It’s now 10 days since I bumbled over the finishing line of the Yorkshire Marathon to complete the ol’ 26.2 for the second, and indeed the last, time. And do you know what? I’ve been out running since then. Five times. Five. Count it. Five. If someone had approached me at around mile 20 of the aforementioned marathon and said ‘do you know what, Ben? You’ll be out another 5 times in the ten days or so’ I’d probably have responded a little something like this:
After my first marathon back in 2013, I entered into a period of reflective rumination which resulted in me taking an extended hiatus from running owing to it being ‘stupid’ and ‘hurty’. But not this time, apparently. I say ‘apparently’, because it never feels like I’m fully in charge of what’s going on, I’m simply following the instructions sent by the tiny chap somewhere deep inside that pulls levers and pushes buttons. So, rather than simply crossing running off the calendar for the next few months and returning to longstanding pastimes of choice like ‘eating cheese’ and ‘sitting down’, I’m continuing to lace up the trainers and head out into the increasingly autumnal conditions.
In previous years, I’ve embraced the coming of the darker mornings like a proper nutter: up before dawn and out into the inky blackness for a 6am, street-lit few miles. But not this year. With the arrival of the work showers I’ve become ‘Mr Lunchtime Run’. Or indeed, just ‘Lunchtime’. That’s how I like to refer to myself in the 3rd person, you understand. In meetings I’ll interject with ‘Lunchtime thinks this’. Of course, care must be taken not to confuse me with Linford Christie. It’s easily done. What with his nickname being ‘Lunchbox’. All I can say is a fair degree of disappointment could ensue via that particular mix-up.
Where was I? Who knows. Ah, yes, given that I’m still running regularly but I’m now doing it in my lunchbreak at work, I’ve had to find a new regular running route. And after some experimentation, I’ve found it. Longstanding readers may remember me blathering on about the route I run regularly from home. Well, now let me present the highlights of the All New Regular 4-Mile Run Route. With added stain removers:
1) THE HILL!
‘The only way is up’ according to Yazz and the Plastic Population. Any physicist would of course fundamentally disagree. But, putting that hypothetical argument between born-again 80s funksters and pedantic scholars aside, this route starts with a steep uphill section. Urgh. Plus, some bastard has created one of those little segment things in Strava that measures performance over a fixed distance up this hill. There’s a league table of results. I’m currently 7th. So I must improve. I must. I must bomb the hill. Even if it kills me. Gah. Still, it gets the juices flowing. Stupid juices.
2) The Haunted Forest
At the top of Mount Knackered there’s a stretch of woodland that is usually deserted. This is where the demons come, courtesy of my over-active (read: mental) imagination. And this particular time of year isn’t good for the jittery, idiotic runner: an abundance of squirrels results in much rustling of the crinkly vegetation (not a euphemism). ‘It’s just squirrels, Ben, it’s not a chainsaw-wielding ghost-witch on this particular occasion’ I can say to myself (out loud) as often as I like, but I’m still on edge, fully expecting to round the next bend to find a ritualistic, satanic sacrifice or portal to Hell or at the very least an ancient Indian burial ground. I really should run with a proton pack and one of those grippy bottles full of holy water.
3) The Stairs
Oof, downhill! Let’s unleash! Up that pace! Bomb it! Clearly, this is where I’ll die one day attempting to beat the land speed record, but up until then the euphoric rush of the downhill stage can be enjoyed.
4) Woebegone Wood
With the spirits of the restless undead left at the top of the hill, here I encounter an altogether different type of threat: this bit of woodland is a regular route for the furious dog-walker. With his furious dog. Feel the tangible fury. Yes, I’m no sociology graduate, but I have noticed a few things regarding the human populace. One of those things is that if a grown man of employable age is walking a dog in the middle of the day, there’s a good chance he’s not going to be very happy about it. Or happy about anything. And any minute now both the chap and his dog could snap, venting their pent-up fury – thanks to the world and its countless injustices – on the next stupid, arsing runner they happen across. The threat is real. In my mind. My mental, mental mind. Poor Barry. Works nights, enjoys a mid-day stroll with his harmless Alsatian. Can’t he take one without being accused of being a violent, unemployable sociopath?
5) Youth Magnet
When you’re as mental as me, the threats come thick and fast. You see bus stop, I see potential meeting place for YOUTHS: the runner’s natural enemy. Plus, its right outside the agricultural college, increasing the chances that Kev will roll out in a state of near euphoria following a successful morning of practical sheep-shearing and want to abuse a passing runner or 3 to celebrate. Its not easy living with this brain you know.
Next it’s a trot round this sports field and a brush with celebrity. Well, sporting celebrity. Well, sports people. Well, Hartlepool United. As they train here. ‘How exciting!’ I don’t hear you cry. You say that. I’ve been this close *makes a gesture implying he’s been quite close when really he hasn’t been that close at all* to…Harry Worley. Who? Pfft, unlike you, my finger is on the pulse. The Hartlepool pulse. That sounds like medical condition worthy of a couple of months in quarantine…
7) Ol’ Thinny
On the home straight and another unwelcome blast uphill. Also, the path thins. IT THINS! Increasing the likelihood for awkward runner-to-non-runner contact being necessary in order to sneak past a pedestrian or 5. Timing is all-important here. Like that bit in The Rock where Sean Connery rolls through the industrial furnace thing, dodging between the flame bursts with impeccable precision, I must time the entrance into Ol’ Thinny right so as to avoid having to beg for safe passage or worse – slow to a walk. A walk? Impossible. Think of the Strava stats *weeps*
8) The Final Straight
I like this bit. Because it’s the end. No more stupid running. But also, because to me it’s a bit like the home straight of an F1 race. That building to the left, that’s the pit lane. Someone could dangle out of one of the windows with a pit-board that reads ‘Taylorson, P1, Stint 9L, Tyre 3, L47’ or similar, and when I finish someone should be waving a chequered flag in a manner so flamboyant that it frankly edges into camp.
So, there we are: 4.1 miles of undulating challenge to undertake a few times a week. It’s better than sitting in the staff room at lunchtime. Until the worst winter in living memory promptly arrives in a month or so. Pfft, surely not…