Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Runners and writers

I’m still not in 100% good health; it would seem that the last bout of lung related nonsense has reinvigorated my childhood asthma, alleviated only by sucking on sabutamol at semi-regular intervals.

Checking NHS Direct for possible causes of my dry, hacking cough symptoms, I might have hayfever, a cold or possibly HIV or lung cancer.

Anyhow, feeling that sitting back and doing nothing for the next 3 weeks, is really not an option and particularly as the weather has been so fanastic, I pulled out my kit and got back to running.

It was a gentle, 2 mile start on Saturday which has risen to daily 2.5/3 mile jaunts around the village, during which time I don’t cough, wheeze or otherwise feel debilitated by my lung problems, except when I can’t get the breath down to my diaphragm and have to stop to stretch.

It’s just that I can’t seem to keep my pace down.

Prior to getting sick (this time at least…), I was pacing at around 10:15 – 10:30 minute miles, but even though I am making a genuine effort to keep my pace slow and steady, my widget is now showing me as pacing at sub 10:15. Which is weird; either my widget is badly calibrated or I need to change the way I judge my speed.

What I have noticed is that, since I was ill and unable to run, I have had absolutely no desire whatsoever to write, to notate the minutiae of my daily existence.

But now, even though I’m still under the weather, my brain seems inspired to write.

Maybe there’s more to this running thing that meets the eye?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Green with envy

I'm on the injury/illness/sickness bench, at least for the next few days. I've struggled but finally managed to spend a whole weekend of peace and sunshine without donning my kit, although trust me, it was tough.

I'm prone to chest infections, even with the merest hint of the common cold and, with a tendency to completely ignore it and go maternal martyr on the world, I find it really difficult to take to the sofa instead of just getting on and 'doing'.

Last week I 'Ran to Green'.  If you don't have a Nike+ thingamy whatsit in your shoe, then perhaps you don't know what this is?  I bought one because I thought I had to have the latest gadgetry to keep me going. 

I was only half-right.  The gadget itself doesn't keep me going, but the measuring and tracking does.  It roughly measures (having recently run a verified 5miles that computed as 5.75 on my widget, I know it's not perfect) how far and how fast I run, although it doesn't measure altitude, so it can't take into account the seemingly vast amount of 'up' I run, compared to the minimal amount of 'down'.

But, it works.  And I love it.  And having just 'Run to Green' (hitting 250km since logging in), I feel revived and with renewed vigour to keep going.  The next distance, Blue, is some 450 miles  I'd love to hope that I can actually make it by the end of the year, but in case there were any doubts, I have a new power tool in my arsenal. further along my digital pathway.
I've got an iPhone. It's a completely amazing piece of kit in its own right (less phone and more digital playground); I can synch my Nike+ sensor to it; I can play music as I run and, if I've worked it out properly, use a GPS tracking App that I downloaded which will accurately show me exactly how far I went, rather than the vague approximation.

So it's now so much less about how physically fit I am and more, how mentally adept I am at programming my iphone (or at least letting the kids teach me how to work it) and how much more fit I'm going to be, carrying all these electronic extras.

Now we just need someone to design running kit with iPhone sized pockets.....

Saturday, April 10, 2010

As I’m not in complete denial about the fact that my waist has been pushing the winter boundaries a little, I’ve been trying to buy jeans.

We’ve all done it. We all know how almost utterly impossible it is to buy jeans that actually fit, being, as they are, designed only for people with washboard stomachs, short legs and no arse. Or for people with the sartorial elegance of a moose.

And it’s not just jeans. Trousers; clothing with legs in general seems to be a problem.

I’d heard over recent years that the fashion industry was going through a 21st Century re-defining and standardisation of body shapes to reflect the way we have changed over the past 50 years or so when, I'm lead to believe, the last piece of in-depth research was carried out and sizing standardised.

As you can imagine, a lot has changed in 50 or 60 years, not least the increase in calorie intake post war, the popularisation of motorised public transport, long working commutes to offices instead of fields and the birth of the PS/Xbox generation.

There have been some changes for the better of course. So many different fashion options are available and acceptable to all (ok, perhaps not acceptable but people wear them anyway…), fabric development means we don’t have to wear only wool or linen; we can go outside in all weathers without having to worry about getting our outer (or inner) wear clean and dry afterwards and, for the most part, if we get a muddy mark on the bottom of our trousers, well, we just throw on a new pair and wait for the house-elves to clean and iron the ‘dirty’ ones and return them to the wardrobe, ready to be muddied again.

But I digress.

It’s mostly about the sizing.

Apart from the odd wonderful anomaly, where fabric patterns were cut a little to the outside, I’m a UK14. That’s the size of most real women I know; women who live, breath, exercise a little and, more importantly, eat.

So, back to the jeans.

I can’t get any. Ok, maybe I could get some, but only in the next size, the size that I don’t want to admit to, even if it isn’t my fault and is entirely due to the fabric patterns being cut a little to the inside.

