So, the accepted mantra is that it doesn’t matter how fast you go, if you are out running, then you are a runner. On the one hand I do endorse this, a mile is still a mile, no matter what speed you cover it at, on the other, I have begun to wonder of late at what point should I concede that I have possibly slipped over from the outer verges of the running community into that parallel world I happily enough inhabited for many years where I could only ever truthfully classify myself as a non-runner.
A friend of mine (yes I have some, in addition to my imaginary ones) recently sent me a card. Incredulous at stumbling across my running blog, she found me the perfect greeting:
She said she saw the card and thought of me! (That was a great advertising campaign was it not, very effective). What’s more, she is spot on. The picture could indeed be me! It’s uncanny, the tendency to over-dress (woe betide the fellow runner who tries to free me of my fleece on a winter’s day), the ill-fitting leggings, the pony tail and even the colour choices have an echo of my Smiley Paces running club branding. The sentiment does remain true, I don’t really know quite how I’ve ended up being part of a running club, and doing running events over a period of time despite any evidence at all that I have any innate aptitude, skill or capacity to improve with practise. For various reasons, I haven’t managed so much as a parkrun for the last fortnight, and so yesterday I was feeling somewhat on the cusp of my ‘runner’ and ‘non-runner’ identities. Honestly, what is the point of this running malarkey if I never do any. Who am I trying to kid? I am irredeemably rubbish at it, and it’s not so much walk/run these days, as walk/stop. Not boding well for future marathon successes.
Still, I do still seem to have the capacity to find myself caught up in events despite myself. So it seems, I am temporarily reclaiming my tentative running identity and seeing where it leads. Couple of things led to this, let me elaborate.
So, then a running buddy who had entered the Whirlow 10k got in touch to ask if I’d be joining her for the event. It’s one of the Smiley Champs series, so plenty of other Smiley Paces members will be out and about, even if they are all two leagues ahead of me or long finished before I’ve made the first summit, so it is a tempting local race, lovely scenery and trail too. It’s one of a whole weekend series of events The Peak District Dig Deep I had a look, but baulked a bit at the cost. It is a fundraiser I know, but it is on the expensive side for a 10k, especially as you can do the Trust10 series for free. So, instead of saying to her ‘no, I can’t, I’m too horrifically unfit and apathetic, I’d be embarrassed to be seen running in public and doubt I can still squeeze my swollen carcass into my Smiley vest‘, I just said ‘bit pricey for me‘ (also true, but secondary), and left it at that. This might have been an end of it, except that it wasn’t. Same running buddy emailed again, she is, alas, poorly, she won’t be running, would I like her place? Hmm, dilemma. I am still horrifically unfit, but can’t use the ‘too expensive’ get out clause to good effect any more. Not to worry, I have another opt out. ‘Thanks, but I’m just not comfortable about running in someone else’s name‘. This is true, but more from fear of being caught out than actually impeccable ethics, plus I’d never fit into her size small request in relation to the complimentary shirt size as part of goody bag on completion.
To seek external validation that this get out is truthful, I messaged the Dig Deep Races people via their Facebook page with a half-hearted query ‘for the 10k do you need to navigate and also is it possible to transfer entries?’ I heard back from the lovely people almost instantaneously, no navigation required, and yes, I can transfer entry if I do it today, (which was yesterday). Objections were over-turned, and suddenly, inexplicably, in the absence of training, and without having really thought it through, I find I am indeed entered for the Whirlow 10k. Oh great. Just be careful what you wish for eh. And learn to be assertive and speak the truth. This quest for external validation is not only an abdication of personal responsibility, it is ultimately a mug’s game, it can take you in directions you didn’t intend to follow’
If you are an international athlete who lies you might end up accidentally claiming to be robbed at gun point because you didn’t want to admit to breaking a loo door for example. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, accidentally entering a 10k is quite a good way to miscalculate. I’ve certainly done worse in my time. Once I ended up spending a month’s salary on someone else’s hen do, that I really didn’t want to go to. When the date was first mentioned for this extravagant weekend away it clashed with a pre-existing commitment. I therefore barely twitched as I effused untruthfully how much I’d loved to have gone, but alas, what could I do, the date wasn’t free. The bride, picking up my disappointment, rearranged the hen do so I could go. Oh joy. There would be no getting out of it now. Why didn’t I just say ‘out of my price range, but have fun‘ in the first place? I still break out in a sweat at the memory of that weekend, it cost me more than my annual holiday, and I had to share a bed with a heavily snoring and wildly gesticulating drunken hen due to a mix up in the room bookings. Never. Again. Never! I will be assertive, I will speak the truth, I will be my own person… just not about the Whirlow 10k. I’m conscientious if not keen as you know, I’m in, it’s fate, I shall run (OK walk and half-heartedly yomp) round, but I shall do it.
So, the next stage is to think, this is good! It is an opportunity! I am lucky! Yay, get me and my good fortune! I mean it’s only a 10k, that’s doable? I need to get back into some sort of fitness regime, this will spur me on, ready or not. My body has started to visibly disintegrate of late. Yesterday I had to have a Skype interview and due to the unfortunately high resolution of my laptop camera every imperfect pore, wrinkle and flabby contour on my potato like face seemed to be highlighted. I looked like a troll. I need to reverse this. It was lucky therefore that I had in any event already committed to a pre-arranged yomp out with hobbit buddy today. Granted, this was more set up as a walk and talk rather than an actual run, but then what with my 10k on the Sunday and parkrun on Saturday I ought to be tapering now anyway, yes? Tapering is a weird one, I suppose more conventional athletes might do a bit more training in advance of the tapering period, but I say if tapering is helpful in the days before a run, why not in the weeks before as well? At least I should start out injury free. That’s worth something.
