Tag Archives: surrey

10 miles, and something going ‘ba-doiing’ in my hip

After my 18.9-mile run on Saturday, my personal trainer Karen very kindly put together a plan for the rest of the time leading up to the Marathon on the 21st.

First on her list: ‘Run 10 miles’. So I did, yesterday morning, running from our house up the now-familiar roadside track towards Leatherhead. It turned out to be exactly five miles to the roundabout leading into Leatherhead, so I had a quick stretch there and turned for home.

The ever-scintillating Givons Grove roundabout approach

The ever-scintillating Givons Grove roundabout approach

It wasn’t easy – my legs must have still been tired from the hammering they got at the weekend – and there were many points where the devil on my shoulder was insisting that I just stop and walk for a bit. That devil is going to be pretty busy on April 21, I imagine, so it’s good to practise resisting him.

And I did: I ran the whole ten miles with only that 30-second stretch break at the midway point, and an even shorter break to sort out a wrinkle in my sock that was bugging me. The mental training is as important as the physical, I’m learning.

The only problem is, I seem to have done something unpleasant on the left side of what I can’t avoid having to call my groin. Some muscle in there gives a little squeal every time I make it stretch – even by getting out of the car, or turning to look behind me. Ouch.

I saw Karen again this morning for a scheduled training session, but less than a minute into my warm-up row, I could feel this annoying muscle twanging every time I stretched back to pull on the cable.

‘Okay, stop,’ said Karen. ‘I don’t think you should be doing anything with it like that. Let it totally rest for a couple of days and see how it goes.’

Slightly worrying, this, but I would imagine there’s time before the Marathon to get it sorted out. Even if I need to go back to the physio, or see a sports masseur, as Karen thinks I might.

My poor old body. It’s had a lovely time sitting about doing very little except write, watch TV, eat and drink for 20 years. Now I’m pushing it out the door and forcing it to run 19 miles on a Saturday afternoon. No wonder it’s complaining.

Fingers (and legs) crossed it all sorts itself out after a bit of rest.

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18.9 miles!

Leatherhead viaduct

Mini-viaduct at Leatherhead

This was the biggest run yet (here it is on Nike+), and will be the biggest until I get to the Marathon, just three weeks away now.

Helen Esplen, the physiotherapist, had recommended I run an 18-miler this weekend, and then taper it off until the Big Day. So that’s what I set out to do. And, thank goodness, that’s what I did.

In fact I ran 18.9 miles, if you want to be pedantic about it. And believe me, I do. When every yard is a fight to stop yourself stopping (if you know what I mean), you want to count them all.

I tried to stay away from any major hills (successfully, I’m happy to say), running at first the same road I ran last weekend, to Leatherhead (5.7 miles away).

This time, thankfully, I wasn’t in the teeth of a bitter, snow-flecked wind (although snow came and went throughout the run), and when I hit Leatherhead I kept going, running around the edge of the town centre out towards, and then through, Great Bookham.

Bookham roundabout

At the Bockett’s Farm roundabout, heading to Bookham

Running this far, especially on your tod, means one of the great dangers is boredom. Good news, then, that I could plug into my phone, which is stuffed with Mayo & Kermode ‘Wittertainment‘ film review podcasts I haven’t otherwise had time to listen to. The latest two of those got me through about two thirds of this run.

Between Bookham and Effingham (which sound like unsavoury verb constructions: ‘Don’t book ’em while I’m effing ’em’), I cut left back towards Dorking (which sounds like a rather rude gerund itself), taking a slightly mistaken detour towards Polesden Lacey.

Retracing those steps, and listening to Kermode and Mayo’s entertaining interview with the great David Morrissey, I was passed by a cyclist who slowed down enough to ask how far I was running today, and (when I revealed it was 18 miles), asked if it was for the London Marathon.

I said it was, and he said that was brilliant, and wished me luck. Very decent and cheering of him, and a good fillip at that point – somewhere between 10 and 11 miles.

