Archive for April, 2013

So, I’m running the Marathon of the North on Sunday, in (hopefully) glorious Sunderland.

April hasn’t been the best month, running-wise, as we’ve moved house. A total of around 20 miles so far, compared to 100+ each month before. Also, my ankle is still wonky from the North Tyneside 10k at the end of March. However, that isn’t about to put me off, and I’m almost prepared. By which I mean not at all.

As ever, I’m collecting pennies for Medecins Sans Frontieres and if you want to send a contribution my way, you can get to my page here:

Just Giving page

The page is set up for The Wall, in June, but it’s easier than setting up a new one for each race. Also because that’s the main aim of fundraising, but every bit along the way helps.

Anyway, keep your fingers crossed for good weather and a sound ankle… report on the other side.


…a stress fracture?

My foot and ankle have been a bit, well, wonky since I ran the North Tyneside 10k at the end of March. Side to side movement of my ankle makes the outside hurt, and sometimes the side of my foot is a bit owwy too. I leafed through every “The Only Running Guide You’ll Ever Need” books in WH Smith, and none of the many lurid injuries there seemed to fit the bill. Then someone mentioned stress fractures, which seem to be identifiable by the fact that they’re a bit of a nonspecific thing, a touch of the hurts, and they don’t easily get better. Uh oh.

Still, as I’m a sensible runner, I’ve got a road marathon, the impressive Marathon of the North on Sunday coming. As most of the hurtiness seems to occur on uneven territory, perhaps it’ll be fine. Wikipedia (who wouldn’t be wrong, after all) say that one cure for a stress fracture is more stress. Bring it on.

I suppose we’ll all find out on Sunday, as I reckon I’m likely to fill you in on the gory (or not so) details one way or another.

Exciting facts:

  1. The new house now has hot water. I feel so 21st Century.
  2. On my last run with music, I was treated to “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats – bit of a blast from my youth that one. Also, Will Powers excellent “Kissing With Confidence” – Will’s “Adventures In Success” is probably the more motivational song, but this is the one I remember from Top of the Pops. If you don’t have these songs on your iPod, then you’re certainly missing something.

Rock on.

Another two-parter here, so buckle up, it might get disconnected…

Today was my second trip out after the Whitley Bay 10k where I wonked my ankle. It went pretty well, the ankle held up and I had a jolly jaunt along Hadrian’s Wall, starting at Milecastle XVI, or Harlow Hill as it’s known, where we’re currently living in a holiday cottage waiting for our actual house to be habitable. Got another week to go yet, but have been aching to get out there.

It got me thinking about walls, which is dangerous. I’m no trained philosopher, I can only spell it right best out of three, and I’m growing a philosophical beard* due to my inability to get to grips with Occam’s Razor.

That said, my little brain was whizzing away with thoughts, which went something like this…

– What’s a wall anyway? Walls keep things in, or keep things out, right? Thinking book-wise, I can think of the farmer’s wall in The Lord of the Rings that the hobbits worry about before climbing into the farmer’s fields – he’s a fearsome old thing, and won’t be happy to find them in his land. There’s The Wall in A Game of Thrones (the books, I haven’t managed to see the TV series yet), and the dreadful creatures are on the north side of the wall, and there’s a noticeable tension once the guard have passed through to the dangerous side.

– But really, isn’t a wall about separating this bit and that – one safe and calm, the other dangerous and exciting? When I was little, kids would dare each other to jump into gardens, the other side of the one-foot wall was dangerous and risked the chance of being caught.

– So maybe walls mark out the extent of safety? To move along the path of the wall is to come close to danger without being at risk – one side more dangerous and exciting than the other, but ok so long as you’re within running distance. When I used to walk a lot, I never liked fields with cows in them, and always worried by bulls. However, I figured if I passed through the field by walking close to the wall, then I’d be OK, I could always jump over, right? Despite the fact that I probably couldn’t have, and that there was often barbed wire on the walls, it felt comforting. Notably, that led to one occasion when I was chased into the River Tweed by some inquisitive young bulls – the fence turned out not to be so climbable, and standing hip-deep in the fast flowing river was the only other option. I had to walk downstream to get past the extent of the field. It was wet. And cold.

-Perhaps The Wall, the fantastic 69 mile run I’m going to do in June is the same thing – it’s pushing myself further than I ever have, there’s a real element of risk in that I might not make it, but there’s little chance I’ll come properly unstuck. In which case, it’s quite fitting that it also follows Hadrian’s Wall.

