the prize for this year's race was the opportunity to take part in one of the next year's global events, at a destination of my choice (which almost makes up for not receiving the free cinema tickets every participant was meant to receive this year - just kidding!).
Some of the destinations that caught my eye this year are not holding events next year, but there are also several new ones that have joined the party. It's difficult to choose where to go - as you don't want to go somewhere that takes forever to travel to, or that would result in major jetlag, I'm not convinced that I want to run in the middle of the night or in temperatures in the mid-30s, or anywhere politically unstable. However, I would love to see a new place and meet new people.....but then again, would a language barrier take away from some of the enjoyment of chatting while you run? Decision, decisions.....
In the buildup to opening registrations (on October 1st) and announcing the full event list for 2015, Redbull (the race sponsor) are making a video that includes all the country winners from 2014 saying a little bit about why they ran this year, and where they'd like to run next year. As I live a long way away from London, they sent a camaraman (Stephen) down from Glasgow to film my part in the video.
Part of our brief was to include something stereotypically British, and if possible, a Union Jack. Bearing in mind that they asked me to do this the day before the independence referendum (for which I have steadfastly kept my views to myself), I really wasn't sure about being filmed standing around holding either a Union Jack or a Saltire, so I decided that wearing some GB Athletics kit would cover it quite well.
The winning postbox
We spent part of the afternoon playing "hunt the red phone/post box" but eventually found both in the Haugh of Urr. The phonebox appeared rather "tired" but the brightness of the postbox seemed to suit our needs. Bearing in mind that we'd not passed a single vehicle on the rural drive out there, it became a veritable Piccadilly Circus as soon as we started filming. Every logging truck and tractor in the area must have driven past, and several people nearly crashed their cars while staring at us to see what we were doing. One local lady even had a slight panic that we would stop her posting her letters, and didn't seem all that reassured to know that she was a potential movie star!
Eventually we got it done (though who knows what will end up in the final edit.....probably not much at all!) and set off back down the quiet country roads. Stephen filmed some typical "countryside views" involving fields, rolling hills and sheep, mr tying my shoelaces with my foot propped up on a "drystane dyke" and then got me to run up and down the road a few times (somehow managing to time it for the only passing vehicles again - cue more curious looks!). He even chased me down the road filming just my feet!
City boy meets countryside
I did make an amazing discovery though....Stephen asked why I kept stopping at the side of the road and what I was eating. It turns out that he'd never picked and eaten blackberries from wild roadside brambles before and that he thought that they might be poisonous. I got him to try some and he was amazed at how sweet and juicy they were - and what size they could grow to completely naturally!! Nature's energy gels!!
Anyway, the filming was done.....and both of us were left to wonder what on earth the final product will look like.....but anyway, it should still be a great worldwide event on May 3 2015 so join in if you can!
Unfortunately, I couldn't really relax after the Commonwealth Games as I had to run in America (and as I've already described.....what a trip tat was), but once that was done and dusted, I knew I had earned a proper break from running. I needed it, both physically and mentally, and so I took it.
Wine tasting by bike
Obviously, I still had my normal day job to content with, but I suddenly had spare time to play with and so I was determined to make the most of it (though that might have actually been more tiring than just going running)!
I visited a friend in France and went wine-tasting on a bike, spent time with family and friends ceilidh-dancing to celebrate my sister's 40th birthday (even taking in a parkrun with my nephew and niece) and went back up to Irvine with my Opening Ceremony outfit, though this time was for a wedding (which was complete with an ice cream van and a pic n mix sweetie table).
The only problem with taking a "proper" break, is how hard it is to get back into the habit of running. Every run feels like a massive effort.....for both the body and the mind. You "know" that you cannot really have lost all your fitness so quickly, and that it WILL come back, but you do wonder if you're just kidding yourself as you struggle on.
I allowed myself to wallow in this for a couple of weeks, but then realised that the 100k will be on me before I know it, so I'd better just get on with it, and accept the fact that I won't quite be running at the same level that I was just a couple of months ago.