I found the right road – Chapel Lane – and headed towards Westhumble, with the sun suddenly breaking out and making the day feel remarkably springy.

Sheep at Westhumble

Westhumble sheep, with rare glimpse of sunshine.

I must have driven through Westhumble before, but running through the village I was struck by how ludicrously pretty it is. I passed beautiful house after beautiful house, snuggled in among winding lanes and ancient trees. If you were looking for a slice of Hollywood England, it would be as good a place as any.

As I came round the bend to Westhumble station, I came upon a family of walkers. The man pushing the buggy said, ‘Blimey, you’re covering some distance! We saw you an hour and a half ago!’ I felt a bit rude rejoining with little more than ‘Really?’ but I didn’t dare stop – I’d run about 13 miles by this point, and knew there were five more – about 8km – required. I hope he didn’t mind.

I hit the A25 and set off back towards Leatherhead again, knowing that it was 5.7km from my house to the town. So if I ran almost there, and then back again, I’d be fine.

I’d gone quite a long way before my brain caught up with itself, tapped itself on the shoulder and reminded itself it was 5.7 miles to Leatherhead. Not kilometres. Laughing ruefully at myself, I saw that if I turned around now and ran home, I’d actually do about 20 miles in total. Hey ho.

And so I ran back, with the sky turning from Quite Nice to Worryingly Glowery as I went. Snow speckled the air, and I hoped very much that it wasn’t about to get really nasty.

It didn’t, but it was cold enough for me to stop and put the trusty Howies merino back on. (I’d taken it off quite early in the run, surprised by how mild the day was.) I’d brought energy gels with me for the first time (and I’m profoundly glad I did), but they were gone now. It was just me and the road, all the way home.

Well, I made it into Dorking and through the park, all the way to Pump Corner, the base of the climb towards our house. (Why did we have to buy a house on a hill?) By this point I knew I’d passed 18 miles, but I was hoping I might squeeze 20.

But there was virtually nothing left in the legs. Or in the phone battery, and I was damned if I was going to miss having this run recorded. So I let myself stop, and hit End Run on Nike+ Running.

18.9 miles. I was shattered. But hey – the Marathon’s only another 6.3, right? I shall buy more gels, and hope the crowd carries me the rest of the way.

Postscript: The day after this run I went to see the wonderful Karen Marshall, my personal trainer. I explained what I’d been up to, and threw myself on her mercy.

A fatal error, as Karen has no mercy. ‘You really ought to be doing another run today,’ she explained, ‘so we’re going to put some work through your legs I’m afraid.’

I’m sure she was right, but I got home a limp rag of a man. Seriously, I’m working for this run. So if you haven’t already sponsored me, do express your admiration and sympathy by chucking a few quid in the pot if you can.

Thanks to the generosity of many (seriously, thank you all), I’m getting very close to my £2,000 target for ICAN. I’d be very grateful if you could help tip the balance. Cheers!

My first half-marathon

Setting off

 

Nike+ claims I ran a half-marathon back in November, and at a stonking pace too. But the subsequent months have convinced me that this must have been some sort of glitch on the app’s part – I’ve never again been able to match it.

No matter. I definitely ran one on Sunday. And in driving snow, too. The picture above is what greeted me as I left the house. It was barely snowing at the time, although the wind was vicious and the temperature somewhere around zero.

But you just have to get on with it don’t you? So I set off, and ran to Leatherhead – a little under six miles away – and back, adding a couple of off-road loops into the run to make up the required 13 miles.

Crossing the frosted railway, heading out of Dorking

Crossing the frosted railway, heading out of Dorking

The route was suggested by Mrs Reed, who very sensibly pointed out that the tarmac roadside path would be much easier to run on than the thick, slippery mud-world all the local trails had turned into. And she was right.

Even better, my new Eat More regime proved its worth: my energy levels were transformed, and I reached Leatherhead quicker and more easily than I could have expected.

