Losing the gremlins in the woods

I’m focusing on running at the moment, trying to make the most of four run sessions a week – usually a couple of 10ks, a 30 min interval set and a long, slow run. It’s hard. It’s been a long time since I’ve focused on just running, but in a way, it’s good to go back to where it all started. I’d just forgotten how much it takes to get out and do it, to tackle to tough sessions and push myself further and faster.

The plan was to run 10k , so I set out under grey skies and light drizzle with around an hour’s running in mind. It being a longer run, I was kind to my feet and chose my old trainers, ones I knew would get me through the distance without my toes feeling like they were being blitzed by fire and ice.

There’s a 5k route that I use quite often, away from traffic but over decent paths and light trails. I set along it feeling heavy legged and bodied. No bounce, more a shuffle. I made a conscious effort to think about my form, land light, pick up my feet, ease into the run, relax.

I grumbled round the loop, negative thoughts floating through my synapses. ‘Why am I doing this? It’s meant to be fun? This doesn’t feel like fun. I’m so much slower than I was. I expect too much. I’m not getting any younger. This will keep on getting harder.’

Sometimes they threatened to stick and form goals ‘I could just go and run my home race for fun… I should drop Alnwick tri… I should pull out of that standard tri, just do the sprint’. Of course, I could do all of those things, I just need a better reason than mental gremlins made me do it.

Rather than completing my usual 5k loop and running it twice, I extended it on through to a nature reserve.  The trees alongside the narrow path are woody and spindly, not showing their spring greens yet. But the shade and the renewed focus on finding my feet along the trail seemed to lift my thoughts and before I knew it, I’d outpaced the gremlins and left them stumbling through the woods, unable to follow me.

I started to breathe a little easier, feel the flow of movement a little more naturally. The path continued and I was enjoying myself, so I followed it, hoping that I’d remember a route from years ago as I came across the landmarks.

I didn’t. I thought there was a style. There was a gate and a main road. I thought I could run alongside on the verge for a little way and then turn in by a big tree. I didn’t find the tree, but I did find a sort of path at the edge of a field, heading in the right sort of direction, so I followed it.

I wasn’t lost. Just exploring. At any point I could have retraced my steps and found a familiar path. But I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to go forward. My route took me over some rather rough ground, and eventually back onto a tarmaced footpath pretty close to where I first entered the nature reserve.

Earlier thoughts of cutting the run short had been banished. I’d come so far and enjoyed my little off road adventure, I would see out at least an hour’s running or more. I found something like pace. Legs which had grumbled and begged me to slow down at the start seemed willing to push on after an 8k warm up and I completed my distance target.

As always, I felt so much better for doing it. And reflecting on my run, there were far more positives than the gremlins could throw negatives at me.

My first race of the season is a 10k road race. I can run the distance. I’ve done it a few times recently and will do a few more before race day. I can do it after a heavy week’s training on legs tired from weight training. And I can lose the gremlins along the way, and actually enjoy a run that didn’t start out that way.

Now to find a bit more pace and my racing head…


Author: The Scribbler

I'm a writer, based in the North East of England. In my working life I give a human voice to business communications. As well as writing, reading and language, I enjoy running and triathlons and I often write about races and events in the North East

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