A Streak and a Stampede

After a 6 week absence, with very few runs in between, I returned to running Longrun Meadow parkrun with a time that showed my drop in fitness.  The thought of running the Stoke Stampede 10k two weeks later was not a pretty one.  When I’d signed up for the race, it had been as a target race.  I wanted one more shot this year at improving my PB.  With two weeks to go, I’d struggled with 5k and was completely out of the training habit.

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Back home I checked my Garmin stats and discovered I still had 48 miles left to run to hit my goal for 2015, with a mere 19 days left to do it in.  Not going to happen.  Ben commented that if I ran 5k a day for the rest of the year then I’d manage it easily.  It was a good laugh, but somehow I couldn’t shake the idea.

The next day I got ready to go for a run.  Ben asked how far I planned to go, and the answer was simple.  5k.  It felt rubbish, but I went.  The next day I had an exercise class in the evening.  The route I took to get there was slightly longer than usual, and I checked my watch carefully on arrival to check the distance.  Heading back I took a slightly longer route.  As I took an extra loop around my estate it became clear I was already addicted.  I HAD to run 5k every day.

The breakthrough in my streak came at the end of the week on parkrunday.  I was volunteering, and wore my kit under my coat and hi-viz.  After parkrun I swapped into my trainers (wellies are essential at this time of year) and tried to work out a good route.  I clocked in 4 more miles and, importantly for my self-belief, did so at 9:31 min/miles.  Pretty much a minute a mile faster than my mid-week efforts.

My mindset had changed from “can face going for a run today?” to “when will I go for my run today?”  The only difficulty was working out the route.  Oh and December weather.  One day it rained straight in my face to the extent that my contact lenses got knocked out of line.

The test was Christmas Day.  Day 14 of my run streak, and a return to parkrun.  The puddles covered most of the course, and were up to my ankle in places.  It was brilliant.  I finished in 29:11, almost 2 minutes faster than on Day 1 despite the worse conditions.  Day 15 was a recovery run, in preparation for the race.

The Stoke Stampede is a popular 10k race in Stoke St Gregory.  Popular to the extent that it sold out of places this year, as everyone always raves about it.  Ben ran it back in 2013.  I knew very little about the course, other than that it was on country roads.  Then Ben mentioned there were hills, which I’d suspected, and that there was a small loop and a big loop, which was useful to know.  The thing I really didn’t know was how the race would go.

I started way too fast.  It was really hard to wait far enough back, and with the downhill start and excitement of the race it was really easy to get carried away.  Slowing down was a difficult but necessary task.  The nature of the course means you pass the cheering crowd three times: near the start, after the small loop, and just before the end.  This was gratefully received support, even if my daughter didn’t spot me first time.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, at about the 4 mile mark I got really tired.  It became much more of a struggle and so I just settled in to a pace that felt comfortable.  Some of the country lanes felt very quiet, with little noise other than feet and jingles.  Yes, I’d worn a jingle bell hairband.  That might be why there was rarely a runner close by.

The few spectators that were dotted around the course were great.  I’m pretty sure I’d have stopped to walk on the hill up to the 8k mark if it wasn’t for the support from the top of it.

When I returned to the village for the final push I was tired but pleased.  I felt better than I’d felt on a tough run for months.  I finished in 56:34, so sub 9 min/miles.  Faster than I’d run for over 2 months, while going further than I’d run for a month.  Whatever my original plans had been when I’d entered the race, I’d done myself proud.

Even better, just over a mile into the race I’d hit the milestone that I’d thought there was no chance I could achieve.

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Yesterday was day 17.  We went for a walk up Brean Down in the morning, and I ended up carrying our daughter back down the steps.  Annoyingly, not in a carrier.  My afternoon run was hard work.

Today I woke up with sore legs, and my left quad has yet to improve.  Tight, sore, painful on movement, they would all describe it.  The moral of the story is that running is good for you, taking a toddler on a day out without a back carrier is not.

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My run streak has given me everything I needed it to.  Fitness, confidence, and a renewed love for running.  It’s the love for running that means I’m breaking my streak and not heading out today.  Not today.  But in a couple of days’s time I’ll be back out again.  And again.  And again.

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