Get outside and fight the winter blues!

I’m finding it very, very tempting right now to ignore my planned sessions, being pulled back inside by the call of the sofa, a cosy blanket and a mug of steaming tea. I know though, that if I don’t get outside, get some fresh air and have a change of scenery, I could start to succumb to the winter blues. Some days it doesn’t feel like the sun will ever emerge…

Where's the park gone?!

Where’s the park gone?!

My strategy for coping with the colder, darker months is to get outside each day, rain or shine. I like to try and do this early on, so I don’t have a chance to talk myself out of it! A good way for me to fit it all in, is to do a ‘School Run Run’, which usually involves heading up and down some hills…

Hilly (Fields) Hills

Hilly (Fields) Hills

Two of my weekly runs happen in the evening, not my favourite time to run (I find it difficult to fuel evening activity) but, as I lead the GoodGym Lewisham group run on a Monday evening, I have to be there, perfect, no excuses! I can also guarantee that, after running with a friendly group, chatting as we go, then making sure everyone is engaged with the task, I come home feeling a warm glow and with a big smile on my face. My other evening run is on a Tuesday with my running club. Again, I have to be there to coach the girls’ group first of all, but I have been known to slope off before my own session starts (gasp!), but the pressure to stay is strong and this doesn’t happen very often. It seems sticking to a run is much easier if you ‘make an appointment’, put it in your diary and, even better, do it with friends – you won’t want to let them down.

Another weekly ‘appointment’ is at parkrun, either running or volunteering. I’m coming up to my 100th run and, if I stick to it over the next few weeks, it will coincide with our New Year’s Day run at Hilly Fields 🙂 I hate missing my parkrun and it’s about way more than running 5k, if I miss the bit in the cafe afterwards, I feel very out of sorts! Sundays often involve some volunteering at junior parkrun, so encouraging little ones to take part and getting out in the park to blow the cobwebs away.

It doesn’t have to be an outside activity either, a brisk walk (or ride) to the swimming pool for a quick swim does the trick too – I started the week with a Monday morning swim and felt much better for it (it helped that there was only one other person in the lane though!). And, if you can’t get out to run/ride/swim, a walk will definitely do the trick. At half-term, we jumped on a train and had a day out at the beach and had it pretty much to ourselves. As you can see, the ever adventurous Hector is immune to the cold and took his body board, trunks and enthusiasm to make the most of what turned out to be a beautiful day.

Enjoying an October paddle

Enjoying an October paddle

What do you do to arm yourself against the pull of the sofa?

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Welsh Running

Our weekend was spent visiting my parents in North Wales. I did, of course, have a quick look at the Parkrun map before we left, to see if there are any Parkruns around there, but there are none (small parks, plenty of great runs through fields…though there are many friendly runners who would no doubt enjoy the social benefits of being part of Parkrun…). So I packed my brightest running top (last time I ran there I felt a bit invisible on the fast roads) and shoes and set my mind on my own Saturday morning run. One great thing about staying with my parents is that we get to have a lie-in while Hector is entertained by his grandparents, bliss! If I had been heading out for a 9am start, I would have missed it. Ahem.

The weather while we were there was wet and blustery but, when the rain eased the sun came out and all was glorious. I headed out of my parents’ road and towards Tremeirchion. I soon saw dog walkers, cyclists and another runner, totalling an impressive twelve friendly ‘hello’s or ‘morning!’s! My favourite encounter though was with a cool young farmer, astride his quad bike, commanding the road, mobile to ear and two lively sheep dogs hanging off the back of the bike, barking. There were hills, there was mud and it was friendly, so pretty much like Hilly Fields Parkrun, but with sheep and quad bikes.

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Hector really enjoyed his weekend away, and Nana had got him some smart new wellies to wear to explore the castle, watch fireworks from the beach in Llandudno, and to wander around the fields picking balckberries. Perfect.

I feel good…

Da-da-da-da-da-da-dum! There I was, in the school playground, surrounded by umbrellas and rain-coated parents, embracing the drizzle in my lycra running gear when a fellow mum tapped me on the shoulder:

“You’re dedicated!” she said “You can do it for all of us!”

Good and grimy

Good and grimy

So I did.