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As I ran, the snow grew thicker in the air, although thankfully never quite developed into the blizzard it occasionally seemed to threaten. It came and went, and hardly settled, but having it whipped across you by that mean wind was fairly off-putting.

The good thing about running six miles away from home, of course, is that you have no choice but to run the six miles back again (with, as I say, some little extras to make the 13).

At Leatherhead, I made up some distance by detouring up a muddy track through the farmland, crossing an extremely high and energetic river Mole:

And meeting some hungry cows:

Then I doubled back and ran the roadside path again, taking a final little detour at the foot of Box Hill to make sure I hit 13 before I got home. Which I did. Thank heavens.

Yes, I was knackered, and yes, doing that distance twice in one day is a fairly daunting prospect. But with my newly improved knees, and considerably more protein and carbs fizzing round my system, I’m feeling a lot more confident.

I tested the legs on Tuesday morning with a quick morning run around Norbury Park, a local woodland. It was less than four miles, but involves a steep little climb (frozen mud: like running over shattered concrete), and that left me pretty exhausted.

But I remembered the wisdom of my trainer, who always says to keep going, just at a gentle jog, rather than stop. So I forced the legs on, and they gradually submitted and got on with it. You do learn, doing this stuff, how much more your body is capable of than you thought.

Next weekend: eighteen miles.

Gulp.

More about knees, and some more running

So, after my visit to the physio (Helen Esplen, who it turns out is also physio to the GB Rowing team), I went out for a long run last Wednesday to test the knee – just over nine miles around Leith Hill.

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Starting out on the remains of the snow

Thanks to poor planning (okay, no planning), I found myself running downhill for most of the first half. And when your car is parked at the top of the hill, that can only mean one thing.

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So the second half, and especially about the final third, was hard going, as I climbed steadily (sort of) towards Leith Hill Tower – only the highest point in the county, people.

The scramble up to the tower is short, but fairly merciless: a steep ‘path’ that’s in fact just a deep and thoroughly uneven rut carved by rainwater and snowmelt, tangled with roots and strewn with rocks.

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By the time I got to the tower I felt ready to drop, but remembered my personal trainer, Karen, telling me how much better it is to keep going than to stop. And with the tower being the highest point around, at least it would now be all downhill to the car.

I recovered quickly, which I seem (thankfully) to be able to do, and made reasonably quick time heading back to the car park. But the most important thing was that, by the time I got there, my hitherto dodgy knee felt pretty good. Tired, as you’d expect, but not horribly stiff and sore like before.

A couple of days later, I went back to the physio for our next planned appointment, and she seemed pleasantly surprised by the improvement. I’d been diligently doing the stretches she recommended, so they’re obviously playing off.

Bouyed by this, I decided on another run at the weekend. I thought I’d try to build it up a bit: 10 miles. But then, as it does, family life got in the way and by the time I got my trainers on it was almost 5pm on Sunday evening.

As it turned out, though, I felt seriously tired. The measly 6km (3.7 miles) I did around Norbury Park felt sluggish and rotten.

Not sure what’s wrong with me at the moment, I feel like going to sleep pretty much all the time. May just be recovering from the bug that put me in bed for two days about a week ago. As it was, I was in bed before 9.30pm on Sunday night, feeling utterly shattered, so I was clearly under par.

I didn’t get any photos from this run, by the way, but I did record the fact that by the end, I was billowing steam like a racehorse:

Physio Helen reckons I need to complete a 15-18 mile run by (or at) Easter weekend, and I’m sure she’s right. So that’s the plan. I feel confident that with the knee improving, I just need to get my energy levels back up (more careful diet and maybe energy gels should help) and I can manage that distance. Not that it’ll be easy. But it’s essential if I’m going to be prepared for April 21…

Box Hill: 8.1 miles

Running in Betchworth

Limbering up in Betchworth

Once a week I visit my personal trainer, the brilliant Karen Marshall. She’s done wonders for me – if you’re in my area and want to get fit, talk to Karen. She’s also very excited about me running the Marathon. So she’s been taking me, and some others, out for testing Saturday morning runs.

