Monthly Archives: September 2011

Dark and dangerous

“Get them knees up!” (That’s an old one.)

“Run Forest, run!” (Many years older than the person shouting it.)

“Keeping going sexy!” (The sarcastic swines.)

“Oi, fatty!” (Too close to the bone.)

Just a few of the comments shouted in my direction from street corners and hidden alleys as the darker autumn evenings have meant a return to running round the local streets. Groups of youths seem to emerge into the dim light in the vain hope that nobody will see them enjoying their cigarettes and cheap alcohol. The long nights provide them with more time to get bored hanging around, not really looking for any trouble but unable to avoid a little taunting of a slow middle-aged runner.

Summer running seems a distant memory, not that we got much of a summer in the UK. Arriving home from work as the light is rapidly fading, it would be easy to shut the door and not venture outside again until morning. However, committment means turning out  and facing several adversaries.

Of course, autumn and winter running can be fun. The turning leaves and crisp, frosty mornings. The pleasure of virgin snow, and the eerie but wondrous stillness of a foggy night.

On the other hand, there are plenty of ‘hazards’ to really make running a very different challenge over the ‘dark’ months. The beauty of the reds, yellows and golden browns of the trees ultimately provides an almost deadly slippery surface as wet leaves blanket the floor. Then comes the frost and the ice and the snow often making running almost impossible on untreated surfaces.  Truck pass by, spreading grit and salt on the road and onto the legs, body and face of the foolhardy runner. And the wind, the rain, the cold and the aforementioned verbal abuse from groups of nocturnal youths.

But I wonder if any of these are as ‘dangerous’ as fast food take-aways or pubs. Running around my town inevitably requires one to run past several of each, even when covering shorter distances. The smell of curry, or Chinese, or kebabs. The whiff of garlic and pizzas. They all seem to make me crave food as soon as I return from the run.

It has to be noted however, that sometimes I’m lucky to make it back at all. Each pub (and many houses too) always seem be showing the live football which I’ve almost reluctantly left behind at home. Running past each of these premises gives fleeting glimpses of the match in progress, yet never it seems, glimpses which enable me to quite catch the score on the (slightly) blurred screen, through the pub or house window. And this is where the danger occurs. As each potential glimpse of a TV approaches I start to try to prepare my eyes in order that they may catch that all important information. For those few seconds, I’m at the mercy of every kerbstone, loose paving slab, litter bin or cat which fate may have placed before me. I’ve lost count of the number of occasions I’ve almost fallen. And the day I do crash to the floor outside a public house, clad in my running gear and hopelessly out of breath, I just know that the heckling and laughter will be absolutely hilarious.

For everyone but me!

Regimentation

The freedom of being off work and not having to engage in the generally hectic daily grind of the world of education and family life should be a time for fantastic running opportunities and mile after mile of pleasurable training. Unfortunately, the necessary motivation and commitment is sometimes hard to find. I’ve just had six weeks off work but the running has not been what it should be. Illness played its part in this but even over the last three weeks it’s not always been easy to commit to a run. 

You see, there’s always later (or even tomorrow). There’s always something else to do, some other distraction.  Futhermore, although I’m not a completely bone-idle couch potato, I am good at finding excuses: broken sleep – too tired, not had enough water – too dehydrated, cough or a sneeze – surely a rare strain of tropical flu is about to strike me down. In some respects I’ve had too much time on my hands. What I need is regimentation. 

As a teacher I live my life in terms – Autumn Term, Spring Term, Summer Term – with good breaks between each. During term time most of my life is pretty much full of work and family commitments. Most days provide only a small slot of time in which to go for a run. Miss the slot and it’s gone. It somehow makes me more disciplined – I know I have to do it then or it won’t get done. Conversely, when I have more time I think I can put it off for a while but too often, ‘later’ or ‘tomorrow’ means I don’t do the training.  

I’ve not followed a training plan for several weeks now, deciding that I’d just enjoy running without one for a while. Of course, I have enjoyed the running but my casual approach to it has meant I’ve not done as much as I’d have liked.

So a new plan has been put into place. The ‘Autumn Term’ will see the nights start drawing-in and I’ll be squeezing in runs in my pre-determined slots. A regimented approach will no doubt help me to move my running to the next level. I will just have to make sure that I stick to the plan and not change it on a daily basis! And even I’ll have to admit that the chances of catching rare strains of tropical flu are very small in the north west of England!