A few months ago when I found out that Draycote Water 35 mile race (7 laps of a 5 mile loop round a reservoir) had been cancelled, I thought “Bummer, it’s a great kick start to the years running” So what can we do that’s similar, and the idea of using the loop at Perth Inches seemed good. I knew the lap well; it was used for the 24 hour race in 2008. The plan was 6 hours or 35 miles whatever came first.
So on the weekend that Draycote would have been on nine of us stood at 9.00am ready to run to our own agenda, Ken and Sue had arrived earlier and had already done a few laps. I knew today was going to be a tough run, this last fortnight I’ve just not felt 100% neither ill nor injured just like a sack of tatties on legs, running has felt harder than it should, and my hamstrings have felt tight, I put it down to three long WHW runs on consecutive weekends and a having a cold. I just need a good stretch and some warm weather.
Although the pace of the group wasn’t fast, I felt I was working a bit more than I should be at the start of a 6 hour run, Pauline left the group after having a 2 mile warm up, her plan was a 14 mile tempo then continue steady for a further 19 miles, Sue and I stayed together for the first hour, I nipped into the loo and then tried to settle into a comfortable pace on my own. I never really found comfortable but after two hours I started to find relaxed. It was perfect day, although pretty cold and frosty but with no wind and bright sunshine, on the river side of the lozenge shaped loop you were running into the sun and when it’s in your eyes it’s natural to dip your head, but your shoulders follow and you end up running in a crumpled heap, not good posture. So I’d lift my face up to the sun, close my eyes briefly, my shoulders would roll back, my ribcage lift, my hips come forward and I’d float… not too sure if a sack o’ tatties floats but that was my mental image and I was holding on to it.
The park was busy, lots of dog walkers, pram pushers, toddlers on bikes. On the grass there was a lot to watch through out the day, in the morning a British Military Fitness session, the shouty bloke in army breeks invited me and Sue to join, I replied. “Well, if you’re still here when I’ve finished my six hour run, I’ll join you!” I don’t think he believed me. There was a rugby match, some runners doing speed work and loads of other runners doing their own thing. Time and laps moved on, the sun move round the sky, Ken, Sue and Jon waved cheerio having completed what they’d planned. George aka Loon Dod had blasting a few laps in shorts and vest, Karen was just finishing and going for a shower, Pauline and Pete had lapped me a couple of times, I hadn’t seen Alyson, we were on the same lap but she was always around half a lap ahead. Just before George and Karen left, a woman had handed them a bag of freshly baked warm muffins, well, that’s the first time I tried a muffin while running, it went down nicely, I think I’ll put them on my grub list for future races.
(Stop press – just had an email from Robin who appeared at the end of our run, he had an inkling who may have made the muffins, he was right. Karen Walters, thank you so much, they were delicious and all gone before we headed home.)
I could see Alyson in front now but she nipped into the loo with around one hour still to go, she caught up with me and we ran the last three laps together, it was great to have company and blether at the end. Both Pete and Pauline stopped at 35 miles. Alyson and I were just a few minutes over the six hours with 22 laps and 32 ½ miles, I was pleased to get over 30 miles since this was my first long run on tarmac since Loch Ness Marathon last October.
When I got home, the door was locked, brilliant, the house to myself. I’d just got up the stairs and my dream of a peaceful soak was shattered. Erin and her friend Denise who’s staying for a sleepover have just come in. Erin had bought a hamster. What! Aren’t there regulations against minors buying livestock? That was a surprise, she’s never said she wanted a hamster, but she’d said she’d texted her Dad and since he hadn’t replied “No!” she took that as a yes. (Pete’s phone was switched off!) “But we don’t have a cage, didn’t they ask you that in the pet shop.” I asked. Erin rolled her eyes and said “Doh! They did ask and I said yes!” Which was followed with “Would you please go up the loft and get the old fish tank down, we could put him in there just now?” Hmm! Just what I needed to loosen off my legs after a 32 miles run and over half an hour in the car, climbing a ladder is not usually part of my post run ritual! Eventually, I left them to sort out the wee guy and I headed to the bathroom when Denise pipes up, “In Store have Hamster starter homes for £10.“ I’m persuaded into having a quick shower so we can head back into Dunfermline and buy the cage. I pulled up outside the shop with five minutes to spare before it shuts. I gave Erin £20 and sat in the car, they were soon back carrying boxes, I was given my change, £1.50, they’d bought the other cage, it was so much nicer and ball for him as well! I’ve been diddled again!
Back home and after a bit of hamster house building I can finally settle down to my usual post run ritual of pizza and wine and to reflect on my quarter day run. It was interesting in the last few laps finding out how Alyson had coped with today’s run since she hasn’t done this kind of thing before, all her training and ultras have usually been on trails, a journey, and had found today fairly tough mentally, it would have been so easy to stop but she would’ve beaten herself up about it later if she had and was pleased that she’d kept going. On our last lap I asked if she could imagine running this lap for 24 hours instead of just 6? “No!” was her reply, I laughed and said “Me neither, well, not today anyway!” It’s just your mind that sets the limits; it’s what you choose for that day. Even when running round a small lap, you do still have a journey of sorts, it just one within yourself where you find hidden strength.
Setting your goal and aiming for it is half the battle, believing in yourself and holding on to that believe no matter how hard the journey becomes, the battle is won.