It’s great, because you inevitably push yourself (and get pushed) much harder when there’s someone else there who knows what they’re doing.

Which is why, on this dank, foggy January morning, I agreed to run up Box Hill.

We started on the edge of Dorking, limbering up by running a couple of miles over to, and across, Betchworth Golf Course, and then around Brockham. Then we cut back across the A25, and over the hard brown fields towards Box Hill itself.

Fields to Box Hill

Heading for the hill

By this point, even just heading towards the hill, I felt knackered. And this is why it’s so good running with Karen – I wouldn’t normally even attempt a run like this, simply because I wouldn’t believe I could do it. But if Karen believes I can, so do I.

Amazingly, it turned out that I could. Even after Karen led us to a narrow, rocky path that went straight up the side of the hill – none of this gentle zig-zag nonsense. I can’t claim to have run all the way up it. Some of it was more like climbing. But we got a pretty high pretty fast, and I was pleased – and relieved – by how well I managed to carry on after that.

I mean, I’m never going to catch these women. Karen is phenomenally fit, and only stays within my sight because she’s a kindly soul. Wendy (not my wife, those who know me – another Wendy) has been running for something ridiculous like 20 years, and simply vanishes off into the distance. Especially in fog like this. And Jan, to whom I’m probably closest in fitness (and who’s also doing the Marathon), still stays well ahead of me.

But none of that matters. What matters is that only a few months ago even the idea of running made me feel tired.

The last time I did anything remotely like this was at school, and the term ‘cross-country running’ still conjures miserable memories: foggy, damp days of trudging heavily through puddled mud-dumps, with aching lungs, aching limbs and a throat full of phlegm. It’s fair to say that I failed to perceive an upside to the enterprise.

Of course, it’s just the same now. The limbs and lungs still ache – far more, in fact, 30 years on. I still cough nasty, stringy gobs of phlegm into the hedgerows (or, just as often, all over my arm). But the attitude is transformed. Now, I want to do it. I even (horrors) enjoy it.

From the top of Box Hill - 1

From the top of Box Hill – 1

Sadly, it took 20-odd years of sitting on my arse in an office (when I wasn’t sitting on my arse in a pub, or the living room) to become unfit enough to feel I had to do something about it. Only then did I discover I actually liked it.

Depressingly, it all goes back to school. I learnt two critical lessons in PE: firstly, that some people had an innate gift for, and understanding of, sports; and secondly, that I wasn’t one of them.

From my first football lesson, when the ‘teacher’ yelled, ‘You’d think none of you even knew the rules of football,’ sport was pretty much dead to me. (I didn’t know the rules, as it happened. But my ‘teacher’ never took the time to find that out.)

Once you’ve learnt you stink at something, it’s a very hard lesson to unlearn. Especially if you’re not one of those naturally predisposed to standing inadequately dressed on a frozen field once or twice a week, and being attacked with sticks.

Thankfully, my own children are getting a much better start in sports than I did. I went to watch Tom play a rugby match recently, and it was uncannily like watching my own eight year-old self: a bit nervous, not naturally co-ordinated, happier near the sidelines, all of that.

But there’s a critical difference: Tom’s on the rugby field because – wonder of wonders – he asked to be on the team. And his teacher is interested in nurturing that enthusiasm, not just focusing on the obviously gifted. What do you know – Tom’s improving rapidly.

From the top of Box Hill - 2

From the top of Box Hill – 2

Anyway, I digress. We made it up the hill, and along the ridge, making a final, headlong descent down the steep slopes to the Burford Bridge Hotel.

By the time I got to the foot of the hill, my right knee was complaining loudly. It does that a lot these days. Something must be done. But even so, I made it back along the road to our starting point at the Dorking Cricket Club ground. Running, not walking.

8.1 miles in an hour and 35 minutes. Not bad, considering all that climbing.