This week is mostly being taken up with a very poorly Mildred chicken, who isn't long for this world. She's spending her last few days dozing in the sunshine under my garden seat, surrounded by her feathery pals. It's all very sad, and I'm very pleased that today we discovered her enthusiasm for sponge cake - if she leaves us overnight at least she'll have had a last tasty treat (of course I don't usually feed the chickens sponge cake, that would be a waste, but this was a special occasion).
Anyway, I'll write more about Mildred another time. Today I want to talk about running.
Back in February I mentioned that I'd joined the local running club for their programme aiming to get people to running 5k. I've run 5k before, of course, but most of the other people hadn't, and it's been an absolutely lovely experience running with others twice a week, gradually going further and even a teensy bit faster.
In the middle of March we ran our local organised 5k run, and we even made the local newspaper. The following Monday we met for our first 'progressives' run - working our way up to 10k, and to being able to go out with the main running club each week (they run for an hour at a time). On Tuesday, the restrictions came into force, and our running group could no longer meet.
Since then, we've each been running on our own and posting our achievements on the group Facebook page. Our slower group also has a group chat, where we encourage and celebrate each other (and before all this, we arranged extra weekend runs). Sadly most of the women in there are struggling to get out on their own, and I think most of them have given up on aiming for 10k for now.
It's so much harder to get out there on your own. I knew that before, of course - that's the reason I joined the group in the first place. I've never trained consistently before now, and while I only went out twice a week with the running group, it was twice every week, which meant I was running more regularly than I ever have.
Now, of course, I don't have that, and even though our leader is valiantly trying to keep us motivated virtually, it's not quite the same.
Still, I have been getting out twice every week, and I can't complain one bit, because while many people are being told expressly to stay away from beauty spots and national parks, I find myself living in one, and unable to leave. Of course, this means that I have to run close to home, which means one thing - hills.
So. Many. Hills. Previously our running group complained about the hills we were being forced to run up each week, but they were nothing to the hills out here. Nothing at all. And I can't avoid them (unless I run up and down the same short stretch of flattish road several times I suppose). I'm trying to embrace them though - to enjoy the downhills, and run the bits of the uphills that I can, and just accept that I'm going to have to walk the rest.
I think I'm getting fitter, although it's hard to tell with all these hills. I went out the other day and felt like my legs belonged to someone else - they were a combination of stiff and jelly-like and I ended up taking a sneaky shortcut home along a footpath through a field.
I'm going to get out again tomorrow morning though, before I talk myself out of it, while the sun is shining. Even if I don't run much of it, I'll still get a bit of scenery, which I don't take at all for granted at the minute given that it's being denied to many people.
I don't know how long all this is going to last, but one thing I'm very much looking forward to is running with other people again. It's not something I've ever really done before, but it made such a difference. I really don't want to lose fitness now though and have to start all over again, so out I'll go, running from my front door, pretending the clouds are a mountain range.
I've written a lot about running over the years. It all comes down to the same thing. I'm enthusiastic for a while, enter a race, don't train properly, do it anyway, come last (or nearly last), and then don't run again for months, until some other ludicrous race catches my eye, or I'm goaded into a challenge by my sister.
It's got to the point where I've started to think I'm incapable of sticking with a training plan, that I'm never going to get any faster, that I'll always be slow, plodding, last.
I don't mind being any of those things - someone's got to be last after all, and the fiercely competitive streak that spurs me on in other areas of life doesn't really affect my running (except for the odd sprint finish). But lately I've got to wondering just how fast I could go if I actually tried.
In 2014 (I think) I was training for a marathon, and while I didn't do 'marathon training' particularly well, I did run far more consistently than I ever had done before, and it showed. I knocked three minutes off my fastest 5k time, getting down to an annoying 30.07 (I never did manage to get under 30 minutes), and I did a 10k race in an equally annoying 1 hour and 1 minute.
That was fast for me, but it isn't particularly fast in general, and I've never got anywhere close since (I did my latest 5k in 39.17). Before you start thinking it, yes, I know I'm faster than everyone who stayed on the couch, even now, but that's not really the point. I'm not beating myself up here, or (heaven forbid) criticising anyone else who runs slowly - but I would like to improve, to see what I'm capable of.
I've always run alone, but had the support of other runners online. My online running pals have been a source of encouragement and inspiration over the years and occasionally we've met up and raced together, although that hasn't happened for a good while now. I've never had much luck running in a group - I've always been too slow, holding people up, and in one case was just left behind when a supposedly 'slow' running group shot off into the distance and never looked back. It takes me right back to school PE lessons every time.
My local running club seems friendly, and says everyone's welcome - but even their slowest weekly runs are around six miles in an hour - as fast as I've ever gone, and much further and faster than I'm capable of at the minute. These are normal people - surely it can't be completely beyond me to get to that level?
Anyway, all this rambling is to say that last Monday I found myself joining the running club's beginners' group - a special programme for non-members working their way up to running 5k. I feel faintly ridiculous working up to 5k (again) - I've done marathons after all - but right now this is where my fitness level is. I went out with the slowest of three groups, and managed to keep up all the way round. It felt good.
So good, in fact, that I paid up for the remainder of the programme, and went on Wednesday too. we ran up hills, and spurred each other on, and I kept going further and faster than I would have bothered to do on my own.
