Run away!

It’s been a while since I posted anything beyond photographs really, and although I love photographs the original point of this blog was to discuss (or rather splurge onto the page thoughts about) things in general. So..

Running.

Today I made the grand (in my world) milestone of 10km on my “long run” of the week. This takes place stupid early on a Saturday when the world and his cousin are rightly tucked up in bed. I’d never really given thought to how far (or near depending on how you look at it) 6 miles actually is until I’d run it. Turns out it’s a long old way. Like reaching retirement or.. er.. Tibet.

Anyway the point of the post isn’t to crow about my exploits, but rather to reflect on some of my thoughts on your (or rather my) average run.

I thought it might be easiest to arrange this mind-splooge in a series of headings. Thus artificially ordering my thoughts in a way that really no longer reflects how they are formed.

Weather

Yeah – the weather. On short runs it is easy to be fairly ambivalent about the weather. Sunny weather is my least favourite; it’s uncomfortable, it blinds, it makes what is inevitably a body-temperature-raising-activity even hotter. Ultimately it is miserable. No big deal you think. Well – wrong. Last week I ran in unbearable sunshine; one of the side-effects of setting off early is on a hot day you can move from comfortable heat to holy-crap-my-flesh-is-peeling-from-my-bones temperature fairly quickly as the sun rises. The worst thing about this is on a 20 minute run you’re presumably only a 20-30 minute walk from home at the furthest point should the weather become unbearable and you limp, defeated, homewards. However as distance increases the walk home gets longer and longer, thus leaving you with the uncomfortable dilemma – do you give up and walk in the baking sun for up to an hour to get home, or do you keep on running, in the hope you’ll get home before dehydration sets in and you collapse in a delirious puddle of sweat in the middle of the road melting like a slug in the sunshine? Nobody wants to end up like this..

Wind is good generally, unless you happen to be happily trudging along on an open road and you find yourself tossed from one side to the other like a plastic bag on a motorway. Running into the wind is a bit tougher, but invigorating, running with the wind is even better because it feels like you’re FLYING.

Rain is marginally even better for the most part – it cools and soothes, except for feet where it leads to all sorts of blistery hell by making your socks extra sticky and the space between your toes squidgier (technical term). To be fair rain is mostly fine other than when it is really heavy. Running in a deluge with all your clothes sticking to you (more than usual in my case) is horrible, but my very LEAST favourite bit of running in the rain is… GIANT RAINDROPS. Oh yeah. You know them. They don’t come at first – the sneaky bastards come after the main rainfall. They work their way through the trees, gathering size and weight before they fall on you like water balloons thrown from a skyscraper. Everywhere they land is a disaster – today one landed in the minute gap between my trainer and my sock. One solitary droplet which drenched my feet entirely.

Of course the worst of the worst, the very pinnacle of misery comes when they land on your face. The armageddon situation being when it gets in your eye. Then you wonder – it was huge, was it rain? Did a bird just crap in my eye? The misery is compounded. The sad truth it.. You’ll never really ever know.. Every time this happens I’m reminded of the following scene from 28 Days Later.. (ignore the writing – best clip I could find I’m afraid).

Hills

Oh hills. I’m sure they’re good for me and are making me a stronger runner and all of that stuff, but they’re still bloody awful. Running up a hill is not a life affirming thing. Running downhill is much better. That’s great. Unless, I discovered recently, the decline is too steep. In this case your life affirming run becomes either an awkward shuffle, an all-out death-sprint where one footfall can mean flying face-over-foot, or.. well…

Cars/vans/motorbikes/lorries/busses/tractors

I like to think there is a special place in hell reserved for motorists who make no effort to slow down for runners. Yes, it’s a road, but if there is no pavement it’s really fair game isn’t it? Especially on a narrow country lane. You’d think it would be common sense. I don’t expect you to come to a stop (although those of you who do are lovely) but squeezing past me at 40mph “because it is National Speed Limit along here you know” is just being a shit. If you do this you can guarantee you’ll earn yourself the finger as you zoom off. Generally I make an effort to step out of the way for a short while, but anybody who does something both sensible (and considerate) like wait for me to duck into an overtaking spot, slow down to a crawl to be sure they don’t murder me, or steers around me earns themselves a quick nod and wave. If you’re one of those people then yes – thank you. If you also happen to give a smile or wave of encouragement that is also just dandy by the way.

As for busses, lorries and tractors – the same goes, but also you are often a multi-tonne vision of death to me. Bear that in mind – I don’t really want to die like this..

Also I am not a toon.

Horses

Ok, I am not an animal person. Anyone who knows me can attest to this. Animals hate me, and if I’m honest the feeling is pretty much mutual. Not only this, but even animals I’m trying not to actively engage with, I almost always end up inadvertently kicking, stepping on, annoying. Chances are fairly high that if you’ve had me in your house and you have some kind of animal, I have kicked it at some point (by accident I should add).

So seeing a horse/train of horses on the road immediately makes my heart sink. I’m still not sure of the etiquette for overtaking a horse. Do I keep to the other side of the road? I mean that’s what I try to do but I do worry I might start some kind of chase in motion and I’ll be run down like troops in line formation before heavy cavalry (yeah – well there aren’t enough of me to form square).

Not only that but horses bite and kick and they poo an awful lot – they also tend to be pretty large. My run doesn’t want to end in kicks, bites or poo. In short horses are not something I want to be near to in general. Come to think of it why would anybody want to RIDE one anyway?

Other runners/cyclists

Ok so first cyclists. Cycling is like running for wimps. Sure you might have been a long way, it might be better for your joints, but it makes you impotent and if you wanted something with wheels get a car. Let is be known that if you are cycling past me I hate you, entirely rationally.*

Other runners though – are great. You never know who or what you’ll find running. Also, well lets face it, there’s always going to be some competition. I am not a fast runner. I sit fairly comfortably under the title of “plodder” so being overtaken is inevitable. But that extra boost to run just a bit harder for a little while is always welcome. Last week I had a nice conversation with another runner about a new running route, and there’s a shared camaraderie in running. Almost every runner you meet will smile and say good morning if you pass them, comment on the heat etc. It reminds me most of being a teenager in baggy jeans and band t-shirts, getting accepting nods from other teenagers as you pass by. A lovely, exclusive, welcoming club.

Well.. Almost always. this morning whilst running I saw a middle-aged man coming towards me from a distance. He looked to be struggling a bit, so I readied myself to give a few words of acknowledgement/encouragement as I got closer. We’re about 30-40 meters away when I look away for a minute, distracted by a noise I had thought was a car when suddenly the man was gone. Completely vanished. Like a ghost. Or rather a ghost if people often see ghosts of middle-aged balding men jogging along the road in shorts. Thoroughly confused I reach the area where the man had previously been and investigate. Lo and behold the man was hiding around a corner in the undergrowth waiting for me to pass, breathing like a truck. Thoroughly embarrassed both for myself and him I made a quick exit.

So that’s all from me for today. If you made it this far through my ramblings you deserve a medal.

*Please note my antipathy towards cyclists may be due to a series of painful childhood experiences involving bikes and should probably be taken with a pinch of salt, much like pretty much everything I write/say.

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