It was grey and drizzly outside this morning and having completed some administrative work I thought it would be easiest to run on the machine. I guess that’s the downside of having a machine to run on!
I’ve read a couple more chapters of Richard Askwith’s book this weekend. His visceral descriptions of running on cold winter mornings and the amazing sense of well-being that you feel afterwards really resonated… and made me feel a little guilty that I was going to run inside.
In the end it was Kim who helped me make the right decision… she was engrossed in work, sitting right next to the running machine. Thus it was that I pulled my long running tights and gore jacket out of the gear-drawer, rather than my shorts.
When I got outside it wasn’t actually raining at all and I felt quite good as I ran along the road. It’s always difficult to pace yourself at the start of the run… fast enough to get into a good habit (and to complete the run while it’s still light!), yet slow enough to have the energy to get all the way round. Especially when you’re not really quite sure how far ’round’ is.
I wrote a lightweight blog called England Garden Gang for a couple of years, commenting on the local grass verges and running little experiments (each of which usually involved me in hard graft!) to see how easy it was to make a difference. It wasn’t, but after a couple of years of looking really tatty, the verges looked a little better this morning… almost as if they had been cut more than once in the last few weeks. Is there a local council election looming?
The run proper starts at the end of the road, where the path crosses the railway tracks and tarmac turns to mud. It felt really good to make that transition… all memories of the running machine forgotten.
You’ll be able to see from the photos that Spring hasn’t reached the branches of the trees, but the shallow depth of the mud suggests that the year is progressing nicely. Er, well most of the way round at any rate!
My route took me out past the old Royal Oak pub, ripe for development apart from the main road that runs along the front wall of the building. Rounding this corner in a spirited manner, one morning in about 1986, I lost control of the lightweight van I was driving. I caught the slide but ran the front corner of the van neatly along the length of the steel railings leaving a pinstripe paint mark… which neither the landlord nor my boss at the time (who owned the van) were very happy about.
Having touched on the corner of Wivelsfield, I ran up into West Wood, taking a dog-leg out to Hundred Acre Lane and back to increase the distance a little. Partway into this section I had to take my jacket off before I started to cook.
Back on the main path I passed my friend Lew helping a neighbour in his tractor, which was making heavy work of lifting a one-tonne bag of something. Lew’s one of those guys that you would expect to be able to lift that kind of load without the benefit of a tractor, so it must have been heavy!
And then I finally got to the Magical Path, a narrow track with ends which used to be hidden. It’s quite straight, but over the decades trees have grown up to turn it into a twisty route round big adjacent trunks. It always feels special to be there, hence my name for it, like a little throwback from a previous age.
What was not so magical was the deep wet mud near the start, nor the fallen tree that was all but barring the way, but these were small distractions.
Then it was across the Ditchling Common and back to base. I remember that there was a point in the run where I started to flag, but something must have distracted me as I have forgotten where exactly and was on good form by the time I got back.
6.2 miles in one hour and one minute is 6.1 mph, only marginally slower than I did this run on July 23rd last year… the big difference is how good I feel. Last summer I had to retire to the sofa, whereas today I am (almost) ready for more! It seems like a winter of treadmill runs may have had a positive effect after all!
One last thing: is this a photo of a fieldmouse? It was playing merrily on the deck yesterday… I’m just hoping it’s not a baby rat!