A run a day. But oh the washing!

 

Every day is a running day

It’s all very well taking up a challenge to run every day in December, but it’s got the washing machine working overtime.

I took up the Marcothon challenge thrown to me by fellow Women’s Running Project Trailer-er Vicki. We’d been through quite a bit together to train for the Gower Coastal Half Marathon, running it in the face of storm-force winds and horizontal rain – oh how we laughed about that afterwards. Some considerable time afterwards…

The Challenge was started in 2009 by man-and-wife team and keen runners Marco and Debbie Consani, who wanted something a bit different to see them through December’s short, dark days. Very soon their mates were joining in and now it’s global, people all over the world getting out and running at all sorts of weird and wonderful hours. Not to raise money, as it’s not a sponsored event, not even to win, because it’s not a competition, but because you can and you want to and, of course, because it’s there.

The rules are simple, run a minimum of 25 minutes every day, yes, even Christmas Day, Boxing Day and those days before the new year. Only running counts, no walking or going up and down the stairs, though it doesn’t matter about the pace. And if you think you are cheating, you probably are.

I’ve completed day seven, so far so good. Runs have been at all times of day and night, including two from my new place of work. It gave them quite a shock to see me in lycra! Fortunately, two of my colleagues are also running mates and they too have taken up the challenge, so they at least are used to me being a sight for sore eyes.

So the running’s fine, but oh my goodness the washing piles up, the house is festooned with running bras drying over radiators, tights and tee-shirts are spread over every available surface. I tell visitors it’s the ‘now’ Christmas decoration fashion, I think I get away with it.

And thank goodness I have spare shoes, there has been a lot of mud and rain, so they too are lurking in the hallway, ready to trip up unsuspecting passers-by and cats. Socks got his own back, though, and left a dead mouse in one of them, either that or it passed out from my foot fumes.

So just 21 days of daily running to go. I’m up for it, but I fear for the washing machine.

It didn’t burn off

Lou, Vicki and me. Team Project Trail
Lou, Vicki and me. Team Project Trail

The race briefing was drowned out by the torrential rain lashing against the flimsy walls of the marquee. Three hundred runners shivered inside as the wind whipped off the sea and threatened to launch it, tent-poles and all to somewhere over the rainbow. “It’ll burn off!” I yelled to my running mates. How wrong I was.

This was it, three months of training, swearing my way up hills, tutting up the trails and clocking up the kilometers on the flattish Spen Valley Greenway. I was as ready as I’d ever be to take up the Women’s Running Project Trail challenge.

In my head, I saw myself gliding up the hills, taking in the spectacular views of the Gower peninsula, maybe stopping for photographs in the warm November sun. After all, this was a charmed challenge, it was going in a magazine, it was bound to be perfect.

Six hours of driving took us to Rhossili where the race organisers had battled in 50mph winds to pitch the marquee. With  heavy rain followed by more heavy rain and strong wind and gusts forecast, we were instructed to check in the morning for an update, safety must come first, even if you’ve trained to within an inch of your life. Part of me secretly hoped it would be cancelled, I wanted sun and beautiful views, but more of me wanted to run whatever, I was race ready and my legs were itching to go.

We were doing the half marathon, one of four events the same day, ranging from the 34-mile ultra and 26.2-mile marathon to a 10km. As we arrived, many of the half marathon entrants were swapping to the 10km, for us, it wasn’t an option, it was what we were there to do.

The start was abrupt, with us dashing from the marquee to the line, where all the flags and signs had been removed, or they too would have ended up in Oz. I ran with the lovely Lou, we were the oldest (me) and the youngest Project Trailers. She is a speedy road runner but wanted to take the trail challenge. Vicki, the third member of the team, ran with her friend John. Noel was up and off like a whippet, stopping only to tumble in the brambles somewhere in the next 13 and a bit miles, but he was still back way ahead of us.

