Schedule? What schedule?

Day 14 – Sunday.

No run.  Just a mental drive down the A9 in snow and a very twisty detour to avoid a jacknifed lorry. Mercifully, missed the lorry but did have to contend with two very green looking rugrats due to the alternative route.

Spent last night at a very enjoyable social event  celebrating a friend’s birthday.  Met up with R, a very old friend and runner, properly super-fit elite athlete type.  The fittest person I know and probably the fittest person in the world.  I confided that I had serious doubts about my ability to complete the race or even the training given that V has 8 years and at least 2 stone on me. But he assures me, when pushed,  we will be able to achieve it.  He goes as far as saying that if he challenged me right now to run a half marathon, I’d be able to do it.  It is not outwith the realms of possibility that he is serious.  I  laugh nervously as I’ve had a skinful and am wearing 6 inch heels.  I resolve to move seats at the earliest opportunity, just in case.

We talked more about running and I got lots of fantastic advice on pacing, training, gels, stopping at drinking stations and all sorts of other great titbits from an expert.  It’s a crying shame we were both so inebriated that neither of us remembers a word of it.

Day 15 Monday.

Quick afternoon run between school drop off and pick ups.  Managed 4 miles or so in 45 minutes.  Not breaking any records but not too shabby.  My phone lost GPS signal after only 10 minutes so I may be exaggerating the mileage.

I am exaggerating the mileage.

Still running solo as both V and I have husbands who regularly ditch us in favour of swanky nights out in stylish restaurants in the big smoke “with clients”.

Days 16/17.

No runs again as house/work bound.  Thought about going on the exercise bike in the garage and then slapped myself soundly around the head.  It’s freezing out there and I would have missed “The Taste”.

Day 18 Thursday.

Rugrat No 2 is at a class so I have one hour.  Managed a decent paced 5km despite the freezing temperatures.  Added in a bit of tempo by going flat out for the last 750m.  I think if done correctly, tempo running should involve spurts of speed and then more measured running, rather than the ‘hell for leather to collapse’ route I went down.

Finished up back at the village hall coughing up a lung and causing quite a stir amongst the Ladies Over 50’s Badminton Club.  I retire to the car in shame before one of them offers to call an ambulance.

Day 19 Friday.

Stormy day.  Do the same route as yesterday but it feels 10 times harder.  Much more windy so I  not only struggle to keep going, but also to stay upright.  Utterly exhausting.  I found my calves really tight and sore and the whole thing was quite frankly, the least enjoyable part of my day.  However, N is working from home which means that G&T time arrives early.  Every cloud.

Day 20 Saturday.

V is a slave to the independent school sector and is working today.  We’ve switched our rest day and will run tomorrow.  We’ve decided on a local 10k route and N has promised to drop us off at the start point at the other side of the loch.  V insists we have him on speed dial in case of her likely cardiac arrest .  He isn’t a doctor, he’s an engineer,  so exactly what use she expects him to be is unclear.

As I write, the hills in the distance are covered in dense low cloud and the rain is battering off the window.  My motivation is dwindling to zero.

It is 4pm, but as there is rugby on and I am running in the morning, now would seem  a good time to open some wine.  Starting early means I’ll be asleep by 8.30pm and fresh as a daisy in the morning.

Achieving goals: it’s all in the planning.

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 all thanks to Doreen

Day 3 – Wednesday

A rest day according to the training schedule.  Just as well, my legs feel like they don’t belong to me and almost every other part of my body, with the possible exception of my eyes, aches.

I Google  ‘food for runners’ while having a jar of tapenade and a glass of Malbec for dinner.  The irony is not lost on me.  I run out of crackers and finish off the tapenade with my fingers. I’m sure that’s how they do it on the continent.

N tells me in the morning that I was running in my sleep.  I quiz him about how long for, and what kind of pace he thinks I was making as I’m hoping I can add this one to my training total.  He complains I kept him awake.   Call it payback for 18 years of snoring and dry your eyes, Ginger.

Day 4 – Thursday

I catch sight of myself in the mirror at home in the running tights I bought from Aldi.  Grey with pink trim, and the image of a sack of potatoes in a pop sock springs to mind.  Running clothing is unfortunately designed for people who already run, who are slim and tall, who like pink and who don’t have lumpy bits or an ass you could serve tea off.

I spend hours trawling websites looking for bargain kit.  It all appears to be pink in some form or other, which I hate.  I buy it anyway because I don’t really want to look like I’m good, it will only add to the humiliation when people see me rocking up in full Ronhill and managing half a mile before I stop, retching, and cling to a lamp post or passer-by for support.

The fit of the outfit I think is key, too tight, too high-waisted or too warm and I just won’t enjoy the run.  I am laughing as write this, imagining a day I will ENJOY a run.

I own several sports bras.  None of them fit me properly because I grudge paying a fortune for something quite so ugly, so I have a range of moderately priced, not quite right ones instead.  Very much like the rest of my wardrobe.  I try them all and decide on the deeply unattractive Triumph ‘Doreen’.  Somehow, I’m not sure this is projecting the right amount of positivity.  Why aren’t they called Boadecia or Persephone?  I would hold my head high, keep my back straight and run a 6 minute mile in a Persephone.

Doreen makes me feel fat and jaded as well as providing me with another set of boobs which appear under my armpits.  On the upside she does offer wonderful support, without her help, I’d be tucking them into my (elasticated) waistband.

V and I are having our first training run apart today and well aware that I have no will power or stamina to speak of,  I recruit G as a mentor.  This does worry me, G is a proper runner who competes in races and appears to do it for….. pleasure?   But I know I have to run with someone or I’ll do ten minutes round the block and come home for a bacon sandwich.

I fear I will embarrass myself  and I do, having to have her adjust ‘Doreen’ for me mid way through the run.

Day 5 – Friday

Rest day.  V is suffering with a calf strain  and may not make our run tomorrow.  I’m sending positive thoughts of recovery to her. If that doesn’t work, I’ll cry and tell her I can’t do it on my own and hope that guilt works.

I stick in a cheeky swim to try and loosen up my aching muscles. Unfortunately, I arrive just as the high school kids are exiting the pool and skulk past them in the showers, aware that my thighs resemble condoms over-filled with blancmange.

The smell of chips from the cafe is like some kind of torture.

4.30pm Friday rolls around. Generally, I stick my kids in front of Cbeebies – those wholesome twenty-something presenters are the perfect role models and ideal unpaid babysitters – while I pour my first gin.  I realise with some degree of horror that I have not had a single gin and tonic for a WEEK!  I have had four glasses of wine but one of those was red, so can be chalked up as heart medication.

Aware that we are running and Metafitting tomorrow, I resolve not to start on the gins until N gets back.

After 5 minutes, I text him to make sure he’s already left the office.

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.