With a target race now just a few months away and having some prearranged commitments that I cannot avoid, means that I cannot just skip a weekend long run without good reason. This weekend was a good example of that - my club was organising a half marathon on the Sunday. If I went for a run before the race, it would involve getting up at "stupid o'clock" and so I might not get the desired training effect by being overtired, but if I helped out at the race, then it was unlikely that I would actually get out to run myself before evening time (when everyone else was celebrating good club performances and organisation). The race covered some of the route that I would run if doing my own long run (although in the opposite direction), so it seemed like a good idea to incorporate the Half Marathon into my long run.
When I say "it seemed like a good idea", it certainly didn't feel that way on the Sunday morning! Numbers had to be collected on the day, and so I picked mine up early and then headed out to run a few miles (though I did find it rather difficult to do so, as there were so many people that I hadn't seen for ages that I wanted to chat to). I tried to time it so that when I made it back for the start, I could just rid myself of my tshirt (in order to race in club colours), chat to a couple of friends and get on with the run.
Warmer and sunnier than forecast!!
I found myself heading out of the College and out onto the open road next to my clubmate Richard. Richard has been training well over the summer and so I warned him not to try to take his pace from me, as I was doing a longer run, and was pleased to see him nod and head up the road to run his own race. It was difficult to see a few other clubmembers in front of me, knowing that I would normally expect to finish ahead of them, but I made myself be sensible and ignored them (and it turned out they had just been taking advantage of having fast starts anyway!).
It was rather warm in the sun as we headed away from town and there was little shade on the road, but luckily there was also very little traffic so we didn't have any hot fumes to contend with. I passed the first water stop without taking anything on board (I hadn't noticed that they were only handing it out on one side of the road and stupidly I was on the other side) but there seemed to be slightly more shade as we turned off the main road and started to climb up the rougher "dog kennel road". I haven't run the Dumfries half marathon for several years, and so remembered this as a brief climb (how wrong I was....it seemed to go on for rather a long time)!
Looking over to Criffel
Richard and I seemed to be staying the same distance apart as we climbed up the road, though we were closing down the Motherwell runner in front. After cresting the highest point, I was stunned by the amazing views we had across to Criffel.......it was breathtaking (or was that just due to the climb?).
I've never been a very good downhill runner, but I didn't want to put any undue strain onto my quads and so just relaxed as I headed down the hill, and surprisingly found myself closer to Richard at the bottom than I had been at the top (though this might have been because I was getting slightly irritated by a car tailing me down the hill!).
As we headed back on the main road along the river bank, we met huge groups of cyclists heading the other way who waved us on. Many people were out watching in the village of Glencaple, and it reminded me of Glasgow in a way. Many people recognise me and so called out my name in encouragement, but I didn't have the time to identify and acknowledge everyone as we had a steep hill to climb up and over to rejoin the initial road and retrace our steps back to town. This was a (rather tough) change from the previous years' course as the race used to finish alongside the river.
At the bottom of the hill
I watched Richard reeling his man in as we climbed up the hill, and silently cheered as he reached the summit first, but then I also had to watch him being overtaken again as they descended down the other side. I had managed to close the gap with them both so that as we turned for the final few miles back towards I was only a few metres behind.
The final few miles back towards the college are deceptively tough as the road climbs gently but constantly all the way to the "Mile 12" marker, with a couple of cheeky twists to ensure the top was further away than you initially thought.
I felt quite strong on this section, and soon passed and pulled away from the other two. I had hoped to drag Richard along with me, as I knew that he would have a fast last mile in his young legs, but I appeared to be going alone. Another clubmate, Alan, came into view up ahead and the gap closed up further the closer we got to town.
I tried to make sure that I didn't look back, knowing that if there was a sprint finish to be had, I wouldn't be joining in, as I still needed to continue on after crossing the line, but luckily as I turned into the College, Alan was far enough in front of me for him to relax as first DRC runner home in 6th place, and there was nobody behind me that could challenge my overall position.
1st Ladies' Team - go DRC
I knew that if I stopped to chat at the finish, then I wouldn't start again, so I just picked up my tshirt to cover my club vest and number, hugged a couple of colleagues that were there to support family members, and got on with my extra few miles to make up my run!
Putting the race in the middle of my run definitely worked out for the best, as it meant that I managed to run a sustained effort over the HM, with on-course support (though I did realise later that I hadn't taken a drink at all), yet I also got my long run done, supported the club race, and got to catch up with many friends afterwards!