A cold shower to end the year

Kim & I drove into London yesterday for a family gathering and I used this as a good excuse not to run.  Having managed to run for four weekends consecutively (after an extended period of more irregular runs), the pressure was on and I got up this morning knowing that I had to get out there.

With my 15th birthday tomorrow (I realise that I’m showing either my age or dyslexia), I was also keen to go further afield than my normal circuit and I had wondered about running from Jack & Jill.

Tough luck then that the torrential rain that had been forecast on BBC Weather for yesterday, was now scheduled for lunchtime today… just when I was going to be in the middle of my run!

Undaunted, I donned shorts and my rain jacket and jumped in the car.  When I got to Jack & Jill, I was slightly less keen to jump out of the car on account of the low cloud and drizzle but, thanks to my training with Big Man Daren, this was only a temporary cognitive hurdle to negotiate.  I was soon running up the hill into the mirk.


There was not a whole lot of landscape to see, but this made me focus more on what I could see… ponds & puddles in the main.

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My arrival at Ditchling Beacon coincided with some walkers who were originally from Lancashire who very kindly took a photo of me standing on the trig point.


I was not at all sure that I wanted to go very much further before turning around, yet at the same time I didn’t want to have to ‘fess up to you that age, fitness or the weather had truncated a decent run before the end of the year… thus I continued on, and on, until I reached Blackcap, where there’s another trig point (but alas no-one around to photograph me).

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Strava conveniently showed that I had completed 4.7 miles, so I ran on down the hill a little way and turned round at a bush which was growing at the 5.1 mile mark.


The return journey was a mirror image of the outbound in all but speed, which was a little slower.  I’d blame the terrain or the elevation, but the turn-bush seems to be at almost the same altitude as Jack & Jill, so it can only really come down to my level of fitness!

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According to Strava I covered 10.3 miles in 100 minutes, which gives a not unreasonable average of 6.18 miles per hour.

I kept expecting the forecasted torrential rain, but, if anything, the mirk was starting to clear by the time I got back to the car… it was very disappointing, but I had a nice cold shower when I got home instead.

Wet run in the woods

I was not on great form this morning.  I’m still suffering from dull hearing and I absent-mindedly wondered if this was making me feel old, in the same way that psychologists can invoke people to walk more slowly by getting them to talk about the physical effects of ageing.  Either way I would have happily not run… especially as it was humid and the forecast was for rain.

I eyed the darkening sky as I supped my espresso and completed a work task and then, despite all of the above, got out for a run.

I’d not even got to the end of the road before it started to drizzle, but it was sufficiently humid that this was actually quite nice  Even so, I opted for a tree-covered route… and a short one to boot.

I took my old route out to Wivelsfield, stayed out of the deepening rain by sticking to paths going through West Wood and then came back along the Magical Path.  The sound of rain on leaves was really lovely and the flat light made it easier to see through the trees.


According to Strava I ran 5.8 miles in 57 minutes, an average of 6.1 mph… slow, but not as slow as it felt!  Though after my 58 second sprint last week, I covered the short end section in more sedate 96 seconds.

One of the benefits of feeling older is being able to confidently get mixed up about stuff.  For example, I’ve just realised that it’s less than 10 days to my 15th birthday, which is awesome… I can feel the spring in my step returning already!

FosterRuns is Eight!

Earlier today, whilst out running, I realised that today is the 8th anniversary of FosterRuns dot com.

I don’t think that I’ve done the running stats for a few years now (my spreadsheet says 2012) but I think outings, miles and speeds have all been in slow decline, though I’m enjoying the running in a different way now.

Google analytics shows that user numbers for FosterRuns re up from 717 in the year to Aug 16th 2013, to 1006 in the year to Aug 16th 2014, to 1506 in the last year… a 50% increase for two years running.

To be fair though, I think the site used to get more traffic early on when I ran more, but at least it’s going back in the right direction.

Either way, it still serves to make me run when I’m not really in the mood, as well as to exercise my writing on a regular basis.

Thank you very much for being a reader!

Dull hearing

At the end of last week I managed to temporarily misplace the hearing in one ear… I’m hoping that the doctor is going to help me find it again, but unfortunately that’s not going to be for another ten days!  Meanwhile my hearing is somewhat dull and as I sat relaxing with a quadspresso in the teahouse, half-listening to the waterfall, it was almost a good enough excuse for me not to run this morning.

However, it was a beautiful morning and I didn’t want to lose the momentum from the last few weeks so I just got out there regardless.

It was hard work to start with and I had already decided to do the shortest of my loops when I passed a ‘mad woman on a bike’ (her description, not mine!) going the other way.  My memory is nowhere near as good as my dull hearing (and it was frankly unlikely that I would have recognised anyone dressed in mountain-bike protective garb and dark glasses), but she somehow recognised me from an event we attended a good few years ago so we stopped to chat.  I love those random conversations that you have whilst running and by the time that she pedalled off to continue her training session I felt totally reinvigorated.

I continued on the same loop I’ve been doing recently, deep in thought, as much as anything about a team-building session that I need to design for a Finance team.  Every step of the running was a real pleasure!  Well, almost… there’s a stile and a short section of path that are being reclaimed by the undergrowth, so I had to duck and dive and still managed to get stung by the nettles!

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Last week the distance was 6.9 miles, which is still a short run according to the criteria I’m used to, so I was keen to run at least one tenth of a mile more today.  I decided to loop the other way around Ditchling Common, using a path that I used to use as a speed circuit.  It’s a while since I’ve run that way, but I’m sure that there’s a tree where there wasn’t one before.


