Monday, 6 June 2011

Zero to Hero

At 11am on Saturday I was sprawled over the sofa in my pyjamas; lethargic, grumpy and bemoaning various aches and pains. I had more or less no interest in leaving the flat for any reason whatsoever, least of all to pursue the 16+ mile run I had scheduled in for myself. I was on my own, slightly glum and generally not bothered. At all.

By 2pm I was back in the flat, elated, surging with endorphins and having recorded my longest run of the year to date. How did this miraculous turnaround happen? I’m not sure, but I’ll try to work it out.

The first hurdle was to bully myself into getting dressed and ready. I agreed with myself that if I put my gear on, I would go for at least a little run. No way would I put my running kit on and then endure the shame of taking it all off again to return to pyjamas. I did, however, take an outrageously long time to get dressed, postponing the moment that I’d actually have to step outside for as long as possible. My procrastination was epic. I downloaded a new podcast (The Marathon Show) to listen to on the run. I tied and retied my laces. I insisted on adding ice to my water bottle. I pursued every avenue of potential timewasting for as long as possible, until I had literally no further excuses.

I finally got out of the door at 11.55, almost an hour and a half later than optimum-run-o’clock. I stubbornly maintained absolutely no interest in running the full, prescribed 16 miles, but since the first 8 miles of my planned route were loops relatively near the flat I thought I may as well pursue them. I trotted cheerfully up the hill, confident in the knowledge that I had dozens of opportunities to cut things short.

My first mile was heavily handicapped by traffic lights, registering an impressively slow 9:41. I didn’t care. This run didn’t matter. It wasn’t a long training outing or anything. I trotted cheerfully along the Grassmarket and eventually all the way down to Holyrood Park, ticking off the miles slowly but surely. I dug in and put in a lap of Arthur’s Seat, slowly remembering why I like running and amiably racing a few other pavement-pounders who had joined me on the popular route. At the highest point, with a staggering view over the Forth and across to Fife, I knew this run was going to go well.

At the foot of Arthur’s Seat I headed for the Royal Mile, intending to run all the way up to Edinburgh Castle and rack up some altitude. Seemed like a great idea. But no, terrible mistake – the Royal Mile on a Saturday lunchtime is more or less the most densely populated place in the entire Universe (it’s definitely in the top ten). I was weaving in and out of the camera-toting masses, trying to contain my pedestrian-hating rage as I picked my way through the crowds. There was a wedding, some street performers, half a dozen bagpipers and coach loads of bimbling tourists. Nightmare.

Then suddenly, like a triathlete sensing the very gravest injustice, I could feel someone running on my shoulder. I glanced back. A greasy boy of about 16, laughing and shouting in Italian to a friend toting a camera, was keeping pace with me. His reeking cigarette hung lazily from two fingers. His gleaming white tracksuit shimmered in the sunlight.  I doubt it has ever been near a track. My brief stint of studying Italian was enough to know that I was being mocked for running slowly. 

The boy kept pace for just a fraction too long.

I know, I know. I was out for a training session. I was 6 miles into what was clearly now going to be a 16 mile serious long run. I was climbing a very steep hill and maintaining a carefully modulated pace. I am a serious marathoner with multiple long-distance goals in both the short and long term. But the Italian was very, very annoying. I know I shouldn’t have. But I did it anyway. 

I decided to teach him a thing or two about runners.

I surged forward like a shot, sprinting at full pelt up the cobbled street. The Italian laughed, he was game, this was what he wanted. He picked up too, a fraction behind. But I just kept sprinting, dodging back and forward between bollards and groups of tourists. I glanced back to see the look on his stupid face, and saw him fading faster than a free commemorative T-shirt. After just a few seconds he was long gone, I imagine he started crying. To prove the point I pounded out another few hundred metres at suicide pace, finally reaching the castle with burning lungs and heavy legs. It was awesome.

The next 10 miles were more difficult as a result, if I'm honest. But who cares? Some random tourist who I'll never see again was taught a pointless lesson and it made me feel great. I finished the full 16.6 miles in 2:17, averaging 8:18 minutes/mile. I was elated.

Aaw, yeah. Click to enlarge.

I encourage you to educate any Italians who annoy you, too.

Happy running


2011 to date - miles: 570.52, parkruns: 6, races: 3, miles biked: 47.44, metres swum: 925

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