Fun run in the winter sun

My fourth run this week (or fifth in eight days) today took me a few miles down the road to Antrim for a little jaunt around the Castle Gardens.

Originally this was to be a Sunday morning run around Ballymena with Bronagh and Iverene from the club but we decided, quite at the last minute, to make it a bit more interesting and rather than run along the totally uninspiring dual carriageway and through an industrial estate we thought it’d be much more fun and picturesque to go somewhere else.

So off to Antrim we went. It was a bitterly cold morning – my phone said -4° – it was frosty white everywhere and the sun was very low in the sky but it was a lovely, bright morning.

Because I’ve been out a lot lately my legs felt a little bit heavy but, this morning, my biggest issue was my breathing … it was just too cold to be able to catch it properly so after one lap of the grounds I ushered Bronagh and Iverene on whilst I paused slightly to settle before making a detour to catch them up at a later point in the lap.

It was during this detour that I discovered the Large Parterre gardens, which is basically a maze-like selection of flower beds laid out in four circles with gravel paths between them.

I ran through this, met back up again with the other two and brought them back down to the gardens for a little run around … we took our own individual route around the flower beds so at times it looked like we were playing a game of real life Pac-Man as we kept cutting each other off!

After that we completed one more loop of the wider garden complex, taking in a frozen pond in the process, bringing me up to 5k which was plenty considering I’ve been out so much. It was a fun, relaxed morning and nice again to have company to run with (thanks ladies!). My breathing settled, too, and my legs felt good the further into the run I went. My pace also improved again so it seems everthing is beginning to move in the right direction.

Virtual Runner 100km January Challenge (27.32km)
1st January – 8.28km
3rd January – 5.01km
5th January – 9.02km
7th January – 5.01km

So that’s another 5k towards my 100k for the month challenge. I’m over a quarter of the way there with the first week done, so bang on target.

Relive my run

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Running rehab

And so my running rehabilitation continues.

After a decent run on my own on Wednesday, my first since Race Over The Glens on New Year’s Day, which helped restore my confidence and morale, the next hurdle I had to overcome was running with someone else.

I hadn’t run one-on-one with anyone for a while. Race situations are different, there are places to hide if you’re struggling and everyone is mainly interested in running their own race but when it’s just you and one other person you’re a lot more exposed, you don’t want to let them down or hinder them in any way. You dig deeper, and you try harder to push through when the going gets tough.

So, for me, after the battering my running (or my confidence in it) has taken lately, it was a big step to go out with Iverene tonight. Not that she was putting any pressure on me at all, absolutely none whatsoever, the pressure was entirely self-inflicted … but I knew I needed to get back out with someone at some point so it was a case of no time like the present.

We’d gone out with a group back in October so we decided just to follow that same route (four miles), although I added a couple of little detours into it at the beginning to bring it up to five miles.

But it was true to the original route for the majority of the time. With it being my normal route I was obviously quite familiar with it so knew it could be challenging enough in places whilst still having recovery sections.

I’m pleased to say that, pacewise, I coped quite well. In fact, it was my fastest mph run for almost two months and whilst not as quick as I would ultimately like it was an encouraging sign that I’m beginning to get back to what I know I’m capable of.

We finished by going up the Antrim Road, a road I have run so so many times, and whilst it’s not overly steep it is long and rises steadily, and it was only here that my legs gave out on me a little, albeit for only a few seconds. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t but it was a tiny bit frustrating for it to happen briefly tonight.

I guess this why I use this road so much, I also use it for intervals and for hill training as well as ending the majority of my solo runs on it. If I found it easy all the time then I wouldn’t benefit from it. On another night I would zipped up it without any difficulty.

Anyway, it was a good run, restored some more confidence and I enjoyed the company, thanks Iv.

I ran back home again after saying my goodbyes, it was only an extra kilometre but they all add up in my quest to get to 100k for the month … every little helps after all.

Virtual Runner 100km January Challenge (22.31km)
1st January – 8.28km
3rd January – 5.01km
5th January – 9.02km

Relive my run

Morale mended

Sometimes you just have to dial it right back, go back to what you know, surround yourself in a tried and tested comfort zone.

Tonight was such a night. After Monday my confidence had slowly started to erode. Not totally, but enough for the doubts to start creeping back in and I knew that if I’d left it another day or so to get back out there that more and more of my self belief would be destroyed.

Therefore, in many ways, my run tonight was one of the most important I’ve ever done.

How I reacted to Monday would undoubtedly colour my attitude going forward. A bad ‘next run’ could very easily make me crumble and allow it get inside my head more than it has done so.

It’s like a football team after a heavy defeat. The longer the period before their next game the more it’ll mess with their heads so, very often, the best thing is to have another game as soon as possible to put the defeat behind them.

I’ve received so much encouragement and support from my friends, other runners and fellow club members. That has undoubtedly taken the edge off how I would otherwise have felt, and I extend my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you.

So the purpose of tonight was twofold. One, to test my back, to see if it was fit for running again. And, two, to just get back out there.

As I said at the start, this was a night for my comfort zone and, therefore, that meant my default 5k along the dual carriageway to the industrial estate and back again.

Unspectacular, boring and uninspiring … but familiar and dependable, like an old friend putting a reassuring arm around me and telling me it’s all going to be ok.

And so it was.

As a precaution I had pre-programmed run/walk splits into my Garmin just in case I needed them but, I think, after the first cycle I just decided to ignore them and run for as long as I felt comfortable doing so.

That actually was a big help mentally too. The fact that I was able to run through the walk splits was a huge boost. Physically, it wasn’t a problem but my mentally it’s another thing entirely!

I kept it slow, even slower than normal, to ease my back into the run but, gradually, I upped the pace and felt comfortable doing so with no adverse reactions … and I just ran. I ran through split after split, feeling stronger after ignoring each instruction to walk.

Then, as I approached the last kilometre, I decided to try out a little technique that Paddy showed me on Monday. I had been a bit reluctant to try anything new tonight but I was feeling so good I guessed that a little bit of experimentation wouldn’t do any harm.

So I tried it. In short, I straightened my spine, head up, chest out etc. and let my arms drop to my side. The transformation was remarkable … I cut over a minute off that last kilometre compared to the one immediately before it. It felt almost effortless despite coming at the part of any run (3-5k) when my body starts to protest before I get my second wind.

It really was a revelation, and I toyed with the idea of carrying on but I also didn’t want to tempt fate. I’d decided upon 5k before going out, so 5k it was. There’ll be plenty of time to test this further, and I’m looking forward to doing just that.

Tonight’s run was the second in my goal to achieve 100km during January, bringing me up to just over 13 for the month to date – a long way to go but a reasonable start.

Virtual Runner 100km January Challenge (13.29km)
1st January – 8.28km
3rd January – 5.01km

Relive my run