The idea seemed such a motivational one back in the balmy, Indian Days of late September; to hold a monthly 5k run for all the intrepid souls who had passed the `0 to 5k` 10 week beginner`s running course in the Spring. Having done very few runs throughout the long, bright days of Summer, I was both curious and depressed to know how far I could still run/walk 5k and the time difference in relation to the `end of course 5k run` in June.
November was known in Old English, as Blotmonað – the month of sacrifice; a time when early Saxons prepared for winter by sacrificing animals for food storage for the forthcoming months ahead. As the date drew nearer and the weather deteriorated, this analogy seemed extremely apt and the self-doubting thoughts began:
Could I still run 5k after five months? What did you wear running on dark, blustery nights? What if no one else turned up? Would my hips and feet cope with the impact?
In the week previous to the run, I had by chance met several people who had been on the same course. Like me, some had not done any running in between and were in two minds whether to come along, but a few had been out running regularly, entering charity runs and gradually shaving seconds off their best time – how on earth could we collectively run together without ego, guilt and injury hampering the naive enthusiasm we all felt as beginners? It was becoming apparent we would be participating at very different levels.
The morning of the run began with the classic Autumnal grey sea mist that clings like clammy octopus tentacles to everything, preventing sight beyond the next lamp post. Was I sure I wanted to run in this? At least there would be less people around to watch the comical warm up skipping and arm flailing. As the off shore breeze strengthened, the mist faded away to be replaced with light rain showers. The concurrent gales of Hurricane Abigail and Barney had whisked all the remaining leaves into sludgy piles along the pavements, to create slowly decomposing skid traps – potentially lethal under the cover of darkness. Shouldn`t I wait for better weather? However by late afternoon, the paths were blown dry and the skies were clear. It would probably be cold, but dry and my excuses were running out.
I arrived wearing 2 long sleeved tops, a hoody, gloves, hat, long leggings and my hair long – I would not add `Hypothermia` to my expected list of ailments!
After a brief welcome and reminder of the 10 lap course, we did a quick warm up of skipping, high knee jogging, arm rotating and glute flicking (you can probably tell I am not a personal trainer), then lined up alongside The Old Bathing Hut to begin.
I set off at a comfortable jog, settling into the physical rhythm and breathing needed to complete the run. The tide was low and the steady sound of waves rolling over pebbles began to act as a focus that allowed me to filter out the sounds of urban life. A steady wind was blowing from the West, so the run out towards the Edwardian sea shelter was easier than the run back towards the Bathing Hut. After the first few laps, I realised I preferred to run into the wind, towards the lights, pumping my arms to maintain the rhythm.
A full moon shone across the sea, partially lighting my way and highlighting a few objects in it`s path; beach huts boarded up for the winter, fishing boats pulled high and moored securely, shadow fingered groynes stretching out to sea.
Once I began to warm up, the layers began to reduce and create a pile back at the start – how could I be feeling warm running under a clear November sky into the wind? I was beyond my comfort zone in a realm of semi-night; was this like the endless dark days depicted in Swedish film noir, such as `The Bridge?`
After 6 laps my hip began to gain my attention and during the following lap, my toes joined in. Slight niggles turned into aches, then pain, but by walking briskly from the last lamp post and around the sea shelter it eased enough to run back to complete the lap. During the spring, I had found that a mixture of running on tarmac and grass had helped reduce the pain in my hips, knees and toes until I was used to it. However, the grass was off limits until I could see where I was running and I had forgotten the difference it had made.
The faster runners had lapped me, but others were also incorporating a walking break into their runs. Only 3 laps to go and I was determined to finish; we were a team completing a task, breaking it into the smaller pieces we individually needed to achieve. Nods, words of encouragement and stints of paired running were used to push us all a little further than we may have done alone.
The regular runners beat their `best times`, the occasional runners proved they could still run 5k and I realised I had run further on tarmac than I had ever done in the month of sacrifice. Roll on the next monthly 5k run!