Posts Tagged ‘Running In The Dark

18
Jan
14

a sentimental story

Winter evenings mean that I will often forego my usual canal towpath route in favour of more well-lit paths. A few times, 11 year old SonNumberOne has asked to run with me. Because I will generally run about 10-12km in the evening, I have politely declined but suggested that he cycle with me whilst I run. This is great for both of us as he enjoys going out on his bike in the dark and I have someone to talk to whilst pounding the streets.

A few weeks back, SonNumberOne once again asked if he could come out and run with me. As it was relatively early, I agreed and we settled on a looping course that meant we had a number of opportunities to cut the run short if he began to get too tired. He has run a couple of 2k kids races and we have attempted 4kms (at his request), but these were stopping and starting runs and I could see that he was struggling.

Tonight however, he was adamant that he wanted to run 10kms – I said that we could try but that at any point, we could cut the run short if he was getting tired. We set off and I fully believed we’d get to 5km and he would say he’d had enough. We chatted through the first couple of kilometres and I gave him the choice of stopping at 2kms or carrying on – if we carried on, we would not be able to stop again until 5km. He chose to push on and we set off up a long unlit hill with just our torches to guide us. Again at the top, we could have cut the run short but he was determined to continue. He began to slow but was  desperate not to stop and walk so we carried on. As we got towards another fork in the route where we could have taken one of 2 routes, I again gave him the choice which way to go. This time he chose to finish the run so we turned right and headed home. We covered 9kms and he ran all the way. Not bad for an 11 year old who hasn’t run any sort of substantial distance for about 4 months! I really enjoyed having him run with me and he has asked if we can do it again.

And, without being too saccharine, there are 2 morals to this story:

1) As unlikely as it may seem, at some point and for however briefly, you will become a role-model for your kids so try to be a good one.

2) Your kids are probably more capable of some things than you think

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13
Nov
12

Working… Like a dog

People often comment that they feel a little lost after completing a big race. There is a gap in their life as they are no longer training for a specific event and the event they had been working towards has passed. I think I may have experienced this a tiny bit but before I had time to recognise it, I started a new job and that has filled the time that would have been spent training and thinking about the upcoming race. It has filled it with work. Lots and lots of work. And commuting.

Commuting was something that I hadn’t done in a long while: my previous position was mostly home based and when I did need to travel, it was mostly on my own terms and outside of rush hour. So to be hurled back into an hour each way motorcycle commute was a bit of a shock. Now, don’t get me wrong, a motorcycle commute is one of the finest ways to get to work (weather permitting) but I’d forgotten how much I take my life in my hands each time I put the crash helmet on and set off on the bike. Cars pulling out in front of you, drivers opening their doors as you whizz alongside them, abuse from van drivers as you nip past whilst they are stuck in traffic.

Even with my wonderful motorcycle commute, it means I am out of the house for usually 12 hours every day leaving not much time left for being a Dad, a husband, oh, and a runner.

So I have managed to squeeze in about 2 runs a week since starting the new job, one by the light of a headtorch after work one evening and then usually another longer run (17-18kms) at the weekend. What is disheartening is that I can slowly feel the fitness that I had attained whilst training for Berlin ebbing away as 18km runs feel like they’re getting tougher. Although, there might be a small light at the end of a tunnel as today I struck up a conversation with a colleague at work who was about to do a running commute 7kms back home. I asked if she ever went out for a run after work rather than just running home. She doesn’t, currently, but did seem interested when I mentioned that I might try and start getting in a few laps of Regents Park some evenings after work.

So currently not much to report on the running front although I hope that I can strike a better work/life balance that means I don’t spend my entire day working or commuting. Although, on a brighter note, Hauling My Carcass and I are working on a fiendish plan for next years European Running Adventure… watch this space.

 

