My my my Delilah

First inkling that my achilles might be starting to feel better came this morning with a haircut. Not a racing haircut, but a running haircut. Its a significant phase in the rehab process. If I can survive a day or two with no adverse reaction to my haircut, I might be able to progress to gentle jogging.

That OMG moment

Six easy miles on the plan.

snowing. work busy. feel crap with a cold.

treadmill lunchtime saves me going out a night.

Mile 1: Can’t be arsed with warming up slowly. Half mile grumbling then into a rhythmn.

Mile 2:  8 minute mile pace, fast enough to get workout done but still call it easy. Cos thats what it says on the plan.

Mile 3: 8 is boring, 7:30 is goal marathon pace so lets try that, still counts as easy, right?

Mile 4: legs shouldn’t be feeling this good after the miles I’ve done recently, but just bounce along and keep it easy.  Watch the pop videos on the wall.

Mile 5: bored again. keep practising the pace, don’t push on, and maybe I could do a fast one at the end? Nudge it up to 7’s for the last quarter mile.

Mile 6: Try a fast one. 5:55 pace.see how it feels. not too bad. nudge it up for the last half mile? nudge, nudge, nudge. Does that really say 5:20 on the clock and I haven’t fallen off the back of the machine? OMG!

A 5:40 mile and a sub 2:45 half mile. After an 80 mile week.  Fastest ever. smug.

What the hell just happened?


Gluteus Maximus

the-centurion-in-commandI always think Gluteus Maximus sounds like a Roman Centurion. However, instead of roaming (do you see what I did there – ouch!) I tend to spend most of my day parked on mine in front of a computer screen.  I can’t even claim to sit in a posturally correct manner like some middle aged mannequin from a physio magazine.  I slouch, and I twist, and I lean on my forearms and elbows while I type or mouse.  Then there is that stuff about getting up and walking around every 40 minutes or so. Unfortunately that doesnt happen very often and when it does the only interesting place to walk to is the canteen where there are invariably rolls on square sausage (with extra onions if Mary Ann is on duty because I dont have the heart to say no as she is so keen for me to have them) or I can walk to Asda where they currently have a special offer which is designed by the devil himself, namely a pack of 4 Toffee Crisps for a pound.

So I have a dilemma, do I sit at my desk burning no calories and getting stiff or do I go for a walk to loosen off and consume more calories in the process than I use up doing the walking?

Of course when I get home, what do I do? I spend the evening sitting at a computer keeping up with the world electronically. Yes I will run of course but that burst of activity is followed by sitting/slouching/stretching awkwardly over my machine.

Therein lies my problem. The very personality traits which make me want to run further and faster and which keep me out on the road are the very same traits which make me consume books, blogs and web sites about running/training/physiology/races.  Add to that the social banter of keeping up with my running buddies online and that is even more time spent at the machine.  Oh, and I enjoy nice food and wine and tend to have the same ability to say no to these things as I have to declining a race.

Entrance to Glencoe from Buachaille Etive Mor

Which brings me to the point of this piece. To improve as a runner and to successfully complete the WHW in June I know that I need to make some lifestyle changes.  I need to run more and stretch more and  I need to lose weight. And I am one of those unlucky people who doesnt lose weight by running,  so that doesn’t help.

All of those things involve stepping away from the computer and putting down the wine glass.  Yet life is about balance and I have reached that stage in my life where I feel I have earned the right to the nice things in life to balance the stresses of work and I have earned the right to obsess over my chosen pastime.


I guess I have some choices to make if I am to arrive at the top of the Devil’s Staircase looking better than I do in this picture from 2011’s Devil o’ the Highlands race.

Only its  nearly Christmas and there is wine and chocolate and mince pies and people to catch up with on the computer, the entrants list to mull over on the WHW website and an online training plan to tinker with.

I am beginning to think that running is the easy bit……

Vesti la Giubba

Not sure whether I am more scared or excited, but for better or worse I have got myself a place in the West Highland Way Race which starts in Milngavie at 1am on June 22nd 2013. There was a fantastic night on Facebook, Friday past when it became known that the ballot places were being announced and people started getting the confirmation emails. I was lucky that I didn’t have to wait too long until mine came through. I would have been awful to have to wait till the end when everyone else was posting about being “in”.

For those who don’t know about it, the race takes place along the West Highland Way which links Milngavie just outside Glasgow to Fort William 95 miles away.

Highland Fling finish 2012

Running this sort of distance is most definitely Outside my Comfort Zone.  I have never run this far.  In fact I have never run anywhere near this far.     So far I have completed the Clyde Stride, Devil of the Highlands and the Highland Fling.  In terms of experience this is next to nothing.  My times have been decidedly middle of the pack.  I don’t consider myself  an ultra runner. In fact, not only am I not an ultra runner,  I am not sure I am really a “real” runner,  I am too old, too slow and too big to compete with the racing snakes. But that doesn’t stop me doing it lots. and lots. and lots.

I do however try hard, my mother would describe me as thrawn, and once I set foot on the start line then you know it might not be pretty but the job usually gets done.

The furthest I have run so far is the 53 miles of the Highland Fling race which covers the southern half of the Way. When I finished the Fling I was in much better shape than I had expected to be and so the idea was born – could I go further?

I used to stumble on the web sites for races like the Devil and Fling and wonder about what sort of super athletes could take part in these long races over difficult terrain when I would struggle to do even a half decent marathon.  However the more I found about about the people who do these races the more I came to the conclusion that actually these are mostly just ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And while there are the “superstars” of the sport who run ridiculous distances in stupidly quick times, even they seem likeable ordinary people.  The more I read of the exploits of the folks who do these races the more I am inspired by the refusal to accept any limitations on what we can achieve if you put your mind to it.

So I am in. I expect it will hurt and in a strange way I am looking forward to the sleep deprivation, the cramps and the hallucinations coming my way next June. To my support crew, including and especially my long suffering wife Helen, I shall get my apologies in now.

and the title of this post? Operatic tenors are not what you would normally associate with long distance running but this is one of my favourite arias and while it has absolutely nothing to do with running, the translation could fit quite well….

Recitar! Mentre preso dal delirio,         Act! While in delirium,
non so più quel che dico,                           I no longer know what I say,
e quel che faccio!                                           or what I do!
Eppur è d’uopo, sforzati!                            And yet it’s necessary… make an effort!
Bah! Sei tu forse un uom?                           Bah! Are you not a man?
Tu se’ Pagliaccio!                                            You are a clown!