Last Monday I went shopping. Being a fan of expensive clothing and accessories (who isn’t?) that I can’t ever afford in the real world, I shop in outlets. This means I can have the expensive items I like that (pretty much) always look fantastic and last for years (or until I get bored of them…). And they have jeans.
Biting the bullet and because they were fabulous jeans, I picked up a pair in the size that I don’t want to mention and took them to try.

And they didn’t fit. They didn’t fit to the extent that I could probably have dragged one or both of my boys into the changing room and fitted them down one leg as well.

On the one hand, it made me feel really good – I don’t have to start expanding my wardrobe with expanded waisted clothing, but still I can’t find any that fit. Being an outlet, they only stock the odd, real woman sized item, the rest being an assortment of pieces that would more properly fit pre teen children.
Perhaps this is why rich people can quite happily proclaim to be sooo tiny but still eat like real women (ok, we know that most of them don’t actually eat like real women, they just nibble, but they do, at least, eat).

In an industry wide, social hypnotic experiment, women (and probably men?) are led to believe that they’re one or two sizes smaller than they really are.

But only if they can afford the smaller labels that go with it.

If two’s company, how many’s a crowd?

I have a thing, a cold or virus or a whatever it is that is breeding inside me causing me to be ill.  Having already had two bouts of bronchitis this year, I really don't want to have to resort to antibiotics to clear it up, although the process of deterioration seems to be following a similar path.

On the other hand, I am being sensible enough this time (it had to happen eventually I suppose) and am not running.  As it happens, I’m barely doing anything, or at least not at any great speed; I did cut the lawn last night for the first time since October although it was less ‘cut’ and more ‘hack’, as the blades on the mower are a little blunt and the grass more than a little too thick.

The most annoying thing is I want to run.  I had a pre-brunch running buddy date set up for tomorrow, but I’ve canned this in an effort to actually get better rather than attempting to sweat the beast from my brow, as I have done in the past.

Youngest is out with his friend and eldest is avoiding his homework, so we wandered slowly up to the pharmacy and the café for a little light relief; I am now medicated and caffeined to the max and he’s still not doing his homework, but we enjoyed each other’s company.

The café has only been open for a while; the owner trying hard to keep the village shops and her livelihood alive.  The food’s a little expensive for regular visits, but Eldest tells me that the burgers are fine and I can attest to the quality of the cappucino and the vanilla milkshake.

They also have a variety of activities set up to encourage people in and to help bolster the village community spirit.  It’s admirable and welcome in what is becoming a sleepy dormitory village, inhabited by commuting dads and stay at home mums who lunch and play tennis (ok, so I’m being a little unfair, I’m a mum and I do commute but don’t stay at home or play tennis….).

But they’re also playing host to a running club.  I only found this out today when I was browsing the literature and menu.  There are daytime clubs and evening clubs and, as it happens, I could make at least one of the evenings each week, germs and viruses aside.

I’ve always run when it suits me, when the mood takes me.  If I start running to suit other people, does that mean that I’ve actually become a ‘runner’ instead of a plodder?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Run run as fast as you can

So, I’ve been running for over 2 years now. It took over 12 months before I was kicked (politely) in the butt to sign up for a race and now, a year later I’ve just finished the same 5 miles for the 2nd time. And I’m still alive to tell the tale.

Having finally got my mental demons under control and started to persuade myself that, actually, it is ‘only’ 5 miles (*coughs* and then reminds self that 5 miles is NEVER going to be ‘just’ five anything, it’s a flipping long way), I was some 5 minutes faster this year than last.

On top of that, I really felt like it wasn’t a feat of endurance that I had to suffer to reach the finishing line.

I didn’t enjoy the first couple of miles, not so much for the running itself but because I generally run solo, elbows as far stretched as I feel necessary. But with some 5 or 600 other people cramming their feet onto the footpath, it’s necessary to match your pace with the people all around you (including behind, because otherwise you’re at risk of having your heels stomped on). To counter this I would normally run down the middle of the road, but that was full of volunteering jobsworths (that’s a little unfair, most of them were great, but still, perhaps you understand?), yelling “Keep on the path”. Which quite obviously wasn’t possible.

With words of wisdom ringing in my ears, I kept my pace down for the first couple of miles, quietly moving along at some 11 minute miles but, finally, when the field cleared, I could stretch out (a little – I’m no Paula Radcliffe you understand?) and just keep going.

I love the lack of thought that’s needed to run. The only consideration being, putting one foot in front of the other, avoiding pot holes and curbs and trying not to grind my teeth at the guy behind me who had every key and piece of loose change in his possession rattling and jingling away in the leg pocket of his combat board shorts.

The other runners were friendly (I can’t say as much for those at the front of the field because quite frankly they were sipping cappuccinos long before I reached the 3 mile marker), the families and supporters who turned out to cheer on their loved ones were great, as they clapped and congratulated everyone mad enough to want to turn out at 9am on Good Friday.

But I did have another motivation, other than finishing and heading for a tall, skinny lifestyle coffee.

There was no way I was going to be beaten by the 6’ Dalmatian with a hangover.