I don’t put a great deal of thought into my school run runs, I just turn up in my gear, drop Hector off and run away(!) in a randomly chosen direction. Today it was upwards towards Hilly Fields. On Saturday I am run director for our pre-Christmas Parkrun, so wanted to check out the course and see just how muddy it is. We have asked people to don their Christmassy gear to get into the festive spirit, but I think it might be wise to choose wellies over running shoes this time! I pushed hard up the hills and slightly wussed out along the off-road paths that our course takes, choosing the pavement over the ‘pond’. I did, however, head up ‘The Hill’ and splashed through a mud-slide with a big smile on my face. I’m just glad I had on my trusty trail shoes and not my pretty purple ones:

Squelch, squelch

Squelch, squelch

I was absolutely drenched when I got back, but felt great: there’s nothing like a wet, muddy morning run to lift you out of the doldrums. It looks like the rain is here to stay, no white Christmas for us Londoners, so I should get used to it, especially as January approaches and we have JogBlog on our backs, nagging encouraging us to sign up for Janathon 2013. If you don’t already know about Janathon, it’s the slightly evil twin sister of the warmer and less gritty Juneathon, where a growing group of runners/joggers/plodders get together in virtual and real space to share their love of getting out and about in running shoes. The idea is that you get out every day for the month of January and run/walk/cycle/spin/gym/skip/whatever it is that gets your heart pumping and then blog about it. You can find out all the ins and outs and sign your life away up here. Watch out though, it’s addictive and you will find yourself getting up in the middle of the night or running home from the pub to fit in a run. Really.

Distance: 3.29 miles

Time: 35 minutes 47 seconds

Average Pace: 10.52

Best Pace: 7.44

Calories: 432

Welly Weather and Running in Company

I got very wet last night. Me and a few other runners. After a very, very long time of wanting to join in, I went down the road to the local running track and ran with my local club. Hoorah! It’s not that I haven’t had the inclination or the motivation to join in, but I have simply been unable to leave the house and run – Tuesday night is football night and Tuesday night has been football night for quite a few years now. The other week Edward informed me that he’s taking a break from Tuesday night football for a while, and would I like to to go along to the running club. I’ve been getting excited ever since.

Now Tuesday came round and so did Hector’s new drumming lesson: a train journey after school, sitting around while he learns about notes and rhythm and types of drums, train journey home then dinner. Phew. But this Tuesday was different: pull on running kit on return from drumming, look at self in mirror and wonder if this is the ‘right sort of kit’ to go running with a club, look disapprovingly at bum in lycra and think: ‘Yes, you need to get out and run’, go to the loo nervously a few times, grab stuff and saunter down the road to join in. It was raining, not a little bit of drizzle, but that big, sweeping sideways sort of rain, accentuated by the flood-lights at the track. I hung about and wondered what to do next. Now, since I started helping out at Parkrun, I have got to know some other runners and my day-to-day travels are punctuated by the odd ‘hello’ and a nod and a smile, so I was soon able to catch someone’s eye and have a chat with a familiar face as more runners gathered around and asked what we were doing tonight. I was introduced to the coach and was informed that we would be doing a mile warm-up around the track then 1200, 800×2 and 4×400 all with a 200m recovery in between, something like that anyway – he told us a few times and I still had to ask someone. And off we went. I didn’t want to exhaust myself during the warm-up, so took it easy and generally tried to hold back a little all the way through the evening, I didn’t want to show myself up by throwing up on my first session!

At first we were pretty much together, then some people pulled away and others trailed behind, there was a real cross-section of abilities, which was great. I was surprised to see just how well-used the track is on a Tuesday night. At one point I looked around as I ran, taking in the various groups going in different directions. I was plodding along in the inside lane as some faster runners from another group sped past on the outside, shorts shorter, limbs longer and leaner and ponytails flickier (always the flicky ponytails). In the centre of the track was a group of youngsters running diagonally across the football pitch, and outside the perimeter fence was a group of very serious-looking chaps being led by a man on a bike, and all of this was with heads down into the driving rain. I was surprised at how chatty it all was, with people catching up and talking about all sorts of things during the recovery sections, all so friendly and welcoming. Before I knew it we were on our last lap and gathering to set off on a warm-down around the park, avoiding being mowed down in the dark by the steam engines in shorts. Everybody said their goodbyes and I jogged home to a delicious noodly dinner cooked by a still slightly disgruntled at not playing football Edward.

This wet weather seems to have come out of the blue, though really, you’d think I’d have the hang of Autumn by now, but I do like to cling to the last remaining drops of summer, determined as I am to wear my Birkenstocks until my toes turn blue. I am a bit more responsible in my roll as a parent though, and swiftly got Hector off to the shops in search of some new wellies to splash about in Muddy Puddles.

Splash!

I’ve been buying wellies for Hector for a few years now, and have mostly gone for the cheaper ones at Sainsburys or Tesco, but last time I was fed-up of them cracking around the ankles after just a few months’ wear, so spent a bit more at Clarks. A few months later and they cracked in exactly the same place! A friend mentioned Crocs wellies, which seem thicker and a better shape for crouching down in rivers and retrieving conkers from under trees, but I can’t seem to find them anywhere. If anyone knows of a decent but inexpensive welly that doesn’t crack then please let me know!

