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Better in the long run

There comes a time in our meticulously detailed training plans where up looms the “extra long run with a big hill in the middle”. The one you do on a Sunday and haven’t properly recovered from it halfway through the following week.

So here I am, today is the day. Or rather, Sunday was the day. The Big Hill awaits. It’s another early start and another tiptoe out of the front door. I imagine most of the sensible people in the street are still fast asleep, a well-earned hangover patiently waiting for them when they wake up. And years of practice have taught me that is generally the correct approach to weekend mornings.

But not for me, not today. I set out at a reasonable pace before reminding myself how far I was going to go. The route I was taking was a familiar one for the locals – it’s an out and back with a big loop at the furthest point and a high bridge over the main road to constitute the Big Hill. This would need tackling twice, once in each direction. 

As the sun began to warm the world, I left the familiar river behind and ran into the countryside, past fields, hedges, rabbits, and the occasional other runner. This was a different, braver route, and we knew it – a knowing nod between runners that we had taken on a bigger challenge this morning. 

I wasn’t sure how long the loop was at the end and had wondered whether I’d need to do it twice to get my distance up, however once was more than enough and I trotted home, back over the Big Hill with some slight grief, to a total distance of 13km.

By far my furthest run this year, but more importantly was how consistent my km splits were. Getting much better than earlier weeks, I had a variance today of 15 seconds between my fastest and slowest laps. 

So the question now is, how far should I be going on these long runs? That was probably about right for me with my goal I discussed last week. No doubt I’ll have a complete change of heart in a week or two and set out to go even further with even more hills – I must be careful though. Better to have a hangover on a Sunday morning than an injury!

Right place, wrong time

There’s a parkrun course about a mile or so away from my house that loops round an old victorian park. A lovely route, apart from the hill in one corner, and usually very well turned out on a Saturday morning. I reckoned that a run to the park and a few laps round before returning home would be about 10k, so a good route and distance for my long/easy weekend run. 

I haven’t run as far this year, so quietly told myself I could walk at any point if I got into any problems. I knew very well that unless my legs near enough fell off, I was unlikely to take myself up on this offer, preferring to absolutely knacker every muscle I own ahead of slowing myself to andante (not to be confused with al dente), a walking pace.

I set off early, but it was already a glorious day with the sun beating down on one half of the road ahead, the other in shadow for now, perfect running conditions. I reached the park and ran three laps at a reasonable pace. The hill was still there to try to cause me problems, but nothing too stressful this morning. 

Running laps means you see the same people going the opposite way several times. I’m a smiler, if I see someone else running towards me I’ll smile, nod, say hi if they haven’t got their music on. There doesn’t seem to be many like me, perhaps other runners are more focussed on their training plans, perhaps smiling at other runners just isn’t the done thing. Perhaps all the smilers do their laps in one direction and the non-smilers go round the other way, so our paths never cross!

Aside from the lack of interaction, the run went well, I trotted back along the same increasingly sunny roads I’d run along earlier and completed the distance in just over 56 minutes. This was an adequate marker of my progress, and more importantly there was no need for the walking option at any point. The next 10k target will be some consistency in the splits and moving towards a milestone of 50 minutes on the clock.

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