5 Miles

This morning I did a little work, then nipped out to run 8‑and-a-bit kilometres, mostly through Leigh Woods. I was particularly happy to have kept going all the way, including up the damn steep part where I normally rest at a picnic bench about halfway up to get my breath back for a while.

It was a lovely day for running, not too hot, but nice a clear and non-rainy, and it all went well. At the end of my run, I bumped into this little fella. Apparently a Red Devon cow. Mooooo!


Keeping Running

There’s very little I can say about the events at yesterday’s Boston Marathon finishing line. I can’t do much either, apart from to shudder at what it must have been like. And mostly avoid the news, as it’s now solidly locked into that frantic pedalling-in-thin-air it does when it quickly runs off the edge of the facts.

About the only thing I can do is keep running, so I made sure to get out today.


Don’t Be A Fair-Weather Runner

Rainy Portway

Recently, I seem to have been a bit of a fair-weather runner. Do you know that feeling? You look out of the window at the dark skies and the rain, and decide that you could just as well go running tomorrow, when it might be nicer.

If, like me, you live in England, you’ll already have spotted the problem here. In the last year, the chances of tomorrow being nicer have been pretty low.

Becoming a fair-weather runner puts your fitness at the mercy of long spells of crap weather. Looking back, I should have found some better running clothes, gritted my teeth, and got out there.

Even if I didn’t go out for that long run in Leigh Woods — because I’d have had to swim some of it through mud — I should have just got out for a couple of turns around the harbour, rather than letting the conditions put me off all together.

And not just for the physical exercise. There’s a big psychological advantage in regularly running in adverse conditions.

I was reminded of that yesterday, as I was getting tired on a 15K jog. I checked my distance, and found I’d only done 10K. I’ve not done much more than 10K for a few months, so I guess my muscles’ upper limit has reduced a bit.

So, I used a technique I’ve found very handy towards the end of half marathons. That technique is born of years of dragging myself out to do 5K runs whether I’ve felt like it or not. Five kilometres is pretty much my default distance, probably because it’s the distance I worked up to when I got started with Get Running.

So, that’s what I tell myself. I’ve only got 5K to go. Sure, I’ve already run 10K, or 16K, or whatever, but I’ve only got 5K to go.

And I can do 5K standing on my head. I’ve done 5K in rain, snow and ice. I’ve done 5K in howling, freezing wind. I’ve done 5K when I’ve been ill. I’ve done 5K first thing in the morning. I’ve done 5K last thing at night. I’ve done 5K when I’ve been dog tired. I’ve done 5K up a hill with a hangover.

So I can sure as hell do 5K right now.

And it works. It’s got me through quite a few last-5Ks of longer runs, as my muscles tire and I’m just left with my brain to keep me going, throwing one foot in front of the other and gradually getting the distance down to 4K, 3K, 2K… Through the last half-hour, all the way to the finish line.

There’s my motivation the next time I look out of the window and think, “Oh, gawd, it’s still raining…” My reply to myself should be, “Good! You can exercise your psychological muscles as well as your physical ones.” 

Getting out in the sunshine is lovely, but it doesn’t work on your mental endurance anything like as much as getting out in the rain.

Balanced Lifestyle

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Spotted on yesterday’s run. Luckily, I didn’t want to go that way 😀

Yesterday I knew I was heading for the Grain Barge’s Winter Beer Festival in the afternoon, so I figured I’d get out for some healthy exercise in the morning, at least.

As it turned out, I felt up to a 7K trudge down the Portway, and only had four halves at the beer festival, so I think yesterday counts as an overall win, at least in terms of calories…

For those into beer, I tried:

  • Butcombe Brewery’s Old Vic Porter
  • Bristol Beer Factory’s Bitter Californian
  • XT Brewing’s XT8
  • St Austell Brewery’s Ruck & Roll

My favourites were the hoppy and cheerful Bitter Californian, and the dark and complex XT8. Recommended. Not that many people will want beer recommendations from a running blog, but hey, I do also recommend that you run far enough first to balance out the beer. It leads to a less guilt-ridden morning after!

I’ll leave you with a picture I snapped from the Grain Barge about two beers in. It’s a nice place for a beer, that barge…

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Spotting the Newbie Runner

Old and Newbie

Today I went out for my first run of the new year, just a simple 5K along the Portway. Along with the general jogging population were a few newbie runners.

It’s always good to see new runners, and this week — the week of New Year’s Resolutions — is the most common time to spot them. I guess people are doing lots of new things, this week. When I was a regular in a Wado Ryu dojo, the number of beginners in January was only surpassed by those weeks where The Karate Kid had been on telly.

Spot the new runner” is a fairly easy game. Most people don’t want to buy new gear for something they might find out they hate, so there’s a lot of almost-but-not-quite clothing around. Old fashion trainers rather than running shoes. Football tops. Shorts that just aren’t very… runnery, I suppose.

The more determined and well-off beginner might have popped out and bought all-new gear, so they’ll be shiny from their sports sunglasses to their Asics-tipped toes, crisp and clean.

