Sunday, 26 July 2009

Great South Run – training diary, day 1

Well, I have just realised that it is exactly three months to go to this year’s Great South Run. I’ve been rather lazy recently, so it’s time I bucked my ideas up and got into some regular training!
Today I decided to do a fairly short run at a comfortable pace. Nice and easy, to get me back into the swing of things. The weather is good for running – not too hot or cold, slightly overcast with some occasional hazy sunshine poking through. There is a light breeze, just enough to keep me cool enough once I start to heat up!

I always find the first couple of minutes running a little difficult and stressful, even though I’ve been doing this now for over 25 years. Getting the lungs and heart up to speed, some slight inclines to run up, and a few potentially busy roads to cross can feel like hard work sometimes! As it’s Sunday though, there are few cars and people around, and I have a clear run across the roads and into the park. The park runs alongside the River Itchen, and the river is very subject to tidal forces from the Solent downstream. This morning the tide is well and truly out, leaving a narrow channel of river water between the wide, muddy banks on either side. Being so close to the sea, the river has a seaside smell to it, with seaweed clumping around the edges and gulls hovering noisily above.

Always a delight are the many swans that have made their homes here, and as I run along the path I spot a pair with two young cygnets, still clad in their grey, fluffy feathers and not yet regal and graceful like their doting parents. Across on the opposite bank I can see many more swans, maybe fifty in all, picking out tasty plants, insects and small fish exposed in the little rivulets left by the receding tide. I can also tick off ‘mallards’ in my I-Spy book of aquatic birds, as they group together beneath the small jetty and sift the morning mud for breakfast treats.

I feel quite relaxed, breathing easily and my legs have become readily accustomed to the demands of the run. I’m certainly getting warmer after ten minutes or so, and my breathing becomes more rapid as I turn away from the river and run up a small, but steep incline towards the playing fields. Dodging and weaving between dogs and dog-owners, taking care not to fall victim to their inconveniently placed trip-wire leads, and eyeing each creature to look for signs of sudden interest that may turn to aggression, I circle the playing fields and begin to head back home.

Other runners on an opposite course jog past, faces hot with sweat and breath panting with exertion. I’m sure that I don’t look like that – they must marvel at how calm I appear, how strong! I think not, for now I too am running with laboured breath, and what started as a small sensation of weariness in one small part of my left calf, now envelops my legs in their entirety. I try to speed up and appear impressive as I pass two pretty girls – thankfully, they do not swoon at the sight of my magnificent legs…!

Sunday footballers are laying out the apparatus for their early training session – cones, poles, nets – not a game that I particularly enjoy. I must remember to time my runs earlier on Sundays once the season gets underway, otherwise I will have to run the gauntlet of distracted spectators lining the fields, and the occasional volley of an errant pass that lands hopelessly out of play.

The final stretch takes me back along the riverbank and up the steep slope to the road. I always have a silent prayer that the traffic lights will be green, so I am ‘forced’ to rest and catch my breath before continuing up the hill and back down the road to home. Today, my prayer is ignored, and I have no choice but to cross and continue running up, despite the strong protests of my legs and lungs. Just a little further, and I am home, sweat streaming and lungs bursting, heart pounding and legs aching. Remind me again why I do this?

Within a few minutes, my breath has returned and my heart calmed. Endorphins are flooding my brain, and I feel great! That’s why I do this!

Sunday July 26, 2009
Distance 2.83 miles
Time 26’ 42”
Calories 315
Blood glucose before (1 hour postprandial) 8.7
Blood glucose after 8.9

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