Half term, half measures.

Monday. Day 36

Still feeling the effects of copious amounts of alcohol and deep shame, tonight’s run is grim. Again, the weather is resolutely wintry and neither of us has the urge to train. It is now taking on average, 7 text messages between V and I before any arrangement is made to run. We both secretly hope that the other will call-off so we can stay on the couch and open that bottle of Rioja.

At this point, the fear of failure is the only thing keeping me going. Although how long my reserve will last is anyone’s guess.

We blunder on through 6k or so, amid a cacophony of swearing.

Tuesday. Day 37

I receive a text from V while at work which reads, ‘You still on for tonight? *please say no, please say no, please say no…*’ Maybe we should make this the new mission statement…?

We go anyway because fear of public humiliation is a great motivator. But we grouse about it the whole time and vent about anyone who so much as looked at us the wrong way in the last 48 hours.   There are several character assassinations during this training session. It’s bloody.

I’m plagued with pain from aching calves which I am trying to ignore but somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m wondering if I should be resting. The panic of breaking the schedule is too much though as I still cannot see a point where we will comfortably run even close to the full distance.

There is a constant sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, although that is very likely at least 50% due to over-consumption of gin.

Thursday, Day 39 – Saturday, Day 41.

Away on a family half-term trip so have done nothing since Tuesday, unless you count 7 lengths of the paddling-sized pool at the hotel and the energy it takes to shovel in a full Scottish (with fried bread, toast, tea and cereal to start) every morning.

Have decided to earn it today however, by heading to the hotel gym to use the treadmill.  It is screaming hot in there and I only have outdoor running gear. I consider taking off my top after 3k, but decide the elderly gentleman doing lunges will not be fooled into thinking Doreen is some kind of high performance athletic top, designed to hug the contours of the body for maximum support and mobility.  She’s hugging the contours alright, I can hardly bloody breathe.

Sadly her function is clear, she looks exactly like what she is,  a foundation garment for well endowed and slightly portly ladies of a certain age.  He probably sees enough of that carry on at home with Mrs Elderly Gentleman, so I soldier on sweating profusely and  turning an alarming shade of purple as I clock up the k’s.

Treadmill running is mind-numbingly dull and there is nothing to look at.  Aside from myself.  The mirror in front of me tells a thousand tales.  All of them from the horror genre.

The vision I believe I present when running is so far removed from reality, I expect a crash team or a concerned vet to arrive at any moment to perform resuscitation,  or to put me out of my misery for good.

Either would be welcome, but not before my fry up.

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There is no inspiration here, look away now.

Monday.  Day 29, Day 30, Day 31, Day 32, Day 33…blah, blah…

We run.  It’s wet.  It’s windy.  It’s freezing.  I am bored of this shit.

There are no highlights this week  but many, many lows.  I know runners are supposed to hit the metaphoric “wall” but  I had understood that to be actually during the race, rather than slap bang in the middle of training.

Undertaking a run in snow while Rugrat 2 is at sports class turns out to be one of many lapses of good judgement.  Even the stalwart G, peels off when we pass close to her house in search of tea and a hot shower. I plough on to the village hall in a blizzard. V’s mum passes me in her car and the look of horror and bewilderment on her face will live with me forever.

I sit dripping and shivering all over the caretakers newly mopped floor waiting for the rugrat.  She is obviously thrilled.  The other mums are laughing and joking with each other and survey me with amusement and thinly veiled pity as they play Candy Crush in their warm and dry clothing.  I now truly understand the meaning of the word “embittered”.

I get home to find there is no hot water and feel like killing someone. Preferably myself.

Saturday.  Day 34

V and I have scheduled another 10k lochside route and it turns out to be the worst run we have ever had.  The fault was all our own as the conditions were excellent.  No wind, clear blue sky, dry and bright.  Should have been great.  It was anything but.

It turns out that there are two new things to consider before embarking on a 10k:

1. Empty your bladder

2. Do not eat McDonald’s or  taste test around 30 of the 200 cream-filled profiteroles you have made for a party this evening

We stop/start almost the whole way while trying to find a suitable toilet-stop spot on one of the busiest public walkways in central Scotland.  There are none. Perhaps if we were more hardcore, we’d just have done a Paula Radcliffe, but the thought of meeting a friend or one of our children’s teachers  while squatting in the undergrowth  is just too much to bear.

Typically, this is the run where we seem to meet almost everyone we know.  I suspect they are now all deeply suspicious of any previous comments made on our fantastic progress as they observe us ambling along at a pace that wouldn’t challenge your average snail, whilst casting furtive glances at clumps of bushes.

There is very little to be positive about today.  Except of course that it wasn’t me who ate the McDonald’s.

Sunday.  Day 35

If yesterday was bad, today is off the scale. Death would be welcome and ironically, I’d do anything for a McDonald’s.

