Sunday, 28 May 2017
In Which Poppy And I Run Ten Miles And Learn The Value Of Wild Waters
Half Marathon training requires, at some point, upping your distances, so that when you come to run those 13.1 miles you aren't feeling every single inch of them. This week I needed to get a ten mile run in, so Pop and I set off together on Thursday morning to do just that.
Ted accompanied us for the first four miles, but as we know, he doesn't much like road running beyond that distance, so he was dropped home at that point with a nice pile of squid chews to keep him happy while Poppy and I set off on the remaining six miles of our run.
We'd gone out early as the heat was rising but even so it was very warm by 9.30 and Poppy was so focused on her running she hadn't been able to bring herself to stop long enough to drink from the water bowl at home during the Ted drop off. I had managed to get her to take some water from a bottle poured into a container, but not much. As dogs can't sweat they regulate temperature by panting and I was a little concerned she'd overheat, so as we ran along hedgerows frothing with cow-parsley and festooned with creamy white hawthorn flowers by lush green fields where horses gazed, lazily flicking flies from their sleek flanks with long black tails, I was keeping my eyes peeled for water.
We found a pond, but the sides were so steep and so be-nettled we couldn't reach it. By the time we'd got to six miles I was starting to worry. The sun was really hot and there was very little shade and of course we've had so little rain there were no puddles which is what Pop usually drinks from.
It made me think about how reliant we are on water and how much we take for granted the simple unthinking ability to turn on a tap at the first sign of thirst. I wasn't worried for me because we were only a few miles from home and I knew I would cope with that, but Poppy is small and furry and her little legs work ever so hard when she's running, and she's so brave she never complains and I knew she would keep going beyond the point it was good for her.
I slowed down and suggested we walked: she declined, as I knew she would. I suggested we ran along the top of the bank so her paws weren't on tarmac: again, she said don't be ridiculous mum, I'm fine.
By that point I was sweating from the heat and my shoulders were very warm and although we had another three miles to go I was thinking about aborting the run and walking Pop home for water, when I noticed a small stream running along a ditch that was covered in tall grasses beside us. I stopped and showed it to Pop, who jumped straight in and waded along it, up to her tummy in wild water. She drank and wandered a bit further along and drank again.
I would never ordinarily have noticed that stream, quietly meandering along the side of a small country lane beside a strip of ancient woodland, but now it held all my attention and all my thanks. It enabled us to continue our run, it gave Poppy vital refreshment and it made the difference between ticking a box on my training programme and not being able to.
Probably, that little water course has been there, flowing quietly through the land since the rivers first settled their courses after the ice withdrew ten thousand years ago. I wonder how many people know it's there?
We got home in one hour thirty-five mins having run our ten miles in good order, climbing 210 metres of elevation at a 9:32 minute a mile pace and burning over a thousand calories, all stats recorded by my GPS. What the GPS can't record however is how smoothly the run went, how I still had energy left to go further at the end but chose not to, how my muscles were fine afterwards and how I didn't feel sleepy at all, how much it boosted my confidence ahead of the HM, how well I felt I'd judged pace and how chuffed I was to find running up three steep hills presented me with no real problems. It also can't record the small drama of searching for wild water so Poppy could keep going and how grateful I was to that simple little life-giving stream pottering along the edge of the lane.
Running wouldn't be the same without Pop. I hadn't realised how integral a part of my half marathon training and my running generally she is. The thought of not being able to train with her was a salutary shock. She is company and encouragement and someone to share the whole thing with. She is brave and tough and joyful and I honestly am not sure whether I would have got as far with my running as I have if she weren't here to share it with me. So this post is really to say thank you to Poppy, who brings so much to our lives here that in three short years she has become indispensable. I count her as one of my very best friends and I can not imagine running without her.
Hope you're all having a good weekend? We're on half term here, a small break between GCSEs. L is doing well, remaining outwardly calm and attending all the revision lessons offered. If he doesn't get Stirling marks at the end of it, it won't be for the lack of trying which is all you can ask of anyone. I am just glad he isn't tying himself in knots as many of the children I know who are taking exams now are. We put way too much pressure on our young folk so I spend a lot of my time supporting him to do his best without worrying himself into a knot over it.