05
Feb
12

dark and cold – a grim night terror review

I set off in the car for this race with a little trepidation. For a week or so people had been warning of heavy snow and all reliable sources pointed to it arriving in Aldershot by 6pm. As I left the motorway at the Aldershot exit around 4.30pm, the first few tentative, tiny flakes began to fall. I met up with Hauling My Carcass and we agreed that this was, without a doubt, the most ridiculous thing we have agreed to do to date… and there have been a few ridiculous things. Some very ridiculous.
Once we had collected our timing chips from the happy and efficient people in charge of timing chip dispensing, we sat in the car with the heater going and sighed and shook our collective heads at the absurdity of it all. It was minus something or other on the thermometer and we were about to run around an Army Vehicle Testing Track in the dark. Ironically, on the drive through Aldershot to the event, I saw a lone soldier pounding the streets in boots, combats and a khaki t-shirt… “poor bastard”, I thought, “he’s probably annoyed a superior and this is his punishment”. And yet I was about to undertake something similar, for fun. What is wrong with me???
When we could not sit in the warm (and in denial) for any longer we ventured out and joined the other be-headtorched runners for the start. We were told that the route had been amended as the large puddles were covered in four inch thick ice that, even if it were broken with a sledgehammer would be impassable because it “would cut you to ribbons”. And on that cheery note we were sent running off into the night.
Anyone who has run the Grim Original would recognise parts of the course although it takes on a very different appearance in the dark and covered with a dusting of snow. Everyone seemed in good spirits as we picked our way round 2 laps of the course. Personally I had a couple of (self inflicted) issues – namely, the day before the race, my new superbright headtorch went “pop” whilst on a final pre-race charge. Never one to miss an opportunity to bastardise something when just buying a replacement would be far more sensible, I took a high power hand torch and gaffer taped it to the existing headtorch’s head band. Obviously, during the race it rattled around on top of my head, dimmed sporadically and gave intermittent light as the contacts inside made and broke the circuit in time with my feet pounding the icy surface. Secondly, I dug out an old pair of running shoes in which to tackle the frozen ground…Another schoolboy error as I have been doing almost all my running in VFF’s and, without wishing to sound like this, I now find it really hard work to run in regular running shoes both because of the additional weight and the way they contort my feet whilst running.
Those minor niggles aside, the event itself was great – plenty of parking, friendly and efficient staff looking after bags, timing chips etc. Plenty of good natured marshalls who stood in the freezing cold to make sure we were all safe and who offered well needed words of encouragement all evening. The route was just challenging enough and the organisers decision to shorten the route for safety reasons (it ended up as just over 10.6kms) was a sound one. The course is a good mixture of forest path, technical and rutted tracks and sandy climbs and descents. Add in the odd strobe light and loudspeakers around the course intermittently blasting out heavy breathing and blood curdling screams and you have a fun and challenging evenings running.
Apparently, there was an after race party, but the ever deepening snow meant that many, like myself, chose to forego post-race festivities and aim to get home before the roads became a slushy, icy mess.
I would definitely do it again… a Spring/Summer one would be great. It could start later, go the full distance and incorporate some of the mud an puddles we all love.

14
Jan
12

darkness

With Grim Night Terror less than 3 weeks away, I decided now was as good a time as ever to order a proper head torch. I had a silly little one that was enough to use for changing a fuse in the dark but nowhere near substantial for an 8 mile run around MOD property in the pitch black.

So good old ebay was trawled and a suitably cheap (£12) and suitably bright alternative was purchased. Once it arrived, there was nothing for it but to take it for a night time test run. Out and back along the canal towpath should do the trick so I set off a little after 5pm for an 11km trot. I was worried that the light would slip off my head once I began to work up a sweat but it stayed put and worked admirably. The only modification required was a dab of Blu Tac to hold the adjustable lens in position – a trick discovered whilst training for last years Dunwich Dynamo. 

There was something very peaceful about running along in the darkness with only about 3 metres ahead visible. Bushes to the right of me faded away into the darkness and to the left of me there was about a metre of mud and grass before it all dropped away into the inky (and no doubt icy) blackness of water flowing along the canal. Steam from my breath occasionally caught the beam from the headtorch creating ghostly glows in front of my eyes. It was all very surreal.

Good fun though… and now I’m looking forward to Grim even more than I was. I just need to find something to strap my (weak) right ankle as if I can twist it running Grim in the daytime, imagine the damage I could do to myself in the dark.

Soundtrack to this post: Orbital – Dr Who

03
Feb
11

a dark scamper

On days of forced inactivity and little enjoyment, I become almost psychotic in my need to get rid of some energy. Perhaps it is some chemical imbalance… more likely is that I am like a small child who has a level of energy to burn off each day. Whatever the reason, yesterday was spent between car and meeting (4hrs of each) so by the time I returned home, I needed to get out and do something.

Sundays 13.1 miles had left me feeling weary on the day but had not ruined the legs too badly, so I decided on a quick 5k run in the dark before dinner. VFF’s are perfect for this sort of thing as they, for me, add to the childlike feeling of “just running around” so I slipped into my running gear, pulled on the VFF’s and left.

I turned the mp3 player up loud and, as soon as the Garmin had a signal, was off. I wanted to run it as quick as I could so just set off as fast as possible. VFF’s are not a shoe that enable you to land heavily so my run was an odd combination of going as fast as I could without heel striking or hitting the ground too hard. Within 500 metres my chest began to ache as my body suddenly went from inactivity to high intensity. Continuing to push, my breathing became easier and I was able to keep pushing. The darkness slowed me slightly as it was difficult to see exactly where my foot was landing (even more crucial in Vibrams) but I ended my little 5.01km loop in 26:28. It felt hard, especially towards the end as I tired and my foot strike became laboured and heavy, but it served it’s purpose of leaving me considerably calmer, comfortably tired and with a smile on my face.

