A (late) 2017 Running Round-Up

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Here’s a bunch of posts shoved into one!  New things at work, sick kids, and taking on some new responsibilities (some freelance teaching and training) have kept me from the blog. Yes, I’m still running and have carved out some time to get back to the blog  here more regularly.  As follows are some pieces that I only half-finished and never posted.  Here they are:

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On the joys of “Advent Running”:

In the mad season before the holiday break, in reality the whole of December, everything is too busy.  Work is too busy.  Home life is too busy.  The kids are too busy with their Christmas presentations and parties.  So at first glance, it seems odd that for the past three Decembers I’ve given myself something else to do on top of all that: Advent Running.

Put simply, the challenge of Advent Running is to run (or some other form of exercise) for 30min every day leading up to and including Christmas. The Guardian did a piece on it, which you can read here.   There are a number of other similar challenges, like the popular Marcothon.

Back in 2015, taking part in Advent Running was when I shifted from seeing running merely as a cost-effective (if not dull) form of exercis, to having a major psychological shift where I started to enjoy the act running itself.  December, at first glance, seems a strange time to #FallInLoveWithRunning because the weather is awful and it’s dark and there’s not enough time… and you get the gist.

The challenge of a run streak, however, turns battling the elements into an adventure.  An online community that has formed around the slight-madness of trying to run 25 in 25.  The Advent Running group on Facebook is a nexus of bonhomie, where people of all abilities support each other in the pursuit of trying to live a little healthier over the holidays.  I’ll admit that I’m inclined to cynicism and melancholic by nature.   Yet I don’t find the support of fellow Advent Runners cheesy or contrived (like that forced smile of the waitress last time I was in an IHOP).  So much is wrong in the world and there’s a lot to be angry about and many reasons to be sad — something a tumultuous 2017 has only confirmed.  The Advent Running community is something that reminds me, in the midst of everything, how good people can be and that there is a lot of joy to be found in the everyday.  The ability to share what might seem like inconsequential victories and stumbles (“I had a terrible week, but I at least managed to get out the door for a 5k in the rain…”) feels liberating.  As Boris Pasternak once wrote, “And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness.”  Maybe that’s making too much into it, but if so, I wonder why I’ve kept coming back to it three years in a row?

The other thing about making time to run every day is the realisation that there actually is time.  When work leaves me tired, I’ll plop myself on the settee and sucked to a blue-black hole of social media scrolling.  Before I know it, it has eaten up a half hour of life.  Realistically, I can find time to run.  I can also find time to sit and play a game of “Fireman Sam Snap” with my son.  It’s a reminder that in the busiest time, there is still time.  There’s also the reality that taking a break from the tyranny of urgent workstuff actually makes me more productive.

Here’s to Advent Running!

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Race Report: Kirk Craigs Christmas Cracker

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My final race of 2017 was the Kirk Craigs Christmas Cracker, a perfect way to cap off a year of running.  I was hoping to go under 1hr, but managed 57:48, which was good for me.  Still worth saying that only put me in 51st out of 73 racers.  This stuff is humbling.

Kirk Craigs captures the no-frills thrills and unstated brilliance of hill and fell running.  Jonny Muir made this apt observation:

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The race stats in a field, goes straight up, and “down to big stone and return via same route.”  There was prize giving and homebaking  in the village hall afterwards.  It was great to catch up with some of my fellow Carron Valley Trail Runners because I haven’t been able to get out for the midweek runs recently.

It’s little brute of a race, packing 536m of climb into 6.8k.  It was also my first run in the Ochils and it set the bar pretty high — lovely hills and more mountain like than my local Campsies.  The initial quad busting incline is flowed by a glorious fast and flat-ish section along the top that gives that unparalleled feeling I only get when racing in the hills: a sense of presence that come from being immersed in the elements while pushing at the edge of physical ability. It feels a bit like flying. Is that what the cool people call “flow state” (it’s an accurate description, but I feel silly saying that due to the mediocrity of my running!).

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me, all festive, at “the big stone” / photo credit: Pat Fitzpatrick (https://www.flickr.com/photos/152725946@N06/albums/72157690655097324)

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I ran 1,000 Miles

I’m happy to say that I reached my goal of running 1,000 miles in 2017.  It was a fun challenge that Trail Running Magazine put to their readers.  A bit like Advent Running, they’ve hosted a virtual community where runners of all abilities can find mutual support, ask questions, and argue about the best shoes.

