Turn of the Tides

Autumn in Scotland(The Hermitage, Dunkeld, in all its autumn glory)

I have never felt the need to prove anything to anyone with my running; certainly not to other people, but not even to myself. For me, the only real tragedy when running would be if I didn’t enjoy myself. So right now, while my body is still feeling the aftershocks of a very nasty chest infection, I am more than happy to give it the rest that it needs. I decided to bow out of the Cologne Marathon before I even made it to the start line: I’ve always said that I run to be happy and healthy, and I am pleased to say that I have found it very easy to live by those words.

I still run almost every day, but these days I’m very relaxed about it. No watch, no hill sprints, no intervals, no tempo runs. Instead, I am enjoying one easy off road run after the next. It’s brought me much peace, and the intense connection with nature has allowed me to fully embrace and enjoy the changing seasons. This summer has been nothing short of amazing, but I’m now ready to run through autumn and into winter. Bring on the long sleeved tops and chocolate-fuelled long runs!

I have no doubt that the lust to run fast will return – I suspect that it will resurface the moment after I have coughed for the last time. I’m signed up for the Jedburgh Ultramarathon in a month time, and am already getting very excited about that. Sure, I’m not as fit or fast as I was at the start of the year, and very much doubt that I’ll manage another second place finish. Instead, I look at it as my lap of honour; a chance to celebrate a great year of running.

I wish you all peace and balance on this equinox and new moon. Can you feel the changing seasons?

3 peaks autumn(The “Three Peaks”, Jedburgh Ultramarathon)

I am on a journey; with my thoughts, my dreams and my running. Running is my teacher, and with each step I learn a little more about life. I respect the distance but keep testing the limits. I don’t let my demons chase me; instead I am becoming a master hunter. Happiness is not my destination; the journey itself keeps bringing me a wild sense of freedom and unbridled joy. I am on a quest for peace, balance and quiet bliss. I am a seeker, an explorer, a runner!

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Ever Changing Scenery

I suffered a serious lapse of self-control over the Easter weekend. And no, I’m not even talking about the inexcusable amounts of chocolate eggs I have annihilated. Here’s what really happened: four days off work, mixed with the most beautiful spring weather, sprinkled with the threat of a looming ultramarathon was all it took to turn me into a temporary binge runner.

The first run was a long trail run on the coastal path; I loved rolling out of bed and simply hitting the trail until I felt like jumping ship, at which point I headed for the road and jumped on a homeward bound bus. Saturday was parkrun day, and my legs were so fresh they even had a PB in them. It was a lovely day for it, as it also happened to be the second anniversary of my local parkrun. As such, there was much cake eating and rejoicing with the totally awesome people that make St. Andrews parkrun the fantastic event that it is!

Sunday saw me back on the amazing Cateran trail, for more exploration of the ultramarathon route. This time, I went on my own, and although the going was tough, I enjoyed every moment of it. Yes, even the bit where I got lost in a swamp and power hiking was all I could do to ensure that my shoes would stay attached to my feet. There’s learning in that, too, I am sure!

SONY DSC(Loch Beanie, near the Shoe-Stealing-Swamp-of-Doom)

On Monday morning, I joined a real ultramarathon runner for another 18 mile run in a local Nature Reserve. My legs still felt surprisingly good, but general fatigue was finally and predictably nipping at my heels. It was a challenging run, but I’m glad I did it.

All in all, I ran 96km over the four day weekend. The only explanation I can offer to explain the fact that I felt perfectly fine on Tuesday morning is that my legs were so traumatised that they simply stopped talking to me. Still, I’m sure that they are grateful for the little (relative) rest they are getting right now.

As I am typing this, I’ve put said legs up on a very cosy sofa of a holiday cottage on the west coast of Scotland. While I’m here on business (I’m attending a training course on animal assisted therapies – it’s awesome!), I can’t help but feel that this is almost a mini vacation. For a start, I’m waking up to this view every morning:

cumbrae

This cosy little cottage also happens to be fully decked out with maps and hiking guides for the area, which I continue to study vigorously. Naturally, you can expect another post about my explorunning upon my return to civilisation (and a stable internet connection)!

I hope you are all having a great week, too!

Pampered Feetsies (Can Outrun The Bombsquad)

A few weeks ago, the wonderful Tartan Jogger and I thought it would be fun to swap our running music playlists.