I attended a 40th birthday party of epic proportions last night (see 200 profiteroles above) and used the disastrous 10k this morning as a poor excuse to drown my sorrows.  I have little recollection of the event aside from the rabid competitive spirit that overtook me when it came to the ‘No1 Hits of the Last 40 Years’ Quiz.  I fear I may have lost some friends in the process.

It was a fantastic night ( I am assured) and the details are hazy but it appears I have,

a) agreed to take part in a second-hand baby sale

b)decided to write a book

c)proved I cannot hold my drink.

That should read ‘second hand baby goods sale’.  I haven’t got any second-hand babies, just a couple of shop-soiled ones but strangely, I am rather attached to those.  And in my defence, it was a HUGE amount of drink so I feel I can hold my head up there.

If only I could actually hold my head up.

Infamous Grouse.

Day 9

Breaking the rules of the Beginner Half Marathon Bible by swapping our rest days. Childcare and family life are getting in the way so no run tonight.  Spend the time googling stuff about running injuries and adding more and more unneccessary items to my online shopping basket.

Day 10 Wednesday

Feeling fantastic! Apart from the small issue of soaking feet and terrifying a man staggering back from the pub. I am fairly sure he though he was being stalked by a serial killer as I kept what I like to call sniggering, but what probably sounded like the hysterical keening of a psychopath to him.  Details to follow.

We managed an epic 8.8km tonight with no stops. Need to plan our routes better though as we aren’t tackling very many hills.  A great feeling run though, it turns out the strategy of lowering the pace to a more manageable level until we can comfortably do a 10k, is a winner.  It’s when we come to add in speed and elevation gain that we’ll be screwed.

Back to the stalking incident. We come back to our starting point at about 7.5k and decide to press on for a bit longer. V is a native and therefore it would be safe to assume that she knows her way around these parts.  Apparently not.  Our throbbing metropolis –  pop. 4200 –  may as well be twinned with Beirut when the way is led by someone with the navigational skills of a teaspoon.    We take a turn into an area I don’t know at all but which she assures me she walked through to get to school…FOR 7 YEARS.  Her memory is clearly in need of a little something from Paul McKenna, as we take not one, but four wrong turns down dark lanes and blind alleys, as well as one memorable jaunt across a pitch dark, boggy, dog doo laden park.  Much hilarity ensues.  V confides that her pelvic floor is not what it once was and admits she… “may have wee’d a bit back there”.  While  joyfully reliving the moment on my run home, I inadvertently scare a chap half to death by yelping and snorting while I am two steps behind him.  The noise he made was even funnier.

Day 11 Thursday

Frustratingly, no run again.  Children and family life really are getting in the way of my training schedule.  The freezing temperatures and the fact I’d be running alone had absolutely nothing to do with it.  At all.

Day 12 Friday

Again no run.  Had hoped to get out today but all it took was a call from an old friend and the offer of a lunch date to wipe the thought from my mind in favour of a couple of hours of calorie laden pleasure.  N is out tonight so no chance of an evening jaunt.  Instead I pour a gin and plan our route for tomorrow.  We have a one hour window between hungover husbands and children’s activities.  We’re aiming for a 10k in that time.

Day 13 Saturday

Hungover husband staying in bed. Children plonked in front of telly.  Wife and mothering duties complete.  Absolutely lashing rain and freezing.  I hate this.  Am losing ability to form proper sentences also it seems.

Our plan is a 10k – ish, around the loch.  We power on through to the park and are hit by icy wind as we turn the corner to meet the lochside trail.  Curses!  Charles Charley Charles and the Admiral of the Fleet (or other similar toffs) are visiting the big house and spending their leisure time killing stuff.  Path is closed for estate shooting. Damn you landed gentry!

We are cold, soaked, losing the will to live and both have other places to be in an hour.  Have definitely found that having a planned route in advance is highly preferable to faffing about during the run trying to ascertain which route would give us the best distance/gradient/challenge.  Feel free to interchange the word “best” with “easiest”.   We plough on for 8k or so and head home a bit deflated and very wet.  There are many more highs and lows associated with running than I ever imagined.   Today was a low.

An epiphany.

Day 6 Saturday.

V is still recovering from her calf strain and I from excessive gin intake. 10.30am Metafit class.  The class is about 1.5 miles away and it’s pissing rain, freezing and I have a headache.  I choke down a Berocca and go before I change my mind.  I get in to the zone pretty quickly and my breathing – which is always a struggle – seems to regulate more easily.  I start to think that this crazy idea might just be possible after all, I could learn to love this running malarkey and that the finish line on 10 May may actually be in my sights.  Dog walkers smile encouragingly at me and everyone says ‘Good Morning’.  I’m so knackered I can’t reply, obviously, but it makes for a very pleasant start to the day.

I manage to make it all the way there without stopping  and I am thoroughly pleased with myself.  After taking a moment to calibrate the difference between a mile and half jaunt and a 13.5 mile slog, I feel slightly less confident. So much so, I neglect to check the time and blunder into  a weight loss management class.  It’s upsetting that the group take one look at me in my running tights and immediately assume I’m just late.