So today, yomp up the valley took place as planned. Up until today, I hadn’t done any running for a fortnight – maybe longer. Even my tomtom GPS watch behaved as if I’d entirely retired from my running career. It was so dead when I plugged it into my computer it was hallucinating and delusional, unable to recall the date or time. Recharging it seemed to have a temporary ‘kiss of life’ effect, and it did get up and running again (though was sulking enough at the end of the ‘run’ that it was extremely temperamental when it came to uploading the data afterwards). I headed out the door in weather a lot cooler than of late. This is also good, I’m not great in the heat. I saw my hobbit buddy waiting at the bottom of the hill, and yomped down to meet her. This uncharacteristic turn of speed had me breathless within about 500 metres of setting off, but hey, that’s always the hard part isn’t it, starting?
It was good to be reunited. I excitedly shared my news about the Whirlow 10k. ‘Oh my god!‘ She said, with not entirely encouraging intonation. ‘That’s so hilly and hard!‘ I did point out to her that this wasn’t exactly the pep talk I was hoping for, but she was going for the ‘as your mentor I owe you realism‘ angle. She’d done it before, ‘back when I was really fit, and it took way longer than I thought‘ oh gawd, I’ll still be there at dusk. The look on my face led her to try and backtrack, she offered up a more conciliatory ‘it is lovely though... ‘ but I’m not stupid, the damage was done. I will not be feeling over-confident going into this event. Still, I will do it, and it delivers impressive bling it seems, so surely worth it in the end. I shall work on visualising this trophy at the finish as I run, rather than imagining others spotting my less than athletic silhouette blocking out the sun as I tramp up those hills!
Oh well, despite everything, it was really nice to be out for our yomp. We did even more walking and talking than usual, but then it’s been a while since we went out and there was quite an extensive agenda of topics to catch up on, and regular readers will know I can’t run and talk at the same time, and fortunately/unfortunately nor can hobbit buddy either. I honestly don’t know if we are a good influence on each other or a bad influence running wise. On the one hand, the commitment to go running together does get us out more than I would do on my own, on the other, do we collude with the non running aspect by chatting a fair bit. Does it even matter if we do? We still get the elevation, and we still cover the distance, and we get to upload on strava, which is obviously the main thing.
We had some exciting cattle encounters, we were overtaken several times by faster runners as we went up hill. No shame in that, though speaking personally I’d have preferred it if the same runners didn’t then pass us again as they were coming back from the summit and we were still walking up, barely having progressed at all! We eventually made it up to the view point at the top, where a deep mist enveloped the city. Rain had started falling pretty heavily just half an hour into the run. It was pretty hard, because it pushed through the trees and drenched us. By the time we were at the highest point we were wet through to our knickers. Getting cold we didn’t linger and as soon as we were safely past the more slippery stones on the path we broke into a jog, possibly even a run! Hobbit buddy nearly had a disaster, screeching to a halt at one point, blinded by something in her eye. In agony, unable to see. ‘I think it might be sweat!‘ she said, somewhat incredulously. It’s been a long time since we ran hard enough to have sweat running into our eyes. Quite a badge of honour. Further reflection though suggested it was more likely to be the torrential rain washing a new moisturising product into her eyes, but I’m still going with the ‘blinded by our own sweat because we are such hard-core runners‘ version, you must judge as you wish.
it was indeed wet, wet, wet!
We loped onwards, gravity on our side, we felt quite smug as we passed some raincoat clad dog-walkers plodding up hill ‘we must look like actual runners to them‘ we said to each other with wry smiles. We got wetter and wetter, to the point of comedic excellence. It was fun running in the rain (a sentence I did not expect to type), and as the endorphins kicked in I started to believe maybe it wont matter if it’s a particularly slow one from Whirlow, scenery will be just as lovely, and nobody will care. As long as no-one shouts ‘there goes troll woman‘ as I pass, that should be good enough for me!
So, we did about 9km in a time that does not merit being put on record here, but it was fun. It made running feel desirable again and not actually impossible. I did get wet through to my knickers though, and have to report that I still don’t find running as a sport does me any favours. Maybe the rain, once dried off, will make the skin on my face lovely and soft, not just give my feet trench foot as is the most obviously visible consequence at present. I was going to post a photo of my post-run feet, but couldn’t bring myself to do so. Here instead is the face shot. The camera does not love me. Oh well, when I am an internationally acclaimed sports celebrity, I’ll employ someone to do my PR and no such photos will ever again reach the public domain! The jowls are bad though aren’t they, I need to do face aerobics to offset the damage done by this facial expression.
So now, just a parkrun stands between me and the Whirlow 10k. I’m not quite enthused, but I am cheered at the possibility of being greeted by this fella at race HQ, that’s got to be worth making it to the start line to see surely? Doesn’t take much it seems really to entice me out, not much at all.
So it seems I still have a foot in the running community, tentative or otherwise, until I’m actively shunned, I shall linger a little longer… So thank you running buddy for the Whirlow 10 place, I think, and thank you hobbit buddy for getting me up the hills in preparation today!
Happy running y’all, and if you need to, dig deep!