Everyday I’m shuffalin (supposedly Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends)

To be blunt, I’d been having a bloody awful time running of late. I went out last Saturday, managed a mile and then had to walk, drowning in my own sweat and wishing that humans had evolved to wield windscreen wipers. The heat, the sun, the call of cold, cold beers and ice lollies were nixing my previously euphoric and obviously unbearable running buzz.

Also to blame was my holiday to Canadamerica. I’ve restrained myself from spilling holiday purple prose here so far, not least because it was such a good, magical holiday, that I worry that my writing it down I will kill it dead. I hope to get over this obstacle before I have to file my feature on it, or my editor will give me bad looks.

Sun, sea and battlements

Sun, sea and battlements

The whole park was littered with cannons. Of course.

The whole park was littered with cannons. Of course.

BUT! I went running in Canada! I had nothing to do when I landed in Quebec, so put together a vague route – best thing about Canada for digital types? Free wi-fi bloody everywhere – and trotted off for a jog through the  Parc de Champs-de-Bataille, or Battlefield Park. It was boiling hot, I was repeatedly lapped by bronzed gorgeous things in tiny shorts, there were roller bladers everywhere, and I was in heaven.

Gorgeous Quebec at night

Gorgeous Quebec at night (#nofilter in Instagram speak)

More lovely Quebec - all hills, sunset streaks and warmth

More lovely Quebec – all hills, sunset streaks and warmth

On the ship it was a different matter. I’d had a vague idea that I might get up early and go for a jog on the mainland whenever we stopped on one of my running days, but given we had to be back on board by 4 or 5 most days and there was a lot to explore, it didn’t really happen. As jogging was forbidden on our deck (Oh…oh what a…shame *eats seven types of eggs benedict instead*) I had a go on the treadmill.

Treadmills are the worst things ever. They are so boring I’m amazed gyms aren’t filled with more people going “FOR FUCKINGTON’S SAKE HAVE I ONLY DONE 2K THIS IS ALL TERRIBLE.” I was supposed to do 8, managed 3, and blissfully avoided the gym for the rest of the trip in favour of the on-deck hot tubs, modelled here by my partner-in-crime Elizabeth, with whom, a few days into the trip, my mind had synched and we ended up playing the surrreal “What are you thinking/going to order/wanting to do because it will be what I want” game.

Our second home on board - complete with Saturday morning cartoons drinks

Our second home on board – complete with Saturday morning cartoons drinks

Things went better this week, in that I went out at all. Admittedly, this was only managed by going to Pop-Up Choir’s gig by the Bowie mural in Brixton in my running kit, and actually running there, but afterwards I did my longest run ever – 6.7 miles! – without dying so it was all worthwhile. Particularly so because we had a massive amount of cake in the Duke of Edinburgh, which is a really nice pub in Brixton I’d never been too before, and definitely plan to go back to.

However, I realised that the pains in my hips and right foot weren’t going away any time soon, so I went to Runners Need in Monument to treat myself to the ultimate gift as L’Oreal intended: a gait analysis and new trainers. They are pristine, beautiful and I am absolutely doing the Olympics Run in them provided I break them in a bit this week.

The 10k that I ran for Special Effect on Sunday though, that made it all worthwhile. That’s going in a separate blog post because it’s all rather happy, and reading about how crap I’ve been at running recently would have destroyed the mood somewhat.

Running away and back again

My friends' gorgeous puppy: a Sunday afternoon bonus

My friends’ gorgeous puppy: a Sunday afternoon bonus

Last week I got the full force of having behaved like an ostrich for the past two months. On Friday, I cancelled everything and ran back to Hampshire Nelly-fashion, with an implausibly packed suitcase and a whisky and ginger in a can.

(I hasten to add that I did ask my parents first before descending on them, and took Comestible Provisions.)

It was lovely. Bananagrams and chatting, food and wine and the dog lolling around looking a bit put-upon, and just not being in London. My friends Laura and Nick were down, partly to see their parents’ puppy, and partly because as Nick said, “The weekend always feels longer down here.”

I hadn’t been getting on well with running lately because of the bad weather, which always makes me lose about 70 per cent of my inclination to be awake. This week though, I’d ventured into a gym for the first time in years (verdict: sweaty. Smells odd. Ferdie from This Life turned up on a tea-time vicar detective series). I’d optimistically bought my running gear back with me, and went out on Saturday armed with a 5k mission on Zombies, Run!

After five minutes, I realised I’d forgotten to set Runkeeper, and started again. After another 10 minutes, I realised the robotic voice alerts had been turned off and I had no idea what my pace was. I mindlessly bounced along mouthing the lyrics to Katy Perry and admiring various cows and fields, and eventually realised I’d done my fastest natural run yet – ie, not hobbling along staring at Runkeeper.

I felt so amazing when I got home that it was as though all my running zeal from last month had come back in one go. I got out my copy of Running Like A Girl l to find exactly which eyeliner won’t budge during a race (it’s MAC LiquidLast) and got completely distracted. Half an hour later, I was hooked in some kind of bizarre “I want to run! Again” world. I’d read through from the beginning, and burst into tears at the precise moment when Alex Heminsley hit the wall during her first marathon and her mother screams at her “COME ON MY DARLING GIRL…”

I’d got utterly engrossed in the beyond brilliant Born to Plod – honestly, read it whether you like running or not, he’s hilarious –  which I’d found while earnestly searching for a waterproof running jacket, rather than the decidedly leaky one I bought for rehearsing the Olympics opening ceremony, which is so huge I could use it as temporary stabling for six horses.

And about half an hour later, I’d entered the Royal Parks half-marathon because all the training plans started this week and that seemed to be a sign.

The next day I went out in the drizzling mizzling boredom of weather that only England can produce, and ran 8.7k without feeling the slightest bit tired. I was utterly disgusting to look at, but I felt so good and calm and generally de-Londoned, de-stressed and de-ostriched that I’d run up hills and waved at cows and not got hit by a single car that I really didn’t care.

You’re not supposed to run away from anything when you’re 30. Sod that. It turned out to be exactly what I needed in order to come back home feeling better and more alive.

Running like a girl

My last run! So proud

My last run! So proud

Many’s the time that I’ve said a book has changed my life. I just never thought one would change the way I think about running.

I never thought I’d love running because I never thought I was capable. Running at school was more like a punishment than anything, a cold, lactic torture based entirely around muddy laps in winter. When I moved to London I walk-sludged Race for Life a couple of times, and optimistically did a very, very slow 10k round a horrible industrial estate in rainy Wembley when I was 24, but these were reluctant Things One Did For Charity. I never trained or got into it, just looked up from whatever I was drinking and smoking and went “Oh, okay then”. I didn’t even have kit. I did the 10k in high-waisted shorts from Primark like your classic unprepared dickhead. Continue reading