As Red tells Nicky in Orange is the New Black, “You’ve gotta hit rock bottom before you know which direction to go in.” But they were talking about heroin, and I’m just talking about running. Oh man.
This week, unless I hit new lows in future weeks (please, heavens, no) I hit rock bottom. I know, right, week two. Christ knows what’s going to happen in week 12.
Week two schedule
4 mile + strides (still not entirely sure what strides are TBH)
3×1 mile fast
4 mile run
10 mile long run
New Year took over my week in a gorgeous haze of holiday, cheese and fires, and looking out of the window at the apocalypse and my going “oh I don’t think so, thanks.” The week stretched to Thursday before I put my trainers on.
Because I’m going to Thailand for two weeks in February, I need to get to grips with the treadmill. I’ve got to do my first 18-miler while I’m out there and I can barely breathe in hot weather, let alone run- please to start your heart bleeding for me now. The gym it is. I bloody hate a treadmill. Hours turn into days, which actually turn out to be three minutes.
On Thursday lunchtime I went to the gym, taking the microscopic flannel that Fitness First claims to be a towel and managing 10 minutes before my right foot started to hurt. I got down, did some “complementary exercise” (ie, faffing around on the other machines) some stretching and ordered some new trainers.
Run 2 – abandoned, straight to run 3
By now it was Friday, and I was rapidly running out of days. I really was intending to do the 3×1 miles, honest guv, but it turned out to be five miles due to in between bits of going slowly. That was clearly going to take longer than my lunch hour, unless I learned to fly, so I put my new trainers on, peered at the sky and added my waterproof running jacket, and skipped ahead to the four mile instead.
Two minutes in, the strange gripping feeling I’d had on the treadmill started up. It felt like silvery prickly fingers was pressing over the north-east part of my leg and freaking it out. (“What the hell is the ‘north-east’ part of your leg?” my boyfriend asked later, with the raised eyebrow of one who has a better grasp of geography and anatomy than I do.) Five minutes later, the heavens opened and tipped a pile of rain over Wapping, which proved my jacket was waterproof, but completely drenched every other part of me. Ten minutes later, despite running at a corpse’s warm-up pace, my leg was absolutely killing. What the hell? Was it the new trainers? The leg? The zip on my leggings? WAS MY LEG ACTUALLY ABOUT TO FALL OFF?
I shuffle-hopped as far as Canary Wharf, and then turned back only for Runkeeper to bleep at me cheerfully. “Work out complete!” I should never have become so dependent on apps in order to run. It’s done this before. Something about the river causes its GPS to go weird and fast forward, much like me when I had a petit mal epilepsy attack in my Grade 2 piano exam and thought I’d finished playing The Merry Tinker.
This was too much. The very idea of me running four miles in 30 minutes. My leg was probably going to have to be amputated. People with muscles who didn’t appear to need or care for waterproof clothing were sprinting past me in packs. I cried in the rain, like a lycra-clad Disney tragedy. And then I closed Runkeeper and limped the last two miles back to work along the Highway, ruing the day I’d got so attached to apps and my legs, and chewing my lip at the thought that in four months I’d be running back along here, with 13 miles to go.
Run 4 (in place of 3)
Filled with woe at how pathetically badly that four miles had gone, and worried about the leg I was soon going to lose, I took advantage of Saturday’s rain to have a day off in the countryside with the papers and the pub instead.
By Sunday I’d caught up on sleep and was feeling ready to at least have a crack at something. Sprinting did not seem like a plan at all, so I went out to try the 10 mile run I’d done in the summer, armed with a bottle of tap water and the least-favoured items from a mint chocolate collection my dad had got for his birthday.
The leg sulked for a bit, and then, wonderfully, shut up. By the time I’d dragged myself up the first hill and down the other side, I was smiling at the passing cyclists – Hampshire cyclists have more space and are therefore less feral than the London sort – and by the time I’d reached the next village I HAD ACTUALLY NODDED at one like I was in Last of the Summer Wine or something, AND THEY NODDED BACK. Look at us! Wearing lycra on a Sunday, the magnificent bastard fools.
Naturally, I soon discovered that Runkeeper had thrown a wobbler and paused itself two miles back, at which point I swore loudly, and, it turns out, into the face of an aged runner who appeared out of nowhere. Sorry about that.
I decided then that Runkeeper really can’t be my primary source of stats. Forget calories, or pace, or fiddly nonsense, as long as I knew the route I was doing, and a vague sense of time, that had to be enough.
I passed some horses (nods, smiles) and some Range Rovers (I got hit by some gravel, and subsequently passed each car with my hand up against my face like Madonna dodging the paparazzi.) Some more hills happened, and an elderly couple in a red Ford wound down their windows and asked what on earth I was doing running up a hill.
“It’s great marathon training!” I said breezily, in the manner of ghastly person who weaves in the fact she is marathon training into every possible conversation.
Eventually I got to the top of the massive hill, grinned at some sheep, and ran down it. I managed to beat my previous two-hour time on that route, but that wasn’t the point. My legs didn’t hurt any more. I had run a proper distance. I was enjoying it again. I COULD BLOODY RUN.