It began with a Parkrun, sort of.
Not really, but if I hadn’t done that then I wouldn’t be doing this.
Parkruns? Oh. Right.
Every Saturday, all over the world, people meet up in parks at 09:00 or 09:30 in the morning and run for five kilometres. It’s free, it’s timed (in a non-competitive sort of way – if you register and turn up, they’ll tell you what your time was at the end…), and there’s a sort of gleeful ad hoc mentality to it. No big prep. No big fuss. Turn up, meet a big bunch of generally jolly strangers, and run about a bit. In the UK alone there are over 300 registered Parkruns happening every Saturday, four of which are in and around Glasgow.
I’ve wanted to do one since I got back to the UK, but never got round of it. At the end of November my mate Lorraine fancied giving it a bash as her first proper race, and that was enough to get me down there too. We went to Pollok Park on a crisp Saturday morning, met three hundred other runners, and took on the ‘undulating’* course. It was brilliant. Totally informal, but very well organised. I can’t recommend it enough, whether you run all the time or are just dabbling. Lorraine smashed her target time, and I did better than I thought too. It’s not really about the time though, and there were plenty of plodders as well as sprinters. It’s more about having a thing in the week to get you out and moving. I immediately decided to do it whenever I had a Saturday free.
Then I looked at my calendar, and realised that I couldn’t get back for a couple of weeks, and maybe even longer.
This made me glum.
While glum, I accidentally read this article in the Guardian about Advent Running. Go read if you like. The short version: James Poole and Claudia Schroegel, along with some mates, have for the last couple of years been challenging themselves to keep running in December by pledging to get out for thirty minutes every single day from the first to the twenty-fifth. This year they’ve opened the group up to anyone else who fancies it. There’s no formal registration, but there’s a Facebook group you can join if you like, and a couple of useful hashtags (#adventrunning #runforsprouts). And that’s it.
I signed up right then, buoyed by post-Parkrun enthusiasm*.
It’s eight days into the challenge. So far I’ve logged 32.2 miles (52km) over five hours and thirty-five minutes.
Oh, I’m sore. My joints ache in slightly worrying ways. My foot throbs a bit where I broke a metatarsal two years ago. I’m tired a lot.
But every day, come rain or shine (mostly rain, with some sleet, and snow, and icy winds… and gales forecast this week…), I’ve been out running. It’s been a tremendous surprise. With no rest days to recover, and my running being a sporadic sort of thing that leaves me struggling to build up proper strength, I sort of imagined that things would start dropping off after four or five days straight. They haven’t. While things are starting to ache after a run, they’re absolutely fine during. In fact on the sixth day, while I thought I was taking things easy, I accidentally ran my #runcommute to work faster than I ever have before. I don’t yet know whether I’ll last the whole twenty-five days, but at this stage I’m pretty much committed to running until Xmas or Injury, whichever comes first.
I also imagined that finding the time to run every single day would be hard. It isn’t. Somebody else pointed out that when you sign up to run every day, all of your excuses vanish. When I plan to get out three times a week it’s easy to put a run off until the next day if it’s cold, or late, or wet, or I’m tired. Then it’s easy to put it off again. And again. Now that I’m running every day, none of those things seem to matter. If it’s raining, I get wet. If it’s icy, I get cold. If it’s windy, I get breathless. If I’m tired, I get more tired. These things stop being obstacles. They don’t go away, but they don’t get in the way either. There’s probably something terribly profound to draw from that, but I’m not going to, because I’m tired.
Other benefits? All the snark and negativity that usually haunts my Facebook feed has been drowned by a flood of happy strangers from all over the world posting pics and stories from their advent running. They mostly seem just as baffled as I am that this has happened. It’s quite splendid, and sort of joyful too, and they cheer me on and inspire me, and I cheer them back. It’s brilliantly deafening.
So, yeah. Day Eight done. Looking back, that already feels quite unlikely.
Here’s to unlikely things. Roll on Day Nine.
*’Undulating’ appears to be a code word for ‘bloody steep’.
**If you fancy it, you can sign up too. A few latecomers have jumped in along the way. You don’t even really have to run every day – I’ve seen plenty of people who are alternating running with biking, or yoga, or crossfit stuff, or even long walks. The main point seems just to be staying active as the year comes to a close and everybody wants to curl up on couches.