In which I run an impromptu Half Marathon
I had been thinking about running a Half Marathon this month, and then decided against it. Maybe next month, when I've had time to build myself up gradually. Or so I thought...
I spoke to my running buddy on Zoom on Saturday evening. She told me that she'd found a new route, and I begged her to let me tag along. I've been getting rather bored of the same old journeys every time I go out. She said it was about 10 miles long. "Perfect" I thought to myself, and we arranged to meet outside her house at 8am sharp on Wednesday morning. Little did I know what was about to unfold.
She answers the door with great enthusiasm, a smile spread wide across her face. She gushes on about how much I'll enjoy this run. Telling me that it's rather hilly, but completely worth it for the views. I'm taken in at once. I love nothing more than running through the countryside, exploring winding country lanes and picturesque villages.
We start off on one of our familiar routes, down the Old Mineral Line, next to the river and along the newly completed Steam Coastal Path. Just when I think I know where we are going, she throws me completely; pointing out a monstrous hill with a 45% incline across some farmland. "It's not as steep as it looks" she assures me. And for some strange reason, I believe her. How wrong I was! The first field was quite manageable, and I stumbled over the stile into the next field unfazed. The second was absolutely monstrous. I staggered up it as best I could, panting and wheezing by the time I reached her at the next stile.
To my delight, we discovered cows in the next field. This meant we had to walk, so as not to alarm them and cause them to charge at us. We tiptoed past, nodding politely in their direction. I questioned my choice of hot pink running shoe, in case the colour should enrage them, as a red rag would to a bull. They didn't seem in the least but bothered by our existence, although we did receive a few questioning looks from the herd. I'm sure one of them raised an eyebrow at me! Through a rickety gate, and out the other side - we had finally reached the summit. My friend was right, the views were absolutely breath taking; pure, uninterrupted farmland rolled out in every direction. There were fields of wheat to the left, and wild flowers to the right. Hay bales in front of us, and, thankfully, the monstrous hill behind. It was heavenly. I felt we'd climbed so high, I would surely be knocking on the pearly gates at any moment.
The steep incline had left me pretty depleted, and I found myself reaching for an energy gel from my running belt. Unfortunately, I chose a particularly bad moment to consume a pink grapefruit isotonic gel, as we were right next to a huge pile of manure. I ran on, taking hungry gulps of the sweet, sticky gel; the citrus flavour muddled with the taste of horse sh*t on my tongue. Why in God's name couldn't I have waited for another half a mile? My friend chuckled at my contorted face in amusement. "Enjoying that are we?"
It's not long before we're racing through a working farm, the Farmer waving at us cheerfully as we scoot between his barns. We stop at the metal entrance gate and stare out onto a familiar country road. "I think I've miscalculated this" my friend winces at me, clocking the look of horror on my face when I realise how far we are from home. We are about nine miles into our supposed ten mile run, and, having been to this particular village many times before, I know that we are still a long way from home. I roll my eyes at her exaggeratedly and tut, but there's not much we can do about it. We have to get home some how!
I start to flag on the way back. The sugar from my gel is beginning to wear off,
and I'm slightly deflated at the thought of the distance home. I try my hardest to maintain my pace, but, slowly, I begin to fall behind. She spots me and returns to me like a boomerang, prodding me in the back, so that I have no choice but to carry on, for fear of tripping her up if I slow down. "Sorry" she says to me as we reach the far end of the Mineral Line. "This is going to be more of a twelve miler, than ten. I start repeating a little mantra in my head to keep me going. "Just got to make it to twelve" I say to myself, over and over again. With much effort and a few pauses along the way, my running watch finally hits the twelve mile mark. I stop dead. "I'm done!" I yell triumphantly to my friend in the distance.
She comes running back to me, a frown furrowing between her eyebrows. She conveniently remembers our earlier conversation about me wanting to do a Half this month. I curse myself for mentioning it. She's won't take no for an answer. No matter how much I protest, she is adamant that we're doing it. Deep down, I know that she's right. It makes sense to just do an extra mile now, rather than have to go through all this agony again in few weeks. But my body is crying out at me, protesting at the very suggestion of having to put one more foot in front of the other. With much cursing and muttering under my breath, we're off again.
I stagger aimlessly around the roads of our little town, her upfront with boundless energy, greeting the people that we know; me trailing behind, purple in the face and trying not to vomit. We finally make it to my front door and she's grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat; hopping around in excitement. It's safe to say she's a lot fitter than I am. Not a drop of perspiration shows on her brow. Once I manage to compose myself and steady my shaky legs that resemble Bambi's first encounter with a frozen lake, I'm actually quite pleased with myself, and incredibly relieved that I won't need to repeat that performance for a while! Back indoors, I fix myself a quick banana protein shake, and lower myself tenderly onto a dining chair to upload my run to Strava. My pace was much better than I expected, and I'm already planning to run the same route again, before I forget her directions. All painful memories of the exertion seem to have disappear, and I'm already planning how to better fuel myself next time. Maybe I'll just allow the ingrowing toenail and horrendous chaffing on my bum cheeks to heal first...
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