Head down, teeth gritted

I’m not used to running in the rain, we’re kind of lucky really in London, apart from that rubbishy ‘summer’, we tend to have quite dry weather, or maybe I’m just lucky when I run. This week has challenged that, but it hasn’t challenged me. I am so determined to get this PB and not to miss out on a run when I have the chance, I have been turning up to the school gates in full gear, and enduring ‘you’re mad’ looks from normal parents who are safely ensconced in weatherproof macs. Little do they know, that this run is a necessity – if I don’t do it, I won’t get that rush of endorphins that will see me through the rest of the day, on a high of achievement.

Wednesday’s run was one of these grit-your-teeth runs, the perfect opportunity to try out my gorgeous new trail shoes, sent to me by the generous people at Sportsshoes.com. I am always a bit reserved about lovely new running shoes: I simply don’t want them to get dirty, ever. Trail shoes can’t avoid getting dirty and, though still looking shiny and new, there is now a tell-tale clumpy line of grass clinging to the edges of these beauties:

Shiny and new

I did wear them last Saturday to give me some bounce in my role as Run Director at the Hilly Fields Parkrun, but that doesn’t really count because the only running I did was to retrieve an arrow that had fallen over. I did, however, get to have a geeky shoe chat with a fellow Parkrunner who was wearing the rather fetching purple version. My inner geek was blown away rather by the details on the fastening mechanism, not only do they have a nifty little draw-string whatnot, Salamon have even thought long and hard about where you put your neatly tied laces, arriving at a neat little pocket on the tongue, where you can tuck any loose ends away. Marvellous.

Clever stuff

So my first run was a wet one, up the hill, away from school and around Hilly Fields. I don’t know if it is because they are new, but I found the soles a little slippery on the pavement at first, a little like running in studded football boots (I’m guessing, I’ve never worn and am never likely to wear football boots!). I kept myself in check and took it easy on the wet paths but the shoes really come into their own on the wet grass and  mud. I was able to virtually sprint up the grassy hill (though onlookers might call it something other than sprinting) and the mud was no problem, the grooved soles offering excellent grip, enough to run confidently without fear of falling.

Groovy soles

After running light in my NBs recently, I find other shoes a bit heavy, but this extra weight felt reassuring for the trail, giving support and stability on a variable and challenging surface. You can find out more about this particular pair of shoes here, but the range of trail shoes on the website is extensive! These are going to be my lucky HF Parkrun shoes 🙂

 

Paint your own blue sky!

Oh, how wet it is out there today. My school run run was a drizzly one which I decided to prolong for my own benefit: I could have run straight home, had a shower, jumped on my bike and got wet again cycling to the paint shop but, instead, I decided to run home via the paint shop and complete my run with tin of paint in tow. I wouldn’t recommend it, I had it nestling under my arm – which I had to keep swapping – and was slightly worried that I might drop it and have a blue stream trailing behind me. As it was, the paint got a little extra shake which I figured could only be a good thing.

'Brighton' blue for our kitchen wall

There has been is always a lot of talk over on Twitter, between Travelling Hopefully and myself mainly, about the baking god that is Dan Lepard. Now Cassie is on some sort of baking mission and working her way through his marvellous new ‘Short and Sweet’, whereas I sat and leafed through  my copy last night with a cup of tea and couldn’t even begin to decide where to start (I did have some bread baking in the oven as I did this, so I’m not entirely bake-averse). This morning I did brave the rain once more to go out and buy today’s Guardian which features some lovely ‘comfort food’ recipes by the lovely Dan himself:

Comfort and joy

There’s no question on where to start there: Marmalade Chelsea Buns anyone?

Distance: 3.82 miles

Time: 37 minutes 47 seconds

Average Pace: 9.53

Best Pace: 6.33

Calories: 412

The Good Man

Today is all about our good men. Over on There’s a Six Pack Under Here, Susan found herself the happy recipient of a freshly washed kit, laid out and ready to go. In our house my run was delayed until this evening when the weather had changed from the bright crispness of this morning to the stormy dampness of yesterday; I really didn’t want to. Edward came home after his first day back at work and said: ‘I will bath Hector and make the dinner, you go and run’, we are two very lucky ladies.

It was tough-going and I drifted on autopilot along a regular route of last year’s Janathon, which takes me on a loop around Ladywell, through Crofton Park, touches on Brockley and back to Ladywell. I got a supportive ‘Well done’ from a woman who was going into her nice warm house as I slogged, head down up a hill into the wind and sideways rain. My mind was distracted somewhat by my shadow at this point, squat as it was in the low glow of the yellowy street lights, more Rubenesque than athlete and quite disheartning. I am determined to do something about this, having gradually grown more, erm, cuddly lately, not the look I was going for.

During my run I thought about getting an early night so I can get tomorrow’s run out of the way first thing and avoid having to schlep it out with the commuters in the dark. We’ll see.

Distance: 3.18 miles

Time: 32 minutes 05 seconds

Average Pace: 10.05

Best Pace: 2.52 (ok, this is just silly!)

Calories: 345