But rather than being all boring and lazy about it (and just e-mailing a list of all the songs), we decided to spice things up a little: each of us bought an mp3 player, uploaded our unedited running tunes (yes, including the embarrassing ones) and posted it the other person.

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When I got home from work yesterday, I found a little parcel waiting for me and was surprised to find that it was rather bigger than your average mp3 player! The reason for this is that Tartan Jogger had included not just the mp3 player, but also an entire pampering kit for my tortured feet – including a soothing and cooling gel, soft socks and nail varnish – wonderful! After racing my socks off on Sunday, this wonderful present could not have been more timely or perfect!

My pampered feet have been recovering surprisingly well from the race, and I have been enjoying some lovely recovery bouncing to Tartan Jogger’s music on the coastal paths. It’s been extremely fun and refreshing to run to someone else’s tunes, with no idea what to expect and what song might come on next. I can confirm that so far all of her songs have put a definite spring in my step – it’s a fantastic playlist for running.

It’s really fun to discover new songs, re-discover old ones, find the odd tune we have in common and, perhaps most importantly, decide that several of these songs need to be added to my own playlist as a matter of urgency!

Incidentally, while trail running to Tartan Joggers tunes this evening, I first accidentally photo-bombed a professional shoot and was then, in turn, pursued by a bomb squad. Let me explain… My first clue that something was amiss came in the form of a number of “Rescue” vehicles parked at an accessible stretch of the trail. Not wanting to bother the men in uniform, I simply continued my run, blissfully cruising along an undulating trail between the beach and a golf-course. A kilometre or so later, I passed a rather suspiciously large group of golfers. With laptops, and cables and strobes. They were polite enough to only roll their eyes at me, almost patiently, as I blazed my trail between the photographers and the golfer models – ooops!

Not wanting to gatecrash the professionals again, I left the golf course and headed for some higher trails, which cross various little hills and forests on the way back. But after rambling on for 10 kilometres or so, I eventually had to cross the golf course again in order to get back to my car. That’s when I ran into more men in uniform, this time looming around vehicles with “Bomb Disposal” written all over them in big navy letters. What followed were some frantic radio communications and me repeatedly confirming that each and every sighting of the jogger – runner! I corrected them! dammit! – was in fact, yours truly. “Yes, we’ve got her,” the man shouted at his radio. It turns out they had been trying to find me for the better part of the previous hour. They asked me politely to wait with them for 10 minutes before returning to my car, and then – BOOOOOOOM! – the earth trembled.

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Seriously, who else has been stopped by the police while running a race, and a mere two days later leads the bomb disposal squad on a cat-and-mouse hunt in the Scottish wilderness? Really, I couldn’t make this up. I think that my inner running ninja wants to come out and play.

I hope that Tartan Jogger, who received my running tunes (as well as a little wild running experience kit) about a week ago, will have many wild, weird and wonderful adventures while running to my music as well. I think I can speak for both of us when I say we’ve had wicked fun with this experience. I tip my hat to you, Tartan Jogger – thank you for all the fun!

In anyone else is interested in swapping running music playlists, please feel free to speak up! Perhaps we can arrange a running bloggers music exchange.

Lover of the Light

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

– Margaret Atwood

Today, the inconceivable became possible once again. This evening was possibly more awesome than Christmas, New Year and the Winter Solstice combined.

Today there was finally enough light in the sky to allow me to squeeze a trail run in AFTER work.

I only managed to run 9km before I had to surrender to darkness once again, but I don’t care. A little staggering around in the dark has never killed anyone and more importantly, I managed to get safely back to my car without the need for any lights at all. That’s right – for the first time this year, I was able to run after work without having to resemble a renegade Christmas tree.

I can’t stop smiling. The seasons are finally turning and this is only the beginning.

Cambo Evening(As I ran, the sun set over Cambo)

Chasing the Dawn

I don’t really function well in the mornings. For a start, I absolutely need a shower before I can pass for a reasonably well adjusted human being and even then it takes all the focus I can muster to ensure that I don’t leave the house naked. Breakfast becomes a viable option only after I’ve been awake for at least an hour, but two are even better.

It won’t surprise anyone then when I proclaim yet again that I’m no good at early morning runs. It’s as though my body thinks that it’s actually sleepwalking and my brain refuses to obey me. It’s certainly not a time when I’d expect a rave run.