As I got back towards home I decided to have another go at the sprint… it must be about 300m along a road that many runners use and so there’s a league table on Strava.  Whereas last week I simply hurried along there, today I lifted my skirts and sprinted, pretty much all out… such that I ran out of steam towards the end.  My personal best had been 1.04, but today I managed 58 seconds.  Hooo-RAH!  This is the third fastest time… though the ‘course’ record is a sobering 48 seconds.

So 7.1 miles completed in 67 minutes, an average of 6.35 mph.  You can see the stats on Strava.

One final thing: they say that when one sense is dull, others are enhanced… like seeing vivid colours in the dark?


Deep in thought

I was determined to keep up the recent positive momentum and get out for a run this morning, so it was fortunate that we woke up early and to a beautiful morning.  We were due to be at a celebratory lunch with friends for midday, but I still had time to sup a quadspresso, read a little more of Clayton Christensen’s fascinating book Innovative University and get in a leisurely run.

Thanks to Christensen, whose thinking I have always found particularly engaging, I spent most of the run deep in thought about new ways that I might be able to inspire my Brighton students in the autumn.

I was curious to know the extent to which my fast midweek run with the Bok would impact on my pace this weekend, so I deliberately took the same route as last Sunday… though it’s fair to mention that I had the benefit of some Jelly Babies that my Mum had given me.


I’ve been harping on about our narrow management (or cognitive) bandwidth for years… something that is really noticeable on the running machine where it’s difficult to think about anything much as the speed increases above 7 mph.  Today the run passed in a blur and there were one or two occasions where I realised that I had done something completely without thinking about it… fortunately with no adverse consequences.


As I neared home I had a sudden realisation that, if I hurried down the final road, I might beat the time that the Bok set this week (only because I forgot to tell him until we’d almost reached the end of it).  I did and I did… in fact I was only a second off my PB for this short section, despite the fact that I was only ‘hurrying’.

I’m not sure why, but having taken exactly the same route as last weekend, Strava calculated the distance at 6.9 rather than 7 miles… hey ho!  So 6.9 miles in 67 minutes, an average of 6.18 mph (against only 5.75 mph last week)… I clearly need to run more than bi-weekly!

I casually wandered in and started to think about a leisurely breakfast before realising that I had about 30 minutes to get ready to go out.  I rushed around and we then spent an extremely enjoyable afternoon celebrating an Emerald wedding anniversary and 80th birthday with 40 or so other lovely folk.  The quantity of food I consumed more than made up for my skimpy breakfast!


Bokking the trend

Long term readers of FosterRuns will remember that I used to run a lot with the eponymous Bok (named after the mighty fast and tireless Springbok) and it’s fair to say that the speed of my running has probably declined in proportion with the frequency of our runs.

The deep rumble of a throaty V8 heralded the arrival of the Bok this morning and we were soon running down the road, already deep in conversation… but at a speed that made it difficult for me to talk!  After five minutes he casually asked if the pace was too fast for me, before continuing unabated in spite of my gasped response.


It was a beautiful morning to be out, especially as overnight rain had reduced the humidity and brought a little extra depth of colour to the countryside.  It also felt good to be running for a second time in the same week, rather than the recent bi-weekly nonsense.  More than anything else, it was great to run in such excellent company, a facet that my recent running has been sadly missing.

We followed my normalish route (which you can see here on Strava) but time seemed to pass so much more quickly than normal because of the focus on conversation rather than running.

Oh, and because we were running a little faster than I have been used to lately… 6.3 miles in 56 minutes, an average of 6.75 mph.  Of course, that’s not particularly fast… just faster than is normal for me at the moment, as you can see by all the PBs for the run below (added to which my phone showed PBs for 1km and half a mile too!).


When I suggested that the Bok run on at the end, he effortlessly made the leap to warp speed and disappeared almost instantaneously!

One thing did surprise me about my normally fastidious running partner… his runners are not as sparkly clean as they used to.  I used to derive great pleasure from taking him on particularly muddy paths in order to see the gleam of his shoes disappear into the murk, but by the following run they would be back to sparkling again.  Not so today… they were simply clean, the sign of a man who works hard at prioritising the important things in life.  Like staying fit enough to run faster.


My runners never sparkle, but there’s still a message hidden in there for me… if I choose to figure out what it is…

Heavy legs

Once again it has been two weeks since my last run.  This, combined with a warm day and a stiff shoulder/neck, made for a slow run, even by recent standards.

My legs might have been heavy, but I still managed to extend my run a little, rather than do the minimum.  I ran out to Wivelsfield and then continued to the far end of the wood where there’s a steeper track up to Hundred Acre Lane, which I then ran back along.   I cut through past Ditchling Common Industrial Estate and ran back along the main path, parallel to the Magical Path.


As I neared the edge of Burgess Hill, I turned left to run along the side of the Common to the pond and then back around onto the normal route home.  Sad to report that a new housing development reaches right down to the Common… the sad bit is not that there’s a development there, since change is inevitable, but because, based on the record to date, it will consist of another couple of hundred anonymous, accountant-designed shoe boxes.  What a missed opportunity by the planners and the myriad of council folk (Burgess Hill Town Council, Mid Sussex District Council and West Sussex County Council) to inspire the townsfolk and step into the 21st century!


On a much lighter note, we were privileged to host a Japanese official from Ashikita Board of Education the week before last.  Our esteemed guest Tatsuya was one of the adults looking after a delegation of students who were staying at South Downs Language School, organised by friends Nikki and Ian in Ditchling.  It was a really fun week and lovely to be part of such a small and meaningful initiative.


Todays run was 7 miles in 73 minutes, an average of 5.75 mph… you can see the route here on Strava.