Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

Journal

Challenges

August 26, 2014 by Richard Wright in Journal, Life, Running

The Ayr RoadI ran for ten miles yesterday. For those who know Glasgow I started in Giffnock, ran to Newton Mearns, followed the Humbie Road into the country and up to Eaglesham, then came back down through Waterfoot, Busby, Clarkston, and back to Giffnock.

A couple of days earlier I’d run eight miles. Yesterday felt a lot further and a lot harder than ‘two miles’ would suggest. I wouldn’t usually try two long runs so close together, but my schedule demanded it. I have guests later this week, my daughter’s birthday today, and dayjobbery next week. None of these things are really conducive to popping out for two hours and then laying about in an incapable heap for the rest of the day, so it was starting to look as though I wouldn’t get a chance to up the distance again for nearly a fortnight. I don’t recommend jumping up the miles quite this fast – it’s flirting with injury to do so – but I got away with it. I can relax now. All the advice I’ve read suggests that every three or four weeks throughout training for something you should dial down for a few days to give your body a chance to acclimatise. Might as well get that done while I have guests.

This is how the run happens in my head.

Mile 1: A warm up jog, to get things warmed up.

Mile 2: I started in earnest at the bottom of the Ayr Road. The Ayr Road is my nemesis. It goes up, for-fecking-ever. Up, and up, then up a bit more, then round a corner, then up, then… you get the idea. There are a couple of particularly steep bits, but for the most part the whole thing is just uncomfortably, relentlessly, up. After the warm up jog I’m feeling sprightly at the bottom, wondering if perhaps today is the day to bust out some parkour moves (I’ve watched Youtube for practice). After half a mile of the Ayr Road these ambitions have been stamped on.

Mile 3: Still on the Ayr Road, still going up, and the sun’s out to boot. I’m seriously regretting leaving the cumbersome water bottle behind. My calves are burning. I stop at the entrance of a service station in order to let a car go by, and there’s a horrible moment when I don’t know if I’m going to keep going. I’ve energy left, that’s not the problem. It’s the prospect of all the up to come that almost has me looking for somewhere to turn round. I resist, and as soon as I’m moving again I’m okay. As well as the sun, and the up, what feels like a stiff wind is now racing downhill right into my face. That doesn’t seem fair at all.

Mile 4: Finally, the bit where I turn off the Ayr Road and point myself at the village of Eaglesham! An end to the up! Except it isn’t! The road dips and climbs and dips and climbs. On average it’s probably flat, but in practise it’s all leg-sapping plummets and rises through Newton Mearns.

Mile 5: Leaving the Mearns now, into the country towards Eaglesham. I’m still going (*sob*) up, crawling now, but there’s a view across fields and over the city that’s phenomenal. The sun vanishes behind clouds, and I get a second wind. I’m not in a hurry after all, and all the ups I can see stretching out in front of me don’t seem as daunting now that it’s cooler. There’s no pavement to run on, so I’m on the road facing the oncoming traffic. It’s quiet though – a few cars scoot by, but they can see me a mile off. No near misses or worries.

Mile 6: Eaglesham itself, and an end to up! I skirt the edge of the village, and point myself back towards Greater Glasgow. I can see downs. Loads of downs. It had to happen – I’m running back to where I started, more or less, so the downs had to eventually appear. They’re a shocking relief when they do though. I let myself coast and enjoy them for a bit.

Mile 7: I discover the downside of running outside of the city. Flies. Big clouds of maneating flies. Or rather, maneaten. I’m breathing too hard to keep my mouth fully closed, and so I feast. This encourages me to pick up the pace, just to get away from the things. Usually I’m actually better at going up hills than I am going down (I have difficulty taking the brakes off to really let the slope do the work), but not today. This is a much faster mile than I’m used to. Thank you tasty, nutritious flies.

