I am a creature of the night now.
In India it’s generally the case that, even in the depths of winter, night time generally has the courtesy to confine itself to the actual night time. In Scotland it’s a pushier beast, perfectly happy to bring the darkness from late afternoon. In the Northern hemisphere we just don’t have enough light to go around.
Running, then, has to happen in the dark, and that often goes hand in hand with the cold and the rain.
Five years ago, when I was tentatively running around little bits of Glasgow, I had no problem with that. I ran in gales, through snow and slush, along pitch black cycle paths – if you want to run in Scotland then you go in with your eyes open. A half decade in India, where I’ve run more than anywhere else so far, seems to have rewired me. For most of my time as a runner my biggest questions have been ‘how warm is it, and how much water do I need to carry?’
I suspect it will quite some time before I have to worry about these things again. I’m slowly adjusting my questions. Do I need a hat? Gloves? Something waterproof? Layers? At least it’s given me an excuse to buy new gear.
For a couple of weeks the crash of winter darkness really smacked my motivation, but I’m getting over it. I can’t claim that I always relish the prospect of a run, but once the gear is on and the work starts I’m always glad I made the effort. When you fall into any running pattern, and a sort of auto-pilot kicks in around the routine, it’s easy to forget that the most thrilling thing about being a runner (for me) is actually the challenge. As with everything else in life, it’s the changes that keep things interesting.
Rediscovering that mindset is also making the runcommute a less daunting affair. It’s only five miles, but every one of them is mostly uphill. There are a few downs to break things up, but they don’t change the fact that I live closer to the sky than I work. It was starting to wear on me, that long uphill plod, until this week. I shook myself out of my stupor and suddenly saw a whole series of obstacles instead of a long and tortuous route. Now it’s a game. Where I was plodding soullessly up each new incline, now I push to get up them as fast as I can. I sprint down where there’s opportunity, and save the easy plod for the bits that are flattish. Basically, I slow down and recover where the going’s easy, and throw everything at it when it’s tough. It’s much more satisfying.
It’s probably more useful too, especially looking at the 10K that’s at the front of my running calendar next year. Of the four races I’ve entered so far, it’s the 10K that’s preying on my mind. I’ve never raced one before, but am sort of aware that it’s a different sort of running from marathon distances. Where on a really long run the challenge is to match your fitness to the distance (pacing so you don’t blow your energy too fast while trying to make sure you use it all up by the finish line for the best time), the 10K is a faster sort of a run. I am told it’s about how long you can run at the threshold of your fastest pace. It’s not all out, like a 5K, but it’s close. That’s going to be new to me, and lots of uphill sprinting will certainly help those bits of muscles that are supposed to do fast and powerful things.
Any other 10K training tips? I’m an utter novice at this one, so any advice will be carefully examined…