Monthly Archives: September 2012

A few days off

I haven’t run for a few days. Last week, work, socialising, courses, hangovers and rain got in the way. Granted, I let them do so, but sometimes a few days off is just the ticket. It gives you a refocus.

Now, after 10 weeks, we are a few days away from Martín’s first 13.2 miles. The Ealing Half Marathon is this Sunday and Martín is in the tapering stages; this week he only has a short run and a couple of walks so he’ll be rested up for and raring to go Sunday morning. My brother is doing it with him in my place (more on that in a minute) and I believe he’s done zero training for it. He’ll be completely rested up for it, let’s say.

So, I had to bail on actually doing the 13.2 miles as it is my hen do weekend. I have no idea where or how, but what I can definitely say is that there will be little running involved. One friend who does run said to me: “Wouldn’t it be funny if for your hen do we were all actually running the half marathon with you?” “Yes,” I replied, “it would be great. But you haven’t met all my friends, have you?!”

So, since last week, I haven’t put on my trainers. I have dipped twice in the pool and done weights which has been nice, but now I am thinking past this weekend of fun, mayhem and surprises to what I need to focus on come October 1st. I’ll then have six weeks before the Behobia 20km in San Sebastián, Spain, which I am doing with my friend who lives there. In between, we are moving, to a place with more hills, which I think will help.

This 20km is quite hilly. Someone drove the route recently and reported back that at some points the car had to be in first gear. I am thinking this person doesn’t drive a Talbot Samba and really, those hills are steep. Ouch. Another reason to spend some time mulling the next phase of training over.

So, in the meantime, I’ll refocus and plan for those hills and enjoy my fresh legs when I next head after these few days off. It will be with my own, personal challenge in mind. And before then, all that’s left to say is


A happy ending

There’s nothing quite like a happy ending. Or an ending that makes you think That was great! I want more! (You know, those films which set themselves up for a sequel) Or an ending that takes you by surprise and was more than you could have hoped for.

All of these happened to me last Saturday at the Trees for Cities 5km in Battersea Park, London. After the roaring success of signing up my mum for a 5km and her running the whole thing and loving it, I did the same for a friend in cohorts with her boyfriend. She probably hadn’t run for as long as my mum hadn’t, even being 24 years younger, and I think it’s fair to say, hated running even more. Emma Wrafter was many things, but a runner wasn’t one of them.

A few weeks ago she found her trainers and even went out on a few runs round the park. She would much rather have been in the pub sipping a gin, or at home cooking a pig. And she made that perfectly clear. Running Is NOT Fun! You don’t have to read between the lines of her blog to get that message.

I didn’t expect her to be all perky and smiles as we met at Sloane Square at 9am. The sun was shining and as she stepped out of the shadows of the station, she certainly wasn’t. Knackered. Angry. Lemsip. These words might be more appropriate for those early moments.

But then we got into Battersea Park and the park started to win our reluctant runner over. If you need a reason to go and visit this wonderful park, read her blog, linked at the end of this post. Battersea Park should definitely be given a knighthood. It can turn tides.

After a very strange but fun warm-up with Sinitta not singing her So Macho song next to a very camp aerobics-salsa-zumba-man shouting at us, we headed to the start line. I recommend the Trees for Cities 5km, not just for the route and their village fete organisation and activities, but also for the fact that not a lot of people do it. It’s like running round the park with a few mates.

Emma ran the whole thing. Without stopping and with talking. She even laughed at jokes and shouted at us when we were lying about how far she’d run (damn her and her contacts). This can mean only one thing: she’s got more miles in her.

We crossed the line in under 34 minutes and headed to first pick up our free foot cream and complimentary trees, then to run 100m barefoot as part of a world record attempt and finally to sit in the sunshine with some drinks and listen to the music.

Em didn’t talk in the pub as Wo had, full of excitement at having done it and wanting to continue training. She was quieter, but proud I think that she had beaten even her own expectations.