Mile 8: I meet the city again, a little shaky after the downhill sprint. I’m back down to a trot, but happy enough with that. I catch myself wondering how much further there is to go for the first time, and shut that train of thought down by playing the Game of Thrones score in my head. That does the trick. Also, everything becomes ludicrously Epic.

Mile 9: I get that odd (and probably completely mistaken) end-of-run feeling that I could probably handle a few more miles if I really wanted to. Where was that feeling at Mile 3?

Mile 10: A final burst of down, so I finish the run at an exhilarating sort of sprint-stagger. I realise as I do that what looks ‘sort of like ten miles’ on the map is actually ‘exactly ten miles’, and pay myself on the back for my man/map skills. My watch buzzes the ten mile marker to prove it, and I kill the run there.

And that was my Monday run. Do you feel like you were there?

Well you weren’t.

I would have noticed.


The run took one hour and forty-four minutes exactly, and speed was the last thing on my mind. It usually isn’t when I’m running a new route, and long runs are more about miles than pace anyway. Still, I’m not unhappy with that. There was no walking, and as a rule going uphill always saps more pace from a run than going downhill gives back.


Speaking of challenges (yes we were), on Sunday I was ambushed with an Ice Bucket Challenge. I was already on the scene, having been invited to douse a couple of friends who had been nominated by others, so when Phil called my name out among her nominations I at least got the pleasure of immediately freezing her in petty revenge before going next.

As I was taken by surprise I didn’t approach it in any sort of organised way, and so forgot to actually explain what it was about in the video. The challenge is a social media thing. If you get nominated, either douse yourself in iced water or make a small donation to an ALS or MND charity by text. Or, as I and most people end up doing, you can do both.

If you’d like to donate, text ICED 15 £5 to 70070. You can change the £5 to an amount of your choosing, I believe. US details can be found here. Anyway, here was my impromptu soaking.

All four of my nominees have now completed the task and passed it on. Well done all!

Since doing it I’ve read a lot of epically stupid things about the challenge on Facebook, in articles, and so on. One person described it as hopelessly narcissistic (missing all irony about how entirely narcissistic the need to express that in a Facebook post is). Others have worried that it’s too light-hearted, and barely connects to the cause it nominally supports. A few have claimed that probably nobody is actually donating to charity, while others seem to be worried that this will use up all the charity in the world and none of the other causes that exist will get anything. Some tender hearts have even felt bullied by the challenge.

To which I say:

Pfffftttt.

Also:

Meh.

Please don’t feel bullied. Just decline the challenge in good humour if it’s not your cup of tea, preferably without feeling the need to darken anybody else’s day with grim pronouncements on how dousing ourselves in iced water is going to poison society to death. Nobody really cares whether you do it or not. It’s just a bit of fun. Those who do it mostly seem to enjoy themselves (I did – it broke up an otherwise dull Sunday afternoon with something silly), but don’t feel obliged.

As for it being too light-hearted? Listen. The world is shit right now. Honestly. Loads of it is absolutely fucking awful. Between Ebola, the Gaza Strip, the consolidation of ISIS, Russia’s actions in the Ukraine, shootings in Ferguson, and many thousands of other things happening right now (the news has probably overtaken me writing this), there’s a lot to be seriously upset about.

And Motor Neurone Disease (otherwise known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is an utterly horrific condition. I never got to meet me father-in-law (and my daughter never got to meet her grandfather) and Motor Neurone Disease is the reason why. However, if you’re inclined to make a donation I suspect the people who will use that money to try and defeat MND don’t really care if you’re frowning or smiling while doing so.

People pouring water on their own heads for fun? Maybe that’s not really a big deal. Maybe a bit of silliness is okay. It’s not as though if I hadn’t been taking the challenge I would have been negotiating peace in the Middle East, or developing an Ebola vaccine. If you are, then I accept that maybe breaking off to ice yourself would be a bit irresponsible considering the other potential uses of your time.

Everybody else just relax, okay?

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