– And just maybe, there’s something there to learn for real life? Unfortunately I was just getting to that part of the conundrum when I got home, so perhaps I’ll never know.

*It’s just like a normal beard, only more thoughtful.

Talking Pants

OK, so that’s enough deep soul-searching, yes, you want something fluffy like you’re used to seeing from me, I’d imagine?

Well, a funny thing, at least I think it’s funny.

I use Strava to record my runs, it’s pretty groovy and I like it a lot. However, the announcing voice it uses is dreadful – I often can’t tell which mile it says I’ve just completed, and have got into the habit of counting as I go so I won’t lose track.

When I run, I sometimes use headphones, where the voice comes into my actual ears. So far so good. However, when I don’t use headphones, the voice still does its thing, but via the phone’s loudspeaker. Again OK.

However, I am also in the habit of putting my phone in the back zip pocket of my shorts. No problem, eh? Except when I’m running and my pants start talking to me. Which is better than if I was imagining it was my arse, I suppose. To correct myself, it’s not a problem, it’s funny. It makes me laugh. And what worries me, is that someone passing me by might hear my pants talking to me, see me laughing, and go on their way properly confused. I would feel mildly guilty about that, I think.

Talking Pants – perhaps there’s a market for those…

So the house move isn’t going quite as quickly as expected. To be honest, we were probably a bit hopeful of getting the whole house re-built in a week or so. After slumming it at the Quayside in Newcastle, we’re now camping it up in Northumberland, a little place called Harlow Hill. Renting a holiday cottage for a couple of weeks while the plasterer/plumber/electrician/roofer do their thing.

It’s ironic that I tweaked my ankle at the North Tyneside 10k and that, coupled with the extra work and house-sorting have meant I’ve barely made it out. A traipse around the old manor last week, but that’s it, and that made my ankle flare up a bit. A few days more rest and I’m champing at the bit to get out. The house is pretty much on Hadrian’s Wall, and not far from the route of The Wall in June. I need to get out and put a few miles in along the route. Still, as we’re here for a fortnight now, I’m sure I’ll fit a jaunt or too in.

My Marathon of the North race pack arrived today – Steve Cram’s folk even included a few safety pins to attach it to my vest. Great instructions and a jaunty yellow number. After the great organisation of the Kielder Marathon last year, I’m just as impressed with this event. Roll on 28th April!

There’s nothing quite like discovering a new place while running, the thrill of discovery and the different views – even if you’ve driven the same route, there’s something about running it that puts you in the picture. I think Robert M Persig says something similar about motorcycling as opposed to driving in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but I’m not about to go looking for it right now, so you don’t need to get excited about quotations.

What I discovered is that what’s even better, is going somewhere you already know very well, but haven’t run.

I grew up in a little town in Durham, and used to walk to school when I was wee. I also used to cycle about a bit in my slightly older days. I’ve been staying with my mum for a few days while the new house gets made habitable, and I took the opportunity to have a jaunt out last night. I covered all the key landmarks, the little row shops where we used to buy fish and chips, newspapers and where there was a greengrocer and post office. Up the hill towards the moors where I used to cycle with my brother. Cut down to the dual carriageway, a key part of the one time I cycled all the way to Durham (that’s like 8 miles and at the time it seemed like a pretty remarkable way to go). Back into town, and past the park, up the road from the primary school I went to, through the houses the same route I took back and forth to school and then through the estate back home.

It might not sound like any great shakes, but it was a slightly surreal experience, running through places that I either haven’t been to for years, or where I’ve only driven past on the way to visit my mum. Despite an aching ankle from Sunday’s North Tyneside 10K, and what I believe may be my first experience with DOMS*, I was smiling for quite a bit of the way. Given the fun of sorting out the new house and the joys of an uber-busy period at work, I’m pretty impressed with the smiling. Actually, the new house is coming along pretty well, thanks for asking, we should be able to actually be able to live in it sometime soon. 🙂

Because of the after-effects of the 10k, I suspect this week’s long run (22 miles) is not going to happen. I may make it out for another run if time allows, but I think a bit of healing is required…

*Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (I think). I had a wicked cramp in my calf at some point through Wednesday night. Now I’ve got a fabulous knot of ache at the top of said calf, and it’s still here on Friday morning. Is this DOMS? I have no idea. I’m calling it that, because that makes it sound more significant than “hurty-leg syndrome”, which was my starting point. While the ankle pain was first diagnosed as “ouchy-ankle-itis”, I’m coming around to the view that I have Latent Chocolate Withdrawal, and I plan on treating that as soon as possible.

Rock on.