Beep beep. And then, later that evening, a text message arrived: Bird, I’m hovering over a 10km…

See, even the unlikeliest of suspects can become runners, one step at a time…

To read Emma’s view on her first 5km, go to:

To find out more about Trees for Cities, go to:

Wandering around a new park

About a week ago I moved into my house and have been getting settled in.  With the move, running was put on the back burner while I painted new pieces of furniture and got things somewhat organized.  One of the benefits of my location is about a half mile away there is a park with a mile trail around it as well as a basketball court.  So I woke up on Sunday morning and decided it was time to venture over and discover what Balcones District Park had to offer.

I had seen on Google maps a rough idea of how the trail would go.  So I cut across the parking lot and found what I assumed to be the trail.  I followed it down across a dry creek bed and up before heading into the trees.  I thoughtfully landed my feet between the big rocks as I my 2 mm FiveFingers soles are not helpful on these types of terrains.  I passed a man walking his dog and felt like I had to be on the right track.

Then, the side paths began.  I tried to keep right as much as possible as I assumed these paths would cut across the circular trail and cut my mile loop short.  Sometimes I selected the trail based on which one had less overgrowth.  It also got confusing when I’d end up at a dry creek bed and the rock path somewhat disappeared into the empty rock bed.  I even took a slight detour when a tree had fallen across the path and blocked it, but quickly continued on my way.

After twists and turns and even getting splinters from brushing away branches from hitting me in the face, I ended up at yet another fork in the road.  To the right was a gate with an paved road on the other side.   To the left continued the trail.  I took a few steps down the trail and decided to turn around.  I figured the best idea was to get on a street that would have a sign at some point that I would hopefully recognize.  I took a right once I hit the asphalt only to realize it was a dead end.  I turned around and headed up the hill.  It was then that I saw a sign that was actually a street I’d been on during my last run and made it back home safely.

My goal is to now start the loop backwards and see where I end up.  Maybe I’ll have better luck or recognize something from my last run.  The odds of distinguishing one tree from another is slim, but it’s worth a shot!

Get back on the horse

There are always moments in a training programme where you think you’re going to die. You can’t go on. That happened to us a couple of weeks ago in week five of our half marathon training programme. It was the week of our long run of eight miles and it fell on the hottest weekend of the year.

Call it stupidity, call it having the force, call it plain stubbornness: I headed out around 10.30am, without breakfast and with the sun already high in the sky and the shadows already shortening. It was one of those runs where the first mile is so tough you can’t bear to think about the following miles you know are coming. You’ve just got to focus on that next step, getting to the end of the road, making it to the next tree.

It was painful. My lungs were fine for the first half, but my legs were made of plasticine for the whole time. Sweat was pouring off me, then drying in salt lakes around my face in the sun. I felt like I was shuffling through quick sand, trying to make it the other side of the park where there was shade. The last two miles I just had to laugh inside and the old mantra of You’ve done a lot worse stayed with me. It got me back and I was proud that I hadn’t given in to my tiredness, the weather, being slow. I hardly bothered to look at the time I had clocked.

Martín had never run eight miles before and it was also tough for him, though he went later in the day. Again, he completed it without surrendering to the aches, pains and sweat. And then proceeded to spew up. We’ve all been there after an exhausting run.

So, while you’re chuffed to have got through a tough run, it does make you nervous about the next one. It becomes not about the weather, not about the hills, not even about the miles; doubt about your running ability creeps in. Am I always going to suffer and be slow from now on? Has running become a torture?

The only thing to do is get back on the horse. Or, in our case, put your trainers on again. It’s not easy, it becomes a mental stumbling block. All you can think about is how your body crumbled and hurt during the last time you headed out: how you thought in the last miles that if you collapsed there and then by the road, which car drivers would stop to help you. But you’ve got to push those thoughts aside. You’ve done this before. You’re still alive.

So, on my first run of week six, I headed out cautiously. I was trotting. I hate to use the word, but probably I was jogging. Then I looked at my watch. What? An 8-minute mile up that hill? Really? Body, what are you doing to me? Stop confusing me! I finished that run in a flourish, pounding to the line in disbelief. But smiling.

That week we hit 9 miles in our weekend long run and we ran those 9 miles in the same time as we had run 8 the previous week. We were back on track. We had broken the shackles of our nightmare runs. We were back on the horse.

And this time it was galloping.