Janathon day twenty-five: lovely

Loosely speaking there is a system to my running plans. In winter, morning runs are usually three miles (because I can’t get up any earlier to squeeze in more), evenings vary by inclination, company and weather, weekends I try to get a longer, daylight run in. This has not changed during Janathon. My plan on January the first was to gradually increase my longer run (it had been ages since I’d done more than even five miles) up to six, seven, eight and finally nine miles by the end of the month. The weather has scuppered me slightly, but this weekend eight miles was on the cards.

Last night I got the maps out to do some plotting – I’m off work today so I could try a new route and we’re away tomorrow so I wanted to fathom out a route in unfamiliar territory. What I came up with was a mash-up of two routes that I absolutely hate. A six-miler that avoids most of the scenic and rural areas of the locality, and a ten-miler that always sees me grizzling and that I have only vaguely enjoyed once.

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It’s somewhat chilly today (demonstrated by the fact that my gloves stayed on for the entire distance instead of being shoved in my back pocket after a mile) and the wind was bitter. As I set off, an occasional flake of snow would flutter and dance in front of me warning of weather yet to come.

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All my photos are incredibly bleak mid-wintery.

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To be honest, most of the run was bleak mid-wintery.

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And then I saw a flash of red in the hedgerow.

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And had one of those moments where I felt glad to be outside and seeing things that I wouldn’t see from the warmth of my car.

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And then the forecasted light snow started around mile six and I was glad to get home for a brew.

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Janathon day twenty-two: races

A couple of years ago I declared “I don’t do races”. Then I did the Liverpool Women’s 10k in 2010, enjoyed it and didn’t race again for over a year. The next year I ran the Blackpool 10k in preparation for doing the Folkestone Half. Last year something went terribly wrong and I did five (the Age UK Wrap Up and Run 10k, theBolton 10k, a Badger 10k, the inaugural Port Sunlight 10k and the Royal Parks Half).

Medal Monkey - guardian of the race bling

Medal Monkey – guardian of the race bling

I have no idea what has happened to me this year, but we’ve not even finished Janathon and I appear to have acquired a race calendar. I don’t know if it’s the weather (looking forward longingly to spring) or just the fact that I’ve really enjoyed Janathon this year or what*, but (so far) I am signed up for three, am pondering one and have one pencilled in.

There has been very little planning about entering these, I am ruled entirely by my heart in these matters. I can see a race that is perfect in terms of distance, route and where it fits into whatever semblance of a training programme I have, but if it doesn’t make my heart flutter and put a smile on my face, I aint doing it. There’s no set formula for what draws me into a race, it just is what it is. So my immediate future looks like…

February: Mad Dog 10k – it’s rated as one of the top 10k races in the country by Runner’s World, you get the friendliest emails in the world from the organisers, I’ve read somewhere that someone won a toaster as a spot prize and it’s Southport, therefore it is flat. I like flat.

March: Cartmel 10k – apparently a hilly but beginner-friendly trail run in beautiful scenery and according to my mate Andy who knows about such things, “It’s tough, very soggy, but terrific fun”. Oh, and it would be the perfect race for Henniemavis – its full name is the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding 10k.

April: Blackpool Half – I seem to like a coastal race, it’s flat, it’ll be the first half that I run in the same half of the country where I live and Fortnight Flo is running it so there’s a chance to meet more lovely twitterers. Splendid.

April: Bolton 10k – Another hilly one, this time in Leverhulme Park, Bolton. I ran it in a downpour last year and it still put a smile on my face.

May: Liverpool Spring 10k – This is a new race being organised by the people behind last year’s Port Sunlight 10k, which I loved. This one is in Sefton Park and Matt the organiser has plans for bands, bunting and cake. That’s my kind of race.

Phew.

Tonight’s Janathon was a 3 mile out and back picking my way along crunchy pavements without falling over.

*Yes. I know. I like a medal – just call me Muttley…

Janathon day twenty-one: surprised

Yesterday the main roads and their pavements were mostly snow-free. ‘Brilliant’, I thought, ‘late shift at work, long run in the morning, job done’. I woke up to this:

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So I went out and ran in it.

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For three miles.

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It was rather good fun.

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Especially running across fresh unsullied snow.

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Janathon day twenty: group

Well I only went and faced my fears didn’t I? Skating across the car park made me realise that an off-road run was a good idea, so what the heck I might as well join the beginners trail running group I had seen on facebook. It was being run by a well-known running shop who are based at a posh gym a few miles away. I say gym, when I was shown around it, I was told repeatedly that “it’s not a gym, it’s a lifestyle centre…for people like you…”. Clearly the man had been misinformed about what I am like and certainly hadn’t seen my car outside (whenever I visit, I am acutely aware of the risk of it being towed away as an abandoned vehicle).

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The group was led by the same woman who ran the beginners group (via the now defunct Women’s Running Network) that got me started all those years ago. I have long since abandoned running a group as I seem to prefer to get on with ploughing my own furrow and this is one reason why I was nervous about going along, what if I looked as if I haven’t run in the two years since I turned up last?

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I went. I didn’t embarrass myself, I didn’t fall over (despite continually over-estimating the length of my legs whenever I went over stiles) and I didn’t injure myself. I did see people I knew from the old club and it was nice to say hello, I did enjoy myself and I did enjoy the biscuit at the end.

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I’m not sure what it is about my pace, but I always seem to end up between 2 groups of runners – Not fast enough to be with the long-legged gazelles at the front, slightly faster than the group at the back. Even if I hang around the middle, I find myself on my own. Oh. Wait a minute… Anyway, regardless of the reason for this, it always makes me think I may as well be out on my own, however reading about other people’s club running has made me aware that I would benefit from sessions for speed and hills (which I will not do on my own).

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If I remain brave, I suspect that this will end up being painful…

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Janathon day seventeen: snowing

It’s been one eye on the Met Office and the other on my Janathon ‘plan’ this week. On the proviso that the threatened snow wasn’t going to set in until Friday morning, I opted for a longish after-work pootle this evening and an early one for Friday morning.

Judging by some of the overheard conversations in our office, you would have thought that there is some kind of terrible apocalypse on the horizon rather than a brief flurry of the white stuff, but there we go. It had started as I set off from work and I used the drive home to consider my running kit of choice for the evening. I spotted four runners, two in long long tights and two in shorts. I decided to compromise on my knee-length tights (this was not the time to dust off my only-worn-once-in-Kent-where-I-am-a-stranger shorts), but also knew that unless I applied JogBlog’s 3G technique, I would never leave the sofa. Despite a brief threat of faffage, I was out of the door by six (with the grim realisation that I would be doing it all over again in twelve hours).

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I left the house with a strange spring in my step. The strange strange spring wore off after about a mile, I started to question my sanity and I ditched the plan of a long out and back. The falling snow was small and pointy as I started, but became fatter and more feathery around the two mile mark. I started to feel ok again and fell for the old chestnut of “ooh it’s not that windy” while the wind was behind me. This lasted until I turned around, started running into the wind and learned that even fat, feathery snow is bloody painful when it gets in your eye. Being lulled into a false sense of security put me three miles away from home, making a nice loop of six miles.

From the old days when I spent my working day photoshopping accessories onto animals instead of having a proper job

From the old days when I spent my working day photoshopping accessories onto animals instead of having a proper job