For most of the year I seem to be wrapping-up against the elements, never really quite sure what will be best to wear. I normally err on the side of caution, particularly when it’s cold – I wear what I’d need if I was several miles from home and found myself having to walk back.
So a second week in the sun of Tenerife made for a pleasant change. After week one was little more than a struggle to run after five weeks without any exercise, it was nice to be able to jog around for three or four miles each day, albeit it very slowly, enjoying the heat. Just once I ran when the temperature was below 30C but I don’t mind the heat, especially at nine and half minute mile pace.I only really felt it once – after running for two miles up hill from the coast, the temperature even that short distance inland was even hotter. I’d taken water with me and thought I’d given the carrier a good enough rinse since it had last been used three or four months previously. I hadn’t and after the briefest of tastes of what amounted to half a litre of stagnant pond I had strapped to me, I gagged and obviously could not hydrate properly. The real effects of this were in the evening when I was far more dehydrated than usual, something not helped by then consuming too much sangria shortly after running.
Interestingly, choosing to run during the hotter part of the day means that few people are around. I did not see any other runners in the midday sun, or any mad dogs for that matter. Just the odd cat lazily raising its head for a disinterested look from the shade of a tree, or people in and around hotel swimming pools, more curious about the Englishman running past, if only in a way that made them shake their head. I like to think it was with an element of disbelief that this fine figure of a man was braving the heat. Really though I guess I was deluded by mild sunstroke – they were asking ‘Why bother?’ in deference to my leisurely pace or, more likely, saying in their native language, ‘Bloody nutter’.
I followed the female runner at a distance. Her style was not what you might call elegant or smooth but it was effective at propelling her in a forward direction and required me to move beyond walking pace. At what point she appeared in front of me I have no recollection but I was sure I would soon be alongside and then passing her, what with her slightly awkward gait and the obviously slow pace she was setting. The distance between us however remained constant for several hundred metres until she crossed the road and made her way back along the other side. As we passed I was horrified to see that the female in question was at least 20, maybe thirty or more, years my senior. Not that I have anything against ‘old’ people running. What concerned me was that I had been unable to catch-up with the lady in question.
In my defence it was only my second run after five weeks, three courses of antibiotics and a hospital visit with a chest infection. Those five weeks were not supposed to be like that. As a school teacher I’m lucky enough to have the last part of July and all of August to do what the hell I like (wife and kids permitting of course). During this summer’s ‘big’ holiday I was going to be pushing my running to a new level – ensuring that I could consistently train at nine minute mile pace for distances of up to at least 10 miles. I’d even looked forward to running 10 miles at 6,000 feet plus while spending a couple of weeks in Tenerife.
However, this has not been the case. Five consecutive days of ‘running’ in the Canarian sun this week have seen me progress from a sort of shuffle (not, as I discovered, conducive to catching pensionable ladies) to, finally today, a sub-10 minute mile average for a three mile run. Even today’s outing though saw me in pursuit of what I judged from a distance was a sleek athlete jogging along carrying what I assumed was his shirt in the morning heat. Fortunately, to save me the indignity of celebrating (silently of course) as I passed him, he turned-off just before I drew level. It was only at this point that I realised he was also many years my senior and was, in fact, carrying a bag of shopping! While I’m regaining my fitness, it seems that my eyesight is deteriorating. I’ll blame the bright sun for now.
The eight minute mile. Half as fast, twice as slow, as the legendary four minute mile. You know – Roger Bannister and all that – the realm of class athletes but for most a mythical place. But the eight minute mile? Millions of runners aspire to run a mile, or many miles, at a pace which they think they should be capable of achieving with a certain level of training. For me, eight minute mile pace seems a suitably challenging target. I’d like to be able to run a number of eight minute miles one after the other and enjoy it. And that’s the key word – enjoy. I’ve struggled around the local streets too many times over the years as an an occasional jogger. This blog covers the trials and tribulations of a very amateur ‘athlete’ on a journey of self-satsifaction, and maybe self-discovery and self-harm!