It was never going to be a great run…
For starters, it was hot. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t cope well with heat, and today somebody had forgotten to tell September what was expected of it. A 30 degree scorcher when it’s practically Halloween is as welcome in my house as a fart in a snorkel.
Secondly, it had been just ten days and one physio session since my knee injury, and I’d purposefully trying to keep my runs short for a while to try and avoid a painful repeat.
And finally, I had a stinking cold. For someone whose idea of hell is a hot sunny day, you’d think that a cold would be a happy nostalgic reminder of cold winter mornings, of snuggling up cosily under a duvet with a steaming mug of lemsip and watching repeats of Grand Designs in my pants. But no, I’m a man. And even the strongest, most macho of men is still reduced to a sullen whiny little baby by a cold. Any women reading this might wonder why I haven’t tried to argue that “man colds” are worse than normal ones. Well, they are, but there’s no point in me trying to explain that to you – until you experience one there’s no way that mere words could possibly convey the suffering we endure.
But fast forward a couple of hours and I’m sprinting (That’s right, me! Sprinting!) along the home stretch as fast as my tiny legs can carry me. Ah… Got you hooked now – you’ll have to keep reading to the end just to find out if I was being chased by something nasty.
So… although the odds being firmly stacked against me, I was adamant that today I would run. Despite the constant worry of my knee it had been a pretty good week for running. A gentle 5k, a gentler 10k and a short but violent interval session should really have been enough for a week in which I was supposed to have been taking things easy.
But it wasn’t. There was some small quiet voice inside me, whispering “you’ve got one more run in you this week, sunshine. Trust me”. Now, I’m not one for arguing with small quiet voices*, and on top of that my knee was feeling okay, and on top of THAT I’d just had a brand new running belt delivered that I was itching to try out. So when I woke up this morning I knew that today was going to be a running day.
Work dragged by slowly, as I sniffed my way through a box of tissues, and I kept looking out of the window to see if the sun had done the decent thing and buggered off. But if anything it had got even hotter as the afternoon drew on, and by the time I changed into my running kit and headed out of the door it was absolutely sweltering.
Twenty minutes later I was plodding up the track towards the lakes, surprised by just how fine I felt. Maybe the reason behind this is that, being a shortarse, it takes the sun just a little bit longer to reach me. All day, my plan had been to see if I could stretch my LSR to twelve miles, but the moment I laced up my trainers I knew that this was pushing things a bit. Under normal circumstances I would have been ripe to push the distance up a bit, and like I said my knee was holding up nicely, but the heat was the problem. I’d kept myself well hydrated all day, I was wearing a hat and I’d slathered myself in factor 30, but even so I knew that if I pushed things too far I could come unstuck. I had images of my Mum opening up the local newspaper to the headline “Local man found face down at area of outstanding natural beauty, having succumbed to the hot weather. Early reports indicate that by the time he was discovered by a coach party of mild-mannered pensioners he had soiled himself many times and his shorts had been eaten by badgers”.
So from the very beginning I resolved to take things easy and just do 10k. That in itself would have been an achievement – I’ve never done two 10k runs in a week before, and certainly not at these temperatures. I plodded on, and found myself settling into a nice relaxed stride, actually enjoying the sunshine for once rather than swearing at it like it was some big fiery bastard pissing sweaty rays of petulance at me.
It turned out to be a great run. It could have been a legendary run, had I not been so wary of the heat. My more sensible side (I know – it surprised me too) made me slow down to a walk two or three times during the run, and when I got three miles out on my route and felt like I could comfortably keep going to make it a nice even ten miles, it was Sensible Me that turned round and headed back the way I’d come. I know it was the right thing to do because heat exhaustion can creep up out of nowhere, but it was also frustrating at the time. As I made my way along the last few miles, the sun beating down on me, I tried to remember what the first signs of heatstroke were, and panicked a little bit when I thought for a second that forgetting the first sign of heatstroke could be the first sign of heatstroke. Collecting my thoughts, I remembered that one of the warning signs is that you stop sweating, as the body loses its ability to effectively regulate temperature. This concerned me a little, as when you’re already soaked from several hot miles worth of sweat, it’s nigh on impossible to tell whether you’re still producing more. Any concern was fleeting, and I just relaxed into the moment and enjoyed the rest of my (albeit slow and steady) run.
As I approached the home straight I was suddenly overcome by a feeling of elation, immensely proud of the fact that I’d managed to run a respectable distance in temperatures that would normally see me sobbing gently while sellotaping rocket lollies to my thighs. From nowhere I felt a surge of energy, and with an enormous grin spread across my face I kicked off into a sprint, feeling light and spry as the ground flew beneath my feet. At that point I glanced down at my Garmin, where I was shocked to see that my pace was just 6.51 minutes per mile. I dug deeper, pumping my arms to try and find some more speed. Look wristwards again I couldn’t believe it – still 6.51! I began to slow down as my burst of energy subsided, but as I returned to my normal jogging speed I was puzzled to see that somehow, although I was travelling a lot slower now, my speed had only dropped a fraction to 6.52 minutes/mile.
It was only when I realised that I’d actually been looking at the distance on my Garmin rather than the pace that I was forced to concede the fact that, okay, maybe I had been out in the sun for too long. I called it a day at around 6.70km.
A few minutes later I was going through my post-run stretching routine, glowing in the reverie that follows a great run, where everything is right with the world and nothing else matters except the feeling of your body reflecting on the miles it’s just conquered. It was only then that I realised that my cold had seemed to vanish the very moment I started running, and it now felt like it had never been there at all.
Of course, even the best runs have a down side, and the down side is this: I’m old and wise enough to know how Sod’s Law works, and a run this good means that I’m not due for another one like it for ages now.
Well, we’ll soon see about that, Mr Sod. I like a challenge 😉
*which goes some way to explaining why I bought all those magic beans from that shy telemarketer, but that’s another story.
**I’m also one of the last people to get wet when it rains. Sadly, by that same logic I’d be the first one to drown if there was a flood.