I was happy to get to 1,000 miles in the end after a number of weeks out due to my adventures with pneumonia and sepsis!

I feel like my running has really progressed this year, so I’m hoping to run  2,018 kilometers in 2018.  As I pace and mentally calculate distances in kilometres, I’m happy to set a goal in metric because it means less maths.

I also achieved my goal of completing to 50 parkruns this year. Making sure that I dragged my arse out of bed all those Saturday mornings helped me cross that 1,000 mile finish line.

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cheesy photo with the #Run1000Miles pledge — this appeared in the 2018 Run1000Miles supplement!

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Some racing, but less racing in 2017!

I did a lot of racing in 2017.  I’m going to step back from bigger events.  The running community is wonderful, so I’m hoping to give something back and do more volunteering this year.

I signed up for the Strathearn Marathon.  I don’t think road marathoning is my “thing” but I’m keen to give it a bash.  I think it will set a good marker as to where I’m at with my running.  It’s not a flat or fast course (as evidence by the men’s record being 2.39.33!), but I’d like to run close to 3h 30min, or at least sub-4hr if training or the race day goes pear-shaped.  The Strathearn Marathon is my main focus this year.  It also means that I have the marathon under my belt, so I can put my name in the hat for bigger races like the Highland Fling in the future.

I also love that this race is organised by the Strathearn Harriers and is good value for money.  If I’m honest, I find the cost bigger city marathons off-putting. Maybe I’m just getting more stingy as I get older?

I’m toying with the idea running of the Ochil Ultra later in October, but we’ll see how training goes and if I’m able to keep my mileage up.  If last year taught me anything, it’s the danger of committing to too much.  Increasing training and intensity too quickly is the direct route to injury.

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Au revoir!

PJ

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stupid pneumonia

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As it turned out, I never managed to run the Great Tartan Skidaddle.  So as of yet, I still haven’t jumped over that “ultra” hurdle.  Which is really frustrating. So my goal of finishing all the races that I enter….?  Will need to rethink that one.

The last week of my taper started so well, aside from waking with a slightly scratchy throat the day it all went pear shaped.

I took an easy run around Colzium Estate and I really enjoyed myself.  My legs felt fresh and I enjoyed exploring the place, which I usually just ignore and head further up the hills or to the top of Tomtian.

But when I got home, I got this raging fever that came out of nowhere, accompanied by the worst headache that I’ve ever experienced, hallucinations in the mix as well.  To make a long story short, I was eventually taken by ambulance to the Royal Infirmary and underwent a series of tests to find out what was wrong.  The doctors were initially concerned that I had meningitis due to the level of infection showing in my blood tests.  Turns out it was (thankfully) “just” pneumonia, but the infection hit me really hard for some reason.

So I spent race day in the hospital on a drip.

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I’m thankful for the great care I received from the NHS and that they got to the bottom of what was wrong.  Still, the whole thing was frustrating.  A weekend in the hospital was the last thing I wanted.  Seeing photos of the event online only increased that sense of missing out on something I had been looking forward to for months.

12 weeks of injury-free training. All good.  And this infection seems to have come out of nowhere.  This is the first time anything like this has happened, but it has knocked my confidence a bit.  I suppose it’s one of those freak things that just happen, but now I’ll probably have more “what if” doubts when I embark on another long training plan.  That’s always there when you commit to something like a longer race, but now I know the feeling of disappointment when I can’t even make it to the starting line.

Still, I’m determined to do the race in one way or another.  Once I’m back to full strength (and that could be a while — still on my medication and the doctor ordered at least two weeks of complete rest and then need to ease my way back slowly), I’m going to run the whole Great Tartan Skidaddle course solo, or with some friends.  It won’t be the same, sure, but it’s something that I still really want to do.

I’ve been stuck inside for a week.  Honestly, I’m a bit fed up and can’t wait to get out running again.  But I need to take my recovery seriously so I can get back to what I love.  This in mind, I might also miss out on the ATRX in a month’s time, I just may not be ready.  In that case, I’ll see if I’m well enough to volunteer to take photos or something.  In the meantime, time to enjoy other good things in life.  Resting and listen to lots of good music and reading good books.

Once I’m well though — can’t wait to do the route that I didn’t get to do.  Also thinking that I might be able to put some proper effort toward getting a good time at the Strathearn Marathon…

PJ.

I’ve attached a few photos from Colzium Estate below.  It’s lovely and seems a bit underused. Worth exploring and a good park if you’ve got little people:

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