But, old gear or new gear, there’s often the telltale beginner expression on the face. The “I can’t quite believe I’m doing this” look. The “I hope nobody I know drives past” look, sometimes, too. Though I hope I’m subtle enough in my spot-the-new-runner games to avoid triggering the “why is that weird bloke staring at me?” look…

It takes a while to look like a runner. An old hand will be wearing gear in various states of wear. Post-Christmas, there might be shiny new shoes, nevertheless comfy and reliable, as they’re likely just the next model along from the old ones. The shiny shoes might be trotting along below a pair of favourite shorts where the seam’s been re-sewn twice, because they’re comfy, damn it, and Adidas don’t make these ones any more.

There will often be accessories of learned necessity — that little pouch attached to the shoelaces, say, because manufacturers still barely believe that runners need pockets at all, let alone might want to keep their keys in a different pocket to their smartphone, so could want more than one…

The aforementioned keys will probably have been pared down to just one or two on a simplified jogging keyring, because jangling gets annoying after the first five miles, and because runners generally pare everything down to the minimum. A single key. An emergency fiver rather than a whole wallet. The least clothing they can get away with in today’s weather.

That’s often the look of a seasoned runner: spare. There’s an economy of equipment to go along with their economy of movement. Beginners tend to be carrying more stuff, wearing baggier clothes.

There’s a specific reason for me to play “spot the newbie”, of course. I recently wrote the Android version of Get Running, my friend Benjohn’s iPhone app that got me jogging in the first place, back in 2009. So if I see a newbie out on the street with headphones in, there’s a chance they’re using my code!

It’s a very slim chance, so far — the Android version of Get Running has only sold around 3,000 copies, and most of those were in our biggest market, the USA, so it’d be a pretty big coincidence if one of my users jogged past me in Bristol. But I’m hoping that one day I’ll see someone with our app’s familiar “run clock” proudly displayed in the phone on their armband as we pass each other.

Having run for three and a half years now, from that humble beginning, it’d be nice to see someone that I’ve helped down the same path. Mostly that’s because there’s one thing that new and old runners tend to have in common — the feeling of accomplishment, no matter how short or long or fast or slow their running has been. And that’s a good thing to spread.

Jogging and the Immediate Relief of Guilt

I’ve been feeling fairly guilty recently. Trying to learn iPhone programming from home has been pretty slow-going. And I’ve been letting a few other things slip — from arranging viewings of potential new houses to emailing my friend Carmen about popping around for paella. And I’ve not been jogging much. 

Then I got a cold. That really didn’t help.

So, today I went out for my first jog in ages, with the latest episode of Back to Work in my headphones ((the show is going through one of its occasional rallies where it actually talks about productivity, rather than just being a series of obscure comedy references to things outside my personal cultural scope)). And it reminded me of one of the best reasons to be out jogging — there’s pretty much no way of feeling guilt while I’m out for a jog.

Unless I’ve missed some important appointment, there’s nothing I could be doing that’s better for me, all round, than being out in the sun and fresh air (or, let’s face it, wind and rain) getting some exercise.

So, yeah. Jogging. Whether it’s enjoyable at the time or not (and this still varies, for me), at least it’s always good for my conscience.


A Walk Instead

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I was going to head out into Sunday’s sunshine for a pleasant daytime jog, but I got a call from a couple of very hungover friends who had ambitions on fresh air a bit further afield.

We ended up doing this circular walk from Blagdon including Burrington Ham. It was a good way to spend a sunny day.

I’d like to get out for a jog tomorrow, but I’m seeing amber rain warnings being tweeted by local weathermen, so I’m not sure how appealing it’ll be in the morning… Hrm.

I’ll leave you with a photo of my friend Jo at one of the higher points of our walk.

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Running with Company

A first for me this evening: the first time I’ve run in training with anyone else. Apart from race days, I’ve run solo up to now.

This evening my friend Emmeline, who is trying to get back into jogging after a long break, accompanied me for a round-the-harbour outing at dusk. It was good. Not sure it’ll work on a regular basis, as she’s quicker than I am, but it was nice to have the company.

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A Return to the Weekday 5K

…although it was only *just* a return to the weekday 5K, given that I only got around to it on Friday. I was going to nip along the nice, flat Portway, but a friend wanted me to pick up some pancetta for a risotto she was cooking for us, so instead I jogged up Bridge Valley Road, across the Downs and back to Clifton Village to nip into Chandos Deli.

Not much else to report, really. Except that the risotto was ace, and that on the way up Bridge Valley Road, I saw this piece of stereotypically-Clifton litter 😀

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Back to the Portway

Portway Tree

Since my fastest ever half marathon, I’ve not done any jogging.

Partly this is the usual break I take after every big long race. Partly it’s because I’ve been very busy. I took on a four-week contract at my old workplace at the same time I was still working on the Android version of Get Running, at the same time as I was having a new kitchen fitted and then decorating it. As you might expect, that didn’t leave me with much time or energy for jogging.

On the plus side, I did cycle to work and back pretty much every day of the four week contract, which was good exercise, and seems to have kept any weight gain at bay, at least.

And now the contact’s over, the kitchen’s finished, and I’m back on the road. I nipped out for a little 3K jog down the Portway yesterday to start getting myself back in the habit — I find it’s best to lower your resistance to getting back into running by going out for laughably short distances to start with.

Speaking of the Bristol Half Marathon — thanks to everyone who chipped in to raise £110 for Children’s Hospice South West. It’s a great cause, and knowing that there were donations depending on my running helped me to get out there to train, and to keep going all the way around the course 😀