…I said to my body, for probably the eight-hundredth time this month. There’s no test like running, except when you’re not running.
Over four years, I’d worked myself from moving 100 metres in 30-second fits of breathless, violent sputtering, all the way up to a completed marathon; I definitely needed a rest. Nearly-two years of struggle with a foot injury wasn’t exactly the change of pace I was looking for though.
Coming off a week where I thought I might have done my other foot and both my knees in one stupid run, and now feeling merely fragile, I drove up to where Guildford meets the Surrey Hills, up to a long straight road that extends onto the downs. Something about taking on a mile for the first time in 18 months made me want to seek an ‘A to B’ stretch of tarmac and trail.
And by the way, I never drive to go for a run. If the place I want to run is too far away… Well, I fucking run there, and if I can’t run there, I’ll keep running until I can!
This is probably why I get injured.
If you want to know where you are right now as a runner, go out and run a single mile.
I’m terrible at recalling quotes, but that is a sentiment that has always stuck with me from my readings about running.
So, warmed up and not feeling entirely terrible, I composed myself at the top of the road and took my two minutes grace.
Two very-Surrey young ladies carrying a wicker hamper (probably caddying a game bird for tea, or pound of cheese and Daddy’s evening tipple), walked up the lane adjacent (and yes I do mean lane, you’re in that part of the world now) and turned down in the direction I was headed.
I hate it when this happens because I’m essentially going to be running up behind, panting like the Child Catcher, yet trying to look cool putting myself through something that clearly nobody else is putting themselves through, up here on a Monday evening.
Anyway, I’ll give them an 150m headstart. I figured I could make it that far without — audibly — turning into the moaning, fist-footed ogre that I would be in just a minute.
Out of the corner of my eye, orange-singlet serious-man is running up the hill to my right. He probably smokes a couple of 6-minute miles post coitus. I don’t really want him to catch me. Smoke this… Excuse me, girls. I hit the timer.
The first quarter is always easy; relax, don’t go all out, breathe right, sail to halfway. Halfway to three-quarters hurts. I’m running into the wind, a little bit uphill; my feet should be turning over quicker and my shoulders are tense; I thought it was flat… BAM!, onto the trail, 400 from home, I’m not scared to push on… In comparison to my irrepressible thoughts, 30 seconds of mind-over-matter is cake. Notch it up, click, click, click.
I rolled up in 6:05 with just a few dog walkers to wonder what all the drama was about. Where did that come from? I was running 30 miles a week and my mile was 6 minutes dead. How does a few crap 3-milers followed by ice and crying get me 6:05?
Maybe I can work my way into the fives. Maybe I can breach something good, even limited by this damn foot. If nothing else, you’ve got to be strong to run a good mile, right?