My dreams of a leisurely run were quickly washed away by the rain and rivers of mud. I can honestly say I have never run in such atrocious conditions in my life, thank goodness for running with mates, because we just had to laugh as the wind nearly launched us into the sea, it blew my hat off, for heaven’s sake, and the mud got everywhere. We did stop for photos, but only where we were sheltered from the elements.

A river ran through it
A river ran through it
Beside the seaside b’aht ‘at

As I staggered up the finishing strait, encouraged by Lou, I could already feel the endorphins kick in. The miles and 710m of ascent had gone quickly, even though most of them were under water or mud. I only fell once, and that was a rather pathetic slip that left me caked in mud, I really should have tried harder. The wind and rain hadn’t let up, it hadn’t burned off, but I was on a high. This was probably the hardest run I had ever done and all I could think was, what’s next?!

See the art. Run the art. Be the art

PoppyArt

Training can be trying, especially when it involves steep hills tackled at speed again and again and again. I’m halfway through my personalised programme, prepared for me by Women’s Running to get me on tip-top form for the Gower Half marathon, and I need a bit of inspiration.

Calverley cutting has lost its attraction, I’m now on intimate stumbling terms with the steeper-than-steep drop from the village to the canal and to be quite honest I’d be very happy to never see it again. Seriously, I’ve huffed and puffed up there until my lungs have nearly burst out of my chest, wondering how 90 seconds can be so very very long. Fair dos, the training works, I get further up each session, I know I do, I count the stones and tree roots.

So for a change, and as I wanted to see the Poppies Wave at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and because they do decent coffee there, we headed over there. I love the YSP, we had our impromptu wedding reception there with a picnic in the grounds. I always feel very arty when I go there, inspired to to creative things, so I dressed the part, choosing my brightest running gear with the idea that I could be a running art installation, or something like that. Noel donned his usual black, shook his head in what looked like pity and set off ahead of me, I think he was pretending we weren’t together. No-one really noticed us, all eyes were on the poppies, and the queue to see the poppies.

The Poppies Wave, part of the installation set in the Tower of London last year, now cascades from the bridge at the upper lake, it’s an impressive site, all the more poignant to see the poppies emerging from the mud, as they did on the battlefields 100 years ago.

Poppy 2.CR2

I might have dressed artily, but my hill training is no picture, so  we chose a slope in the country park, away from the crowds. and gave it our best, the new watch chugging out data as if there was no tomorrow, as times I felt as if I would have no tomorrow. But the watch never lies and there were the ups and downs of my little heartbeat as I pushed onwards, upwards and downwards.

It was a massively enjoyable way to train, and the coffee and cake afterwards were very welcome. I’m now on the look-out for more arty hill training, though may tone down the running gear.

It can also tell the time

Watch

Just look around at the start of a race and everywhere there are raised hands and mass beepings. No, it’s not a polite queue for the toilets. Look closer. Each wrist sports a microprocessor with more computing power than the entire Apollo space mission. And now I have one. It’s about the size of the lunar lander and so bright it can be seen from the Moon.

Thanks to Women’s Running, which is again spoiling its pages with my photo and training antics for Project Trail, I am now the owner of a Suunto Ambit 3 which, if I read it correctly, is able to not only run the race for me, it can win it.

I haven’t yet read the 150-page executive summary of the multi-tome manual. I mean, who reads manuals anyway? Ah yes, Noel does, he’s such a programmer, and I mean that in a good way….

He informs me that it can take on the persona of another runner, who I can then beat in a sprint finish. It can tell me where to go, where I’ve been,  how fast I went, where I took the impromptu toilet stop (and whether it was a number one or a number two), the calories I burned, steps taken and swearwords uttered.

It can draw graphs, send them to my smartphone, take a photo and remotely turn on the coffee machine for my return. Unfortunately, it’s not the next model up, which puts the croissants in the oven.

It has an altimeter, a barometer and, I suspect, a thermometer. Best of all, it tells the time on a display with writing big enough for me to see. There’s nothing it can’t do to improve my running experience, and even if there was, Noel informs me it is fully programmable, so he can write an app. As I say, he’s SUCH a programmer!

