You completely forget you bashed your hip going through a gate somewhere during your 7.5 mile race and only remember when you spot the bruise in the shower the next morning.
The Pier to Pier race sounded a bit barmy. For a start, the distance is approximately 7.5 miles. Approximate because there’s no set route. Barmy too, because they say you might get your feet wet.
After the brilliant buzz of my first race, I knew I wanted to do it again. I already had my place in the Blaydon, but 9 June felt like too long to wait. I spotted a couple of 10k runs locally, but then one of the other runners at work mentioned the Pier to Pier.
It sounded a bit barmy. For a start, the distance is approximately 7.5 miles. Approximate because there’s no set route. It runs from the pier at South Shields to Roker pier in Sunderland. Once you get to the cliff tops you can take your own route over paths and fields before heading back together for the beach finish.
Barmy too, because they say you might get your feet wet. The race starts and finishes on the beach. And this year they had to put the start time back to make sure there was enough sand to run on.
But it’s a nice spot, it’s a coastal route, and my friend in the changing rooms assured me it wasn’t that barmy. So that’s why I found myself shivering next to the fairground in South Shields this morning, set to take on my longest race to date.
Unfortunately, no matter how I may be feeling about a race, my bladder definitely gets nervous. I don’t think I need to worry about how to pass the time at the start of the Great North Run. I’ll be spending it queuing for the portaloos.
This time, I met a nice runner called Hayley, and we chatted away, passing the time quickly before the start of the race. Then we all lined up along the beach at South Shields. No gate, no megaphone, just a line in the sand and a whistle to start us.
And it was great! Quite a bit more challenging than the North Tyneside 10k, partly because of the longer distance and partly due to the changing terrain. Although it was mainly flat, with only one slope and one set of steps on the route I took, I ran over sand, gravel trails, grass and earth. That kept things interesting. It was actually quite nice to feel the difference, so the path came as a nice relief from the sand, then the grass was a softer surface than the paths.
It was confusing to see runners splitting off and heading over the grassy banks to take one route or another, but it was a good way to split the field. I’m sure regulars have their preferred route. I just decided on the spur of the moment which way to go, but it did leave me with the nagging feeling that I had picked the longer path.
At times the paths were narrow and I became very aware of the runners close to me. Sometimes we were in single file, following the line of flattened down grass. I was most comfortable when I was on my own following a group just a little way ahead. I like my own space when I’m running. That will be a challenge in larger races.
Once again I spotted runners I thought I could keep up with, to keep my focus just ahead. My competitive spirit kicked in a couple of times as I over took them. It’s just annoying when you recognise people you passed earlier overtaking you on the final straight.
I ran pretty much the whole race without listening to my music. It was just nice to enjoy the fresh air and seabirds. But after realising I hadn’t started my stop watch for the first 10 minutes, I spotted my pace was a bit slower than I wanted. So I plugged in the headphones to help me find the right pace. And I picked them up again when I felt I was flagging. A burst of music to get me smiling and enjoying myself again.
It also helped that I only used my watch to keep an eye on my pace and heart rate. I had no idea how long I’d been running for, I just knew that I felt okay. I kept reminding myself of the coaching points: breathe into the ribs, stretch out the stride, push off the back foot, keep the arms efficient and hips pointing forward.
No sprint finish this time, but I did have enough left in the tank to tackle the leg-sapping last hundred yards or so over soft sand. 12.28k or 7.6 miles in 64 mins – that’s a result!
Yes, it’s official. I have wonky feet. In medical terms, both my right and left foot pronate. I’ve had them checked and measured and everything.
The good news is that I can get some special insoles (orthotics) that will encourage my feet to take a more balanced view of the surface they’re resting on. I’m hoping that will allow me to keep on training without any more injuries.
This running lark has introduced me to a whole new world of specialists and language. I’m starting to learn the names of the major muscle groups in the legs and certainly understand a lot more about how I’m put together mechanically. I never used to have conversations about orthotics before.
It’s also good to know that the training I’ve been doing, not just the running, but working the muscles with weights and circuits and resistance training is also paying off. The podiatrist who measured up my mismatched feet reckoned I would have hurt myself much earlier and harder had I not been building up strong leg muscles.
So, all those sessions on the beach with the shuttle runs and kettle bells? They just saved me a whole lot of hurt.
You take your trainers, stopwatch and running gear on holiday with you, just in case
You take your trainers, stopwatch and running gear on holiday with you, just in case…
All you can think of on a random working Tuesday is getting out for a run. And when you do get out, even though you’re running on dead legs and determination for the last 15 mins, it’s still the best part of your day.
I’ve visited Ros at Blue Soul Feeling twice now for treatment and she’s brilliant. Not only does she take the time to understand which bits of you hurt and do her best to make sure you leave feeling better, but she’s also happy to talk things through on the phone.
I’ve visited Ros at Blue Soul Feeling twice now for treatment and she’s brilliant. Not only does she take the time to understand which bits of you hurt and do her best to make sure you leave feeling better, but she’s also happy to talk things through on the phone, to try and help you out when you’re having a bit of a panic that those niggles are never going to un-niggle themselves.
She was recommended by a work colleague – isn’t that the best way to find someone to help you? And I really feel like she understands us daft souls who develop a passion for some kind of activity and put our bodies through stress to try and reach our goals.
I first went to see her in February, just after the ‘ouch‘ incident and she sorted me right out with a good deep-tissue massage and a prescription of rest with a side order of ibuprofen. And, lovely and helpful as she is, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to see her again. But I did.
About a week after my triumphant race I went out again on a glorious summer day, feeling brilliant and ran further than I’ve ever run before. I was strong, really got into my stride and kept on going for 12k, proud of myself for building up the distance, focusing on the next goal of the half-marathon.
Should have known that pride comes before a fall, and the following day I was feeling it in the arch of my left foot. I iced it, took the tablets and determined to take it easy for a couple of days. But it left me hobbling. I could limp along on either my heel or my toe, but moving my foot through a natural walking motion was incredibly painful. So time to go back to Ros and get some more advice.
Once more she worked her magic, breaking up the build up of tension in my foot and leg and reassuring me that I hadn’t done anything too horrendous.
Trying to get to the root cause of the problem, she took a good look at the way I stand. And it seems like I pronate. This is something I’d heard runners talk about. It basically means that your foot doesn’t hit the ground straight on, but tends to veer to one side or the other. In my case, it looks like I invert with my left foot – that means I lean in towards the inside of my leg. And it would explain the series of niggles I’ve had all down that side. At least I hope it does.
Now I need to go and get another expert opinion, from a podiatrist. I’m hoping it will be something that’s easily fixed with insoles that will make my feet behave themselves. But I’m also a bit nervous in case it’s severe enough to prevent me training for that longer distance goal.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m chuffed to bits at what I’ve achieved so far. And I wouldn’t have believed I could get to running 10k so comfortably in three months since I really started focusing on that goal. But I started this with the aim of completing the big Geordie race. And I’d really like to do that. Just once.
I don’t intend to go on and start training for a marathon. But, having seen and felt the unique and wonderful atmosphere of the Great North Run so many times, I would like my story to be part of it too.
I’m still running and training and so far, not bad. But my fear is that this underlying problem will come back and bite me again. So, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed when I go to see the foot expert and hope to put it down to just another learning experience.