Following the cold, miserable weather that brought me to a halt through February and March, how nice April has been.
A complete absence of motivation in the form of planned races has kept the month sensible, re-building my mileage from near nothing to nearer 15 per week as the weeks have worn on. Last week saw a trip to Wales to thrash the mountainbike which saw a missed longer run but kept fun levels high and fitness possibly higher.
But yesterday saw a new form of motivation entirely. The marvelous girlfriend who is JogBlog wafted a book under my nose just as I was finishing the Telegraph Book Of Unpublished Letters but before I started the Telegraph Book of Obituaries (I love the absurd nature of a correspondent who takes the time to write something so abstruse just for the sake of personal entertainment but which is enjoyable to all, alongside an occasional write-up on a war veteran who undoubtedly carried out his service with unbelievable enthusiasm, often having been captured, escaped, been injured, recovered only to get captured again before settling down to a life as head gardener of a nursery. Or the simply unbelievable obit of the man who almost single-handedly perfected the lobotomy process, having been offered “troublesome children” by the aristocracy to quieten them down to avoid embarrassment at social functions for practice. I can read them forever, it seems). Not sure if I’d like it (but having trudged on through one “classic” title in the recent past, only to give up at page 273 having decided I’d given it enough chance to warm up by then if it was going to – if you haven’t read “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, don’t. It’s impenetrable shit. And that’s coming from the author of this blog, so it must be really, really bad by my reckoning. There, that’s a review for you!), I gave it a go by skipping the introduction. After about two paragraphs I decided it was good. After the first chapter I was hooked. The style and passion in the writing and the content are superb – I can honestly say I love it. And it’s the direct reason for today’s run.
“Feet in the Clouds” by Richard Askwith. It’s an old book but has aged superbly. About fell running, basically, and while a certain paper once wrote (completely wrongly, I might add) about a fellow runner’s blog that it “Simply made you want to tie up a pair of laces and go running”, I’ll repeat the quote about the book with the assurance that it indeed does make you want to get up, get out and get amongst it. Tales of endurance, adversity, ridiculous accomplishments, camaraderie, mishap, recklessness…superb reading.
There are no fells near Ashford. The hills I run around between Hawkinge (aka the shittest place in the universe) and Folkestone are steep but short and will be thrashed off-road before long again. But are also 15 miles away. The Greensand Way is flat but at least off-road and goes past my front gate. I decided to run 7 miles today, slowly and off-road, in the style of an out and back. The decision was entirely attributable to the book. I even turned my ankle around the 2.5 mile mark in a track made rough by countless horseshoes. The discomfort was deemed mild in fell-runner’s law because there were no bones or claret visible so I continued to run away from home without breaking stride. It hurts a bit now, but not enough interfere with anything in life beyond being something to comment about.
I think I particularly love the attitude of the athletes to injury, following my ability to hurt myself in everything I do (incidentally, I didn’t even fall off the bike in Wales. Following my broken ribs last year I think I either took it a lot easier, practiced a bit more or had better luck. Superb fun). I now have confirmation that there are lots of others out there who will finish a race on broken limbs, who will run on through torn ligaments and who thrive on finding a way around injury. I think I have a new calling.
Until the novelty wears off, at least. And I hope it does wear off. Travelling to find fells to practice on and then race around might be beyond my wallet or diary. But until then I’ll carry on reading. And being inspired. And hopefully carry on enjoying my runs and staying fit through the year.
Fastest mile of the month was a 6.06. Fastest overall run the Maidstone parkrun at (what felt gentle, honest.) 6.45/mile average (well it’s a run, not a race apparently, I just loved the scenery what with it being along the banks of the river Medway and got a little carried away running and chatting to a couple of experienced parkrunners in their 50 and 100 run tops – before I knew it the run was over). Not going to break any records at that pace but it makes the 7 minute pace that much more enjoyable and the month average pace of 7.22 for all runs is equally encouraging. A few more miles alongside a few more longer runs and I might get race fit before Christmas.