Metafit accomplished without any nausea or wishing for death. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I loved it, but I didn’t hate it either. Progress of a  sort.

It’s really lashing rain now but I decide to try the run home.  My legs feel like jelly after 30 minutes of non-stop squats, lunges, burpees and squat thrusts but the fact that my fellow class members have seen me preparing to run whilst getting in their cars, makes me feel I need to put on a show.

I take off at a ridiculous pace and make it about 40 yards or so before I start to feel faint.  They are just passing me on the roundabout and I display an outstanding commitment to road safety as I wait at the kerb for several minutes in pretence of checking that the achingly slow Nissan Micra full of pensioners has definitely seen me before I jog/walk across the road.  By that time they are gone, thank god, and I can continue on my hobbling, breathless way.

I have had huge amounts of advice from people much better qualified than me on things I need to do and buy to make this experience slightly less painful.

I am assured I need twin-skin socks, Gore running gloves, special blister plasters, immodium and high quality foot moisturiser and regular pedicures to stop my toenails falling off.   As I have already spent half the household GDP on Compeed, (the Hello Kitty plasters just didn’t cut the mustard) I put my online shopping spree on hold.  To be honest I can do without the gloves if it means keeping my toenails.

Day 7 Sunday.

Rest day.  Just as well, the high from my run the day before left me feeling invincible so I drank a whole bottle of cava and ate a huge steak dinner. I feel like shit today.

Day 8 Monday.

WE ARE ON FUCKING FIRE!  Just completed a 45 minute/6km run without stopping, cramping, feeling sick or gasping for air.  Have sorted out the pace I think and the strategy is to get a 10km run under our belts comfortably and then work on upping the pace and adding in a bit of tempo and more gradient.   I sound exactly like I know what I’m talking about.  I don’t, but that’s never stopped me talking before.  Feeling pumped and know  we are going to do this. No question.

Have reworked the mission statement from “We don’t have to be fast, just not last” to, (in the unforgettable words of JLo) “GO HARD OR GO HOME”.

It’s January, lets get fit..

Having spent the festive season glugging booze and dining thrice daily on chocolate oranges, I spent less than a minute thinking about V’s  suggestion to do a half marathon.  I had an image of the post training and race me, svelte and toned, drinking wheatgrass juice with impossibly shiny hair.

My first mistake.

I am a sporadic exerciser, preferring cooking shows and gin as my relaxation.  I may even have been drunk when she asked me, hence the immediate and enthusiastic acceptance.

But, we download a beginner training program and prepare a mission statement.

Training started with a Metafit class to try to get our general fitness back on track.  In a nutshell, 30 minutes high intensity interval training to thumping bass, while swallowing your own vomit and trying not to pass out.

So that was fun.

According to our training programme, Day 1, Sunday, is  a rest day.  But in our family, we tend to spend weekends torturing our children by making them walk up hills in the freezing cold when they’d rather be at soft play, and today was no exception.  Benarty Hill walk completed with the usual Jelly Baby bribes to get them to the top with the minimum of whining.

Cold, and a slow pace when you are dragging a singing toddler, but the thighs didn’t burn too much.  Feeling pretty good about it all in all and looking forward to being fit and thin.  Shall probably have to ditch the Jelly Babies to achieve this.

Day 2 – Monday

The programme says  ‘easy 30 minute run/recovery’.  The recovery I am fine with, it’s running for 30 minutes being considered easy that worries me.

We get going in not bad conditions, bearing in mind this is Scotland in winter, and manage a pretty good 30 minutes. Much better than either of us expected.  Our pace would likely be improved if we stopped talking for long enough to get in the zone but at the end I feel pretty good.  If pretty good is code for ‘not physically sick’.

Day 2 – Tuesday

I start the day by filling in a phone app food diary, the previous night’s  run time and distance, and total calories burned.  I lie on the food diary.  I ate the handful of Jelly Tots standing up at the cupboard so I am pretty sure that means they don’t count.  Full day at work,  so the thought of getting out and running at 8.00pm after getting  out the door for 7.30am, does not appeal.  That’s why we run as a team. We both know our will power does not stretch far on cold, dark nights after a 10 hour day.  On the commute home, the car temp gauge reads 1 oc, with the possibility of ice.  I am clinging to the last vestiges of motivation I possess.

The cold hits me like a slap in the face and the rain is icy and sleety.  This is not fun.  My neck and shoulders hurt and my legs feel like lead.  I’m wishing I hadn’t choked down two pork-stuffed cabbage leaves (delicious by the way and my own recipe) before I came out.

New route tonight and the run ( I use the word advisedly. It is more like a bouncy walk) does not flow well.  I feel sluggish and slow and  a bit deflated by the time we’ve completed our 30 minutes.  Although that could be the cabbage.  I can exclusively reveal that cabbage is not an ideal pre-run energy booster, who knew?

We discuss strategy during our post run de-brief.  The strategy is not to come in last or in the dark on the actual run day.  If we ever make it that far.

I return home, remove my trainers, and find my first blister.