Today I got up and dressed to go to running club's monthly 5k run. I'd looked at the finishing times for the past few months, and knew I'd probably be last, very likely by a good five or ten minutes. Old doubts crept in - while I've been last plenty of times in plenty of races, I really would like to get out of the 'I'm always last' mentality, and voluntarily putting myself in that position seemed unhelpful.
So instead I drove to a nice flat trail, plugged in an audio book about running (The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion), and did 3.7 miles in a nice leisurely 50 minutes, running for four minutes at a time then walking for one. I had a nice time, and felt a good sense of achievement.
I've been here before with this enthusiasm for running, and after a couple of weeks my regular training has always dropped off. I'm hoping that having the group to run with will keep me going this time. Once we're up to 5k, the leaders keep the group open so those of us who are keen can keep working up until we're ready to go out with the running club's usual hour-long runs, and I would SO very much like to do that.
It's not such an outlandish goal, is it?
As I often do at this time of year, I've started running again. Not very far, not very fast.
My running is precarious at this time. I find it very easy to give up again, and so it's useful to make it enjoyable rather than 'just exercise'.
This morning I knew I'd be driving past Tittesworth Reservoir, so I went out in my running kit and planned an out and back route up one side.
The weather wasn't as bad as I'd expected, so I ended up going all the way round. Some running, some walking, and a lot of stopping to take photographs.
It was breezy and cold, and the sun flitted in and out of the clouds, but I quite like that kind of weather for a run, it makes me feel like I'm having an adventure (albeit a very mild one).
I'd done just over 4.5 miles by the time I got back to the car, and I was cold and windswept. The cafe was open, but I saved that for another day and came home for a cup of tea and a hot bath.
I could get used to this running lark (again).
If you followed me over from my previous blog, you'll know that I'm an enthusiastic but somewhat slow and very sporadic runner. I frequently start running, keep it up for a few weeks, enter a ridiculous race (triathlon, marathon, series of trail races etc), then stop training, come last, have a nice day out and then not run again for several months.
It's a pattern that's repeated itself many, many times over the last fifteen years or so.
So when I found myself thinking about running again lately, I knew I was in trouble. My most recent foray into organised running was a series of trail races my sister and I did at the start of this year, but the longest of those was only four miles, so they weren't really that outlandish.
Still, that's not how the pattern starts. The pattern starts with 'I'm feeling a bit podgy/unfit', then 'hmm, I'm sure I was thinner (and I was definitely fitter) when I was running a lot'. Then I go for an experimental run, and sometimes it sticks and sometimes it doesn't.
This time against all my instincts I turned to the couch to 5k. I've avoided this so far - I've done two marathons and several triathlons and countless other races, so it feels rather demoralising to admit you're starting from the couch again. But you have to start where you are, and where I am definitely classes as 'couch'.
So I've just started week four, and I'm already running faster than I did when I was marathon training. I'm actively looking forward to going out for a run (although with this scenery, that's not really surprising).
Four weeks in is about that time in the cycle where I start being open to suggestion about entering a stupid race.
So, it seems my sister and I have entered an ultra marathon. Don't worry, it's not a scary one, not really. It's an out and back route of just under ten miles, and you can do it as many times as you like until the time runs out.
My longest marathon time is just under seven hours, and for this race we have fifteen. Easy peasy, and time for a nap in the middle too.
Plus it's flat, whereas my runs round here most definitely are not.
According to the cycle, I've probably got about three weeks of enthusiasm left before the novelty wears off, and I'm left with an inexplicable (and expensive) race entry for an event that fills me with equal amounts of dread and hilarity.
Wish me luck...
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with running. I've been doing it for years on and off. I've done all manner of races, including two marathons, three triathlons, and goodness knows how many half marathons, and odd-distanced trail races. I've come last in most of them - because while I love a good race, I'm not very consistent in training...
I enjoy running while I'm doing it, and I love it when I've finished and am back at home in the shower, but I find it difficult to lace up my shoes and get out there sometimes.
I often enter races with my sister, and we try to use them to motivate ourselves. We're currently in the middle of a series of four trail races that aren't too far from my new house - we came dead last in the first two, and I don't have much higher hopes for the last two. Still, they've been quite scenic, and a good way of getting to know some different paths (if a little muddy at times).
This morning I finally got round to going for a little training run. Just under three miles, round the block as it were (although 'round the block' takes on a different meaning out here). I didn't venture off road today - everywhere is quite soggy after yesterday's snow. Mind you, the roads themselves weren't exactly dry.
I can't say it was a great run. It was drizzly and grey, the hills were shrouded in mist so there wasn't much of a view. I haven't been able to find my running watch since we moved house, and I hadn't had any breakfast so it was a bit hard going. But running (and walking) is a grand way to get a feel for a new place, and there's always a sense of achievement to being out and about that early in the morning.
Wandering about the lanes is also a great way to see what your neighbours are up to - one of our neighbours seems to have alpacas who were as curious about me as I was about them.
Our next trail run is this Sunday, and I fear that our goal to be 'a bit faster than last time' may be rather ambitious. Although this one is flat, so who knows.
It does feel good to be getting back out there though. Next job is to fix up my bike and get out to some of our off road old railway trails. I might try that in the morning if it's not raining too much...
Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'm Jenni, and I write here about our new foray into country living, which includes growing food, knitting, baking, wandering around the fields, and seeing which local cafe serves the best cake.