Soundtrack to this post: Benjamin Lew – Comme tout embué, tout danse

30
Dec
10

dressing in the dark

Christmas Eve and I decided to run. With snow and ice still thick on the ground I set off and followed what I suspected would be a fairly clear route. And by and large it was clear up to a point… a few nimble skips into the road to avoid the icy patches but mostly clear. Until I reached the other side of town where, it appears, the gritter gave up and thought “Sod it… they can get to the train station, they can get to Tesco, what more could they possibly want!”. So I found myself at the opposite end of the town to where I wanted to be and surrounded lots of very icy patches that needed to be traversed if anything like a reasonable running distance was to be accomplished. So I carried on, picking my way through black ice and snowy patches, running on the road where I had to, sometimes resorting to gingerly tip-toeing whilst hanging on to something all the while getting more frustrated that this wasn’t really a run if most of it was spent at less than walking pace. I did however learn 2 very important running truths, namely;

1) Running shoes are useless in snow & ice – for all the grip they gave me I may as well have been wearing roller skates smeared in lard
and
2) Sometimes a bad run is worse than no run at all – had I stayed at home I would have just felt a little guilty about not getting out to run and reached for another mince pie. As it was, I was cold, pissed off and disappointed that I had wasted nigh on an hour to creep, fearfully, for little over 7kms. Pathetic.

I vowed not to venture out until all that nasty snow and ice had melted which was, it turned out, the 29th Dec. The day I had agreed to get up early to run my parents to the train station.
Now, agreeing to get up at 5.30am to drive to my parents house, collect parents and luggage and then drive them to the train station is entirely different to actually dragging myself out of bed at 5.30am, getting dressed in the dark, making a hurried breakfast before setting off in a cold car in the fog. But, the upside of this was that by 7.30am, I had completed my good deed for the day and was able to get out for a run before the rest of the family had even woken. It did require an enormous amount of creeping around and, for the second time that morning, getting dressed in the dark. Running gear is very difficult to identify using only the gift of touch but a quick check before leaving did verify that everything was in the correct place and the right way round. The only flaw in my plan came not long after I left the house and was merrily getting into my stride. It was still a bit cold and I reached into my pocket to pull out what I thought was my gloves only to find that in the darkness I had mistakenly stuffed a pair of socks into my pocket. Still, 10.7kms and back just as the family were waking and in time for my second breakfast of the day.
Soundtrack to this post – Pablo Gargano – The Runner (trance mix)

17
Dec
10

once more before the snow

Random. That’s what my last few runs have been. Now, deep into “the season to be jolly”, I’ve had to get creative to squish in those runs. The day after our works party last week (which consisted of a Jack The Ripper Tour (after all, nothing says Christmas quite like the murder and mutilation of East End prostitutes!!!!!) followed by a curry in Brick Lane), I felt the urge to get out and run even though I suspected the remains of the curry was still gurgling and fermenting within. So an 11.8km run was executed late in the day, in the dark and still with the odd patch of black ice to spice up the proceedings. Clearly I wasn’t going to be breaking any land speed records.

Then Sunday morning, and with a packed day ahead, I managed to convince SonNumberOne that it would be fun for him to accompany me on his pushbike. And it was – but it did make for another very slow run what with the frequent stops to wipe dripping noses, the pushing of Son and bike up hills and one impromptu stop to administer help and sympathy when he wiped out – his front wheel losing grip on the wet leaves beneath.

Finally, yesterday lunchtime, with my head spinning from proofreading a document so riddled with typos that it resembled a foreign language, I decided to get out for a quick run before the snow that had been forecast plunged us into a New Ice Age. So, with rain and wind threatening to turn into a snowstorm, I set off for a quick exploratory 10kms to see if my favourite towpath route had reopened after it’s closure for engineering works a few weeks back. Fortunately it had and the towpath did a passable job of shielding me from the wind. Unfortunately, the return leg is not along the towpath, so I spent the last 4.5kms running headlong into the wind and now icy rain. 10kms exactly in 58 mins exactly. Not fast, but a run nontheless.

Work has now begun on events for next year… Grim happens midway through January and I’m also now signed up for the Wokingham Half Marathon in February. And there are plans afoot for another European Running Excursion / Road Trip with Hauling My Carcass. More details will follow as and when they become confirmed…

Soundtrack to this post: Harmonia – Watussi




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