So with the weight of the watch on my wrist, I’m ready to run. All I have to do is remember to turn it on.

The hills will be alive…..

Another hill done!
Another hill done!

I’m training, it’s official, it must be, the evidence is stuck right there on the fridge. I see it every time I go into the kitchen, a large chart with a grid representing 12 weeks of seven days. There’s something written in each square, something for me to do, something energetic, or stretchy, there’s even a square that says ‘rest’, but there’s not many of those.

I can’t complain, I brought it all on myself. I asked Women’s Running if I could be one of the three members of the Project Trail team, they said ‘yes’. When I tell my mates I’ve won a prize, they are impressed. When I tell them the prize is to run a strenuous half marathon on the Welsh coast in November, they are less impressed and more sympathetic. ‘Your prize is to RUN? In winter? Up hills?” I’m asked. Yes it is, and do you know what? I’m looking forward to it.

Part of the Project Trail package is help from a professional trainer. Anne-Marie has put together a tailored training plan which she has assured me will help me skip up the hills. Hills are definitely my worst thing, I’m not just slow, I’m glacial. So it was no surprise at all for my plan to habe hills. Long hills, short hills, hilly hills. In my head, I’m going to wave a magic wand and there I’ll be, gliding up the hills, loving every step, maybe even doing my best Julie Andrews impression. Sometimes my head misleads me.

So it’s week one, though before Project Trail I’d already entered the Yorkshireman Half and, for a bit of extra training, one leg of the six-leg Leeds Country Way, which are both in September. I think I’m going to be a bit tired!

Building a trail-ready body

Running for the photocall with Vicki and Anne-Marie
Running for the photocall with Vicki and Anne-Marie

It’s Tuesday lunchtime, the sun is breaking through the clouds and here I am on Reigate Hill, kitted out in my fab new Salomon gear and panting fit to burst. I think I may be sick.

Our coach’s voice cuts through loud and clear. “You think THAT was tough?” she shouts and I try, but fail, to stop swaying. “Good grief, that was only the photocall!”

“Yeah, but it was a TOUGH photocall,” I mutter under my breath as Eddie the Photographer urges us to do it again. And again. And again.

So this is me. Plodfoot Anne as I’m known to no-one else but myself, one of three Women’s Running readers chosen for Project Trail. It’s a project and it’s about trail running. It’s also about lots of training, making new friends and tackling one of the country’s toughest half-marathons, the Endurance Life Gower Half in November and most of all it’s about  having a trail-ready body. It must be true, it says it in the magazine.

I’m not new to trail running, in fact I see no reason on earth to run on a road when there are trails full of nature and, if I’m lucky, mud and puddles. But while I’m comfortable  on the wibbly wobbly soil and stones, I’m most definitely not comfortable with structured training, well, it’s hard, isn’t it?

But after coming last in the Ravenscar Half Marathon earlier this year, I decided enough was enough. I hadn’t trained properly, I hadn’t shown it sufficient respect and I was the poorer for it. It’s no disgrace to be the 175th and last  runner in an undulating half marathon, but it’s nothing to be proud of either, especially when I could have done something about it.

So when I saw Project Trail’s promise of a ‘trail-ready body’, I could see my name written between the lines, along with the warning that much hard work would be needed. I knew if I wanted to avoid another bringing-up-the-rear episode. When I got the ‘congratulations’ email, I vowed I’d commit 110 per cent, maybe more. Starting with the photocall. I also committed Noel to be my training partner and to join us for the run, but shhhh, don’t tell him, he doesn’t know yet.

Our coach is ultra trail supremo Anne-Marie Latagan who promises to be firm, but fair. Though that’s before I’ve received the personalised training programme designed to make me Goddess of the Hill Ascent.

After the photocall, she took us on a hill-training taster session. The lovely Vicki, one of my fellow Project Trail members, is new to trails, so Anne-Marie  was easy on her. She wasn’t easy on me.

I’m now recovering with a glass of something mildly alcoholic and a box of something very chocolatey. Well, I’ve earned it!