It was my birthday on Sunday (not quite a fool, eh?), and what better way to spend it than to get up early and run eight miles over the Chalk in the chilly sun before breakfast.
I'm (tentatively) training for the Clarendon Half Marathon. It's not real training yet because the race isn't until October. It's more that I've got plenty of time to run the route in chunks before putting it all together, so might as well get used to it. I'm running ten miles without too much bother now, and a HM is 13.1, so my plan is to make that my usual running distance and then the HM won't be much more than a training run.
The Clarendon is a scenic footpath that runs from Salisbury to Winchester over a distance of 27 miles, mostly on the Chalk, so it's lumpy and challenging and the countryside it goes through is beautiful. The Half starts in Broughton and finishes in Winchester. M is running the full marathon (starting in Salisbury), and he'll be through Broughton before I start which means I will be chasing him. As he generally finishes this race in about three hours and I'm expecting to take two to do my bit I will be chasing him in vain, but never mind!
I'd done a fairly fast Parkrun on Saturday. The gang who went down to the Grizzly were all there to celebrate our friend Peat's 50th. The race director conducted an 850-runners strong rendition of happy birthday before the start, then a select few of us went back to Peat's house for tea and chocolate birthday cake, all covered in sweat and rather stinky, but we're used to that and it was well-earnt sweat after all.
I'm getting back to form after giving The Knees slower run times over the past 6 weeks while they healed up, although at 24:41 am still some way off my previous PB of 23:06, but I'm not sure how much I want to crack the 22 minute barrier at the moment; I'm enjoying going slower over longer distances. Anyway, as a result I was a teeny weeny bit tired on Sunday's run. By the time we got to the cows in the farmyard (about 5 miles in), I was glad of the excuse to stop for a bit and chat to them. I love the smell of cows' noses, there's something warm and comforting about them.
Ted had gone on with his Dad and Pop, and after a few minutes of sniffing noses with the cows I heard him shrieking. Thinking he'd either a) stood on a thorn or, b) seen a pigeon/ rabbit, I glanced up the track to see him coming hurtling towards me. M, not far behind and grinning, said some way up the track Ted had looked round, realised I wasn't there, slammed on the brakes, yelled at his Dad to stop, turned round and gone flying back down the track to find me. He really is the sweetest dog. I know I've said it before but he really is. Poppy, of course, had remained with her Dad completely unconcerned for my welfare. But she did give me a energetic tail-wag and a Jack-Russell Grin when she saw me, which was something I suppose.
We set off again and this time Ted was taking no chances of losing me - he super-glued himself to my ankles for the next mile to make absolutely certain I didn't wander off. We came out of the fields under two beautiful old Oaks onto a lane (past the company
Once out of the woods we turned left into a long sweep of ploughed fields where yellowhammers sang in the hedges and buzzards circled high overhead, keening. I got my second wind and skipped along, Pop racing ahead, Ted galloping behind and M bringing up the rear.
I've invested in some compression 3/4 length running tights (out of curiosity and scepticism) to see whether the latest running fad actually has any legs (pardon the pun). M says they make me look like a cyber woman. I can't work out whether that's a compliment or not. They are silvery blue with white stripes and I'm slightly worried they are vaguely see-through in the knicker department. Something not helped by the compression lines that run under the bum area, thus defining it further. They are definitely not the sort of attire one should wear if one has any complexes/ reservations at all about the size of one's posterior, or indeed cares for other people's potentially vocal assessments on the subject. I find I get less bothered as I get older. And anyway, I only wear them when I'm running so figure I can put on a spurt of speed should I meet anyone and then they wouldn't have time to notice the colour of my pants as I flashed past (unfortunate choice of words but you know what I mean) As my ex-husband used to say upon returning from the gym, Lycra is not a birth-right :o)
Compression running tights have special threads running through them that kick-in to support the muscles when they get tired. I scoffed at this but have to say on both the ten mile run we did last week and this weeks' rather tired eight miler I could feel them working, so maybe they are worth the dosh.
We climbed a stile into a field (the sun glinting off the cyber-pants, causing M to shield his eyes and Ted to blink several times) where some yearling horses were grazing. Possibly it was the cyber-pants dazzling them in the sunlight (although it could also have been Poppy scampering about), but they responded to our presence by whipping themselves up into a frenzy of excitement at our running across their field and joined in, galloping about with heads held high and tails cocked over their bottoms, much to Ted's horror and Poppy's glee. The fence was electrified (always fun) and the stile rickety, so nothing could possibly go wrong.
After a few minutes of nail-biting scrabbling during which the cyber pants snagged on a bramble and I was aware of the ticking of the electric fence uncomfortably close to my bottom as I struggled to get free, we were over the stile (unstung) and back out onto a lane that runs back into Broughton where we'd started an hour earlier. M, who had his beloved map, got it out to check exactly where we were, but I had heard Rooks cawing and, seeing the Rookery, knew that we must be just down the lane from the car. I rather like navigating by nature.
It was a great run and now I have some idea of what the first 5 miles of the 13.1 I'll be doing in October look like (hilly, steep, long, relentless and a bit arduous, and I believe it only gets worse!). We'll be doing the next eight miles in a few week's time after a clutch of competitions are out the way.
Hope you're all well and that the runners among you are fit as fleas and racking up the miles?