To paraphrase Brendan Behan, I’m not sure if I’m a runner with writing problems or a writer with running problems. When I sit down to compose these running posts, I always try to find a suitable title that will provide a good peg for the story, and one that will hopefully spark some curiosity.
Today the sunshine returned to the Northamptonshire steppes. The landscape was quite a contrast to last week’s snow and slush. There were a good few puddles and muddy bits along today’s trail – a return to the relatively flat Brampton Valley Way, the route of a disused railway line. I began again from the Draughton crossing and headed south. Six miles out and, coincidentally, six miles back. That way, there is no cutting it shorter, ensuring I achieve my target distance, however slowly.
As usual, in my enthusiasm, like a puppy let off the lead, I set off too quickly. It felt good, with very little wind, and the fields stretching out on each side. The received wisdom among us elite runners is that the pace for the weekly “long run” should be about a minute slower per mile than one’s target pace for the main event. I ran 5 miles at a pace faster than my race target, and paid the price later. It is strange how it is so much easier to run more slowly towards the end of the run than at the beginning. My dream is to be able to run a negative split – i.e. running the second half faster than the first half. I will have to get out of that “puppy off the lead” habit.
Everyone was out today – dog walkers, cyclists, horse riders and other runners. At various points, everyone was going faster than me. Unfortunately no-one was around to witness my greyhound/whippet start! Today was the first time in this training schedule that I ran listening to music. This can help with pacing, as long as the beat is not too fast, and it helps distract from focusing on the physical effort (although such focusing can also be very instructive). The first track was Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away”, which was a nice uplifting start. Other tracks included Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” (I wasn’t) and Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” (“How many disused railway tracks must a man run down…?”). However, by the end of the run, I don’t think any piece of music could have distracted me from the pain in my right quads and hip flexors. The problem may be biomechanical, possibly linked to weakness in my left ankle. A relaxing swim and stretching in the pool helped with this later in the day.
And the title? “Country cousin” is supposedly (not fully authenticated) Cockney rhyming slang for a dozen. Hence the six miles out and back. A nod to my heritage.
Just 11 weeks now until the 2018 Edinburgh Marathon! My fundraising page for Kettering Mind (providing invaluable help to people with severe mental health problems) is open for business! Thank you.