“What a difference in you,” remarked Gary this morning. “Yesterday you were lolling around, today you’re up like a shot.” Ah yes, that’s because Sunday is run day.
The familiar routine of porridge, route check, kit check, Garmin, go gives my day shape and purpose. The plan is for ten miles, my longest run of the year. So it’s out for stretches by the railings, runners already passing by in both directions, overcast, grey and still… just how we like it.
Off and running. Steady, steady… there’s a long way to go, remember. I’ve had a day’s more rest and a lot less cross training this week. I’ve been told I’ve got good legs (from a professional’s point of view) and today I just want to use them.
Out along the coast, off on the familiar route. The miles pass by quite quickly, just a regular beep to remind me to check my pace. The first one’s a little fast, the second is closer to training pace, but I could still ease up a little. A couple of road crossings check the third. I opt for my new trail route again, hoping to find the turn that will take me on a loop this time.
I love the green calmness that passes over me as I run through the tunnel of trees. A cyclist rings his bell to remind me that I don’t have these paths entirely to myself.
Indeed it’s a veritable highway this morning with walkers, dogs and cyclists. Everyone is cheery and smiles, or steps aside and says good morning. There’s a sense that it’s good to be outdoors.
I reach the turn and travel up towards the road. But this won’t do. It’s just road with no pavement or verge to run along. I venture a little way to crest a hill to see if there’s a safer way ahead, but there’s no sign of a path. So I retrace my steps and continue a little further along the trail.
A runner and his cyclist sidekick pass me and lead me to another trail. A narrower path, but still straight ahead and easy to follow. Dodging the odd clump of overgrown nettles I begin to explore.
Here and there through the muddy footpaths you can spot the wooden railings of the old waggonways that once brought coal down these routes. Hard to think of the dirty old wagons in this clean green sanctuary now.
The halfway beep and I’m really in my stride now. I won’t repeat my venture up the cross trail, so I can afford to run a little further. I push on a little spurt to pass another runner on the narrow pathway and hope I she’s not discouraged as I pull ahead. She’s running well, but I’ve really settled into this now.
The road goes ever on and on and there’s no obvious landmark at which I can appoint a turning spot. The Garmin’s six mile beep finally limits my exploring and sets me back on the return route.
After a couple of fuelling issues this week, I’ve brought a gel with me. I’ve promised it myself at the half way point, but I’m way beyond that now and feeling good. I do a deal to take it at seven miles, a wee boost to keep me going and a good test for race day.
Back towards the playing fields and an old guy on his bike says “Well done you,” as we pass. I must look like I’m on a mission today, as a couple of walkers and a cyclist stop and move to one side to let me through.
I suck down the gel at seven miles and even though I don’t feel like I need it, it tastes fantastic, a real sugar rush. I pinch the last dregs out and spot the bins beneath the road bridge – perfect timing.
I’m feeling strong and confident now. I can do this run. In fact, my extra exploring will probably leave me a bit short of home. The feeling doesn’t last very long and I start to dip a little soon after. Hard to know exactly what, but it doesn’t feel the same. It’s all taking a little more effort.
Maybe it’s a sugar crash after the gel or just boredom setting in, retracing my steps along this long straight path. I convince myself that I’m not really feeling bad (and in truth I’m not), it’s just the euphoric high and adrenaline rush levelling itself out.
As I emerge from the playing fields I almost collide with another couple of girls heading out towards the coast and we side step each other good humouredly along the narrow paths. I emerge ahead, but I’ve already clocked this pair are running well and my competitive instinct kicks in as I pick up the pace a little to stay ahead.
They’re chatting away and we’re keeping pace. I don’t want to seem unfriendly and hold them up, so I ask what they’re training for. One’s going for the Kielder marathon and the other’s Great North Run training like me. They’re both members of the North Shields Poly club.
We share a little running chat which is a nice distraction for me and sets me back on my familiar coastal paths. They break for a pit stop and I carry on, wishing them luck with a smile on my face.
Closing in on home I glance at my watch to see I’ve been running for just over 90 minutes, which must put me close to my ten mile target. I opt to pick up the pace for the last stretch and almost as soon as I do, the Garmin beeps to signal the end of the workout.
But this has been a good run and I’m still a way from home. I’m not ready to stop yet. And so I push on for another glorious mile. And yes, now I start to feel a bit achey, and now the calves begin to pull, but I’m still running and at a good pace, and I’m free and easy and everything just feels wonderful.
At 11 miles I call it a day. No sense in overdoing it. There are still five weeks until race day. I stop the clock at 1hr 41 minutes and stretch. My calves and hips protest a little as I pick up a jog again to take me home, so I stretch a little more and walk. There’s nothing in those aches that won’t be soothed by a little rest.
My recent running companions pass me and shout out “Well done!” as they carry on their way. I hope they had as good a run as I did. Boy, does that fill me with confidence.
11 miles 1 hr 41.45