But this morning I woke up early and decided to go for a run regardless of my mind threatening to stage a dirty riot at the mere thought of the endeavour. You see, there are three rules that I run by:

1) Have fun – if it’s not fun, make it fun.

2) Always, always listen to your body – battle with your mind if you must, but work with your body.

3) Keep changing things and try new things – keep moving forward.

I thought that an early morning run would be a perfect opportunity to practice all three of my running decrees at the same time: it’s certainly an uncommon experience for me and I wasn’t sure how my body would react. I expected to have to work hard to find a way to make it enjoyable and as such it had the potential to teach me new and valuable things.

Before I left my house I had the sense to wrap up nice and warm, as the world I was about to step into was dark and frozen. I had to stay in tune with my body, as I wasn’t sure how well I’d physically cope with running on an empty system. I aimed to find a pace that was bearable, but quickly managed to settle into a rhythm that was slow enough to allow me to actually enjoy the run. Before I knew it, I was gathering momentum and yet I was so comfortable that I felt I could have gone on forever. I realised once again that all my previous worries had been completely unnecessary. And just then, my efforts were rewarded with the sights of a wonderfully stunning sunrise:

Dawn

It was a gentle run – sleepy, solitary, and utterly magical; the ultimate morning run.

Have you ever been convinced that you’d not be able to enjoy a run, pushed yourself to do it anyways, only to experience something amazing?

Let the Storm Rage On

That’s it: I’m officially on annual leave for the next two weeks! Naturally, the weather is terrible, but I didn’t let that stop me from heading out for a cool, celebratory trail run. I was really hoping to find some snow, so that I could finally build my first snowman of the season. With that goal in mind, I ran up the highest ‘mountain’ in the county this afternoon. (Don’t be too impressed though, the highest peak in Fife is West Lomond, which at 522 m isn’t really all that high – the run from base to peak and back is about 12km).

Lomond Storm

Sadly, I found no snow on the peak, just some very wild winds and a hailstorm, neither of which lends itself to the building of snowmen. I only encountered one other person who was crazy enough to also be out -hiking- on the mountain trails in the middle of a storm in December. In typical British style, he made some comment about the weather as I passed him. Call me weird, but I didn’t feel like stopping for a chat while the strom raged on around us; instead I just shouted something about heeding the call of a hot chocolate and resumed my downhill charge – weeeeee. What an awesome run! At the risk of sounding like the good old Coca-Cola advert: The holidays are coming!

One day, two terrains, three cheers and four new shoes

Someone may have just acquired not one, but two brand new pairs of running shoes. Runners are so easy to please.

Greedy, you say? Nonsense – I can explain everything…

Competitor Magazine Fall Shoe Review

As much as I enjoy training for a marathon, the increased mileage has rapidly raced my beloved road running shoes towards an early retirement. To ease the pain of letting go of my trusted companions of many miles – am I the only one who gets a bit sentimental about replacing her running shoes? – none other than Santa himself rushed to my aid today. He bestowed upon me a brand new pair of the very same shoes, just in an even nicer colour. What is more, because Santa knows everything and totally rocks, he brought them to me at a serendipitously perfect moment in time, while will allow me to break them in for use during the Athens Marathon. Amazing! (Incidentally, I couldn’t help but notice that Santa happened to be sporting the same Birkenstock sandals that my dad wears a lot. Weird, or what?)

Thanks to my fath… I mean, Santa’s miraculous intervention, I was free to plan a new mischief with the contents of my piggy bank. I briefly contemplated just how much chocolate I would be able to purchase with my riches, but a rare bout of sanity thankfully interfered before I could find out for certain.   

Instead, I came up with a much more sensible course of action: given that I no longer needed the money to buy new road running shoes, the only logical solution was to go immediately and spend it all on a pair of trail running shoes. Not wishing to postpone our destiny, my piggy bank and I trotted off to our local specialist running store, tried and tested several pairs of trail shoes, uhm-ed a little and ah-ed a lot, and eventually returned to the homely hearth sporting yet another pair of running shoes.

And just in case anyone is interested in the devilish details, the new shoes which are now eagerly lined next to my soon-to-be retired pair by the back door are the Asics Gel Kayano 19 and Adidas Response Trail 20.

I can’t wait to take them out and treat them to their baptism of mud! Right now, only one dilemma remains: shall the happy bunny go bounce on the trails or on the road this evening?

(P.S.: Three cheers to my dad, who is really awesome!)